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marksandspencer.com

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  • Not elaticised waistbands please!
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      17.05.2013 23:56
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      Disappointed, hungry and hassled!

      M&s food has a great reputation so when I discovered that they offer a catering service I planned to use them for a birthday meal. It seemed a great way to host a relaxed meal for friends without the hassle of cooking. Being very pregnant, this looked like an ideal solution for me so I scoped out the options a few months ahead, took note of the delivery times and invited the friends.

      ** the website**
      The catering section is one part of the m&s website. Although I have often browsed the site, I have never ordered anything, preferring to visit a store. For the catering items, the organisation is all logical in its groupings and its easy to see what is available and make your selection. Customer ratings and reviews are available to view for each item.
      ** the food **
      There is a broad range of food stocked that would suit a party, informal lunch or dinner or a more formal dinner party. There is also a good selection of birthday cakes, some of which can be personalised. There is plenty of choice although the vegetarian choices are fairly limited and some of the items appear to be just the same as you could buy in the shop.
      ** how it's meant to work **
      You select your food online and then you can have it delivered to a store near you at no extra cost. Items are clearly marked as next day or needing five days notice.
      ** my experience**
      I went to the website several times in advance to be sure that I understood it and knew what items suited my needs. I wanted to serve a hot buffet so was looking for dishes that people could help themselves to. A beef dish and a moussaka seemed to fit the bill though there weren't too many alternatives to serve the number of guests I had for a hot buffet. I saw that the items needed five days notice so I made a note in my calendar of when to place the order. I duly went online, registered and popped the items in my basket. So far so good. It all went wrong when I tried to pay. The checkout process needed me to enter a delivery date but the calendar function didn't appear to be working. When I tried to move on, an error message popped up in red saying 'there is a slight problem with you order, see below'. No further explanation or indication 'below'. I tried again on three further machines using two browsers and still the same result. So,on to customer services ....
      ** customer service **
      Customer services are contactable via the website. I explained the problem and received a reply within a few hours. I was advised to try the site again and offered an 0845 number to call if that didn't work. So next day I tried again - same problem. By now I was feeling a bit panicky at the prospect of guests and no food. I called and got told the website was experiencing problems (by now this had been going on for over a day) but that a phone order could be taken. Great - except that the beef dish wasn't deliverable in my area! No word on the website that I could see about geographical limitations in delivery so I was shocked especially as I was requesting delivery to the brand new flag ship cheshire oaks store. I had no alternative but to cancel the order so ended up food less with guests invited. My relaxing solution for a relaxed dinner turned in to anything but and my follow up email to customer services has so far gone unanswered....

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        03.01.2011 14:34
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        Worth a look at Christmas time but i won't be a regular customer

        The only time i usually shop on the M&S website is around Christmas time as they stock some great gift ideas and the one time i had a problem with them was when the snow was pretty bad and i'd been waiting a long time for my order to arrive. I was quite annoyed because the two delivery options they offer are to either collect in a local store of your choice for free, or to pay £3.95 for home delivery. As i knew it would be at least over a week before i was anywhere near one of their local stores, i opted for the home delivery. It ended up being almost a fortnight until my order arrived, so in this time i could of been and collected it for free from the actual store.

        I emailed their customer services explaining this and requested a refund on the delivery charge since my order arrived well after the date they said it would, their response was very quick but they would not refund me on the delivery charge. A shame i thought as it spoilt my experience with them.

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          11.01.2010 14:53
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          Marks and Spencer online - Great for clothes but no great bargains.

          I love Marks and Spencer's online, but must admit to using it at Christmas only, because they are quite expensive.

          Every year I stock up on underwear for all of us. My husband loves their t-shirts and sweat tops and my son's both love their jeans. My daughter's personal favourite is their range of pyjamas. This year I also treated myself to some lovely soft trousers for lounging around in. Thank goodness I did, as with the weather we are getting right now, all I want to do is lounge around the house.

          Marks and Spencer are very good for giving out codes to use on their orders. I placed a large order before Christmas and managed to get 10% off and free delivery, so I was very pleased.

          It usually takes 7 - 10 days for your order to be delivered and I have always found them to be on time. My order this time came in two separate packages, everything was in stock and arrived in perfect condition.

          In all the years I have bought from Marks and Spencer online, I have only had two items not turn up. The first was when the bag had been burst open in transit and a pair of pyjamas had gone missing. The other time is when they sent the wrong bras for my daughter, in no way did she need maternity bras at 13 years of age. Customer service was very helpful and I was refunded immediately both times.

          I will go on buying at Marks and Spencer, but it will only be at Christmas. I find their clothes are good quality, but just a little expensive. So throughout the rest of the year I will keeping shopping around, for a bargain.

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          20.12.2009 15:56
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          I wouldn't recommend shopping online with M&S

          I have shopped several times with Marks and Spencers and have been disappointed each time.

          The website is pretty standard for any online store - easy to navigate, easy to transact on, easy to browse. The pictures and descriptions of the items are very clear and accurate.

          In general I love Marks and Spencers products. The food is always delicious, top notch in my mind and the clothes are always of a very high standard. The clothes sizing can come up pretty small in some cases. Although not the cheapest you definitely pay for the quality from M&S, I especially like their lingerie, very good fit and long lasting, worth every penny.

          I much prefer shopping in store because of my prior experience with their online facility.

          My previous two shopping experiences, to be fair were a number of years ago so things may have changed but bad impressions last:

          First bad experience: I had a job interview and needed to get a new shirt and suit jacket. Due to existing work commitment I was unable to go out and go shopping so ordered from M&S online as I knew my size from them and also love the quality.

          Given I had an interview I had a strict deadline for when the items needed to arrive. I had nearly a week and a half to sort my outfit out which should have been ample time. I order my items and delivery was supposed to on Friday (I ordered on a Wednesday). Friday came and went, and my items did not arrive. I was a student at this point with multiple essays and exams, juggling a part time job of about 30hrs a week.... (Hence not being able to go out to shop). I was technically in all day Friday and the items did not arrive. I called up and the customer service team (it took over 10minutes to get through by phone) apologised and promised delivery the next day......I waited in, as I lived in student flats I even left a note on the front door for the delivery man to know exactly where to go.....at 5pm I rang to find out where my items were....they said they did not deliver on a Saturday...despite having been promised delivery the day before. I was fuming...they then promised delivery on the Monday, they absolutely 100% promised it. Again I waiting in doing my essays......5pm came around again and nothing so I rang again only to be told that as my delivery went wrong on the Friday apparently no-one was in to accept delivery (which I was all day) they delivery wouldn't go out again for 48 hours so I wouldn't expect it until Tuesday...it did arrive on the Tuesday and to be honest I don't actually mind if that is the process but I was so annoyed at being told the wrong thing twice by the customer services and being made promises they did not keep, they should have managed my expectations better.

          Second poor experience - I ordered a lot (£80) of lingerie on the website, the order was quick and easy, I received my confirmation email and delivery date was given. The delivery date came and went and no items....the website has an order tracking section so you can see the status of the order and at no point was there any indication of a problem.

          I called in only to find out that my card had not been processed, there was no issue with money just a technical hitch so slightly annoyed as I was expecting the items to be delivered already, I gave my details again.

