Summary

Global retail giant, Marks & Spencer (M&S)  needed a modern application that would allow employees to stay engaged with customers and stay connected and informed about upcoming sales activities.

Using SharePoint lists, Microsoft Flow and PowerApps, the organization created an application that enables teams to track and distribute sales promotions and activities to store managers across their varying locations around the world.

Today, more than 800 store managers can open the application from Microsoft Teams, mobile devices or desktops to view all in-store activity within the year from anywhere.

Challenge

Headquartered in the UK, Marks & Spencer is a unique retailer with more than 1,400 stores in 57 countries, serving 32 million customers in stores and online.

The competitive retail landscape and evolving shopping behaviors of customers means it is essential for M&S to have access to the most efficient and effective technology throughout its operations in order to offer customers the best experience.

From home goods to grocery items, M&S stores carry a broad array of products, spanning numerous departments, and requiring thoughtful, connected leadership from dozens of in-store managers. To ensure store-wide awareness, store managers relied on word-of-mouth and printed hand-outs to inform their employees about upcoming activities. Relying on these traditional means of communication often required managers to expend excessive time tied to their desktop or sifting through papers.

Strategy

Knowing that their process was antiquated and a barrier to productive store management, Duane Bergh, the Product Owner for Workplace Productivity, began investigating other options that could streamline communication of store activity. “We needed a process where store managers could have a simpler process of what activity is going on in the store.”

Since M&S was already an Office 365 customer, Duane and his team initially created a SharePoint hosted application, driven from a SharePoint list, that would allow managers to view in-store activity all in one place. While beautiful in appearance, the application took a significant amount of time to build and included numerous complexities.

Soon after launch, Duane and his team became curious about another product in the Office suite – Microsoft PowerApps. Feeling hopeful, the team began building a replica of their SharePoint-based “Activity App” with PowerApps. With only two developers and a week’s time of dedication, the team found success. “Building a solution in PowerApps was probably a fifth of the time that it took to build a custom dev solution.”

Using SharePoint lists and PowerApps, M&S now had a new application to track and distribute activity to store managers across their varying locations around the world. And even better – it could be accessed and run on mobile devices, enabling managers to read and share information about upcoming deals regardless of where they stood in their store. With functions such as a filter to look for specific activities and announcements across product lines, it didn’t take long for the M&S business team to see the value in the new Activity Tracker and launch it across the company.

Results

Today, with the new activity planner application, more than 800 store managers can open the application from their mobile device or desktop and view all in-store activity within the year. They can communicate more easily with various departments and employees, as well as customers, about upcoming activity and campaigns. The Activity Tracker also serves as a valuable tool in comparing sales numbers from one week, month, or year to the next. As a company focused on providing excellent customer experiences, M&S is giving its managers the ability to more easily focus their efforts on the customers in front of them. As Retail Business Development Manager Scott Townend says, having the Activity Tracker means “the time spent trying to get on a workstation is being reduced, and, therefore, they’re freeing up time to be facing our customers more on the shop floor, and, therefore, adding much more value to their roles.”

Giving managers access to in-store activity is just the start to a bright future in company collaboration at M&S. Hoping to integrate with other internal processes, the team looks forward to adding new functions, including the following:

  • Microsoft Teams integration: M&S currently relies on Microsoft Teams for internal communication – whether that’s across managers or within specific stores. Being able to collaborate in real time, through file share, video conferencing, and chatting is important to the business. In the near future, the M&S team hopes to integrate Teams and their Activity Tracker so groups can reap the benefits of both, all from a single interface.
  • Digital marketing: To allow sharing of store updates and photos of events, campaigns, and department set-ups, the team is working on an additional application that enables store managers to collaborate more deeply. They’re hoping to add functionality that would kick off targeted emails to customers about campaigns or events based on their interests.

Building a solution in PowerApps was probably a fifth of the time that it took to build a custom dev solution."

- Duane Bergh

Product Owner for Workplace Productivity
Marks & Spencer