Marks and Spencer lost its sparkle – a review of the M&S website
As Black Friday fever swept the UK, Marks & Spencer was among the UK online retailers to struggle to meet the demand. Daniel Hobson, head of e-commerce for Peer 1 Hosting offer his views on the M&S website, the mistakes it has made and some advice on where retailers can go right.
Approximately £810m was spent online by British shoppers on Black Friday according to IMRG, well over its estimate of £555m. So why did we see top retailers crumbling at the critical moment?
Tesco, Argos and Curry’s were amongst the few that saw high volumes of traffic take their websites offline and inadvertently direct their customers to their competitors. With an inordinate amount of time to prepare for this rush, retailers should look shamed faced at this significant oversight.
Marks and Spencer was another retailer that fell not at the first hurdle (their website stayed live), but at the second; they have failed to honour delivery timeframes, and have been forced to admit defeat. In a world of ‘next day delivery’ and ‘click and collect’, situations such as these should not be happening.
For the upmost Marks and Spencer has always been a credible brand, moving swiftly away from their online re-launch teething issues. Marks and Spencer emulates affordable luxury; from their opening page, right down to their payment options. The process is smooth, fast and consistent. Even their mobile site leaves nothing wanting. So why did they let themselves down in such a hyper-visible moment?
Due to the constant stream of news reports, consumers are fully aware of what delivery options are available and which retailers are struggling. Visibility on the Marks and Spencer site leaves much to be desired:
The site is not forthcoming with their amended delivery options, in fact, unless you have zoom or glasses on you might indeed miss it. Even at the final stage of the payment options, the delivery times are still unclear.
Seasonal peaks such as Christmas are of huge importance to retailers whereby consumers are more fickle than ever in order to get the best deal. However, consumers are also trusting that their chosen retailer will deliver. Failure to do so can result in not just the lack of sale, but also dramatic reputational damage that will cost a lot more to repair than if the product was delivered in the first place.
Retailers such as Marks and Spencer, whose product range span multiple categories, can risk collateral damage in one department due to poor customer service in another. For example, consumers who have endured a bad customer experience in the home department during Black Friday will not go back again to purchase their food shopping closer to Christmas.
Although the introduction of days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are somewhat new to the UK, there is no excuse not to be prepared moving forward. Retailers have access to historical data whereby they can predict the effects of a sudden surge during a shortened trading period.
Proper contingency planning will also ensure retailers are not left absorbing higher fulfilment costs in an attempt to maintain delivery lead times. Retailers such as Marks and Spencer are at risk of feeling the effects of Black Friday for many months to come. Repairing consumer trust and loyalty does not come cheap and ultimately will be regained after they have finished paying higher premiums to get their logistics caught up.
Aesthetically Marks and Spencer’s user experience hits the mark, logistically however, it seems Marks and Spencer has lost its sparkle.