• Transform magazine
  • December 07, 2023


E-commerce sparks race to rebrand retail’s digital assets


By David Benady

The spread of digital devices over the past few years has sparked a race to revamp brand websites. In this new multi-channel world, people are accessing the web via iPhones, Android phones, all manner of tablets, through desktop and laptop computers. They are consuming content via social media, news sites and apps and of course through all the familiar existing technologies such as print, radio and TV. With the rise of wearable technology, they will eventually be using Google Glass and Apple Watch to get their dose of media as well.

Everyone with a presence on the web needs to make sure that whatever device or platform people use to access their content, the customer experience will be equally good.

Upmarket retailer Selfridges has revamped its e-commerce website this autumn, and is spending £40m over five years to ensure that the site offers an online experience to match the experience in its stores. The chain has admitted that the previous website wasn’t as sharp as it could be. It is trying to ensure all the products from its stores are offered on the site and can be easily purchased over the web. The site has been optimised so it works well on mobile, from which accounts for half of its hits.

The relaunch seems to be going well and there has been no repeat of the problems that hit Marks & Spencer last spring after its £150m website relaunch. The chain reported that customers had difficulties using the revamped site and this contributed to a dismal 8.1% fall in online sales in the quarter to the end of June. Twitter rang with complaints from customers that the site’s new incarnation was clunky, ineffective – it made selected items mysteriously disappear – and that checkout was cumbersome, if it worked at all. The problems seem to have been largely rectified.

These bricks and mortar stores are struggling to compete with the pure play online retailers such as ASOS and Net-A-Porter and risk losing a significant share of their sales to such online-only brands.

The online push is fraught with difficulties of both a technical and brand nature. Assuming they get the technology right, the likes of Selfridges and Marks & Spencer also need to ensure that their brands are optimised for the multi-channel world.

Both revamped sites feature home pages with a fashion magazine approach, offering editorial about the latest trends, with pictures of models and articles on style. They appear to be mimicking Net-A-Porter, which has long used its online magazine “The Edit” to promote its website’s home page.

Many brands are slowly updating their communications for the new world where stakeholders are accessing multiple channels and devices. There are likely to be plenty of misfires on the way. But necessity is the mother of invention.