Extending M&S's Outlet Stores to Online Customers
Marks & Spencer
Amazon Webstore Implementation
Custom Interface Design
Making M&S’s fashion and homewares even more accessible to online shoppers.
What do you do if you’re one of the UK’s most popular retailers but you’re holding an unusually high level of unsold stock from previous seasons’ collections? You quickly create a standalone online outlet and enable shoppers to bag even more of a bargain online to start clearing the excess inventory.
BACKGROUND TO THE BRIEF
Marks & Spencer is a major British multinational retailer, offering high quality, own brand food, clothing and home products in-store and online. With annual turnover in excess of £10bn a year, the company is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
M&S started building a network of high street outlet stores in the UK in 2001, all dedicated to selling end of season lines at discounts of up to 40%. By the end of 2011, 50 outlets were generating revenues in excess of £250 million a year.
In January 2012, M&S commissioned us to develop an online version of their popular outlet store format to start reducing the unusually high levels of stock the company was holding, and contribute to the initial phase of the company’s new multiplatform digital strategy.
FASHIONING A SEAMLESS ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
M&S briefed us to launch a new standalone online outlet offering 1,300 clothing products across womenswear, lingerie, menswear and childrenswear, as well as a range of home products. Built on Amazon’s Webstore platform, order management and delivery operations would be handled by Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) which meant M&S didn't need to make an upfront investment in physical infrastructure.
To start selling excess stock at the earliest possible opportunity, M&S asked us to launch the new outlet in just 5 weeks! In order to design, develop, test,and deploy the new store with a full catalogue available to shoppers to such a demanding timetable, we developed a 2-stage project plan which prioritised the early delivery of a minimum viable product. A stage 2 release soon after the initial launch would incorporate integrations with warehouse management, shipping and refund systems to automate key operational processes.
PREPARING TO LAUNCH THE NEW ONLINE OUTLET
247 Commerce created a clean, crisp front end in a fully-responsive format for M&S, and configured the back end of the Amazon Webstore so M&S staff could content manage the majority of the site after deployment.
For the initial launch, we imported M&S’s entire product catalogue for the outlet which, with all the associated variations in colour, size and price, which amounted to a total of over 55,000 SKU’s.
Combining Amazon’s Webstore platform with Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) enabled us to build a highly scalable, robust and secure outlet for M&S, utilising Amazon’s tried and trusted shipping and returns solutions while also enabling shoppers to use their Amazon account to place orders on the site.
EXPANDING ONLINE SALES TO START CLEARING EXCESS INVENTORY
M&S’s new online outlet was launched in February 2012 with PR support and a prominent feature on the homepage of M&S’s main site to drive traffic to the site. Sales started within minutes of going live - we’d succeeded in creating a user-friendly buying experience for M&S in just five weeks.
We continued developing the site beyond the initial launch, upgrading the back-end of the new store by integrating Amazon’s Webstore with M&S’s warehouse management system (Red Prairie), DHL’s shipping system and Amazon’s refund system. Automating these processes was essential because, unlike the high street outlets, M&S‘s online outlet would feature regularly refreshed ranges from more recent M&S collections
The standalone online outlet was available for nearly four years before being integrated into the company‘s main UK website as M&S Offers. By the end of 2015, M&S’s online outlet had contributed between £8-12 million a year to the company’s revenues, and firmly established itself as an incredibly efficient channel for clearing excess inventory.
By extending their popular outlet offering online, M&S had achieved more than just creating a new channel to help clear unsold stock from previous season’s collections. The company had also responded to customers' increased desire to bag a bargain by offering shoppers access to great value online.