For Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of marketing and international at Marks & Spencer, having a “daily conversation” with M&S’ customers is central to the retailer’s revamped digital strategy.

And that conversation is paying off.

This story first appeared in the July 21, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

He said since M&S — which has revenues of around $17.5 billion and is the U.K.’s number-one clothing retailer — re-launched its editorial-driven Web site in February, it has seen a 25 percent uplift in purchases directly related to each piece of editorial content published.

“Content now is an intricate part of the decision-making process [in a purchase],” said Bousquet-Chavanne. “We made sure that content was an everyday inspiration behind the product that our designers are creating.”

The site’s daily publishing schedule is crucial to its appeal, he added. “Trust me, that wasn’t wired in the DNA of Marks & Spencer to go from planning yearly to publishing daily,” he said of the 130-year-old retailer. “I wanted to change the conversation: It’s not about an advertising campaign that comes twice a year, it’s about a daily conversation, when you engage and mutually exchange information with your consumers.”

Bousquet-Chavanne said since the site’s launch in February, the retailer sees 30 percent more online traffic, and its click-through rates on marketing e-mails is up by 40 percent. The executive also said the site’s “curated” approach to the retailer’s myriad product lines is proving popular with consumers, who had previously complained M&S’ online offer was “overwhelming.”

In addition, he acknowledged there had been “great learnings” attached to launching M&S’ site on its own platform and migrating away from its original Amazon platform, which he compared to “being handcuffed.”

Alongside M&S’ digital developments, Bousquet-Chavanne pointed out that the retailer has around 800 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.K. alone, which also need to provide consumers “with the best experience possible.”

“You have to transform what’s happening inside the stores to present compelling destinations,” said Bousquet-Chavanne. “I want the experience…to be as exciting as possible, and complimentary to the digital experience we provide.”

Bousquet-Chavanne highlighted the growth of spend on digital advertising, which in the U.K. has surged 58 percent since 2010, to 6.3 billion pounds, or $10.8 billion, in 2013.

Similarly, the executive said over the last 18 months, M&S’ marketing spend has shifted from about 10 percent digital to now more than 21 percent digital. “Not having digital at the core of culture and capabilities is not an option,” said Bousquet-Chavanne.

“The transformation when you’re large is obviously a bit more painful than when you just start,” he said. “[But] I think it’s important you put your digital home into place, and you really learn from it…and I think you’ll have a great outcome that positions you well as a brand or retailer for the future.”

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