M&S admits ‘frightening number’ of shoppers don’t consider it online

MWL: A “frightening number” of M&S customers still do not consider it as a multichannel retailer when they are shopping online despite its recent focus on multi-channel, according to head of digital store development Claire Zuurbier.

Marks & Spencer

Speaking in the new Retail Zone at Marketing Week Live 2013 today (26 June) Zuurbier spoke candidly about the challenges M&S faces to achieve its target of becoming a fully multichannel retailer by 2015.

“Many of our customers, actually a frightening number, don’t consider us at all when they are thinking about multichannel and we don’t even cross their mind when they are shopping online,” she said.

Multichannel currently makes up around a tenth of M&S’s sales but Zuurbier says M&S expects 70 per cent of its total sales to be influenced by multichannel by 2020.

It is introducing a number of initiatives such as Style Online, a virtual makeover service and ‘order and browse’ hubs to help customers embrace multichannel in its stores now. M&S has also recorded 200 per cent growth in mobile sales in the last year.

She told the audience: “We believe mobile and personal devices will be critical and five years’ time but we have to use other technologies in the meantime so that we can get customers to reappraise M&S as an online and multichannel retailer and make sure that we are front of mind when they are shopping online.”

Zuurbier also outlined ‘virtual rail’ an initiative currently live in M&S’s Amsterdam store that allows customers to browse items on a life size screen, watch catwalk videos and see product information before adding the item to a digital basket to purchase via a kiosk in-store. Virtual rail is likely to roll out in the UK in 2014 after M&S shifts its digital platform to its own bespoke system.

Zuurbier joined M&S 18 months ago to oversee a digital project and now the team has grown from four freelancers to a new permanent division of more than 100 including 70 software developers. The team is tasked with introducing innovations that will “totally rebrand the experience in-store and deliver retail on the move”.

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