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M&S launches live shopping on its website

M&S has launched live shopping on its main website. Image courtesy of M&S

M&S has today launched live shopping on its website, learning from huge popularity of the service in markets including China.

It cites McKinsey research suggesting that 17% of all online shopping in China is now from livestreaming, and research from Coresight and M&S’ live-streaming technology partner Lisa that the trend will account for between 10% and 20% of global ecommerce by 2026.

Shoppers who visit the M&S website can join a live broadcast hosted by a member of the M&S staff and an outside influencer in order to learn more about the ranges that they are looking at. They can ask questions through live chat, see products being demonstrated and buy as they watch.

Today’s first live chat featured lingerie and activewear, and more will take place over coming months. Earlier live shopping trials saw customers stay online for more than 75% of the time. Live shopping will also give M&S a way to talk to its customers, helping it to raise brand awareness and perceptions of its styles, while gathering customer feedback.

Stephen Langford, director of M&, says: “Live Shopping on M& is the latest in a wave of new initiatives we’ve introduced to improve our customer experience. It’s a global trend that responds to how customers are using social media – we all know how much more we’re scrolling and engaging with video content – at home, or on the go. Live shopping puts our experts front and centre and gives them the ideal platform to share the M&S point of difference – in terms of both quality, design and innovation features.”

Sophie Freres, chief executive of Lisa, says: “M&S plays a critical role not only in inspiring, but in educating and helping its customers discover those products best suited to their needs. Live shopping allows M&S to give more members of its online community more regular access to M&S’ unique expertise in so many important matters of daily life, and thanks to the interactivity of the format, customers become true co-creators. At LiSA, we believe the future of ecommerce is community-led, and M&S is doing a marvellous job at embracing that.”

New ways of serving customers

M&S says live shopping is the latest example of how it enables shoppers to buy however, wherever and whenever they choose to shop through a seamless shopping experience. Other have included an online bra fit service, Sparks live events, online furniture consultations and the use of mobile payment technology as well as a new digital click and collect, introduced in July.

So far, it says, shoppers have processed some 70,000 self-service returns in-store using digital click and collect, while 28,000 one to one online consultations have taken place over the last nine months. More than 60,000 people a week use its Scan & Shop mobile shopping service, while up to 900 virtual bra-fit appointments take place every week.

Its Sparks digital-first loyalty scheme now has more than 14m members – of whom 1.1m engaged with a Sparks advent calendar in early December, while more than 50,000 have watched Sparks Live events, from cook-alongs to fashion previews.

The context

Commenting on the news, Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice, says: “Younger audiences, especially Gen Z, have huge spending potential and due to the flood of product options available to them, they are also a lot more fickle when it comes to brand loyalty. Retailers like M&S that might have once targeted more mature customers are now revising their strategies to be more relevant to younger consumer groups. Indeed, appealing to Gen Z is critical for any brand or retailer – they are the future shoppers – and there is no better way to attract younger shoppers than by tapping into social media trends.”

He says Bazaarvoice research shows a rapid shift to social commerce, driven by younger shoppers. Some 43% of GenZ shoppers say they used social media to buy products in 2021, and now both brands, retailers, customers, and influencers are posting on social media.

“Within this, live shopping has really taken off,” says Hill. “A trend that is already well-established in Asia, we’ve recently seen TikTok, Instagram and Facebook each adopt and test live shopping features in the west, and the trend has already seen a huge growth in popularity amongst Gen Z shoppers. And it’s clear to see why – the interactive nature of live shopping helps brands and retailers bring consumers together with other consumers, in an experience which goes beyond ‘just shopping’.

“By tapping into this rising trend, M&S really is setting a precedent for other major retailers. Its live shopping service will allow shoppers to interact with both influencers and fellow customers, and purchase products in real time. This reflects the engaging, inspirational and instantaneous nature of shopping to which younger consumers have become accustomed. This strategy will not only enable the retailer to be more relevant to younger shoppers, but will also put them in a greater position to drive traffic to both their website and social media pages, as well as inspire a new cohort of consumers to start shopping. It’s only a matter of time before we see other retailers following suit.”

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