          It seems repetitive but the delivery date (the new one) came and went and no items....I called in and again the card had not processed. I gave them a different card and then called back next day to confirm payment had processed, which it had. My new delivery date then kept being delayed on the website due to availability of items which had not been a problem in the first place.

          I called in again and they were apologetic and suggested I do a new order with items that would now be available. They cancelled my order and as good will gave me £80 credit to spend on their site. I though this was fairly generous. I placed a new order and had the same problem, no delivery. By this point I was ready to give up but felt entitled to my £80 of credit to spend given the calls and hassle to date.

          In the end I complained to head office as two months down the line I still didn't have my items, even when they had given me compensation I was in no better position. They then sent me £80 gift vouchers in the post to spend in store, which didn't address the problem but did make me feel better. 1 week later the items ordered online (with the £80 credit given) arrived so I ended up effectively with £160of compensation which kept me happy but despite this given m experience I will not buy online with them again.

          All in all I have had such an awful experience of their online shopping and customer advisory team that I would not recommend them or use the online service again.

          As said before I love M&S products but think their online service lets them down, especially given how lucrative e-commerce is.

          I will given this 2 stars - the 2 being for quality of items and resolution provided. But seriously let down by customer advisers who didn't know anything and a poor poor delivery effort.

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            02.12.2009 16:53
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            Look online for free del codes or deliver to local shop

            Checking hotukdeals I regularly come across postings for M&S and am therefore 'obliged' to take them up on their kind offers and relieve by dh of a few more pounds :)

            I find their site easy to navigate and, particularly when they are having a sale, it's easier than going in store, only to find they dont have the size you are after. The description are good and accurate, however I do find M&S sizes on the small side, particularly trousers. They do a whole heap of stuff I didn't even realise such as personalised birthday cakes, electrical items and personalised cards. They also tend to offer a good rate on their currency exchange, which can also be viewed and purchased online (although I've never used this service).

            The checkout process is painless and I've always managed to find free postage codes online so have never had to pay for it (which is a good thing and the reasons why I shall get to shortly).

            After ordering you get an email confirming your purchase and once the order is despatched you get another email with a tracking number attached.

            I have had in the past 6 months 4 orders from M&S, two to my mum's address and two to my own and this is where M&S comes unstuck slightly. They use a company called the Home Delivery Network for their shipping. The two parcels to my parents house were left one under my mum's car and another in front of their house, neither were 'safe' places and on both occassions it was raining, the box under the car just got wet on the bottom but the box by the house got soaked through. Luckily both boxes just contained saucepans and were doubled boxed so no damage was done but if I'd have wanted to give one as a gift I would have to have removed it from it's original packing. The two that have been delivered to my house I find a little more worrying in that the delivery driver never knocks, he opens my front door and puts the boxes just inside, why he doesn't knock I have no idea, he doesn't even shout to say he's there or that he's been. I've emailed M&S about 3 of the 4 deliveries (the 4th only arriving this afternoon) and all I got in reply was a 'we are very sorry and we'll take it up with the delivery company'. So my advice is make sure you are in when the parcel arrives or you put an address down where it's guaranteed someone will be there or heaven only knows where they'll dump your parcel!

            That said, I would use M&S again, as despite my moan all parcels have arrived quickly and all products were in perfect condition. As a side note however you can get the products delivered to your local store, something i did last week as I couldn't find a free delivery code, and that was a very simple process of heading to the ordering/collection desk with my confirmation email and being handed my goods.

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              20.10.2009 15:14
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              Superb customer service

              Whilst browsing the internet for a birthday present for my niece I stumbled across a banner on a search engine with Marksandspencer.com offering free delivery on all items until a set date so I thought I would go and take a peek.

              With Christmas looming they had a huge variety of toys and gifts not only for children but all ages. They of course offer their clothing, home, dining, electricals and flowers on the site too.

              The site is very well laid out and easy to navigate and once I had selected the toys section you are then able to pick the age and sex of the child you are buying for and if you would like to spend under £5, under £10 and so on. The latter is an excellent addition if you are shopping on a budget.

              They were also offering 3 for 2 on various products and eventually opted for their Sunny Town Farm Yard playset. These were £5 each so I got three sets for under £10 once the VAT had been adjusted - and all with free postage and packing.

              Ordering from the site was quick and easy - once you sign into your account you just enter your card details and the shipping address - it's as easy as that! I received a confirmation of my order and payment via email very quickly and then received the shipping details a couple of days later. You are able to log in and check the location of your item at any time.

              Unfortunately the items that I ordered never arrived and upon checking my account it said that it had been left in my letterbox. I sent them an email via my online account and received an email back in less than 24 hours.

              The issue was sorted out very quickly and they even credited my account with £5 for the trouble - now that's customer service for you!

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                23.07.2009 16:27
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                A frustrating waste of time

                I've always liked M&S for it's quality and well laid out shops. The prices I don't think are expensive as they used to be (or is it just because everything else has got more expensive?!) and their ranges are broadening to suit a younger generation. I have reviewed M&S's Limited Collection on here before, of which I'm a true fan. The clothes are modern, beautifully cut and great quality. Think Topshop trendy, with the M&S classic touch.

                My love of this collection hasn't gone unnoticed, it would seem amongst my friends, as I was given a giftcard for my birthday recently. Having being eyeing a jacket in my nearby store recently, but being unable to get over there, I decided to visit M&S online. I have a credit card with M&S and the money section on the site is great. I can check my account any time, seeing my recent transactions, updating details, making payments and having an archive of my statements. I've used this part of the site a lot and find it very user friendly. Something I'd not done with M&S is shop online however.

                The homepage of the site is laid out well, with the toolbar at the top allowing you to shop by category, Women - Men - Kids - Home and Furniture - Technology - Flowers and Gifts - Food and Wine and a 'What's new' section. It's a shame M&S don't do a core online food service for grocery shopping like Waitrose or Tesco. Their food section on the website for more specialist orders such as wedding cakes, wine and catering packages.

                Most of the home page at the moment is dominated by their summer sale. Big tutti frutti colours inform you there's 50% off some products. Even the sale items can be browsed by collection, department, colour, size, style, price so it's easy to find what you are looking for. Is once you find it and actually want to buy it that the problems begin.

                I found the jacket I'd spied in store and hurrah for me it was in the sale now! Pictured in blue, you could zoom in from all angles so see as much detail as you liked. Some of the garments on sale even have videos of them so you can see how they move when you walk, admittedly on a gorgeous size 8, 6'2'' model, but it gives some idea! Clicking the drop down boxes for my size, and then for colour, I notice there is only an option for white, even though there are no options to view this garment in any other colour but blue. Never mind, white it is! Moving on to delivery, you have to choice of choosing standard delivery, which is sent within a few days providing item in stock, or a date of your choosing. I notice no prices are put here for delivery and you have a follow and extra link to find the cost. £3.50 for standard delivery, I felt was a little steep. I see why they aren't more upfront about it. Moving on I entered card numbers and was then sent to order details page which told me my linen jacket's estimated delivery date would be in September, bearing in mind I'm ordering in July. Not wanting a summer jacket ready for winter, I thought I'd begrudgingly pay another £1.50 and choose a date from the special delivery option. To choose your date, you pick from the calendar on screen which highlights available and non available dates. Saturday was free, perfect. I was then redirected, to a saved items page, and was told my item was not available to buy, but to try again in the future.

