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I’ve written two posts already about Marks & Spencer's new website. It’s not a love-in, in fact both posts have generated some good debate.

Should it be so editorially led? Could the navigation be slicker? Should there be a guest checkout? Despite these issues, I’m a fan of the new look and aside from the intricacies, the new site is about finally aligning the brand's image with top quality high street fashion.

But it’s about more than just a new website, M&S is investing across the multichannel customer journey, in the knowledge that a multichannel customer can be worth four times as much as one that only shops either on- or offline.

Here are 11 ways Marks & Spencer is enriching its multichannel business, aside from its new desktop and mobile sites and revamped apps.

Next day collect-in-store

Marks & Spencer has been offering next day collect-in-store for a few months now. Customers have come to expect this flexibility of delivery. In 2013, an Econsultancy survey showed 63% of consumers had bought a product online and collected in-store. Here are some more reasons why click and collect is so important for retailers.

Of course, getting customers into store more often is a sure fire way to increase physical sales.

Checkout defaults to collect-in-store

Showing how committed M&S is to this new method of delivery, the new website checkout defaults to collect in-store. The dynamic store finder works very well on desktop and mobile.

Browse and order hubs in store

These hubs debuted in Marks & Spencer’s Cheshire Oaks stores in 2012 and are rolling out across more UK stores. 

They allow users to browse the catalogue or scan barcodes on items and explore product information. Customers can choose to order on the device and collect at a later date or have the product delivered.

Familiarising offline customers with the M&S catalogue online is a smart move as M&S has 6m customers that have never used its website.

Virtual rail

An all singing, all dancing version of the browse and order hub, the virtual rail has only demoed in Amsterdam so far, but I had the pleasure of using one at M&S HQ. Suprisingly, it works very very well for an outsized piece of tech. The floor to head height screen is touch-enabled and one can swipe through the catalogue looking for outfit inspiration.

Videos play on the rail, too, and it will recommend matches to items you have scanned or selected. It’s sort of like an incredibly sophisticated Mr Potato Head.

Store attribution

Much like John Lewis, M&S gives credit to physical stores and online sales when looking at sales in catchment areas. This commitment from within the business to think of all sales, on- or off-line as essentially part of the same goal is an important step to getting staff committed to multichannel.

iPads in store

M&S is investing in training staff across its new platforms. Staff in store will be familiar with the M&S website and so able to assist on the browsing hubs, but will also be carrying iPads (1,500 across the UK) to act as assisted sellers.

Re-merchandising stores

New research M&S has carried out into how its stores are merchandised is being implemented in one of its Oxford Street stores. As the brand modernises online, its image is changing in-store too.

Having a distinctive brand in-store and online will help to impress on multichannel customers that everything is joined up.

24/7 social media

The M&S Twitter account, as an example, is very good. M&S has refocused its social media efforts. Not only is the Twitter account great at broadcasting, lots of imagery, videos and detailing of offers, it’s also very reactive to customer contact.

This is another area where multichannel customers expect service and reassurance.

Accurate stock levels

Helping to reduce customer service issues, M&S’s new platform online updates stock levels every 15 minutes and lets customers know on product pages what’s available. Once added to bag, the stock is committed to the customer.

Dedicated ecommerce distribution centre

In May 2013 M&S’s Castle Donington distribution centre opened, dedicated to ecommerce.

Customer service contact centre

M&S has revamped its contact centre, emphasising its focus on making sure each prong of its multichannel strategy is well served with support, both for online and in-store buyers.

Ben Davis

Published 21 February, 2014 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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John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I think it’s really interesting to monitor and observe the progress that companies are making today in relation to enhancing and sustaining custom and offering a decent user experience. Retail and ecommerce is definitely one of those areas where the changes seem to be more frequent – giving customers multichannel access to their products.

Companies that have a more synced feel across all platforms, providing this has been done well of course, are more likely to attract greater sales and revenue as a result - both in store and online. The virtual rail and order hubs are just two examples where technology is aiding this process.

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@John

Yes, rather than multichannel a lot of this piece is actually about in-store developments. Looking at big screen video and the order hubs in a London M&S over the weekend (unsuccessfully shopping for a coat but hey, I went in) I did feel that M&S isn't putting extraneous stuff into its stores. It feels like progression.

over 2 years ago

Mark Selwyn

Mark Selwyn, eCommerce and Multi-Channel Retail Consultant

"Once added to bag, the stock is committed to the customer." Don't think so....

Odd stuff going on today in Chrome (which I used to test the above) - it's presented the mobile "hamburger menu", which then doesn't work. And the size/colour matrix doesn't recognise my mouse click......only my fingerpoint on my touchscreen PC. And there's no search box.....I'm thinking possibly it thinks Im on a tablet.

over 2 years ago

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Debbie A

I loved the new site when I looked at it last week after reading the first blog post. Engaging content, looked good etc.

Interestingly at the weekend when I was looking for something in the home sale on my ipad I found it incredibly difficult to shop. I couldn't find the product navigation and even on a PC I found myself accidentally hovering over the top nav and interrupting my shopping journey.

Style over substance perhaps?

over 2 years ago

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Richard Bell, Digital Marketing Manager at White StuffSmall Business Multi-user

Interesting point on the emphasis on Collection (which I'd agree is the way to go if you have shops to cover the UK well which M&S does).

However, there's no free standard delivery over £x which seems like a mistake to me given its pretty standard now. I spent over £200 on a pair of shoes and still had to pay £3.50 for 5 days delivery.

If it hadn't been a unique product I wouldn't have bothered.

Maybe the intention was to even more strongly push the free collection message?

Certainly would think twice about ordering anything more generic like a white work shirt...

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Debbie

Check out the comments in the post below for a more thorough investigation and plenty like yourself who have had difficulty or expressed displeasure

http://econsultancy.com/blog/64362-m-s-launches-new-website-focuses-on-curation-clustering-and-content

@Richard

Yes, that's something M&S is updating. Actually if you look at delivery info in the bag, one is given a code to enter in the checkout for free delivery over £150. But this hasn't been made automatic yet since the platform change.

Not ideal at the moment.

over 2 years ago

Lucy Lonsdale

Lucy Lonsdale, Digital Account Director at HH Global

On a personal level I do enjoy shopping with M&S and this new experience is fantastic, however considering how savvy they are here I'm surprised how old-fashioned they are with business customers.

You still can't order e-gift / gift cards online, you have to send a spreadsheet attached in an email and ask them to call you for payment! Many times they mislay the order email or don't even send the gift card which wastes time chasing up. If an gift card has not been dispatched you don't get a courtesy email, you find out when the client calls to say it's not been received - very frustrating!

We have recently taken our business elsewhere.

over 2 years ago

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Rick Harris, MD at Customer Faithful Ltd

A rather dewy-eyed account of M&S if I may say so, Ben.
First up, almost all of the 11 ways you describe have been introduced by competitors before M&S, and in most cases are far more accomplished. The revamped website is barely any better than its widely-recognised-to-be awful predecessor, esp. the infamously poor navigation with its ridiculous drop-down menus from hell.
The collect in-store one has been done by Argos for nearly 5 years, which also had up-to-date stocking levels too. I'm amazed you are so impressed by that!

My personal experience is that M&S is awful when it comes to multichannel customer service - e.g. they failed to accept an online exchange from me even when presented with an email receipt, saying it had to go back through the online channel - pathetic.

There are some really great examples of multichannel out there....and M&S is way down the list.

over 1 year ago

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