Marks & Spencer Partners with Starcount; Slow Growth Rate for Retail Search Volume

RetailTechNews rounds up some of the biggest stories in the European retail technology space. In this week’s edition: Marks & Spencer Partners with Starcount; Slow Growth for Retail Search Volume; and Instagram to Test Collection Ads.

Data Science Partnership for Marks & Spencer

British retail giant Marks & Spencer wants to gain more insights into customer demands and engagement. To that end, the company has just announced a partnership with data science specialists Starcount.

“Starcount’s expertise is the science of purchase and intent, understanding the ‘why’ behind M&S customer purchases to help deliver growth, profitability, as well as a seamless customer experience”, says Edwina Dunn, CEO, Starcount. The data science provider is going to base their analysis on customer data from Marks & Spencer’s customer loyalty scheme. Dubbed ‘Sparks’, the loyalty scheme has over six million members.

With the help of Starcount’s insights, Marks & Spencer hopes to enhance the personalisation features of their loyalty scheme and optimise their CRM programmes. The retailer recently launched into a five-year restructuring plan with the aim of becoming a ‘digital-first’ retailer.

Q4 Was Retail’s Weakest Growth Quarter for Online Searches

According to the British Retail Consortium, Q4 2017 recorded only modest growth in the volume of online search activity for retail products. Compared year-on-year, UK retail search volumes grew only 3% across all devices in the fourth quarter of 2017. Mobile continues to be the strongest growth driver for searches, too.

Helen Dickinson, CEO, BRC

The slow growth rate can be traced back to consumers increasingly visiting online shops through social media and on the back of email marketing campaigns, rather than search engines. “Indeed, over Black Friday, a number of retailers noted that their email campaigns were particularly successful in attracting shoppers to their websites. This only serves to illustrate the importance for retailers of making the most of all their channels for communicating with shoppers”, says Helen Dickinson, CEO, British Retail Consortium.

In terms of geography, the largest number of UK retail searches were recorded in Northern England and Yorkshire, the study finds. With a 26% share in all UK retail searchers, North & Yorkshire leads in front of the Greater London area at 23%.

Shopping Via Ads on Instagram

So-called ‘collection ads’ have already been in place on Facebook for almost a year. Now parent company Facebook wants to expand the ad format to their photo sharing platform Instagram, allowing users to shop directly via the ads in their stream.

Comprised of video content and product catalogs, the collection ads are currently being tested. Instead of transferring users for purchases via an ad to an external website and leaving the app to finalise the transaction, the collection ads allow users to stay in the app and buy the desired products.

Details about the pricing and availability of the new ad format have not yet emerged.