What we do in the M&S Venture Lab

M&S Venture Lab
Sep 3, 2016 · 3 min read

Unless you’ve popped in to see us at Marks & Spencer, there’s a good chance you won’t know much about what we do in the Venture Lab, other than the small glimpse on our website.

Having spent most of our time with our heads down focussing on our experiments, we thought it was about time we came up for some air and explained a little more about why the lab exists along with our experimentation thesis.

Evolving for customers

In our lab we experiment with ways to evolve how our customers consume from us at M&S. Given that we currently sell lots of different things — everything from socks, to sofas, to sandwiches — in much the same way, we want to explore new models which best suit each of these categories of products.

For example, some categories could arrive on your doorstep every month or every quarter without having to do very much as a customer, some categories could be enveloped in a concierge experience, and some categories could be rented from us — which gets quite interesting.

This experimentation keeps us in line with evolving customer behaviour and market trends.

The need to evolve

With 130 years in business comes experience, presence, and heritage, but also the need to keep up with evolving markets and customers. In acknowledging the need to evolve we can avoid incumbency and inertia, and actively explore how to raise the service and proposition bar for our customers.

This activity already happens on a daily basis throughout Marks & Spencer within teams in product design through to customer service. We’re constantly thinking about our customer proposition — what we offer our customers and how we reach them — and how that will change over the coming few years.

However, in the Venture Lab we speculate a little further out, exploring how customers might consume from us in 5–10 years time taking into account trends in everything from technology to commodities. We’re thinking about a post-PageRank world where every home has an AI-based assistant, or what garments we’ll be wearing post-cotton (and how we might print them).

Through this internal experimentation we are able to build our longer-term future ourselves, testing and scaling ideas with small budgets of thousands, rather than having to acquire them later for tens or hundreds of millions.

In posing as our own challenger we can disrupt ourselves from the inside, leveraging our own unfair advantages — an internationally recognised brand, private-label garment design and production, retail and marketing expertise, and of course 32 million customers.

Simple, iterative techniques

The techniques and methodologies we use to experiment are ubiquitous amongst technology startups and modern product development teams today.

Grounded in the Lean Startup approach, we rapidly validate each of the different moving parts of a business model through a series of simple tests helping us achieve product/market-fit as rapidly as possible.

More to come

We’ll be sharing more about the lab, how we choose what we focus on, insights from our experiments as well as some of the wrong turns we’ve taken.

In the mean time you can follow us on Twitter — @msventurelab.

M&S Venture Lab blog

Insights from our experiments: Business models, product development & engineering

M&S Venture Lab

Written by

Lean-startup with 32m customers at @MarksAndSpencer. Just one of the teams at @mandsdigital

M&S Venture Lab blog

Insights from our experiments: Business models, product development & engineering

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