Marks & Spencer’s ‘Digital Stylist’ service has quadrupled the average order value per customer and is helping to change perceptions of the brand, the retailer has claimed, paving the way for other experiments in areas such as clothing rental and a ‘concierge’ service.
The online service, dubbed 'Tuesday' was one of the first projects to emerge from M&S Venture Labs, the retailer’s innovation hub, around eight months ago. It introduced users to an internal M&S stylist who would advise on what they should buy based on what they have in their wardrobe, their body shape and the season.
As well as increasing order values, it's driving traffic to the website which has increased some 300 per cent in the past few weeks - all good news for M&S after it saw non-food sales tank 5.8 per cent over the crucial Christmas period.
Speaking at The Guardian Media Summit, Hemal Kuntawala, head of M&S Venture Labs, said that the investment into technologies such as 'Tuesday' is reflective of the shifting role of marketing within M&S. While it will continue to spend heavy on large-scale ATL work, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to customer experience and the effect that has on brand perception and return custom.
“We’re seeing customers come back to the stylist within two weeks. We don’t have to do any retention work and because there’s familiarity there’s loyalty and that changes marketing,” said Kuntawala.
“It’s about investing deeper in the journey than the marketing.”
However, the insights gleaned from the women using the service are also being harnessed by the retailer’s marketers. Until recently, it would segment its customers based on gender and then serve general offers to women based on what it thought they might like.
“Now we can target based on what we know you like,” said Kuntawala. “[With the personal stylist] we know what’s already in your wardrobe and now we can offer suggestions from a stylist, rather than the brand, and that is going to have much more cut through than other marketing activities.”
M&S Venture Labs is now working closely with the retailer’s marketing department in an effort to pinpoint other customer problems that they could solve together.
Kuntawala revealed it’s considering a service where goods you haven’t ordered, but it thinks you might want or need, will appear on your doorstep every quarter.
Tapping into the burgeoning ‘sharing economy’, it’s also eyeing up a rental service where a customer could potentially borrow an outfit for a one-off event, rather than having to buy it outright.
“We’re exploring this because we know the bar has been raised in an experience level and we need to keep up,” said Kuntawala.
“Marketing is going through an evolution of not just about budgets and getting eyes on things, it’s about really understanding the customer.”