Marks & Spencer (M&S) is an international, multi-channel retailer specialised in food and fashion. Currently, food business accounts for 58 per cent of the enterprise’s total turnover, while clothes and home business – for 42 per cent (M&S 2016a). Quality and innovation are the core values incorporated into M&S organisational marketing strategy. While paying significant attention to the quality of the products, the company also makes great efforts to research the market, communicate with consumers, and consider their needs. Since the management regards customer focus and value creation as the ways to achieve profits, we will review M&S as marketing- and societal marketing-oriented company.
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M&S Marketing Strategy
Marketing Management Orientation: Societal Marketing
M&S’s strategic priorities include customer satisfaction and loyalty (Vizard, 2016). Listening to consumers and consideration of their interests served as the routes towards innovation and product quality improvements. Along with this, M&S adheres to the policy of social responsibility. For instance, it employs various green manufacturing principles such as waste recycling, sustainable supply chain administration, etc. (M&S 2016b). The integration of universal social values and principles of sustainability into the organisational culture, and aspiration to address an extended range of social interests helps to develop a positive brand image and positively influences the overall corporate performance
Marketing Research and NPD Process
Marketing research is considered a major instrument for the accumulation of information and data analysis, assisting in the development of customer understanding (Kotler, Armstrong, Trifts, & Cunningham 2013). M&S implements different quantitative (statistical data) and qualitative (interviews, etc.) instruments for the assessment of customer satisfaction and organisational performance. For instance, the company uses the Sparks loyalty card to collect valuable information on the frequency of consumers’ visits, their purchases and interests (Vizard 2016). By measuring customer feedback and other quality indicators, and developing customer-oriented culture, the enterprise increases its competitiveness and becomes able to surpass rivals in the market (Kristianto, Ajmal, & Sandhu 2012).
Marketing research is the initial stage in the organisational NPD. The collected data allows the company to remain more responsive and sensitive towards shifts in the market and produce highly demanded goods. By monitoring consumers’ activity and inquiring their feedbacks, M&S can monitor product demand at different product life cycle stages. For instance, when observing weak sales during the maturity stage, the company may consider necessary modifications and improvements for the further product development process. Additionally, before the launching of a new product, various marketing research tools may help to test different concepts and ideas before the actual development of physical product versions. According to researchers, by taking into account consumers’ feedbacks, companies mitigate the risks associated with the development and introduction of new products (Kotler et al. 2013). Moreover, the indirect involvement of customers into the process of product development, and customer-driven marketing strategies designed according to customer interests aim to improve the quality of service and increase product awareness (Kotler et al. 2013).
Product Concept, Branding, and Pricing
Product quality and improvement are essential parts of the M&S strategy. When speaking of the clothing business, in the managerial perception, the target M&S consumers demand quality rather than “the latest catwalk fashion” (Vizard 2016, par. 2). The product concept is directly related to the company’s pricing and branding strategies. The recent M&S motto “Quality worth paying more for” demonstrates that the retailer prioritises quality over the affordability of the products (Marketing Society 2010). The focus on quality, premium pricing, and consistent advertising in collaboration with prominent show business figures largely contributed to the development of the brand’s quality perception. The given approach helped M&S to benefit in the long run rather than achieve short-term gains by selling poorer-quality goods for low prices.
Consumer need is the basic marketing concept which covers a wide range of demands and wants. According to the traditional categorization model, there are physical, psychological, social-emotional needs, as well as the needs for self-expression and recognition (Lantos 2015). It is suggested that people try to fulfil more subtle and higher needs (e.g., recognition, self-realization, etc.) only when more primitive and basic needs are met. It is possible to say that by purchasing at M&S, consumers strive to fulfil the psychological and emotional needs as much as the physical ones because the company offers mainly the premium products for higher prices. In this case, the purchases are symbols of financial success, and they thus support the sense of content in buyers.
Information Search and Evaluation of Alternatives
As soon as a consumer recognises a need that should be satisfied, he or she commences the search process. At the given stage, a person becomes aware of competing brands that offer similar products. To come to an ultimate decision regarding the purchase, consumers evaluate alternatives based on such criteria as price, quality, and value (Lantos 2015). The purchases of M&S’s customers will likely be motivated by the brand’s quality perception and the overall image of the socially responsible corporation. However, it is possible to say the decision to choose one brand over another is always defined by both individual preferences and broader cultural/social needs. For instance, in developing countries, most potential consumers will value low prices over the quality of products. At the same time, more economically privileged customers aiming to fulfil their psycho-emotional needs will pay attention to such factors of organisational performance as social responsibility and compliance with green manufacturing principles as these aspects will have greater importance in their perspective.
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Purchase and Post Purchase Decisions
Overall, the purchase decision is determined by the way a consumer assigns a value to the distinct product and brand attributes. While investment decisions result as an end of the information search, the post-purchase decisions emerge through the contact with the bought items. The situation when a person is not satisfied with the product is called post-purchase dissonance (Lantos 2015). It arises when the actual quality of product or service does not meet consumers’ expectations and experiences or when they regret the purchases due to a large number of other attractive alternatives. It is possible to say that M&S is at high risk of buyer dissonance development due to the premium pricing. However, the emphasis on innovation may compensate this risk to some consumer groups. Additionally, the company has strong advertising campaigns which serve as reinforcement tools stressing consumer values and decreasing buyers’ doubts.
It is possible to say that its current pricing strategy significantly limits the size of the targeted population. By including the lower-price items into its product portfolio, the company may attract a greater number of consumers from diverse social-economic backgrounds. Nevertheless, M&S’s service and product quality contributes to a high level of customer satisfaction and has a positive effect on the overall organisational sustainability and success. The customer-focused marketing strategy and added customer values allow the retailer to improve the consumer perception of the brand. Through communication with customers and the accumulation of their feedback, M&S enhances its product development processes, decreases financial risks, and increases profitability.
Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Trifts, V., & Cunningham, P. (2013) Principles of marketing, 9th Canadian edition. Toronto, Pearson.
Kristianto, Y., Ajmal, M., & Sandhu, M. (2012) Adopting TQM approach to achieve customer satisfaction. The TQM Journal. 24(1), 29-46.
Lantos, G. (2015) Consumer behavior in action: Real-life applications for marketing managers. Florence: Taylor and Francis.
Marketing Society. (2010). Marketing Excellence 2: Marks and Spencer, quality worth paying more for. London, Marketing Society. Web.
Marks & Spencer. (2016a). M&S today. Web.
Marks & Spencer. (2016b). Plan A. Web.
Vizard, S. (2016). M&S CEO’s five point plan to revive the brand. Marketing Week. Web.