Marks & Spencer unveils TikTok-style live shopping to woo younger customers

British retailer to become first major high street chain to host live shopping on its website

Models wear creations by Stefan Cooke, during London Fashion Week, held at the Tik Tok Show Space, in London, Monday, Sept.  20, 2021.  (Jonathan Brady / PA via AP)
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Marks & Spencer has unveiled a TikTok style live-shopping service as it looks to win over younger shoppers and update its image.

The British retailer will use influencers to model outfits over a live video stream — a trend made popular by the Beijing-based social media app, which has more than a billion users worldwide, the majority of them teenagers.

The service will allow customers to ask questions directly as they watch the video from their smartphones, while also being able to “buy the look”, according to media reports.

The live-shopping concept gained traction on TikTok late last year when a number of retailers used the social media platform to offload Black Friday deals to younger customers.

“Live Shopping is a growing global trend that combines easy-to-use shoppable technology with the opportunity to tell the story behind products,” said Stephen Langford, director of M&S.com.

“This gives our M&S experts the ideal platform to bring to life the points of difference in our product — in terms of both quality, design and innovation features.”

The move follows part of a wider turnaround plan by the company to sell more clothes online and attract a younger demographic after a robust Christmas trading update — a period where many retailers suffered amid the surge in Omicron cases.

Its financial turnaround at the end of last year was the result of shoppers continuing to return to M&S for fashion and homeware, with bosses at the high-street stalwart saying the transformation plan it launched in 2020 is leading to better results.

The group's sales jumped 8.6 per cent to £3.27 billion in the final three months of last year, compared with pre-pandemic levels.

M&S said growth was driven by its food business but highlighted that its clothing and home operation — which has been the retailer's problem area for a number of years — reported an increase in sales for the second successive quarter.

Analysts said this was partly down to its active marketing strategy after the company used TikTok to reach a younger audience through a number of campaigns.

This included videos from staff at its Romford store in East London, who posted a series of clips of them dancing and singing around the site.

“The “mandsromford” TikTok now has 1.7 million and more than 64,000 followers, while the “marksandspenceruk” account has 62,100 likes and about 8,000 followers.

“M&S has successfully taken advantage of new, social led opportunities, using the creative capability of TikTok to reach a younger demographic,” said Chris Daly, an executive at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

M&S is understood to be the first major high street chain to host live shopping on its website, which attracts 13.5 million customers every week.

Live shopping will account for 10 per cent to 20 per cent of online shopping worldwide by 2026, according to consultancy McKinsey, a trend boosted during the pandemic as lockdowns meant households were unable to visit stores.

M&S’ live shopping experience will kick off with a promotion of its activewear range, followed by a broadcast on Valentine’s Day gift ideas hosted by its in-house flower expert.

Internet sales at the 137-year-old company rose by 50 per cent above pre-pandemic levels over the Christmas period as lockdown habits persisted despite the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, making the focus on TikTok even more relevant.

With more than a billion users worldwide, TikTok has tremendous power in the world of influence.

The highest-paid star on the platform collectively earned $5.5 million in 2021, up 200 per cent on 2020, with 30 per cent to 50 per cent of their income sourced from sponsored content, where a corporation pays for a post advertising their goods on a star’s account.

TikTok owner ByteDance's total revenue grow by 70 per cent on the year to about $58 billion in 2021.

In 2020, the Beijing-based company's total revenue grew by more than 100 per cent to $34.3 billion

Updated: January 28, 2022, 10:45 AM
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