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Internet Retailing 2010: Keynote Preview – Dave Hughes, Director of M&S Direct

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In this week’s preview of Internet Retailing 2010, we spoke to Dave Hughes, director of M&S Direct, ahead of his keynote speech at our annual conference.

Dave Hughes and his team have an interesting task – to introduce new channels and technologies to the M&S customer, while maintaining brand values and experience on the one hand, and reaching new audiences on the other.

M&S is arguably the UK’s favourite retailer – more of an institution, perhaps – with over 21 million customers visiting their stores each month. Under Sir Stuart Rose in particular the retailer has sought to shed its ‘mature’ image and introduce fresh formats and approaches across more than 600 stores.

Examples of recent innovations include the Home format and of course the rebranding of food as we knew it: it’s not just food, it’s M&S food…

Meanwhile, innovation has continued apace in the digital world. M&S does not court the limelight, but its quiet changes have been considered and highly effective. M&S has embraced the voice of the customer and social retailing (see our Insight Roundtable on Social Commerce to hear of M&S moves in this area) and their mobile moves were highly praised – eschewing the ‘app frenzy’ to launch instead a very highly accessible site optimised for many phones, not just the iPhone. Paul Skeldon of m-retailing‘s article is here.

At the time of launch, Dave Hughes mentioned:

This is a major step forward in mobile retailing. Mobile optimised shopping sites have been done before by specialist retailers, but M&S entering the market with 21 million customers, one of the UK’s most recognised brands and a well-known range of products changes the mobile retail landscape

It was on this ambitious, landscape-changing approach that we asked Dave to speak at the conference. We are all familiar, as customers and commentators, on M&S’s public progress – but we wanted to know the ‘behind the scenes’ view along with the challenges and issues faced.

Dave’s approach to the keynote is to cover the fundamental questions of turning innovation into action. In his words:

In an organisation known for innovation in clothing and food, how do you approach innovation in a channel that has only (relatively recently) emerged and has an entirely different set of rules compared to our traditional retail channel? Without limitless funding and resource how do you work out which horse to back? and how to do it profitably ? With successful innovations in areas such as social media, onsite video and mobile, share a little of our journey and what we’ve learnt about what to do (and not do) in terms of innovating as an online retailer.

It’s a generous offer of information to share – and one we’re extremely excited to hear.

Dave Hughes (along with David Walmsley, eCommerce Director at DSGi and Clare Gilmartin of eBay) will form our plenary keynote session to open Internet Retailing 2010, after which we’ll continue in three parallel streams. To find out more about the conference or to register, click here.

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