M&S marketing goes digital first

Marks and Spencer is shifting its marketing approach to digital first, launching campaigns online before they appear on TV or in print as it looks to better engage with its customers.

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The change started with the “Leading Ladies” campaign, which launched on Facebook in September before rolling out to billboards, print and in-store. The same is true of its latest Christmas ads “Believe in Magic and Sparkle”, with a two-minute video ad launching online yesterday (4 November) ahead of its TV debut tomorrow.

Speaking to Marketing Week at the retailer’s half-year presentation in London today, M&S’s executive director of marketing and business development, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, said social media is important to M&S because it allows them to listen to what consumers are saying in real time.

“Straight away we know what customers think of our new campaign and the Christmas range. Social media means they can feedback directly to us and we can provide a direct link to purchase. We know the comments so far are positive, we want to see that feed through to sales,” he added.

Speaking at the same event, M&S CEO Marc Bolland said the move to digital marketing is part of the retailer’s aims to be multichannel and prove its ecommerce savvy. He claimed that the Leading Ladies campaign had 10 million hits in the first week and had a 52 per cent cut-through, higher than a lot of its TV campaigns.

M&S plans to follow a similar strategy for spring/summer 2014, ensuring that online is completely integrated across marketing and purchasing. A new web platform is also planned for spring next year.

M&S is also adding a new element to its Christmas ad campaign, integrating its food and general merchandise, which includes clothes and homeware, for the first time. Bousquet-Chavanne said this gives M&S an advantage over other retailers, none of which can use the same branding for clothes and food.

He said this has only happened for the first time now because it has previously been difficult creatively to embrace both businesses in the same environment. He expects it to lead to uplift in the number of customers shopping across food and general merchandise, with currently around 40 per cent buying both brands.

“This is a new way of working that lets us cross-fertilise across food and clothing. Other retailers can’t do this,” he added.

M&S is under growing pressure to turn around its clothing business after nine consecutive quarters of decline. Sales improved slightly in the second quarter, falling by 1.3 per cent, compared to a 1.6 per cent drop in the prior period.

Bolland said M&S is seeing a “positive trend” as the retailer integrates marketing, the in-store experience and its new collections. Its new store layout, which positions clothes around capsule ranges such as dresses, coats and tailoring is now available in 70 stores, with a further roll out planned for next year.

Bolland said he is also working to boost perceptions of the M&S brand around style and “fashionability” by working more closely with the fashion press, inking a deal with London Fashion Week for a M&S catwalk and launching a studio in the London School of Fashion to give it early access to market trends.

“Our concept stores work. Our collections work. Our brands work. We are bringing fashionable under M&S brands where it was not before. These are early signs of improvement,” he added.

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