M&S seeks to enhance fashion credibility with website revamp

Marks & Spencer has just unveiled their new editorial-led website, with a new focus on content – and it’s a big improvement on the old one. The old Amazon platform site felt very much like a catalogue, with thousands of products but no real brand identity. The new site looks great and brings a real sense of fashion authority to a brand which has so far struggled to appeal to younger customers.

The focus of the new site is the ‘Style & Living‘ magazine section, which features as the first section on the main navigation. It’s billed as the ‘new destination for ideas, tips and lifestyle inspiration’ which boasts advice and recommendations from experts in fashion, beauty, home, flowers, food and wine every day. That’s a serious investment in content.

M&S have taken full advantage of launching during London Fashion Week by focusing on fashion and emphasising pieces featured in Vogue. The content itself is reminiscent of Mr Porter, featuring an editor’s pick, a British Style edit and an interview with the model David Gandy. The posts include lots of images, video, style advice and they’re shoppable and shareable. They may have missed an opportunity in not linking the product pages back to the editorial content which features those products. In fact, that’s one area where I think the site could use some help.

There’s a lot of engaging, interactive content, including a virtual makeover app in the Beauty section, which lets you upload a photo and try the latest make-up looks, and a ‘virtual manicure’ where you can select a hand that matches your skin tone and try different nail colours. However sometimes the content isn’t quite ‘wow’ enough. Why can’t you upload a photo of your own hand to test the nail colours on? The shoe fit guide explains how to find out what your shoe size is, which is a useful feature, but it then instructs you to print off a chart to measure your foot. This just feels a bit last decade. Does anyone even have a printer any more? Needs improvement. There’s a lack of cross-sell and related content, so in some ways it doesn’t take full advantage of the digital medium, and still feels a little like a catalogue.

In terms of user experience the site has a few annoying features that make it harder work than it needs to be. In the Style & Living section, the index on the left only changes the banner images on the right. In order to click through to the content you have to select the title, then click on the banner image. When browsing products, category and search results pages are paginated, with no option to view all results on one page.

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The photography looks premium, with nice large images, and you can choose to show product images only, or model shots. However I expect to see the alternative image as a rollover, rather than having to decide which type of image I’d rather see.

Product pages are clean, with a large hero shot, additional images, video, social shares and reviews. Sizes which are low in stock are highlighted, creating a sense of urgency which drives conversion. Delivery and returns information are displayed on product pages, as is the option to collect in store tomorrow. You can then click through to do a lookup to see if that item in that size is actually available to collect in store. Again this feels a bit too much like hard work, the lookup option should be available from the product page without the extra click. Where items are out of stock, there is no option to leave your email to be notified when it is in stock again, and no alternative product selections.

The option to collect in store is clearly highlighted throughout the shopping process, and particularly in the shopping bag.

The shopping bag and checkout process follow best practice, and include some useful features, such as the option to select only some (or all) items for gift wrap, and to hide the price of some (or all) items on the invoice if they are gifts. You can pay using a credit or debit card, a gift card or reward vouchers, or a combination. But there are no virtual wallet or PayPal options.

I experienced a few teething problems, such a strange layout on the homepage, which meant some of the banners were cut off on the right hand side in Safari, and an error message in the product feed on the Outlet homepage. But overall this is a huge improvement on the previous site, with a much richer and more engaging experience, and one which should help M&S appeal to the all-important younger customer. The focus on editorial is perhaps a brave move for a retailer who do not have a lot of fashion credibility, but no doubt this is part of a repositioning exercise for the brand. It will be interesting to see how this works out for them in such a fiercely competitive market.