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Marks & Spencer has just launched new localised ecommerce sites to cater to Australia and New Zealand.

Previously, Australians could shop online via M&S’s UK-run website, which delivers to 30 countries worldwide, but now they have localised payment, content and returns.

I've had a look through the site, trying to spot best practice or any teething problems. Here's what's worth knowing.

And to learn more about ecommerce and digital in the region, download our latest research on The Rise of Marketing Technologists in Australia & New Zealand.

1. Thongs!?

Every search result (46) was underwear - not a sandal in sight. In case you're confused, G-strings are regularly called thongs in the UK.

Now, I understand there will be some British ex-pats using the website but I think some accounting for Aussie dialect would have been wise (and is likely in the pipeline).

Perhaps I'm being too harsh - after all the brand is leading its Australian expansion by advertising its sense of British heritage and style.

Thongs?!

thongs

I looked for flip flops, too (the British and NZ word for thongs).

Only one match, and it's summer!

flip flops

2. Tailored content

Some of the coverage of the launch in the press mentions 'tailored editorial content highlighting items relevant to the local seasons'.

That makes the discount offer on thermals on the homepage a little confusing.

However, the women's 'New In Edit' is definitely for Australian summer (rather than British winter), with hem shorts, cropped trousers and dresses featuring heavily.

This is no doubt an area where there will be further work done.

m&s australia 

3. New login (sigh)

It was a big bugbear for users in 2013 when M&S migrated to its new IBM site and every user had to re-register.

Now those Australian users will have to re-register for the second time in two years.

Whilst this might be only the slightest of hassles for some, others may drop off. 

login m&s australia

4. Free delivery FTW

One of the main advantages of the new site for Australian shoppers is free delivery (on orders over $50) and cheaper returns (at local costing, rather than international).

M&S makes no mistake in highlighting this prominently in the site header and also on every product page in unmissable red text.

m&s australia free delivery

5. Why Demandware?

I haven't asked M&S for comment about why it's gone for Demandware to launch its Australian site.

Could it be that Demandware is better suited for serving this side of the world (hosting etc, with experience with big brands like Ugg)?

Or could it be that M&S didn't want to add any more complexity to its 2013 custom architecture?

Alternatively, if M&S is planning to add bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia, maybe Demandware will be easier to plug into local logistics?

I'm not an ecommerce platform expert, so if you have any answers or hypotheses, please let me know in the comments. I'll seek comment in the meantime.

6. No Australian social channels

I noticed that the social icons link to the UK-based brand accounts.

While I think some retailers can go overboard with social media accounts, I think in this case M&S should plan for some Australia-based social execs (and probably is).

The time difference makes a global account difficult to manage, as does the seasonal content aspect.

Conclusion 

I may have seemed like I was looking for faults here, but actually I think this is an exciting move by Marks & Spencer and the website is big, bold and slick (as new sites on big platforms should be).

Though retail is becoming more competitive in Australia, it still only harbours 37 of the top 250 retailers in the world (according to Deloitte) and there's definitely room in the market.

So, all eyes are peeled to see if M&S high street stores are to follow.

Ben Davis

Published 26 January, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Steve Willey

Steve Willey, Managing Director / Digital Strategist at Push Beyond Ltd

Feels like this is more of a proof of concept. Why invest in integrating to your core architecture, when you can create a more agile environment for the early years. Once the POC is validated then integrate. Re-registration isn't that big a deal these days, and for the convenience of being able to shop locally, this trade off appears to be worth it. Merchandising clearly needs some work though.

11 months ago

Alexander Levashov

Alexander Levashov, Director at Magenable

The search isn't localised indeed, search for for example Bathers or Strides brings zero results

11 months ago

Joel Rendle

Joel Rendle, Ecommerce Director at Big Alligator

The New Zealand word for 'flip-flop' is jandal, not flipflop or thong - and there's not a single jandal on the entire website.

The Contact Us section gives an 0800 number - confusing for NZ customers who commonly use 0800 numbers, and won't realise that it's not a NZ 0800 number. And for those who want to write to M&S NZ, they have to post a letter to England, on the other side of the planet? That's just crazy.

