Marks and Spencer has launched a 'digital lab' division, which will work with the retailer's in-house software engineering division to develop innovations within in-store technology, digital marketing and digital platforms for its employees.
According to M&S, the division will have 'a start-up, entrepreneurial mentality', and will embrace experimentation, as it tries to develop ideas which can then be scaled up and rolled out to the retailer's 700-plus stores.
To lead the division, M&S has appointed Kyle McGinn as head of digital labs. McGinn comes from his role as CTO and managing director at social commerce company Reevoo, and is credited as a key player in the design of BBC iPlayer.
John Oswald, business design lead at service design consultancy Fjord, thinks it's a signpost towards the direction high street retailers are inevitably headed in.
“Marks & Spencer's launch of a digital lab further cements the belief we've long held, that retailers will use digital to strike out against their competition," says Oswald. "Our mobiles and the increasing connectivity of our world are enabling people to shop in new ways and brands must innovate. Online is now intrinsic throughout the real world with customers in brick and mortar shops now using smartphones to do price checks, look up reviews, add items to gift registries or even purchase the item from another retailer and have it delivered to their home."
"We're encouraged by the step Marks & Spencer has made and believe that the brands who do not follow suit will soon find digital technology 'undoing' their whole notion of commerce which will have serious repercussions throughout the high street.”