Stay organized with collections Save and categorize content based on your preferences.

MandM Direct: Using the power of data to provide great customer experiences

About MandM Direct

MandM Direct began life as a direct mail sports products business in 1987. More than 30 years later, they now deliver on-trend clothing, footwear, and accessories from 150+ quality brands to 3 million+ customers in 25+ countries worldwide.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: United Kingdom

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

MandM Direct has transformed itself from a catalog-based mail order service into an online retail powerhouse, utilizing all the data the company gathers to fuel better business decisions.

Google Cloud results

  • Modernizing infrastructure to meet the needs of the 21st Century
  • Powering insights through analytics, AI, and machine learning
  • Transforming business culture in partnership with Google Cloud

Pooling data from siloed sources to illuminate insight

Online shopping has transformed the way we buy clothes. Such is the proliferation of digital fashion retailers that brands now have to work even harder to stand out from the crowd. Research suggests it’s a trend that will continue building momentum well into the future. According to McKinsey’s fifth annual State of Fashion report, 71% of fashion executives expect their online business to grow by 20% or more in 2021, in a year that its analysts predict will be remembered as a defining moment for the sector.

“Before we embarked on this journey with Google Cloud, we were paying someone else to take our data and reveal insights buried within, but we knew that wasn’t the way forward. We wanted to own our data and to understand it better than anybody else. That’s why we turned to Google.”

Damian Evans, CEO, MandM Direct

The value of streamlining online experiences for customers in order to compete is a lesson that off-price retailer MandM Direct, a long-standing stalwart of online fashion in the UK and beyond, learned many years ago. In 1987, MandM Direct began as a catalog-based mail order business, before transitioning five years ago to become an online-only operation that attracted 3.8 million customers across Europe last year. One of the key challenges the company faced in this new landscape was getting the right items of clothing, footwear, and accessories in front of the right customers, at the right time.

MandM Direct quickly realized the power of data to overcome this obstacle, and others like it, as it navigated this journey. “We’ve been able to see the direction of travel for a while,” says Damian Evans, CEO of MandM Direct. “Before we embarked on this journey with Google Cloud, we were paying someone else to take our data and reveal useful insights buried within, but we knew that wasn’t the way forward. We wanted to own our data and to understand it better than anybody else. That’s why we turned to Google Cloud.”

Modernizing infrastructure with Google Cloud

Part of the challenge for MandM Direct was that its data was siloed in different systems across a number of teams with differing priorities. The company knew it needed to update its infrastructure before it would be able to make use of the wealth of data it had at its disposal. MandM Direct looked at a number of options for new infrastructures that would provide the data and tools it needed to succeed and grow. “It was clear to us that we’ve always had a lot of data,” Evans adds, “and it made sense to bring it together to try and better understand our customers. We wanted to start pulling it all together in one place, to see the patterns and connections it contained.”

It quickly became apparent that Google Cloud was the best fit for MandM Direct’s purposes. This was particularly true when it came to scaling, serverless and security, with tools such as App Engine, Cloud Spanner, and Pub/Sub. “Google Cloud provided exactly the tools we wanted out of the box,” says Steve Ager, Head of Development at MandM Direct. ”It was a great fit for us.”

Pooling information with BigQuery

MandM Direct was looking for a better way of understanding its customers. Like many organizations, it was also seeking a single source of truth on which to base business decisions. There had been a number of migrations for the business. First there was a system migration, where MandM Direct moved its hosting onto Google Cloud. Then there was further development within Google Cloud. It was during this latter phase that the company started to develop natively into Google Cloud serverless architecture. This brings additional benefits because all the data is in one place, available for analytics to study. Once MandM Direct’s infrastructure had been updated, this enabled the team to start gathering its data under one roof and to fully explore the range of solutions on offer via Google Cloud. “There are two types of data in our systems,” adds Mark Godwin, IT Director at MandM Direct. “There's the data that tells you what you did, and the data that you use to tell you what to do. Once you’ve got the fact-based repository built up, you can then start to mine, analyze, and visualize interrelationships between the data to help you make better decisions.”

