Over the last 129 years M&S has grown from a single market stall to become an international multichannel retailer. The company operates in over 50 territories worldwide and employs almost 82,000 people.
While retailing has always been about the store, technology has transformed how consumers shop. In 2011, Marks & Spencer challenged itself to become a true multichannel retailer within 3 years and deliver 360-degree customer experiences consistent across every channel. Online, M&S recognized the need for seamless browsing and shopping experiences on mobile and in apps. In-store, M&S faced the reality of smaller store footprints and the need to offer customers access to their massive inventory via effective use of mobile technology. In addition to an ambitious goal for seamless multichannel engagement, the brand faced challenges in terms of systems upgrades and needing a multichannel platform.
An industry trailblazer, Marks & Spencer chose Usablenet as its strategic partner to provide end-to-end mobile and multichannel services. The Usablenet platform was selected because of its ability to create world-class experiences and its capacity to provide enabling services to support back-end functionality.
The partnership started with the development and launch of a fast-loading e-commerce mobile site that would become the linchpin of the M&S multichannel strategy. First launched in May 2012, the mobile site made it possible for shoppers to browse and shop the full range of M&S inventory, view high-resolution image galleries, save and retrieve wish lists, and share favorite products with friends via Facebook, Pinterest, and other social channels. Subsequent enhancements using the latest HTML5 technologies introduced a sleek user interface and expanded product discovery capability.
In July 2012 a fully transactional iPhone app was launched with store locator, a barcode scanner which allowed customers to scan and find product information and locate items not available in-store. The app also made it possible to scan QR codes to hold “virtual baskets” for customers who started their shopping journey on another channel such as the M&S Browse and Order Point kiosks in the store. The Virtual Basket represented an early innovation at making true multichannel shopping a reality. Created by Usablenet using its agile web services, the virtual basket allowed users the ability to create a basket of products and electronically access that basket on any M&S channel using scanable codes. Once items are placed in the basket, a QR code is generated for the customer to purchase directly on a kiosk, or by scanning the QR code using their mobile devices to purchase on their own later. The QR code could also be used at Browse & Order Points or by sales assistants carrying tablets. Orders can be home delivered or shipped to any M&S store.
M&S brought its multichannel vision to life through an initiative called “Shop Your Way”. This included bringing iPads loaded with an App for Sales Associates into stores to be used by 1500 staff to help customers order items not available in store for delivery to their home or for pick up in the store. Usablenet designed the app to provide decision support to facilitate purchase.
The mobile site and apps were designed to complement the in-store shopping journey by enabling customers to create an outfit via “Style Online” touch screen displays and save it in their wish list or virtual basket for purchase in-store on Browse and Order Point kiosks that were built to resemble large iPhones. Over 250 Browse and Order Points have been installed across 82 stores offering access to the full M&S product inventory, as well as an array of beauty, home and fashion experiences. Customers can immerse themselves in product not yet available in-store through videos, participate in “Virtual Make-Overs”, build outfits and save items to a virtual basket.
To support the use of mobile in-store, M&S introduced free Wi-Fi in store, allowing customers to readily access the mobile site to read product reviews, share their favorite items on Facebook and other social media – and allow mobile to bridge the digital and physical worlds.
M&S’ multichannel vision extends to international markets supported by commerce-enabled by Usablenet which are accessible in countries across Europe.
Usablenet continues to support the M&S multichannel journey connecting mobile and in-store kiosks using agile web services to extend key features and functions. This is part of Usablenet API Services, giving M&S agility in leveraging investments in secure checkout services to power unique kiosk experiences in key stores.
Marks & Spencer’s multichannel strategy has been a leading factor in the company’s overall growth. Offering customers an integrated mobile site, app and multichannel shopping experience led to well over 1.2 million unique visitors on the M&S mobile site and over 10 million page views in the first three months after launch in 2012. Today, sales on mobile and tablet have increased by over 200% accounting for 18% of marksandspencer.com sales. * In an interview with Internet Retailing, Laura Wade-Gery, Executive Director, Multi-channel E-Commerce at Marks & Spencer said “Multichannel customers spend more, and as M&S adds channels, that spend continues to rise.”