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Marshalls enters e-commerce late but with three smart moves

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Marshalls is a newbie to e-commerce, but already displaying a savvy approach to the channel.

In the type of announcement that was a lot more common 15-20 years ago, off-price retailer Marshalls recently said it had launched its first e-commerce site. While Marshalls may be late to the online retail party, it is doing its best to make its tardy entrance fashionable, rather than clumsy. Here are three aspects of Marshalls’ brand new transactional site than even online veterans may want to emulate.

Keeping the assortment separate
One of the big drawing points of Marshalls’ brick-and-mortar store environment has always been that every store has a different product mix. As an off-price retailer, Marshalls usually cannot advertise specific items, creating an element of surprise that appeals to its core shoppers.

Marshalls is applying the same merchandising strategy online by offering a product mix that is distinct from stores. While the site’s categories will be similar to the ones used in-store, the precise online assortment will be distinct from brick-and-mortar. This gives Marshalls shoppers who like the thrill of the hunt a reason to visit the e-commerce site without abandoning their local stores. 

Curation – including by customers
Marshalls is hardly the first retailer to feature curated product collections on its website. However, the retailer is smart to launch its new e-commerce venture with a strong curated component. The site offers curated, themed online shops, launching with the Fall Style Shop, The Designer Shop and Made in Italy. Curated shops will refresh frequently. 

In addition, social influencers and regular consumers can also post collections of favorite items they have purchased using the “#MarshallsSurprise” hashtag. Customers can click links to relevant categories and similar products.

Curation is a great way to broadly personalize the e-commerce experience at scale. It is not one-to-one, but does enable customers to shop for products based on their interests or favorite celebrities. And extending the curation opportunity to shoppers is an easy way to establish a sense of ownership in the new site, and also build an online community that could evolve into a free source of revenue-generating promotions. 

Swiping right on mobile shopping
A “swipe to shop” mobile shopping feature which enables customers to view and sort products by swiping left or right to buy or save them for later. Swiping right and left on images as a quick way to show interest (or lack thereof) originated on mobile dating app Tinder, and has since become part of mainstream digital culture. 

In particular, younger consumers who lead mobile-centric lives and are more likely to use dating apps should find image swiping familiar and appealing. Marshalls stores are not traditionally prime shopping destinations for millennial or Gen Z consumers, but incorporating features they are comfortable with may bring some members of the younger generation to the retailer’s online offering.

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