Marks and Spencer has unveiled how they see the future of retail by unveiling their new store in Ellesmere Port. It’s their largest store in the UK after the flagship Marble Arch branch in London, but what is really interesting is the blending of retail channels.
The store offers online ordering hubs, so customers can browse in–store and order products for delivery to the home. Wifi Internet is freely available, so customers with smartphones can compare prices with other retailers and see what is also for sale in competing stores.
Sales assistants are to be issued with iPads so they have access to unlimited information on every product, giving a strong emphasis on leading the change through an improvement in customer service and information.
The new store design is a vote for multichannel retail being the future for the industry and will be closely watched by every retailer – not just the direct competitors of M&S.
By integrating the internet into the instore experience and accepting that customers now have the tools to easily compare them with the competition – on product and price – M&S is trying to redefine what it means to go shopping in a physical store.
Analysts are still undecided if the M&S experiment can work, but it does demonstrate that a major retailer thinks that it is now time for the Internet and the High Street to start working closer together.
Photo by Elliot Brown licensed under Creative Commons