Marks & Spencer drives website optimisation through agile development partnership with Webtrends

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Marks and Spencer is one of the UK's best known and respected retail brands, selling high- quality clothing, homewares and food products to more than 33 million customers.

Since its humble start as a single market stall in 1884, the company is now listed on the FTSE 100 and has grown into a major multi-channel player in the retail sector with 852 UK stores, 480 international outlets and a successful online shopping operation.

With the continuing shift to online, mobile and multichannel shopping, retailers are increasingly focused on optimising digital experiences for customers in order to maintain an edge in a fiercely competitive environment. Executives at Marks and Spencer recognised this challenge and saw an opportunity to further advance shopper engagement and drive incremental revenue by taking a more agile approach to web optimisation throughout the sales and marketing organisation.

A successful testing programme had already been implemented using Webtrends Optimize®, in which the team at Webtrends worked with Marks and Spencer's in-house digital team to help manage their own website optimisation tests. In addition, Webtrends provided valuable input for complex tests and offered guidance on strategic direction and best practices.
Realising the value of the partnership, Marks and Spencer wanted to capitalise on this and streamline its optimisation efforts even further by installing a more collaborative way of working with the Webtrends consultants.

A team comprised Marks and Spencer and Webtrends digital professionals established a new operating model that embraced a more agile strategy of continuous short-term testing with fully empowered business owners, rather than a more formal project management process.

To help facilitate a more cohesive approach, members of both teams went through agile process training, which helped them gain a greater understanding of each company's competencies and align best practices. Further training for Marks and Spencer's product teams on using Webtrends Optimize self- service solution has resulted in even greater adoption and allowed the digital team to focus on more complex, data-driven personalisation tests.

During the initial phase of the programme, Marks and Spencer learnt that the tests which proved most effective and successful were generated by a collective input from both themselves and the Webtrends team.

This stronger, more collaborative and agile way of working has given way to new innovations and has already delivered impressive results, including impacts to the bottom line. Not only has the number of tests significantly increased, but the approach has enabled the team to focus on the potential impact or "minimum blast radius" and the incremental benefits this has on the business.

One test, for example, was created to identify if returning visitors to the website were more likely to increase the value of their checkout journey if they were reminded about items added to their shopping basket from a previous visit.
When personalising the homepage for returning customers, Marks and Spencer could drive an almost 6 percent uplift in sales.

"Our planning cycle has become much shorter and we are more flexible than before so we can be more responsive and reactive in prioritising the projects that will deliver the best possible returns for the business," explained Clare Shields, Product Owner at Marks and Spencer. "The testing pipeline is continuously evolving and becoming more sophisticated, which has been boosted by our partnership with Webtrends. They've been a trusted advisor playing an important role in developing more complex, personalisation- based tests to ensure we maximise website performance."

"Everyone on the team recognises that our biggest challenges are the biggest business opportunities and now we can deliver new ideas and initiatives within a matter of weeks, not months," she continued. "As we are more agile, we can make incremental improvements on a continuous basis and this has delivered impressive and tangible results."


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