BigQuery acts as a centralized repository for all the information that’s gathered about a customer’s journey within MandM Direct’s website, across millions of customer sessions each week. It also stores data generated through the company’s internal processes. Every item viewed, every payment made, every confirmed dispatch, everything that’s gathered goes in, all of it in close to real time. So what’s the benefit of all this data gathering? “Like any B2C business, our broad objective is to find more customers, gain their loyalty, and keep them coming back,” Evans explains. “Most retailers in our sector have a conversion rate of 4%–5%. That means for every 100 visits, only four customers end up buying something. The value of understanding those other 96 sessions is hugely important.”

“Looker has been a game changer for us. It makes the data we have access to even more readily available, relevant, and timely. We use the insights it provides to streamline each journey our customers take across the website.”

Tom Goode, Customer and eCommerce Director, MandM Direct

Seeing patterns with Looker

MandM Direct now had its data gathered in one place. This made information easier and quicker to access, as well as standardizing criteria easier for comparison. Under the previous setup, different silos of data had different parameters and definitions that made it difficult to relate to other information. That was no longer the case, but it still wasn’t enough; gaining meaningful insights would take further measures.

To be able to better spot patterns in the data, MandM Direct initially turned to Google Analytics, before adding Looker to its ever-growing roster of Google Cloud solutions. The business intelligence platform helps it to visualize and analyze data stored in BigQuery, as well assisting in the management of the operational side of the business. “Looker has been a game changer for us. It makes the data we have access to even more readily available, relevant, and timely. We use the insights it provides to streamline each journey our customers take across the website,” says Tom Goode, Customer and eCommerce Director at MandM Direct.

“Being able to react quickly has been invaluable, especially in peak trading periods like Christmas, where we take thousands of orders every hour,” says Ben Powis, Head of Data Science at MandM Direct. “We are very pleased to also leverage the power of Looker, so no time was spent developing additional plug-ins and other services. Instead, we were able to use our existing tools using LookML and email alerts.”

Predicting behavior with AI and ML

MandM Direct has also set up tables and data in BigQuery and created some initial modeling. Combining the AI and machine learning (ML) tools with the Google Cloud infrastructures it implemented has brought about a number of benefits. These include near real-time reporting on deviations from target KPIs, easy to configure custom monitoring alerts, and automatic email notifications flagging friction for customers.

“We are always interested in what advances are happening across other sectors, and Google has that visibility, and those are some of the really interesting conversations we have with them. For us it’s a very beneficial, worthwhile relationship. The more you put in, the more you get out.”

Damian Evans, CEO, MandM Direct

Looking to the future

MandM’s relationship with Google Cloud has blossomed since its early days to become a collaboration valued by everyone involved. Growing from an infrastructure modernization project, albeit with a clear road map towards understanding data, MandM Direct now utilizes all the tools at its disposal to make sense of its data. “Understanding the customers is central to what we do,” says Goode. “The more we understand about them, the more we can make sure we are showing them products and deals we know will excite them. Data is arriving quicker than it ever has before, so it’s about optimizing that process and maximizing the benefits of all that work that’s gone into making it happen.”

To get the most from Google Cloud, MandM Direct also undertook a Google Cloud cost optimization review. For the engineering team, this highlighted a number of efficiencies within its infrastructure.

A big part of the optimization process is learning about what’s possible, and this is a key component of MandM Direct’s relationship with Google Cloud, according to Evans. “We are always interested in what advances are happening across other sectors, and Google has that visibility, and those are some of the really interesting conversations we have with them. For us it’s a very beneficial, worthwhile relationship. The more you put in, the more you get out,” says Evans. “Google Cloud will no doubt continue to be a key part of the future of MandM Direct.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About MandM Direct

MandM Direct began life as a direct mail sports products business in 1987. More than 30 years later, they now deliver on-trend clothing, footwear, and accessories from 150+ quality brands to 3 million+ customers in 25+ countries worldwide.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: United Kingdom