Shifting consumer habits spark a smart response

Marks & Spencer launch first customer loyalty scheme in Ireland, in tandem with new app

Laura Coman and Percy Pig celebrate the launch of Marks & Spencer Sparks, its first customer rewards scheme in the Republic of Ireland. Picture Andres Poveda

A marked shift in consumer behaviour from in store to online shopping has prompted a strategic response from Marks & Spencer in Ireland. Last week, the retailer made Sparks, a digital first customer loyalty scheme, available to shoppers in this country for the first time. It comes as Marks & Spencer reports more than 692,000 customers having visited the Irish Marks & Spencer website, since March 2020 and says that Sparks will be a ‘critical enabler’ in accelerating M&S’ growth as a digitally and data enabled business.

Sparking change

The Sparks scheme has operated in the UK since 2015, while the M&S app has seen over four million new downloads by UK customers in the past eighteen months. In Ireland, the company plans to attract signups to the scheme through a mix of rewards, the potential to win a’ free shop’ in stores, and an Irish charity donation of a customer’s choosing to accompany each transaction. Personalisation is a key facet of the Sparks model, and the retailer is transparent on the thinking behind the technology. “The M&S Ireland Sparks programme is simple and easy to use,” says Jeremy Pee, Chief Digital & Data Officer at Marks & Spencer, “but will also allow us to build our relationship with customers through a more personalised experience.” This translates to features including product offers specifically tailored to a customer’s spending history and habits. The premise is straightforward: “the more you shop, the better the offers”, the company says.

Percy Pig is pictured with Franes Deasy, Head of Marketing & Sales M&S Ireland, Danielle Papagapiou, Customer Loyalty and experience, M&S and Alex Kilborn, Head of Loyalty Operations, M&S. Picture Andres Poveda

Home ground

Localisation is another facet of the Sparks strategy in Ireland. With each transaction, an Irish Sparks subscriber may select from one of five Irish charities to receive a 1 cent donation. These charities include the Marie Keating Foundation, A Lust for Life, Leave No Trace Ireland, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Focus Ireland. The Sparks charity parter donation scheme has operated in the UK since 2015 and has raised £10 million for UK charities to date.

How it works

The Sparks customer loyalty scheme is accessed through another new launch, the M&S app, which customers are encouraged to download free of charge on the iOs App Store or the Android Play Store. With all product and service features integrated in this app, there is no requirement for a physical Sparks card. Users may however download the Sparks card to sit in their smartphone digital wallet, where all rewards and offers can be easily located. While in store, meanwhile, shoppers may use the barcode scanner feature on the M&S app to learn more about a specific product, or to investigate if further sizing options are available through Marks & Spencer online.

M&S Dundrum staff celebrate the launch of Marks & Spencer Sparks, its first customer rewards scheme in the Republic of Ireland. Picture Andres Poveda

Business intelligence

The introduction of Sparks to Ireland is an example, Marks & Spencer says, of the business’ priority to embed digital and data in all aspects of how it serves its customers. It’s also designed to give Irish shoppers new reasons to choose M&S in an increasingly globalised retail environment. “Through this programme,” says Jeremy Pee, “we hope to create a sense of excitement and value through the app features. The app will generate instant rewards, and customers can be confident that good things will happen every time they shop with us, from winning their M&S shopping basket for free on the spot, to a donation to the cause that matters most to them.”

Download the M&S app and join Sparks today for the chance to get your shopping for free (terms and conditions apply).