M&S looks to combine ‘stock awareness’ with ‘mobile presence’ to push products ‘at the right time’

Marks & Spencer is looking to become ‘more on it as a business’ by using ‘strong stock awareness’ to push its products through proximity initiatives such as geo-targeting on Twitter.

Marks and Spencer's

Speaking at the IBM Amplify conference in San Diego this week, David Walmsley, director of M&S.com, highlighted the importance of using stock accuracy and proximity to reach “the right customer at the right time’, particularly through mobile.

After becoming the first retailer to exploit geo-targeted content through Twitter in February with a Valentine’s Day campaign that targeted consumers based on their proximity to stores, M&S is now working with Google on more proximity initiatives as part of its effort to embrace multi-channel marketing and focus on the ‘customer journey’ rather than a ‘destination’, according to Walmsley.

He added that the move will allow the company to have a real-time view of accuracy and become “more on it as a business” by ensuring products embedded in articles or appearing on Google rankings are “stock-aware”.

M&S is also working with suppliers to create ID tags in order to identify where products are in stores in order to know “not just where the consumer is, but if they are near products they’re interested in,” Walmsley added.

Speaking with Marketing Week at the event, he said: “Experience is fundamental, but not as much as having the product.”

He added that customers are becoming more demanding over what mobile offers them in terms of delivery and speed.

“We’re still in the early stages, but with mobiles in consumers’ hands, figuring out how to use that will be crucial,” he said.

Geo-targeting is the latest in the retailer’s ongoing effort to bring together content and commerce by reaching its customers through “recreational shopping”, such as browsing websites, Facebook or Instagram, instead of through traditional media such as TV and print.

“We can’t operate in a walled garden,” Walmsley said. “You have to understand where your customer is.”

In November, Marks & Spencer’s chief executive Marc Bolland also said that “good co-operation” between its product and marketing teams had helped to boost the effectiveness of its Only M&S campaign, citing a “direct correlation” between lines that featured in ads and its best-selling products.

The retailer also announced it would invest 25% of its marketing budget into digital as part of its strategy to reshape its whole business to reflect the increasing importance of social media and content.

The strategy seems to be working, as in April it announced it had grown its clothing sales after four years of decline, with like-for-like sales of its general merchandise arm up 0.7% in the 13 weeks to March 28.

Traffic conversion and satisfaction were also up across desktop, tablet and mobile, with mobile the strongest driver with conversion up 50%.

It credited record Valentine’s Day trading for helping total sales rise 3.7% – well above the market average.

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