                Needless to say, marksandspencer.com did not get any money out of me, though not through lack of trying, so I can't comment or their delivery service. I'm guessing my item is out of stock, but I feel it should be shown on the main description page if this is the case, not after I'd given card and address details.

                It's a shame as M&S have always impressed me, needless to say the flaws in their website shopping experience means I won't be shopping online with them again.

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                  06.01.2009 20:57
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                  Good all round store

                  Love some of their new clothes and bought a lovely cerise bat wing long jumper dress recently which is just lovely.

                  They have a great range of clothes and some are lovely but I think that the website could be improved with better pictures and models. I dont think some of the images do the clothes justice and make them seem quite mumsy when they are not!

                  Marks and Spencer simply do the best standard undies, bras and knickers but their tights are simply the best. Boots brand tights always sag, droop and eventually embarass you by falling at the knees but good old Marks tights never faulter and usually get carelessly snagged before they give up.

                  The only other critcism I would have is that some of their tailored outfits are not cut well and tend to hang badly and I also find that their sizing can be a bit random. Sometimes I am a 10 and sometimes an 8!!!!

                  Overall well done Marks, just drop the postage charges please!

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                  08.08.2008 08:30
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                  The online version of Marks & Spencers.

                  Marks and Spencers is one of those shops I never really shopped at while I was a teenager, it was somewhere my mum and grandma both liked and therefore by the rules of the teenage it was strictly off limits. However since I've matured a little I've come to see what a wonderful creation it is and how some of their ranges could even be considered fashionable and modern by today's standards. So I finally relented about five years ago and began shopping there!

                  I never actually bothered shopping online until it came to obtaining a pair of shoes about two years ago now, they weren't in stock in the store and they couldn't be ordered in either, yet I was desperate to get them. The girl in the store suggested I try their online site as very often they have extra stock of items that stores can't actually get hold of. So off I toddled home and began surfing the Marks & Spencers website and I've been hooked onto it ever since really!

                  The company was set up back in 1884 as a small market store in Leeds by Michael Marks who then went on to form a partnership with Tom Spencer ten years later. Their first actual shop was opened back in 1904 in Leeds with further stores being opened throughout the century. In 1926 they began selling textiles and in 1931 food was introduced into their larger stores. Back in 1999 their very own website was launched and the company has been trading online ever since then.

                  The Homepage

                  My first thought when reaching the homepage is how cluttered it is. My eyes were drawn at once to the fading effect screen in the centre which was depicting one of their latest offers, before darting all around the page trying to take everything in. There is a menu running along the top right hand side and a further menu running along the centre of the page. Below this is various advertising campaigns for different products or offers that the company is running at the time.

                  There's a search option at the top which allows you to type in anything you wish to search for. When I typed in "bra" it brought up 420 product matches which were displayed on the page and could be filtered down by their category on the left hand side. When I entered "card" it brought up 435 matches which again could be filtered down. So the search function is quite wide and although it does return a lot of results you do have to search further to find an exact one.

                  After that all the main navigational properties of the site have to be accessed by the two menus. The top menu is more of a straightford menu with options such as "Homepage" which will return you to the homepage from, "Store Finder" which will locate your nearest store, "Help" which will take you to the help section of the site, "Wish List" which allows you to set up a list of items you want and "Quick Order" which lets you find a particular item if you know its code already.

                  All in all the top menu is really easy to use and will introduce you to some key areas of the site. However the main shopping facility is done using the second menu which is probably what most people use when they visit the site. It has three different drop down menus which are "Shop All Departments," "Your M & S" and "My Account." The main one for shopping is obviously the first one while the second one gives you more information on the site and its features and the third one is all about you.

                  "Shop All Departments"

                  This is the main feature of the site and is a drop down menu showcasing all the departments and their sub departments, for example under "Kids" you will find "Babywear," "Younger Girls," "Younger Boys," etc. By clicking on one of these you will be taken to a page centred soley on that choice.

                  There is a search facility on the left hand side of the page which allows you to filter down your choice if you know exactly what you're looking for while below this are the categories you can choose to shop in, for example you can shop by collection (Autograph, Limited) or category (Dresses, Knitwear).

                  In addition to this several of the most popular categories will be featured through pictures on the rest of the page. By clicking on one of these or one of the options on the left hand side you'll be taken to a page which will showcase nine items, with further items being shown on consecutive pages.

                  Each item will be displayed by a full picture, below which will be a short description and the price. By clicking on any item you'll be taken to a page showcasing just that item, from here you can see a bigger picture and select the correctly coloured and sized item to add to your basket.

                  When you visit an item's page you'll also be shown matching items or items that other customer's have viewed to try to tempt you into looking further. It does offer some good outfit tips though as it often shows matching blouses to skirts or matching suit items below to give you a few hints.

                  Once you've finished your shopping you can click on the "My Basket" icon in the top right hand corner which will allow you to check out. In order to do this you need to login your account (see below) and finalise your details before submitting your order. You'll then recieve a confirmation email.

                  Shopping on the site using this facility is really easy, you can simply browse through various categories until you find the item you want or you can focus on a particular price point or a particular collection to see just those items. Using the back button here means you can easily get back to the previous page.

                  "Your M & S"

                  Under this menu are several options which give you a little information on the company and the site. You can find out about new store openings, learn about what products are being advertised in the press, get some beauty tips, find out about the personal shopping service and much more. I rarely take the time to look at this area of the site but there is a wealth of information under this menu option that may well be worth a look.

                  "My Account"

                  The final option is this one and it basically allows you to do all your account maintenance such as tracking an order, changing a password or altering your payment details. In order to buy anything off the site you do need to sign up for an account which is a really straightforward process and takes about two or three minutes in total. Whenever you come back to the site you're payment and postage details will be remember when you login, therefore saving you valuable shopping time!

                  Delivery

                  The standard delivery charge on the site is £3.50 which seems quite similar to other sites. However if you spend £30 you can get free delivery and this offer has been on since before Christmas so it does seem to be something of a permanent fixture. With regards to delivery dates it normally takes about two days for your order to be dispatched and then a further two or three days for it to arrive, I've never had to wait more than a week for anything. If you're desperate for your items you can have them delivered within 24 hours although this will cost you £4.95. If items are unsuitable you can send them back although it's probably easier to return them to a store.

                  Customer Service

                  I've never really had any problems with the site, once the wrong item was delivered and although I emailed them I didn't get any response other than one telling me to take it back and re-order the item again. They didn't offer any sort of compensation for the confusion which I was slightly annoyed about. My items have always arrived well packaged and I've never had any damaged in any way during packaging or delivery.

                  My Opinion

                  Out of all the shopping sites online this is probably the one I use the most as I've never had any problems with it and it offers free delivery. Very often when things are out of stock in the store you can get them on the site which is a big bonus in my opinion. I've never come across an item in any store that's not been online yet so I do feel the full range is displayed online and the stock levels generally tend to be better as well. One thing that's not as good is the sale and I'd recommend you actually visit the shop for this as the site sells out very quickly and often doesn't have that many items showing. However apart from that it's a great site and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend you visit. A first class shopping site!

                  Thanks for reading.

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                    19.07.2008 11:43
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                    Marks and spencer .com

                    With 600 stores in the U.K there is likely to be a Marks and Spencer near to where you live. However with rising transport costs you may prefer to order on line. I have been using Marks and Spencer.com for several years now as I don't always have time to go to the shops.

