eTail Europe 2020

23 - 24 June, 2020

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London

How Marks & Spencer Is Using Instagram Strategy to Attract Millennials



When it comes to shopping online, few are more enthusiastic than those belonging to the Millennial and Gen Z generations.

Millennials make more than 54 percent of their total purchases online, and 67 percent would rather shop this way than visit a physical store. When millennials do visit physical stores, they are more likely to be showrooming - i.e. viewing products in a brick-and-mortar location with the intention of completing the purchase online - than they are to be shopping legitimately.

Most digital companies are savvy to this. As such, they target their marketing specifically towards younger generations, tending not to focus on older consumers. Inversely, some brands have found themselves lagging behind with the younger generations - and Marks & Spencer could most certainly be said to be one of them. However, the iconic British retailer has some great ideas on how to address the issue.

Marks & Spencer

M&S has been around for a long time - and the same can be said for many of its clientele.

"Department-store shoppers tend to be older than those at rival mall outlets," reports DigitalCommerce360. "UK consumers over 65 spent more than 700 million pounds in department stores in the year through July, while those younger than 25 spent just 334 million pounds. Shortly after Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe took on the role, he said he would try to reconnect with M&S's core customer, a 50-something woman he dubbed 'Mrs. M&S.'"

However, M&S is now looking to appeal to younger shoppers, with a new strategy involving photo-sharing social network Instagram.

Instagram is incredibly popular - more so than Facebook among the Millennial and Gen Z generations - making it the ideal platform on which to reach these demographics. There's an adage in social media marketing which states you should meet your audience where they are - meaning, don't expect customers to come to your preferred network; find them on theirs.

This is why M&S has started using the Instagram platform in earnest, sharing a wealth of content through its own account. The company is sharing material it knows younger people want to see, including fashion, food, and socially-conscious content such as body-positive imagery. Marks & Spencer knows that its older customers are unlikely to be using Instagram to the same degree as Millennials and Gen Z, and so can focus its marketing more keenly towards those demographics using the platform.

One strategy M&S is experimenting with involves Instagram Stories - a relatively recent feature which allows the retailer to post temporary photos and videos to gain more attention and promote limited sales and offers. Potential customers can interact with these posts, making them ideal for linking to shopping pages or fun features such as polls.

Style Finder

Another way M&S is making its brand more attractive to a younger audience is with a great new photo search feature named Style Finder.

"We know our customers are busier than ever and are often most inspired when they're out and about," said Head of Digital Product and User Experience Design at M&S, Jim Cruickshank. "Style Finder helps customers instantly find what they're looking for, without the need to manually search and filter through our products."

Customers simply snap a picture of an article of clothing, and then powerful AI goes to work matching key features to products in M&S's inventory. When a close enough match is found, the app gives the user a link to where they can purchase it.

With 40% of Millennials having used tech-based features such as voice search while shopping online, it's easy to see that these kinds of functions are likely to appeal to them and help make the M&S brand more attractive to these younger shoppers.

Final Thoughts

M&S has largely built its reputation among people of older generations, while younger audiences have been largely ignored. However, with Instagram and Style Finder, it's hoping to give younger shoppers a reason to try the brand out for themselves, and thusly create a new generation of M&S fans.


You can hear Marks & Spencer's Head of Insight Delivery, Julian Highley, speak at eTail Europe 2019, taking place in June at the QEII Centre, Westminster, London.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.



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