Speaking at the Festival of Marketing in London today (12 November), M&S’s executive director of multichannel, Laura Wade-Gery, said the retailer’s recently launched Christmas campaign is its “most digital yet”, putting social media at the forefront. She said that is a reflection of a shift in consumer behaviour, with customers responding best to brands that have “shifted focus to online and content”.
The 25% figure means M&S’s digital marketing budget has more than doubled since 2010. The figure is also up from the 20% M&S said it was investing in digital earlier this year. Wade-Gery said M&S’s social media spend has increased by 300%, albeit from a “small start”.
The M&S website
Wade-Gery joined M&S three and a half years ago from Tesco to lead its online charge. Since joining she has overseen the launch of a new website that placed content at the centre in response to the growing number of consumers shopping online for fashion.
The website has had a tricky first few months, with its first half trading figures showing that sales were down 6.3%, although that was an improvement on the 8% drop seen in the first quarter. M&S has had to make a number of updates to the website, including improved navigation and display and a new guest checkout facility.
Nevertheless, Wade-Gery said the website is getting 5.5m visitors a week and that people who engage with the content are more likely to convert.
“If we have a brand conversation with customers it helps conversion,” she said.
Wade-Gery believes that online should not be judged by the same criteria as high street stores. She highlighted that, in a typical week, there are 100 million visits to the traditional high street to shop for clothing and fashion but visits to the virtual high street are even larger, at 250 million. However, just 16% of sales are done online.
“Either ecommerce is doing a shit job or it’s doing a very different job.”
Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of multichannel, M&S
“Either ecommerce is doing a shit job or it’s doing a very different job. For me it’s doing a very different job. The whole philosophy is different. Online is a 24/7 shop window for the whole brand experience of M&S. Some of those will convert online but a huge number still shop in stores. The new M&S website has that trend in mind,” she said.
Integrating digital across the business
Wade-Gery said setting up a new website was not the only task she faced when joining M&S. She admitted that in 2011 the retailer had “limited digital capability” and isolated groups working on its online business, meaning the whole DNA of the company had to be changed.
That started at the top, with Wade-Gery taking the company’s top 100 executives on a 1.5 day training course to improve their digital skills. The retailer has also hired people with skills new to the business, including those with a background in publishing and digital, who sit alongside those in other departments in order to bring a more “agile mentality”.
“For a multichannel retailer to succeed you can’t have the digital team in a corner on their own. The digital essence needs be the DNA of the whole business,” she said.