M&S Close stores…but where is the Digital strategy?

November 10, 2016

This morning I discussed M&S latest results live on Sky News:

The results were “ok” and “not bad as bad as expected”, but they are far from what they should be and what the brand could achieve.

Steve Rowe, the new CEO, is making decisions and taking action to help stem the decline, but is this action enough in a digitally changing world?

The food business is doing very well, and has been for a number of years – I helped open the Crouch End M&S Simply food back in the early 2000’s…

It hasn’t changed much, but the real issue is the clothing and home business, bearing in mind the margins in Clothing and home are nearly double the margins in Food, this is a big issue for the long term.

The announcement today, will close 60 Clothing and Home stores, and open more Food stores and M&S will also close a number of International stores and change some to the profitable franchise model.

My question to M&S is what about your Digital strategy?

M&S.com was up 0.3% in the first half, which compares to double digit increases from most of their competitors, and M&S has a very low online penetration, whereas their biggest direct competitor, and a juggernaut of success, John Lewis, has 37% of their sales online (mainly through click and collect)

Customers are becoming ever more digital and increasingly mobile. We all use our smartphones daily (all day in some cases). Shopping and researching on a smartphone is increasingly common, M&S needs to quickly address this and employ a customer centered approach.

Allowing the customer to shop how they want, where they want and when they want – in store, on a mobile, on the desktop, on the TV, in a train station etc – the customer is now clearly in control.

Two quick wins for M&S

The first win, would be to use their vast and comprehensive stores estate, to push the Collect at store experience. Customer want to buy online and allowing them to collect in store and try on is a great service to their customers. It also differentiates them from the pure online retailers such as ASOS and Misguided.

The second win, would be to make the stores more experiential…more fun. Physical shopping is increasingly a leisure activity, and the M&S store experience is very boring and can be quite challenging. Many different brands and sections to look through and no real explanation of what it means for me as the customer.

There is no easy fix for M&S clothing, but the changes that Steve is making will help to change the business and focusing the business digitally will reap rewards in the future.