                    The website.
                    *********
                    I'm not going to go into lots of detail about the web site, as I'm sure if you are interested you will take a look for yourself! Simply go to www.marksandspencer.com .The web site is very straightforward and easy to navigate.

                    I really like the fact you can view a certain category such as all tops in a size 12.You can also choose to view 60 items per page. The web site is not as extensive as the stores but there is a god selection available. In addition to clothing there is a selection of home wear and furniture.

                    You will need to register your details, a simple process. Once you are ready to place your order you will be asked for your card details. The site is very secure and I have never had any problems using it.


                    Overall the site is excellent!

                    Delivery
                    *******
                    Delivery costs £3.50 for the standard service and your parcel should arrive within 3-5 working days. I always choose this option and have had no problems. When you place your order you will receive a confirmation email and another when your order is dispatched.

                    If you prefer to name a delivery day this option will cost £4.95. Marks and Spencer often have a free delivery promotion and once you have registered your details you will be sent an email telling you when this is available.

                    I have always received my parcel well packed and with everything included.

                    Returns.
                    ******
                    This is where M and S score highly in my book. If you are not happy with an item you have 90 days to return it. I like the fact that you can return goods to your local store. If you prefer you can post unwanted items back using the prepaid label. There are never any questions asked!

                    My experience of M and S .com has been a very positive one. Goods ordered have always arrived on time. The returns process is simple and the quality excellent.

                    The web site is more limited in the range it carries than a store would be, but for times when going to a store is difficult then on line ordering is a good alternative.

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                      07.07.2008 12:24
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                      Better than the real thing.

                      Marks and Spencer online is, I believe, a well designed site. While other high street retailer's websites often leave me drastically confused, Marks is navigated in comparative ease. The home page is one that truly acts as such, immediately offering you the opportunity to load the department that interests you. There is no fussing with elaborate graphics or animation; it is simply there and ready, as though one was in the store themselves.

                      Obviously this is not the sole contents of the home page, however, as one is also shown the up-to-date points of interests such as the latest offers and the like. One is also given the opportunity to log in if you have an account, and also the opportunity to search. So, then, it is clear that to delve into the website further, one must utilise one of these functions and as I am choosing to focus on more of the actual shopping aspect and experience with the website, it is merely a choice of two: search or load department.

                      This is not a hard choice; it is merely an issue of whether or not you have the specifics of what you want or are more interested in browsing. The search is excellent in that it almost always seems to find the product you're looking for, whether entering product code or keywords; but still, it's more than likely that a new visitor will choose to instead explore the different departments. This is done by hovering the mouse over the "Shop all departments" text at the top of the page and, from there, selecting the department that interests them.

                      The site has more products on show than any of their largest stores; where your local store may have had five long sleeve shirts, M&S online has 70. It's obviously a lot more convenient to surf through these pages rather than push through the crowds, too, and this may make it preferable to the 'real thing' for many. Perhaps you think the amount of results somewhat overwhelming, but there is no real worry for one can easily filter them to suit the specifics of the product you desire, whether through size (size 8? down to 54), colour (green? down to 10), style (3/4 style? down to 7) or price (£15 - 19.99? down to 4). So, you see, by placing slightly OTT limits on my searches, I am able to find out right away whether or not M&S has the item I so want, which, in this case, seems to be a green 3/4 style shirt in size 8 between the prices of £15 - 19.99. Right.

                      There is a problem that follows on from this, though, as often I have searched through this website before heading off to one of their actual stores in town. That's a mistake. The website, as said, has far more than any of their stores, and you're ultimately setting yourself to be disappointed if you use this website as a pre-browsing tool. Time and time again I have gone with product code in hand only to be told that it isn't in stock, or, worse yet, that the offer so bragged online is for no reason ignored in-store. Each time I have ended up back home, immediately sorting out an order as I should have done the day prior. It seems to me to be a version of M&S that forces me to remain utterly disappointed with each of their 'real' stores, who stock nothing of what I want; but also, then, and with the same reasoning, I must compliment M&S online most heartily for their huge array of goods shown and generally for the quality of their content.

                      Ordering is done very simply: by selecting the appropiate size, colour, quantity then hitting "add to basket". This, of course, applies solely to the clothing section, but it is very similar in all others; the only difference is that size may be omitted and replaced with "style", or that both colour and size may be utterly unnecessary and you're left to select only quantity. Sometimes you may find, specifically in regards to items on sale, that through selecting your size or the like, your second choice of colour may be restricted. This is due to stock issues and can certainly be annoying, but what's more vexing is when it DOESN'T do this.

                      I would have liked to have complimented their customer services, but the situation I lead on to talk about stops me from doing so despite perhaps a quick note to follow. They offer the ability to e-mail them on their website under the usual "contact us" where you need only select a subject and fill in your message (along with the essential basics, e.g. name). I feel compelled to mention that they do usually reply very quickly and in the time they promise. I remember one time when I bombarded them with numerous queries regarding an item I was interested in buying and had them all met in less than twenty-four hours. But there are other times, too, when I really did have an 'urgent' query and yet had to wait days upon days before receiving a then redundant reply.

                      I ramble. I now wish to walk of the incident I have earlier alluded to, and so I will. I ordered an item of clothing of this website; it was essentially the whole reason for my order. They offer free delivery for orders over £30, though, so I bulked it out a little in order to attain this. This is another point I should mention, actually; unlike other sites where free delivery is automatically assumed for you, on M&S, one must type in a code to attain it. I think this is a particularly sly way of catching out the forgetful, but alas, again I digress. It was ordered and I was patiently awaiting delivery, till then I went on their website to check. Suddenly my order was not £30, it was a mere £15 or so. Why? They had removed said clothing, but it didn't stop there, for they had also gone ahead and charged me for delivery.

                      After many e-mails sent to their services, I finally received a reply explaining that the item was out of stock! They simply removed the item and expected me to accept an order of which I did not need nor want. I had read of this happening on other websites, but had not expected it to happen to me for some reason, as my experience prior to then had always been one of positivity. To their defense, though, they did offer to cancel the delivery charges; but still, I find this whole lack of communication disgraceful and enough to turn me off the site. I requested my order to be cancelled but was left with no reply, leaving me to simply reject the order when it finally did come. A little further frustration resulted when I went on to see the product supposedly 'out of stock' and found it still displayed and offered for any order. I wonder. . .

                      That experience aside, though, their delivery is generally quite good, even if slightly lengthy with the five days when using free delivery. If you're not using a free delivery code, delivery is £3.50. I've never paid it personally, for I'm always willing to bulk out the orders to avoid it, and have never used any of their other shipping options so as to review them. Items are able to be returned in any M&S store or through Royal Mail by using the return postage paid label provided, except the usuals that are excluded from this offer such as made-to-order products and toiletries, etc.

                      Overall, I think this is an excellent site till you're disappointed like I have been. Even so, it still remains much more preferable than setting out to the store. Why? For all the general reasons why one would choose e-commerce: the convenience, mainly; but also for reasons unique to M&S online such as the existence of items and offers that seem to be found online and no where else.

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                        11.08.2007 15:40
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                        Quality products at a price! Not to everybody's taste. Improved service.

