M&S digital marketing head on the need to “clean up and contemporise” its site

Marks & Spencer is aiming to make its website more shoppable with the launch of a new content-focused ecommerce offering that it hopes will turnaround its clothing and homeware business after several quarters of declining sales.

Marks & Spencer’s new tablet app

The M&S.com website is designed to offer a “flagship experience” of M&S’s products. It has been more than three years in development and has been led by executive director of multi-channel and ecommerce and former Tesco.com CEO Laura Wade-Gery.

The work has included moving M&S off Amazon’s platform and completely overhauling the site and its tablet and mobile apps. It includes a big focus on content, with a central content hub, called “Style & Living”, offering customers ideas on new trends and products across fashion, homeware and food.

Speaking to Marketing Week, head of online and digital marketing Lou Jones, who followed Wade-Gery from Tesco, says the aim was to “clean up and contemporise” the website, using imagery to make products more appealing. Content has also been positioned through the customer journey to make the site “more shoppable” after M&S found that its previous foray into content, online portal “Style Edit”, led to an increase in conversions.

“Content is like a shop assistant sitting at your site and guiding you through the shopping experience. We know that 24 per cent of customers are more likely to shop when they’ve been through content,” she says.

With the relaunch M&S is moving to a daily publishing model that it hopes will give people a reason to come back to the site every day. M&S will also promote its content across social media and its online CRM programme, with plans for a wider marketing campaign aimed at raising awareness of the new site planned for later in the year.

Paul Bennun, chief creative officer at content agency Somethin’ Else, says the move to content, while a very “modern thing to do”, aims to get back to the fundamental promise of M&S, to talk to people in its shops about fashion and its products.

“Content lets M&S be part of the conversation again. This is about M&S actively engaging in a discussion about fashion and style and living and positioning them as a voice that says ‘we care about these topics and we want to talk to you about them’. It’s an important and very good move,” he says.

Claire Hill, managing director at the Content Marketing Association, says the website redesign is another sign of how important content is becoming for retailers.

“Content marketing is critical for fashion retailers, as demonstrated only last week by the notable launch of Porter, the new glossy fashion magazine from Net-A-Porter. Whether you are a digital etailer or high street fashion retailer devinishing an omnichannel content marketing strategy is key,” she says.

Online sales at M&S have been accelerating, with revenues up 23 per cent in the company’s latest quarter. However, the retailer says that 14.5m of its customers don’t buy from its website, despite the fact that they shop online elsewhere, and it now wants to target them.

M&S’s Jones says in stores is a perfect place to talk to these customers and promote content from the website, as well as services such as its barcode scanning system and shoppable print magazine.

“We have picked our moment to shout,” she adds.

However, James MacGregor, director at retail consultancy Retail Remedy cautions that while the new site is an improvement, M&S will need to match the website experience with what customers find in store.

“Everything needs to be consistent and currently it’s not,” he adds.

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