Marks & Spencer, which back in 2012 spent more than £100m to bring its website in-house, is to launch 46 new websites in one fell swoop to target overseas markets from Argentina to Uzbekistan, as it looks to international sales to reverse its flagging UK fortunes.
While John Lewis has scrapped its international division at the beginning of the year, the move sees M&S expand its online reach to more than 100 countries, offering M&S clothing and homeware.
The company insists the expansion has been achieved using a “low-cost approach”, meaning it will be able to capitalise on growth without considerable upfront costs by using an adaptable web platform designed for international sales.
The online channels have been translated into 10 more languages and additional currencies; orders will be fulfilled through its distribution network.
M&S saw a 75% rise in ecommerce sales during its most recent half year results, as overall losses across the business reached £87.6m in the six months to September 26 2020.
International director Paul Friston said: “Our international business has seen strong online growth since the start of the pandemic as increasing numbers of customers choose to shop through our range of flagship websites.
“Under our Never the Same Again programme we’re focused on turbo-charging our online business both in the UK and internationally, and as part of this we see a real opportunity in extending the number of countries where we run an online channel further.
“This means that ongoing costs mirror customer demand, and by having an adaptable website platform M&S can further increase the localisation of its offer quickly and efficiently in response.”
The move is yet another milestone on the road to achieving M&S chief executive Steve Rowe’s long-term aim of putting data at the heart of the business.
So far, more than 700 M&S employees have been given specialist data training with Decoded at the M&S data academy, first launched in 2018, while its Data Analyst Fellowship course has seen over 200 staff across the business – from stores to support centres – learn skills such as R, Python, SQL and machine learning.
Ultimately, the retailer wants to create a new raft of data skilled leaders and data scientists to spearhead digital transformation across the depth and breadth of its business.
Last year, M&S revamped the Sparks loyalty programme, ditching the physical cards and relaunching it as a digital-only scheme, hosted through an updated M&S App.
The app, which attracted a million new customers within two months, followed the recruitment of former Tesco Clubcard director Danielle Papagapiou to the role of head of loyalty, with a brief to breathe new life into the scheme.
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