                        There are a number of reviews on Dooyoo about this online experience but the latest dates from 2002 and recently a new site has been launched. As it’s a significant improvement on its predecessor, I thought it worth another look.

                        ~~~M&S – A BRIEF HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE~~~

                        Of all the UK’s retailers, Marks and Spencer (or M & S as they are more commonly known today) probably have the best claim to the status of being a household name. They have survived for over a century from their humble beginnings when Michael Marks opened a stall Kirkgate Market, Leeds in 1884 followed by his first shop in Manchester in 1893 and his partnership with Tom Spencer the following year.

                        Until 1926 their stores were mainly of the “penny bazaar” variety but in 1926 they became a public company and started selling textiles having adopted a revolutionary approach of buying goods directly from the manufacturers. In a very short time they had a presence on every high street in the UK.

                        Café bars and food departments were introduced in some stores in the 1930s. Self service was introduced in the 1950s The 1970s saw expansion into Continental Europe and the 1980s the introduction of a furniture range. In 1999 came the introduction of online shopping.

                        Today services offered have extended into banking and financial services and the company has over 500 UK stores and 150 stores abroad including over 130 franchise businesses, operating in 27 countries.

                        ~~~M&S - ITS IMAGE AND APPEAL~~~

                        In the late nineties M&S experienced something of a downturn. They had long had a “ twinset and pearls” image which, I believe, failed to keep up with modern trends not only in fashion but also in their stalwart refusal to accept credit cards (except their own store card which had one of the highest interest rates around) and in their prices which often seemed to me to be too high for mass produced items even if these were offered as quality goods.

                        However, in the last couple of years, they have turned this around and now have a slightly updated image, a more flexible approach to payment options and more reasonably priced lines. Spurred on by the Twiggy marketing campaign (which I consider abysmally overblown and of little relevance to “real” women but which obviously appeals to some) and those mouth-watering seasonal food adverts (which I find distressingly tempting), M&S are regaining their status as one of our, foremost, homebred retailers.

                        As I am now the wrong side of fifty maybe I should be adopting an image more suitable for my years but my fashion taste is still mainly centred on jeans, trousers vest tops and sweaters for casual times, classic looks which are reserved for business but slightly more flamboyant tops and accessories for “ good time” wear. My casual and classic sides will often turn to M&S for fulfilment as they seem to have mastered the style and fit which is suitable for the more mature woman! But for my flightier times when I want a more exciting, elaborate or modern look (which is not likely to be duplicated at any venue I care to frequent), I will always direct my shopping sprees elsewhere.

                        For me their fashions still do too little to attract the younger person. My daughter, in her mid twenties, shuns their styles apart from the occasional bargain top and the odd bra and nightwear purchases whilst my son, at 28, will occasionally deign to wear M&S sweaters proffered as gifts ( if they are cashmere!) but does not see M&S as one of his first choice retailers. They assure me their peers have much the same opinion of M&S as a clothes retailer.

                        In fact all the departments ( with the possible exception of food and children’s fashion) seem to be geared more to the tastes of the 40 plus age group. Furniture and home accessories are good quality but, for the most part, ultra traditional, unimaginative and rather expensive. Makeup and toiletries come in “safer” traditional colours and perfumes, although I see their nail varnish range is making an attempt to offer colours more in keeping with the “naughties”!

                        The M&S Entertainment Department is very limited in its range of CDs and DVDs. Certainly most of the CDs seem to be aimed at those of 1950s and 1960s vintage! Their “Technology” section makes some attempt to offer every day modern essentials such as mobile phones, ipods and digital cameras but the ranges are pitifully limited and probably aimed at those who are less familiar with new technology and consider M&S to be a safe and hence more preferable source than those specialist outlets offering a bewildering array of more advanced models and often better deals

                        The food section(which hardly features on the internet site) has many ranges of all the usual food lines, together with delicious. and sometimes unusual, ready to cook/eat meals and good quality fresh, chilled and frozen lines but the prices are higher than in most supermarkets and would not be the first choice for those on lower incomes.

                        Overall I still consider Marks and Spencer’s main clientele to be the over 40s.and more specifically the over 40s who go for the safe, traditional and well established options in life plus being comfortably, if not well, off.

                        ~~~WHY SHOP AT M&S ONLINE?~~~

                        This is a very personal decision and many of my friends love the shopping experience and feel they always have to see the goods before they are prepared to part with their money. However I find shopping the most un-enjoyable and frustrating experience imaginable and will do all I can to avoid all large stores.

                        I actually live only a mile or so from a medium-sized M&S store but it is not just laziness that makes the online route my preferred shopping method. I find that, although the store is packed out with an array of goods, the layout annoys me as the same type of garments are not necessarily all in the same place but scattered in “collections”. If and when I manage to track down an item of interest, it’s often not available in my “ bog standard” size. Even if I find a garment with all the right credentials, I will invariably need something to match and the whole pantomime of will start again.

                        The lighting plays havoc with my eyes (the only natural lighting is at the very front of the store). It’s often crowded with people wheeling trolleys of foodstuff from the back of the shop to the front all through the ladies fashion section. Staff are available and try to be helpful but, if it’s a matter of obtaining an item in a certain size or colour, the best they can do is order from elsewhere, thus necessitating another visit to collect. I can do that myself online with far less aggravation! If I do get as far as the tills, there are often long queues no matter what time I chose but I seldom get this far as I usually give up in disgust and leave empty handed frustrated and exhausted.

                        Many of these criticisms apply not just to M&S but to all larger shopping outlets, especially in a town like Brighton where residents have to compete with hordes of tourists. However M & S is one I tend to gravitate towards more often than most and this makes its shortcomings all the more noticeable and irritating

                        On line I can browse at my leisure and at any hour. I know instantly if something is in stock and can take my time mixing and matching items. I also have immediate access to my existing wardrobe to check exactly what I already own thus helping me to avoid making any unnecessary purchases. (This sounds as if I have a vast clothing stock but this is not the case. Does any lady have 100% total recall of the all the items of clothing, shoes jewellery and other accessories she owns at any one time!?) With online shopping wardrobe planning becomes a more exact science!

                        I mainly rely on M&S for Women’s fashion and lingerie, but gift shopping comes a close second and with this I can spend time researching ideas and comparing different options on different sites at the click of a mouse rather than wandering from store to store seeking inspiration and comparing prices. This is particularly welcome at Christmas when I can avoid all those infuriating crowds and the pain of struggling home laden with heavy parcels.

                        As I belong to the cash back site, Mutual Points, my M&S online purchases also qualify for 2.5% return of my money! This may not be a huge amount but it makes me feel I am getting something for nothing! .In fact M&S seem to figure on most of the cash back sites I have visited. Even if I omit from the equation the special online offers to which I am usually alerted by e-mail, I still believe online M&S saves me money because I am less likely to make impulse or desperation purchases.

                        ~~~THE M&S ONLINE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE~~~

                        The home page has links to all the necessary options and is very well laid out. At the very top are the usual links including a store finder, a wish list, a quick order facility (where an item number is known) and basket ( where you can check what you have ordered). Below this are just three bold links, “Shop All Departments”, “ Your M&S”, and “My Account”. At the bottom of the page are “ Customer Services (including details on delivery charges, returns and refunds, size guides and contact details) and “About M&S” (company information, jobs etc.). All these links remain static wherever you are on the site making navigation very easy

                        ~~Window Shopping~~

                        The home page gives details and links to various special offers, sales and new collections. Having an eye for a bargain it’s my usual starting point and sometimes my finishing point I because I have been over tempted. But the beauty is I can go on because if my basket load (which can be easily checked at any time and which shows the total spending) ) becomes too expensive, I can just selectively delete!

