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How M&S connected with customers during the pandemic 

How M&S connected with customers during the pandemic 

DataDigital TransformationRetailThought LeadershipTop Stories

E-commerce is a rapidly growing industry and more companies in the retail sector are transitioning online. Annie Gardner, Omnichannel Customer Experience Manager at Marks & Spencer, speaks to us about its video-powered retail service, Go-Instore, and the benefits realised from this implementation.  

  1. Describe your current job role 

I am an Omnichannel Customer Experience Manager working within the customer experience team at our store support centre. This was a newly created role post-pandemic with the aim of developing customer journeys and propositions to allow our customers to shop seamlessly across our website and in our stores.  

  1. What has your career journey looked like so far? 

I began my career with M&S as a Commercial Manager in stores and have worked in the customer experience team for three years now. My role in the team originally focused on our clothing, home and beauty departments and improving our in-store journeys there, but this has changed to reflect the changing habits and demands of our customers – so now my remit is all things omnichannel.  

  1. Can you tell us a bit more about M&S, how it started and its mission? 

Everyone knows M&S. It’s a historic brand that’s been around for over 138 years, with over 1,000 UK stores and 500 international stores. We’re an own-brand retailer known for our trusted quality, service and value – and it’s a great privilege to play my part in the M&S story and help maintain our high standards for our customers. 

  1. What is Go-Instore and what appealed to M&S about their retail solutions? 

We were really keen to launch a video consultation service and spoke with a number of providers to see who could help us launch this for our customers. With many of our stores forced to temporarily close due to COVID-19, we wanted something we could have up and running quickly and something that could offer instant, pre-booked and two-way video consultations. 

Go-Instore offered the most compelling solution, so we kicked off a three-month proof of concept with them to launch this for our customers – and we were really pleased with the results.  

The feedback from both customers and colleagues was great: our colleagues loved how easy it was to use and how it allowed us to extend the reach of our famous in-store service to those at home too; while for customers, they told us it was a useful addition to our online experience. 

  1. What have been the benefits realised from this implementation? 

In addition to the commercial return on investment, our video-powered retail service has helped transform our online customer experience – allowing customers to benefit from the same trusted M&S service whether they’re at home or in-store. 

It’s already facilitated more than 42,000 one-to-one consultations, with an average customer satisfaction score of 4.5/5 – which shows how popular it is with our customers. Customers tell us it’s a brilliant addition to our online experience and makes perfect sense to extend the reach of our in-store service to online too. 

What we’re most proud of is our online bra-fit service and how it’s created a safe space where customers can attend their appointment from the comfort of their home. This has made a huge difference to several customer sub-groups including transgender customers, first bra fits and new mums who have been able to get a bra fit from the comfort of their own home. 

  1. Can you tell us more about your video-powered retail service? 

Video-powered retail allows our customers at home to connect with one of our product experts in-store via video link – where they can ask questions and receive the same service that they would in-store. It currently runs across our home, furniture and menswear departments, as well as facilitating our online bra-fit service. We have some exciting expansion plans in the near future which will open up the service to more departments and improve the online experience for even more of our customers – which is great! 

  1. How has your video-powered retail service enhanced the customer experience and helped M&S in the e-commerce space? 

Our video-powered retail service allowed us to stay connected to our customers when many of our stores were closed due to COVID-19, meaning we could still offer the brilliant service we’re known for. This gave us a competitive advantage over other businesses which didn’t offer such a service. 

I think the service has also played a big role in encouraging digital uptake among our customers, helping them become more comfortable with the tech and digital services we offer – which is an increasingly important part of our in-store experience. 

Video-powered retail has been a great way for us to prove that our customers do want omnichannel options and that they can indeed drive a return on investment. This has paved the way for us to further explore even more omnichannel opportunities and how we can bring this to life for our customers.  

  1. How can organisations harness technology, like video-powered retail, to improve their brand, customer experience and business strategy? 

Over the last two years, we’ve seen a huge increase in customer demand for digital, seamless shopping so in response we’ve accelerated the digital services we offer our customers. 

Video-powered retail is one of several initiatives we’ve launched as part of this drive and it’s made a huge difference to our online experience – allowing us to reach new customers, retain loyal customers and expand the reach of our famous in-store service. 

Go-Instore has been fantastic in helping us understand the opportunities in this space and executing this part of our omnichannel strategy and we’re excited to be exploring further expansion plans for the service. 

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