Marks & Spencer delivery has hurdles to overcome

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Marks & Spencer’s long-anticipated venture into grocery ecommerce is finally under way, and we put its new home delivery offering to the test. It is currently in a trial phase open to Sparks loyalty members in the catchment area of the company’s Camden store.

M&S’s delivery offering stands apart from conventional grocery ecommerce in that orders are fulfilled through a third-party courier service Gophr. The result is something of a hybrid between conventional online grocery and restaurant delivery services such as Deliveroo. Shoppers can opt to order from either the Foodhall section, which offers grocery items for delivery within two hours, or the Dinners section, which offers a choice of meal bundles for delivery within an hour. I trialled the latter.

My order arrived in 50 minutes, and included email updates at each stage of its progress. However, I confronted several challenges. My biggest gripe is that shoppers must register for a new account on the site, rather than being able to use their existing M&S.com login. And purchases are not tied to customers’ Sparks loyalty accounts.

Another challenge is that there is a minimum basket value of £10, but a large number of the suggested two-person dinner bundles are priced at less than £10. Plus, you can’t browse individual add-on items if shoppers are looking to nudge their order above the minimum threshold: they are suggested only alongside each Dinner bundle.

Furthermore, on a desktop computer screen, there is no scroll function for the menu navigation bar, so I switched to the mobile site. And I saw no final review of my basket before being prompted to approve payment.

A word on delivery pricing: M&S charges £3 per delivery, a fee closer to those of Deliveroo and UberEats than, for example, Tesco Now, which charges £7.99. But M&S isn’t a high-growth internet startup for whom turning a profit is secondary to growing revenues. Any rollout of this pricing model would likely put pressure on sector-wide ecommerce margins just as major players are prioritising online profitability over growth.

John Mercer is a senior analyst and the UK research head at Fung Global Retail & Technology

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