                        On to the main store from the ‘Shop All Department’ Link and here the serious business begins. This is the portal to nearly all the goods you would expect to see in store. The Food and Drink Department is the one exception. There are plenty of wine options but these can only be ordered in cases of six or twelve and, apart from when they are on special offer (just now many are 20% off), they do not come cheap! The food section looks inviting showing packs for buffet parties, dinner parties, sweets, wedding and personalised cakes. Unfortunately none of it can be ordered online and I only managed to discover the ordering procedure by scrutiny of quite a lot of small print! Basically all a potential customer can do is to download and complete an order form which can be taken into a store where a collection date will be arranged.(not even a telephone ordering facility!). Add to this disappointment the fact that the service is only available in certain stores and it’s a wonder that it is included in an online shopping site at all!

                        In each department you can dive straight in on the home page or bypass this and go to certain areas. I will stick to the Women’s Department here as it is the part with which I am most familiar. Here you can opt for Plus, Petite, Maternity, Bridal ( none of these interest me!) shoes, accessories, beauty and skin care (that’s better!). Once in the department links to the left hand side enable you to shop by ranges ( e.g.holiday, occasion, career), by collections( e.g. per una, classic, autograph) or by category ( e.g. trousers and jeans, tops and Tshirts, suits and tailoring).

                        Once you have selected an item the photo images are extremely clear, sharp and large enough to see without pressing ones nose to the screen as I have to do on some fashion shopping sites! They usually show the item being worn and there is a facility to zoom in on to see any part of the garment in detail plus a swatch of colours where applicable. Along with a brief description are listed product details ( e.g. zip up back, adjustable straps), composition (material) and care instructions.

                        However I have one major criticism. All too often I find an item and decide to purchase, then go to the little drop down box to discover it’s not available in my size. I have spoken to M&S assistants about this and they smile and say words to the effect that l am a very popular size which always sell out first!” That being the case surely M&S could order more of the popular sizes but, once a line has run out, they don’t seem to order extra stock. At least it would be a useful addition if there was a ‘search by size’ facility within each category as provided by many of the catalogue companies. This would be a real asset and a time saver for customers.

                        I won’t go into the other departments in depth. That would take the joy out of the discovery process! But expect the usual men’s and children’s clothes, home furnishings and flowers and, in addition. travel, entertainment (that very limited collection of books, CDs and DVDs), technology and M&S money. There is also a section for Corporate Ordering but it only covers men’s and women’s clothing.

                        ~~Ordering~~

                        This couldn’t be simpler. Select colour size and number and any other details required from the drop down boxes and click into the basket. As you can only order the sizes listed as in stock there is none of the annoying pop up boxes telling you that you will have to wait a month for this item! However if you order a quantity of one item which exceeds those available, an “Important Message” appears in red above the basket contents will tell you the quantity has been altered according to what is in stock. The order complete, the “proceed to check out” link will take you to the complete basket for checking and then on to your account for payment.

                        ~~Accounts~~

                        I set up my account some time ago and can’t remember all the details but I recall it was a simple process. However I did have a problem entering my address because the address finder which switches in once you have entered your post code failed to list my correct address. I opted to enter it manually but somewhere along the line it was transposed wrongly and instead of Flat 1, No 12 any place, the parcel was addressed to Flat 112 any place. Two parcels failed to reach me because of this. The first time it happened I checked and the address was correct on the site and a replacement order was sent. The second time I had one bitch of a battle with endless emails and calls to their customer services who insisted it was my own fault. I explained that the address was correct on my account page but it made no difference. Eventually I got redress through my &More credit card company (which of course is and M&S card) and a replacement order was dispatched. Strange to say I have never had that problem again.

                        Your account page will store credit card details ( all major ones are accepted) unless you opt out and also any alternative delivery addresses you add. This is very handy as I sometimes send flowers and gifts to friends and relatives. I only have to enter their address the first time and it’s stored until I need to use it again or decide to delete it.

                        ~~Delivery~~

                        A word of warning on this one! The phrase “usually despatches in 1 day” will be found against the vast majority of the items on the site. In my experience this appears to be little more than a default setting as the quickest I have ever received an item is in five days but it usually takes a week or more and it is not as if I live in a remote area! I recently ordered two lamps and they took nearly a month to appear – in fact I was on the point of cancelling the order. On the site the lamp still bears the “usually despatches in 1 day” claim as it did when I ordered. Is this a trades description offence?

                        To be fair M&S do keep you in touch with the progress of your order by regular emails including one when your order is received and another when it is despatched. I also received a number of emails about the lamps apologising for the delay in fulfilling my order. You can track order progress online on your account page.

                        The standard delivery charge is £3.50 but very often M&S special offers include free delivery of orders over £30. I am not sure why they don’t make this a standard as do many other firms. For £4.95 you can opt for a next day delivery (on orders placed before noon) or a nominated day delivery which is very handy when ordering gifts for special occasions. I cannot vouch for the next day option, having never used it, but the nominated day works well in my experience. I consider it’s quite a reasonable price when you consider the cost of postage today. Furniture and “large technology items” are delivered free of charge.

                        Flowers wine and fruit baskets are delivered in 24 hours at no extra charge. My kids are ‘late remembers’ and when my daughter rang the day before her Gran’s birthday panicking that she and her brother had forgotten to send a present, I directed her to M&S. Gran was delighted to receive a beautiful hydrangea in a pot the next day. It wasn’t a cheap option at £35 but Gran’s delight that her grandchildren had remembered was priceless. I ordered a potted arrangement for Mother’s Day and it was actually delivered on the Sunday as requested. You can’t beat M&S for reliability on this sort of service

                        I have also used the gift wrapping service for my Mum. It costs £5 but apparently the blouse arrived beautifully presented in tissue and a black and gold box which Mum reported was of good quality and which she will be able to re-use. Again it’s not a cheap option but not unreasonable either when you consider the price of gift boxes and gift wrap. However, it is worth checking with the recipient that the item has arrived gift wrapped because they failed to do this on one of my gift orders. After a quick e-mail complaint my money was refunded without a quibble.

                        ~~Returns and Refunds~~

                        Most items can be returned in store or using the postage paid returns labels which comes with every delivery. Items must be accompanied by the parcel summary received with the item in order to ensure the return of the price paid so always hang to these! Otherwise refunds and credits will be given for the sum of the last known price. Obviously this is very important with Christmas presents as January sale reductions will follow hot on the heels of the gift’s receipt. All items must, of course, be returned in a saleable condition.

                        There are certain understandable exceptions – wedding dresses, made to measure curtains and certain items which cannot be returned once opened. All these terms and conditions are clearly laid out on the site.

                        Refunds will be made to credit, debit and charge cards if you are the original purchaser. If returning a gift, refunds will be by means of credit vouchers which must be used in 12 months.

                        I have never actually returned an item but my son had no trouble returning one of my Christmas gifts. ( I have no taste!). He got a credit voucher and used it to treat himself to food!

