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  • Opinion: M&S looks to innovation & prioritises value


    Opinion – M&S looks to marketing innovation and prioritises value

    By Corinne Lavictoire, CIM's PR Executive

    The retail industry was one of many sectors that felt the full force of the coronavirus pandemic. With the closure of well-known high street stores such as Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, retail trading across these brands and other household names have been severely impacted due to the subsequent lockdowns.

    Last week, British retail giant, Marks and Spencer announced its latest financial results, like many, it was a bleak performance. The result is that the retailer plans to close 30+ of its stores over the next 10 years after it swung to a £201.2m annual loss with both clothing and homeware sales falling sharply in a year of lockdowns.

    Marketing’s role in the high street’s recovery

    Although, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Marks and Spencer. Although the retailer cut spend on clothing and home by £50m, while making cuts to above-the-line advertising, the prioritisation of spend into social media and digital platforms has reaped rewards.

    M&S’ partnership marketing strategy has been hugely beneficial with the likes of online grocery, Ocado, delivering a £78 million boost. Aswell as the Ocado partnership, M&S’ marketing strategy has included a shift towards prioritising the brand’s value perception and widening the appeal of its products.

    Commenting on the results and Marks and Spencer’s successful partnership with Ocado, Chartered Institute of Marketing chief executive, Chris Daly said: “Marks and Spencer’s bleak results come as no surprise as the difficult trading conditions of the past year and the successive lockdowns have had a big impact on the retailer. Already on the back foot pre-pandemic due to its limited online offering, this stalwart of the high street needs to swiftly adapt to the consequences of covid.  

    “Investing in its partnership with food delivery giant Ocado strengthened its online food sales offering, enabling customers to easily access quality food without having to leave their homes. It remains to be seen if chief executive Steve Rowe can do the same for online clothing although with a new website and the addition of third-party clothing, signs are promising.

    “One of the positive outcomes of the past year has been Marks & Spencer’s customer base becoming more comfortable with online sales. Moving forward the brand has the opportunity to match the shift in tone with their marketing strategy. As the battle over Colin vs Cuthbert cakes has shown, there are many pretenders eager to benefit from their innovation. M&S must now shift its tone and diversify its target market by fully embracing the rise of ecommerce in order to compete with the larger retailers.”

    How brands have pivoted to succeed

    Another brand that has pivoted during times of crisis are tourism company, Airbnb. Along with the retail industry, the travel and tourism sector had been hugely impacted by the pandemic. With the inability to travel, Airbnb increased its focus on brand building and PR while many competitors looked to fall back on core marketing activities.

    Then in late February, the brand pivoted again and launched its largest brand marketing campaign in five years - ‘Made Possible by Hosts’. The campaign educated consumers regarding the benefits of being hosts, taking advantage of the current situation. The campaign continued the inspiration theme using television and social platforms across five territories. The result? A 5% revenue rise year-on-year compared to 2019.

    Meanwhile, UK based insurance company, Admiral had focused on giving back to their customers by offering a £25 refund on car or van insurance, following government advice to stay at home. This gesture of support ensured customer loyalty during a difficult time of financial strain brought by the pandemic.

    Prioritising sustainability

    Retailers have also found success and consumer support during lockdown by aligning themselves to societal issues such sustainability. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability has remained at the forefront of consumers’ minds. CIM’s marketing director, Gemma Butler recently spoke to Retail Gazette on how retailers can prioritise sustainability amid the pandemic, saying:

    “Sustainability is a highly complex issue, and it would be far better if retailers acknowledged this, establishing an honest and transparent conversation about their sustainability strategies to their stakeholders and customers.

    “If retailers haven’t got it all figured out – that’s okay, the fact that plans are starting, and you are sharing and taking your consumers with you on the journey, keeping them aligned with your agenda – is what’s key.”

    To read more about marketing’s role in turning around the fortunes of leading retailers, please feel free to click on the below links:

    The Independent: click here for the full article 

    Evening Standard: click here for the full article

    The i (online): click here for the full article

    Retail Gazette: click here for the full article

    For more information about how you can boost consumer confidence in your business and help drive and restore customer relationships, find out more by visiting a range of CIM’s customer experience courses






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