Online Sales Growth in July 2018; Twilio & Marks & Spencer Partner

RetailTechNews rounds up some of the biggest stories in the European retail technology space. In this week’s edition: Strong Growth of Online Sales in July 2018; Twilio Powers Customer Communication for Marks & Spencer; and Luxury Fashion Online Retailer Files for IPO.

Strong Growth of Online Sales in July 2018

The Office for National Statistics has just released their latest figures, estimating retail sales volumes and values. According to the report, online sales have greatly benefitted from the hot summer temperatures, with non-store retailing showing strong growth both on the month and year-on-year at 4.9% and 16.9%, respectively.

The ONS also finds that online spending continued to increase, reaching a new record proportion of all retailing at 18.2% in July 2018. “Many consumers stayed away from some high street stores in July, but online sales were very strong, supported by several retailers launching promotions. Food sales remained robust as people continued to enjoy the World Cup and the sunshine”, commented Office for National Statistics senior statistician, Rhian Murphy.

In general, the quantity bought in July 2018 rose by 0.7% month-on-month, recovering from a decrease of 0.5% in June 2018.

Twilio Powers Customer Communication for Marks & Spencer

British retail giant Marks & Spencer is collaborating with cloud communications platform Twilio to operate its customer communications. Covering 640 locations and 13 UK-based contact centre hubs, the project to automate Marks & Spencer’s legacy switchboard operation has been in planning for the last six months and is now launching.

Thanks to the new system, Marks & Spencer will be able to analyse customer intent in real time from more than 12 million customer interactions annually, the company says, using Twilio technology to route customer calls to the appropriate destination. Additionally, delivery status updates via text message are provided for e-commerce customers, powered by Twilio Programmable SMS.

“Twilio’s flexible cloud communications platform has enabled Marks & Spencer to experiment like a startup, while executing like an enterprise”, said Chris McGrath, IT programme manager, Marks & Spencer. “We were able to prototype a solution in just four weeks and put it to the test during our busiest retail days of the year. The new solution has given Marks & Spencer an improved ability to have more direct and meaningful conversations with our customers, which also helps us reallocate valuable staff time. We’re excited to see where the platform takes us as we continue the roll out across our contact centres.”

The new system is based on a prototype that automates the company’s existing switchboard, allowing Marks & Spencer to handle more than one million inbound telephone calls per month. Additional features such as speech transcription to text will allow Marks & Spencer to analyse the voice of the customer in real time, while caller intent is identified through integration with Google DialogFlow.

“Today’s consumers have come to expect a great customer experience from the companies they buy from and communications are increasingly central to this”, said Rob Brazier, director of product management, Twilio. “We are thrilled to be working with such an iconic retailer as it transforms its communications in order to deliver the best possible experience for its 32 million customers worldwide.”

Luxury Fashion Online Retailer Files for IPO

High-end fashion on the internet may still have a huge potential for growth. That is what Jose Neves, founder of online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch believes. Currently garnering about 9% of all luxury fashion sales, online platforms that are selling high-end clothes might even reach a share of 30% and more within the near future.

Farfetch itself has grown consistently in the last few years, with revenues rising from USD$242m (£187.48m) to USD$386m (£299m) last year alone. Now the British retailer is reportedly raising their game again: Farfetch is planning an IPO in the U.S.

According to the Financial Times, Farfetch is being advised by banks J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The IPO is expected before the end of this year and could push the value of Farfetch to more than USD$6bn (£4.65bn).