                        ~~~OTHER ASPECTS OF THE M&S SITE~~~

                        ~~Your M&S~~

                        This is entered from a bold link at the (static) top of the page and is worth a browse from time to time. Here you will find a great deal of information and news including home styling tips, access to a “personal shopper” ( you fill in a short questionnaire on requirements and it comes up with the goods which meet your criteria) , health nutrition and food production information, fashion and beauty tips as well as the inevitable “what’s new?” feature!

                        ~~Environmental and Ethical Policies and Initiatives~~

                        The most interesting item for me in this section is the M&S “Plan A” initiative which seems to make a real commitment to a responsible ethical and environmentally sound programme. All operations are to be made carbon neutral in the next five years. By 2012 the aim is to ensure all clothing and packaging is recyclable. Various schemes are in place to ensure all key raw materials come from sustainable sources and several which aim to improve their fair trade credentials.

                        The company information section of the site (accessed from a link on the bottom right of each page) gives further information of this type. Here I was impressed by facts such as all the eggs sold by M&S are free range and all products containing eggs only use the free range variety. They also claim to be the only major UK food retailer which only sells GM free products and this has been the case since 1999.

                        The seemingly endless information of this type has to impress. Even hardened cynics like me must be convinced that M&S are paying more than just lip service to their pledge of being an ethical and environmentally responsible supplier although I have to say a few of my acquaintances do find political, ethical and environmental excuses to boycott them. However they do tend to find such faults in all major suppliers and admit that M&S is far from being the worst offender!

                        ~~Accessibility~~

                        The company section of the site (bottom right) also has a link dealing with site accessibility. I have to admit that I do not understand the many details listed here but the declared aim is to make the site accessible “to all user groups, including the disabled, the visually impaired and those with motor deficiencies and cognitive disabilities”. The statement explains the features incorporated into the site which “help to improve navigation for screen readers, keyboard navigation and text-only browsers among other things” An 0845 phone number is given for anybody needing advice or assistance.

                        ~~Company Information~~

                        I have not ploughed my way through all of this but if you want to look at the firm’s history, philosophy, financial details, trading statements or annual plans, whether as a customer or an investor, it’s all there awaiting the command from your mouse’s click!

                        ~~~CONCLUSIONS~~~

                        The new M&S website is a 100% improvement on the old version both in terms of navigation, presentation, information included and ease of ordering. It offers more than just a shopping experience being packed with hints and tips on food, fashion, beauty, nutrition and other interesting and useful information which make it worth a visit even if you do not intend to shop.

                        I have had my problems with the service in the past and still have a few niggles about the lack of availability of certain goods online. I think eventually M&S will have to yield to pressure from competitors and customers alike and offer online ordering of food items even if it’s a limited range. I am also frustrated by the shortage of popular sizes which run out extremely quickly. However most of the initial problems encountered with the site and the service seem to have been ironed out in this reincarnation!

                        For me the range of items stocked has a limited appeal and M&S are still not really geared up to attract younger customers and would be well advised to concentrate more effort in this area.

                        Prices are not cheap but you can be assured of quality and they seem to have increased the number of online deals and special offers and also have frequent sales where real bargains are available.

                        I now feel I can shop with M&S online with complete confidence and would have no hesitation in recommending the service to others. As an insomniac, there is no better place for me to go to plan my wardrobe or order my Christmas shopping at 2 o’clock in the morning!

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                          29.04.2002 16:34
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                          My experiences of Marks and Spencers on-line ordering have been mixed. Overall, their website is good, easy to use and concise. When ordering through their site, the first thing you need to do is register. This for me took a while. Their site can be slow at processing information, but you don't have to give too much information and you only have to do it once. My first order was a bunch of flowers for mothers day. The thing i loved about this, and something i have never seen with on-line ordering is that you can give a different address for your delivery and another for invoicing. (Next for example do not provide this on-line, you have to phone up). So i ordered my mum's flowers to be invoiced to my house, and obviously the flowers sent to hers. I later found that the bunch had been delivered at 7.30am on Mothering Sunday - points for the correct day, but it's a good job she's an early riser, otherwise she wouldn't have received them!! My second experience was ordering some clothes. Simple enough, you would think. The website certainly allowed for easy ordering. The grouping of products is clear, and something i liked was the fact that an item could appear in multiple sections (again something that Next doesn't do). A jumper for example, appeared in Woolens and also casual. So i placed my order on Saturday and was promted that delivery would be on Wednesday. So wednesday came, but my delivery didn't. It wasn't until the following Tuesday that it showed up. The help section on the website is thorough, and clear, with most everyday problems covered (returns, delivery costs etc). The website fits onto one screen which i liked, as it can be a nuisance, scrolling up and down to change pages etc. Overall, not a bad service, but i would suggest to them that they review their delievery company - 2 experiences which both could have been better.

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                            13.10.2001 21:08
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                            I visited marksandspencer.com by clicking a link on ipoints, hoping to get a couple of points for doing so. What I found was a very pleasant surprise indeed. I’m not an M&S fan myself – I find everything they do (including the food) far too bland for me – but I respect them as a great British institution and I’m delighted to find that at last they are actually getting something RIGHT. The site looks really classy with quality images and lovely toning colour schemes in warm autumnal shades. Also, everything on a page is viewable in 800 x 600 screen resolution (web designers take note – this is still by far the most used resolution), meaning that you don’t have to spend forever scrolling this way and that to get the whole picture. The site is divided into the following sections, all of which are accessible from every single page n the site (again, designers take note): Women Lingerie Men Kids Home Flowers Gift shop Furniture Finance The women’s section contains their different clothing ranges as well as accessories and toiletries. Items are clearly displayed and there is also a sizing guide to help you get something that will fit. Because the images are so well done, the colours are very ‘true’. I’ve seen stuff on their site that I remember seeing in the store and the colours are matched very, very well. The same can be said for the men’s, kids and lingerie section. The gifts section is also very good. You can search for gifts for men, women and kids, or just browse through the whole lot. It isn’t the widest selection of their site but what you get is their trademark good quality, inoffensive and decently designed stalwarts. The home section is split up into the different rooms of the house, and also includes bed linen, curtains and blinds, accessories and furniture. The only disappointment her
                            e is the furniture – when you click on the link you get a pop up window telling you to send for their catalogue as they don’t show or sell the goods online. Throughout the site is very quick to load (no mean feat for something that looks this good) and a doddle to navigate. You never, ever end up up a cul-de-sac without a paddle and having to find your way back to the home page in order to shift to a different department. The security and privacy statement is excellent, and ordering is quick and guaranteed secure. Delivery is £2.95 for clothing and homeward, and £4.00 for flowers and wine, and they do it in 72 hours if you order before 6 pm. Refunds are free and they have a no quibble money back policy. As I said at the beginning, I’m no fan of M&S and will only be using this site for gifts for friends who do like their stuff. However, I think this site is really well done and credit where credit’s due. If you do like M&S, visit this site now instead of jostling through the crowds for your Christmas shopping and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

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                              16.06.2001 02:30
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                              • "Not elaticised waistbands please!"

