M&S pledges to 'fail fast and move on' with £250m ecommerce drive

Marks and Spencer: Cheshire Oaks store
Marks and Spencer: Cheshire Oaks store

Marks & Spencer is embarking on a strategy of "failing fast and moving on" to turn the business into an ecommerce powerhouse through a £250m investment.

The retailer is currently pouring £150m into its new ecommerce site and £100m into technological innovations in-store as part of plans to revolutionise its business.

Laura Wade-Gery, the retailer's executive director of multi-channel ecommerce, laid out the strategy ahead of today's opening of the company's Northern England flagship store in Cheshire Oaks.

Wade-Gery joined last year, having previously been ecommerce director at Tesco.

She stressed that M&S needs to emulate the likes of tech giants Apple and Google by pursuing a philosophy of "if it's not going to work fail fast and move on".

"Our scale and ambition is huge and we are putting real money behind this," she said. "M&S is putting more money behind this [than] I had at Tesco."

M&S has now committed to rolling out Wi-Fi to all its major general merchandise stores by the end of the year and will extend its in-store "browse and collect" and Style Online areas in order to drive technological innovation.

Marc Bolland, chief executive at M&S, said the "priority for us is to do things faster".

The increasing focus on digital has also seen the retailer enter into discussions with Google about its smart TV platform and will see the introduction of augmented reality (AR) into next month’s autumn campaign, which will involve an AR-enabled cover on the autumn fashion catalogue.

However, Wade-Gery admitted she is remaining "agnostic" about the various emerging platforms and dismissed predictions that AR could be "fundamental to the future of ecommerce".

The new store in Cheshire Oaks, which features the latest technological innovations and an updated home department, has been in planning since 2006 and was codenamed Concept 11.

Bolland said: "We didn’t want to rush it and get it wrong – it means we can roll it out to other stores."

Concept 11 will be rolled out to 33 other M&S stores by the end of October, in time for the busy Christmas period.

Meanwhile, the new ecommerce site will launch in 2014 and will no longer be based on an Amazon platform.

Wade-Gery said: "We've been renting the car rather than owning it. Amazon fundamentally sells everything as if it is a book and Amazon is pure-play only, meaning [the M&S ecommerce site] has tortured the system."

It plans to have a transactional site covering 10 countries by the end of the year.

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