Marks & Spencer has reported a 6.3% fall in its online sales for the first half of 2014, despite unveiling its new-look website 8 months ago as part of a wider multichannel approach to retail.
In February 2014, the British retailer made a number of updates to the website, such as improved navigation and display, as well as a guest checkout facility to improve user experience. The site was built to create an agile, flexible trading platform, which M&S said would cater to current consumer shopping needs.
According to the retailer, five million customers have shopped on the site since its relaunch.
But its e-commerce sales fell by more than 8% in the first quarter of the 2014 after a glitch on the website. The trend continued with sales down 4.6% in the second quarter of 2014. But chief executive Marc Bolland is confident the retailer is “on track to return to growth ahead of the peak trading period” – Christmas.
“The marksandspencer.com sales trend improved through the period, with the updates made to the new platform driving increased customer satisfaction and an improving conversion rate since launch,” said Bolland.
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Online acts as the shop window to M&S stores, products and brands, so the retailer has used bigger, bolder and better-styled imagery, with the aim of inspiring and helping customers with a clear style point of view and compelling editorial content refreshed on a daily basis, according to executive director for multichannel e-commerce Laura Wade-Gery.
“We now have the capability to respond quickly and efficiently in a world where customers, technology and trends are constantly evolving,” she said.
Back in November 2010, M&S announced plans to ditch the public cloud-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) e-commerce system to bring its online channel back in-house.
The much-publicised decision to insource was not only down to Amazon being an M&S competitor, but also the fact AWS wanted to standardise its cloud offering and package it out to other retailers.
We now have the capability to respond quickly and efficiently in a world where customers, technology and trends are constantly evolving
Laura Wade-Gery, M&S
The retailer decided to design and build the refreshed site around the customer, following two years of testing.
It also launched a version of the website optimised for tablet devices, as well as updates to its existing mobile website and applications.
M&S also has a dedicated e-commerce distribution centre at Castle Donington, which opened in May 2013, and it is building capacity ready for the peak trading season at Christmas 2014.
“Our e-commerce distribution centre in Castle Donington is now processing 100% of the marksandspencer.com orders and has enabled us to launch an improved service delivery proposition,” Bolland said.
“We are continuing with the implementation of GM4, our new general merchandise commercial systems, with the first component – allocation and replenishment – currently being rolled out.”
Despite the fall in online sales, the British retailer posted a 2.3% rise in half-year profits to £268m – its first profit increase in four years – after strong sales in the food segment.