Very little - if any - thought has been given to properly internationalising the content on this website. The section on customs duties even refers to "state and federal" - something that is common in Australia, but as foreign to NZ shoppers as it is to UK shoppers. The team at M&S have not even bothered to localise the content to distinguish between NZ and AU shoppers.

This is an interesting Beta site, but there's absolutely no way this is launch-ready. It's at least a month away from being ready for launch. M&S should be embarrassed.

11 months ago

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David Leeson, MD at Carvel Solutions

Last time I heard about M&S architecture (a couple of years ago), it was developing all of its International non-grocery business on Demandware as its medium-to-long-term solution strategy, though there is no such thing as long term in e-commerce, and especially not for "digital". I guess they're looking at Tesco and being very careful about any international expansion.

11 months ago

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David Leeson, MD at Carvel Solutions

I might add also that many UK-based retailers expanding into Europe and beyond seem very reluctant to set up copyrighting, and merchandising functions in the country they are expanding into, and instead seem to prefer centralising in the UK. May be this is because this is more a "pilot" or "PoC" and don't want to invest too much into new business operations. Still, I am sure there are many Kiwis and Aussies in the UK that would be more than ready to be recruited.

11 months ago

Joel Rendle

Joel Rendle, Ecommerce Director at Big Alligator

I agree with you, David, although the logic makes no sense. Why bother with all the effort of moving into a territory, if you're not willing to invest £8/hour on a few days copywriting?

To me, this sadly seems like a case of far too much effort on the brand and far too little effort on the customer,

11 months ago

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David Leeson, MD at Carvel Solutions

Let's hope they can spell better than me! (copywriting - lol).

11 months ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Maybe M&S thinks 'they've put up with our English site (and language) until now, so there's no rush to change descriptions and titles'.

I think if they are to launch a bricks-and-mortar store (the media seems unsure on this), they'll certainly have to naturalise this site a bit more. It does seem a tad lazy in parts.

10 months ago

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Michael Stones, Product Marketer at Delcam

I recognise your comments about local social channels and this is an interesting debate. However, individual social media sites for each territory significantly dilutes a company's social power.
I disagree with the comments about time zone differences causing problems. There are numerous tools embedded into social media sites (and external tools) that allow content to be scheduled. Seasonal posts will undoubtedly raise user-engagement, but these can easily be administered from the UK.

10 months ago

Ann-Maree Morrison

Ann-Maree Morrison, Managing Director at Labels4Kids LtdSmall Business

As an Australian in e-commerce retailing in Britain I will be intrigued to follow the progress of their Aussi store. I do admit the first thing I noticed was the "thongs" which will cause great hilarity in Australia! Good luck with this M&S.

10 months ago

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Moni Rommel, Digital Marketing at Secret Escapes

I like Econsultancy but this is not a good review of an international launch.

Calling for local social experts is noble but not at all justified. Social media platforms easily enable centralised scheduling across time zones. A few more minutes research would have revealed that at least on Facebook there actually is an Australian profile. The author is sitting in the UK, by default he will see the UK page - Facebook global pages makes it possible.

I give you the content localisation issue! Its the first thing people notice but I guess its easily fixable. Assuming they would aim at expats initially, I would see it less of an issue as they have put up with the UK site for years. Localisation does not stop at the language point. Where is your view on delivery options, payments, adapting to local law where applicable and more?

Your point around re-registering is answered by your comment about using Demandware. They are obviously trying to move customers between platforms. Its not ideal from a customer point of view. But anyone who has had the joy of identifying and migrating sensible personal data (think email, home address, banking data) from one platform to another knows how much fun this is. Asking users to re-register is much quicker and easier.

I do not want to defend M&S, I am sure they know the areas that need working on, starting with thongs. But I also think they do not deserve such a half-hearted review, no company does.

10 months ago

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Ros Smith, Project Manager at N/A

From a user experience it is most frustrating that M&S refuses to acknowledge the issues with the NZ website offering and the impact they have to the NZ customer basis. I have contacted customer services and continue to get fobbed off, or get contradictory information... Yet the issues persist. I suggest other frustrated customers also complain.

As a result of the lack of resolution I have made a formal complaint to NZ commerce commission, as M&S are in breach of a number of NZ regulations. They are currently investigating and plan to make formal contact with M&S.

7 months ago

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