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At M&S we’ve focused on becoming more relevant, more often, to our customers who are increasingly shopping online and in particular using mobile devices to do so. Retail is changing and changing faster than ever before. Therefore, being at the sharp end of new features on social media and technology is key to inspire our customers and provide new and convenient ways for them to shop. 

Last week, I spoke at the Campaign Media 360 conference in Brighton about how marketers like myself need to adapt their approaches in an increasingly e-commerce world otherwise they risk being left behind.

At M&S we’ve embraced social channels like Instagram - whether to provide outfit inspiration, showcase new products or for customers to buy something via the Shopping function. Instagram is a key part of our marketing strategy and we are now reaching in excess of 5m customers a week through social media! 

When we were approached by Instagram to try selling via their platform in March last year, we leapt at the opportunity to be involved in trials of direct selling before it officially launched. Shopping on Instagram provides a seamless experience for users where they can just tap on a tagged post within their feed to buy a specific product directly from our website, without having to search for it. 

It isn’t just our main Instagram account that we use for online marketing but also our styling service Try Tuesday where M&S stylists email outfit edits to subscribers and also post lots of ideas of how to wear outfits on Instagram (to their 62,000 followers). Creating great email content is crucial as e-mail now accounts for one in four visits to M&S.com.

We’ve had some great success with our partnership with Holly Willoughby who joined the M&S family last September as a brand ambassador. When Holly’s first edit launched we had our biggest ever traffic day for womenswear on M&S.com and we got 60,000 new Instagram followers after the announcement. A ‘Holly’ order was placed every two seconds on launch day. 

Our goal at M&S is to move a third of our Clothing & Home sales online so our marketing function is more important than ever to support this. A key part of why we exist is to drive quality traffic to our website and stores (70% of online orders are collected in store and 40% of customers buy another product in store).

Of course, as a business, and a marketing function, it’s important we have great technological capability of our own. Earlier this year we launched Style Finder, a photo search feature on our mobile website, enabling customers to seamlessly discover a desired look with just a couple of taps. Customers can upload an existing photo or take a new one of any outfit to reveal similar-looking products available at M&S, offering a quick and easy way to shop online. With 75% of all M&S's online visits coming from mobile and tablet devices, Style Finder offers a completely new and enhanced shopping experience for customers.

We are also one of the first retailers to offer an intelligent virtual assistant that uniquely interacts with customers throughout their online shopping journey particularly where we know customers often require help, such as the checkout process. Since it launched, we've supported over a quarter of a million customers through the virtual assistant enhancing the customer experience for them and providing a smooth shopping journey.