                              My heart still sinks as I recall my mother’s words “We’re going to a wedding so you’ll have to have a new frock. We’ll go to Marks and Spencer after school on Tuesday” I was thirteen years old, and I didn’t want to go to Marks and Spencer and be forced to wear a frock meant for a forty year old woman. Horrendous floral prints, puffed sleeves, nice bit of smocking stretched across my already well formed bust, elasticised waistband and a Peter Pan collar! I wanted my mum to take me to the wonderfully wicked Chelsea Girl tart’s boutique on the corner of Tooting Broadway market. Shocking pink clingy V-Necked top raglan ¾ length sleeves. A tight black ‘hobble’ skirt, stockings with black seams and butterflies on each ankle, and best of all! Thick orange Panstick make-up, kiss curls and big hoop earrings! My mum always won, and I would go to the wedding looking like Little Miss Prim, when deep inside there was a raging tart longing to get out… The dreadful memories of M & S has remained with me ever since. I live in rural area, with a large retirement community, staunch conservatives with a big and a small ‘C’. My nearest M & S is sixteen miles away, in our delightful Dorset County town. On the very rare occasions when I’ve dipped into M & S to have a look, the clothes still looked the same as then, and I’ve dipped straight out again. I have marvelled at the full page advertisements for M & S in the Sunday supplements and the glossy magazines and wondered. Why has my local store still got crimplene clothes with elasticised waists and Bri-Nylon jumpers in sickly pastel colours? I’m going to a wedding. Not mine. To the son of one of our best mate’s. I dread the thought of wedding outfits. Why is that women with perfectly sound dress sense at all other times, always end up looking like the Queen Mother on an illegal substance whe
                              n they select a wedding outfit? An ex-Sister-in-Law of mine (I have several) sent me a photo of myself taken at a wedding in the ‘70s. She wrote “ Your outfit is the only one that stood the test of time and the ravages of fickle fashion” I studied the long forgotten photo to discover the secret. Plain! Very plain… Long straight skirt, short, waisted jacket, floppy simple hat and high heeled mules. Not a peach flower in sight and no evidence of Marks and Spencer and elasticised waists. My confidence, well boosted by the fact I had proof I could dress for a wedding without looking like the Groom’s Maiden Aunt, I began to browse through my favourite online fashion shops with a sense of impending gloom and doom. Full of frocks that would make me look like a throwback from World War 2 and a reincarnation of a woman from the Land Army. ~~13th June 2001~~ I’d read a favourable review in the Sunday Times about the Marks and Spencer shopping website, so armed with caffeine and roll up and sitting comfortably, I typed marksandspencer.com into the address bar on my browser, and within a split second their homepage opened. I was theirs! I have been won over, wooed, converted, hook, line and proverbial sinker to M & S and their online shopping site. They may be getting it wrong in their stores but they are certainly getting it right on the web! A clear, simple page welcomes the visitor with Offers, Women, Lingerie, Men, Gifts, Home, Kids and Flowers listed at the top. An instant invitation to preview the new Women’s Autumn Range, offering 15% off and free delivery before June 23rd tempted me. Beautiful leatherwear, footwear, suits, coats and jumpers, all well photographed and to my astonishment, alluring! None of the items looked like anything I’d ever seen in my local M & S store. Was I viewing the cream of their range? Usually only available in the key stores? I believe I
                              was! The reduced prices were clearly marked, and a hover over any single photograph invited me to see the full range. The page opened with very clear thumbnails, which again when clicked took me to the single selected item, with a full size picture, availability, sizes, colours (with colour swatch) fabric description, price, add to basket, and a suggestion, “Why not try the strappy mules” “Why not try the beaded cardigan” Like having my own personal dresser, as another click took me to their suggested matching items! But I was a woman on a mission. I found it! In Suits! So very me! Plain sateen Coat Jacket and Trousers. In Pewter. I imagined myself monochromed to perfection amongst all the sets of bedroom curtains converted to a summer frock for a July wedding. I added to my basket, which was very clearly illustrated on the top right of the page. The total, including delivery charge, was added immediately. My personal dresser asked me “Why not try the strappy mules” I clicked, but I already have a pair, but if I hadn’t, I’d have bought them!. I was ready to go to the check out. At this stage I pinched myself to convince myself I was doing this. Buying from M& S online. It was true, I was doing it. The check out is warm and friendly, ensuring first time buyers will feel safe and a prominently displayed Privacy Policy to give confidence to any online shopper, encouraging them to register, which I did. The choice of payment methods was extensive, accepting all major debit and credit cards. I rapidly went through the buying process with confirmation of my desired items quickly confirmed online. Promised delivery was “ As soon as possible” with a full explanation about free returns, and a promise of a welcoming email with continuing communication regarding the status of my order. I printed my ‘Printer Friendly’ copy of the order confirmation to place in my files.
                              I felt a very happy shopper indeed, but the proof had yet to be seen. When would the goods arrive, and what would they be like? Only time would tell. Now then, I’m going to the wedding with my Morty, and every time I’ve mentioned “Suit!” he’s not heard me, not listened, and said “Shush I’m watching the news” or buried his head deeper into the newspaper! Getting Morty to invest in a suit is a major operation. I went to the M & S search, and how comprehensive it was too. There is the usual keyword search, but get this. The Advanced Search certainly is advanced. For/ Which Item/Which Colour/Which Material/ Which Price all with a drop down menu. It worked perfectly. I reckoned we could do a Harold and Hilda. Remember “Ever Decreasing Circles” with Richard Briers? I selected Men/ Suits/ Grey/Wool/£75 (per item-we’re poor ) It was a very intuitive search, as several items opened at once with photographs, giving me a choice of jackets, matching trousers, waistcoats, and that personal dresser suggesting brogues, shirts and ties to co-ordinate. I saved each page to my desktop and have yet to take him on a guided tour of “Suits I would love you to wear to this wedding Morty” but we still have time. Every page I visited had a “Need Help?” on the bottom left, and each “Need Help?” means just for the page you are on. I loved this, as often “Help” on a website means scrolling through information I don’t require. Top marks for this facility M & S. All this relaxing browsing, shopping and buying and time had passed. I closed the M & S shopping site and went to my Outlook Express mailbox, and there was a welcoming email from them confirming my registration, welcoming me as a customer and providing me with a list of contact phone numbers for Customer Care if I couldn’t find the answers I required on their shopping website. I
                              am impressed. ~~14th June 2001~~ Another email from Marks and Spencer informing me my goods have been forwarded to their carriers and will be there with me soon. ~~15th June 2001~~ A knock on my front door at 11.00am. My Pewter, Coat Jacket and Trousers are delivered by a polite man who says “From Marks and Spencer” and I sign for the goods. They are on sturdy clothes hangers with plastic covering. I am informed on the Delivery Note that my parcel was packed by Julie. I am told I can return my goods free of charge by using the return form. I can return to any M & S store, by Freepost or by Courier. I have no desire to return my wedding outfit. It is perfect, and I’m in love with Marks and Spencer. Now all I have to do is convince Morty to buy that suit. I will summarise very briefly. If you have hated M & S as much as I have all these years for my own declared personal reasons, then have a look at their shopping website. They have got everything right, and I wish there were more fashion sites that got it as right as they have. I haven’t begun to describe the rest of the categories they offer the shopper, but they are all equally impressive. It is an enjoyable experience, and if they get their stores as up to the year 2001 as their online shopping sites are, they will win. Perhaps the web masters ought to makeover the stores? All they have to do, to offer us perfection online, is the food department!.

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