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M&S wants to convert 19m customers to online shopping

Mark & Spencer is focusing on an estimated 19m existing customers who shop online with competitors but not from M& as it seeks to gain digital traction.

More than 34m customers shop with M&S and about one-fifth of these – 6.7m – already are omnichannel shoppers. The 8.3m who do not shop online anywhere are not high priorities for a month-long marketing campaign that starts today.

Customers who shop on both channels spend £55 a year more than those who do not, according to M&S estimates. The exact potential to increase sales of clothing and footwear is not clear, however, as M&S is unable to confirm how many of the target 19m shop only for food in its stores.

At a briefing for press and investors today (Thursday) chief executive Marc Bolland and senior members of his online team underlined that following the re-launch of M& in February, the website is now the company’s flagship, not Marble Arch.

Initiatives for the month-long campaign include interactive shop windows in some major stores, a 16-page tabloid-sized supplement available in store, social media activity with some 2.5m contacts, and sponsored features in Conde Nast titles Vogue, Glamour, GQ and House & Garden.

Bolland was at pains to emphasise that having replaced its original platform on Amazon with its own site and having made significant investment in a huge distribution centre in Donington, Leicestershire, M&S has a platform and infrastructure that was “fit for the future”.

Laura Wade-Gery, executive director of multichannel and ecommerce, said the online business was profitable already and would be as profitable as the stores business within three years. Online-only price promotions were being used as part of the recruitment strategy, she added.

Answering a question from the audience, she confirmed that the site could be used as another route to clear excess stock more effectively – M&S already runs 40 Outlet stores – and, depending on results, this could lead to more risk-taking when buying decisions being taken.


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