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M&S opens digital lab to cement its omni-channel strategy on the back of booming mobile sales

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Marks & Spencer has opened a Digital Lab to help it develop and exploit technology to create a leading omni-channel offering. As part of the move, the retailer has appointed Kyle McGinn – who previously worked at Reevoo and is credited with aiding the design of the BBC iPlayer – as its new Head of Digital to lead the innovation function within the digital team.

The new lab will develop customer facing digital technologies, including ongoing improvements to its mobile, tablet and in store technologies. It will also look at how to develop technology to improve the efficiency of staff, both on the shopfloor and in the corporate part of the company.

The company pledged in its third quarter results out last month that becoming a multichannel retailer was key to its business development, following a 10.8% rise in multichannel sales last year – fuelled by a staggering 90% boom in mobile retailing.

Commenting on the latest move, Laura Wade-Gery, Executive Director of E-commerce & Multichannel – and McGinn’s new boss – said: “Over the last 18 months, we’ve really embraced digital experimentation from being the first retailer to join Samsungs’ smart TV platform to the inclusion of Aurasma technology in our app. By strengthening our in-house expertise, with a dedicated digital lab we can move with even greater pace and deliver first-to-market technology and experiences for our customers.”

John Oswald, Business Design Lead at leading service design consultancy Fjord comments: “Marks & Spencer’s launch of a digital lab further cements the belief we’ve long held – that retailers will use digital to strike out against their competition. Our mobiles and the increasing connectivity of our world are enabling people to shop in new ways and brands must innovate. Online is now intrinsic throughout the real world with customers in brick and mortar shops now using smartphones to do price checks, look up reviews, add items to gift registries or even purchase the item from another retailer and have it delivered to their home. We’re encouraged by the step Marks & Spencer has made and believe that the brands who do not follow suit will soon find digital technology ‘undoing’ their whole notion of commerce which will have serious repercussions throughout the high street.”

Heikki Haldre, founder and chief executive of virtual fitting room told M-Retailing: “There are thousands of retail innovations on the market, so it’s very difficult for a retailer to know which ones are going to have a positive impact on sales and on their brand. It follows that it’s a difficult decision for retailers to bet significant resources and investment on a particular solution without real evidence from some sort of pilot. Innovators and solution providers should probably look at what M&S is doing here, and think very carefully about making sure their solution is ‘light’ enough, from an implementation point of view, to be tested quickly and easily by this sort of agile evaluation group. It’s most likely the way forward.”

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