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Disrupting a traditional industry and brand from the inside

From Maggie in Manchester to 32 million customers worldwide. How M&S brought 130 years of retail experience to life online in 18 months.

Everyone has a first memory of M&S. Everyone has an opinion on M&S. From your socks to your wedding cake, M&S is as much a part of British life as a kick about and a cup of tea. Founded in 1884, the company has grown from a market stall to over a thousand stores worldwide (including 850 in the UK alone), with 82,000 staff and 32 million customers.

With such heritage and size, it’s easy to assume that change in M&S happens slowly, incrementally. But speaking to Jade Pearn, Lead Product Owner of Mobile (Web and Apps), it’s clear that the opposite is true. “Two years ago, we had 7 in-house engineers at M&S. Today (February 2016) we have 20 products, each with their own product owner. Our remit covers M&S’s UK and international website and apps, digital stores, and ‘middleware’. We’ve built a modern software house that powers experiences for all of our customers and staff. It’s all agile, and all our own”.

“Maggie in Manchester had a problem with the app that we couldn’t replicate. So I got on a train and went to see her. We talk most weeks now. I ­have even met her daughter!”

What hasn’t changed, and what M&S Digital enables the company to do better than ever before, is a true dedication to customers. Being a mainstay in Britain’s hearts and high streets comes with a responsibility to deliver the highest level of customer service both in store and online. “Our customers are tech advanced and engaged”, explains Jade, “What we do should be intuitive and complement an existing experience, so we’re not taking time from our customers’ already busy lives”. Lots of the teams at M&S Digital use Marvel to include customers in their process. “Why assume that we know better than the person we are designing for?” says Jade, “People always want to have a chat and help make the brand better, so we’ll iterate on our Marvel prototype with lots of customers, getting to the best possible solution before we write a single line of code”.

Marvel has completely re-shaped the way ideas come to life across the entire business. In departments where there are no designers or developers, the teams can use Marvel to quickly mock-up a concept. Where 18 months ago, they would have made a PowerPoint presentation to explain their idea, these teams can now build something in a lunch break and come to M&S Digital with a working prototype. As Jade confirmed, “Marvel makes the idea of being ‘mobile first’ real, because everyone in the company has a way of thinking about what an experience could be, and should be, on screen. It demystifies technology and opens a conversation”. Across the company and at all levels, Marvel has allowed customers and M&S staff to define the product.

“Marvel makes the idea of being ‘mobile first’ real”

When you think of retailers at the forefront of technology, it’s easy to go to the Net-a-Porter’s, Amazon’s and ASOS’s of the world. But while they’re busy introducing new buying behaviour and asking customers to take a leap of faith, M&S has built on 130 years of customer loyalty to take a great store experience into a digital world.

If you’re embarking on a digital transformation to turn a dinosaur into a unicorn, we’re here to help! Marvel is fast, easy and priced around you. Get in touch here

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