Primark revealed the latest stage in its digital strategy with the launch of its new website on 7 April. The retailer says the site has been created to better connect the journey between searching online and shopping in store, with the site featuring thousands of products from across Primark’s best-selling ranges and a new feature that allows customers to check stock availability in their local store.

Launching first in the UK, before rolling out to Primark’s 13 other markets in the coming months, the retailer believes the website represents a shift in the role of digital within its business and recognises the critical role online can play to support sales in store, as it looks to drive footfall and reach new customers.

Primark says the site will showcase a significantly enhanced proportion of its product ranges and will house more product information and what it describes as “better” imagery.

Primark adds that as part of its digital expansion, it is trialling digital marketing to support the site. For the first time, Primark will capture customer data to deliver more personalised marketing as customers will be able to create an account, sign up to receive regular news from the business, and create a ‘wishlist’ of their favourite products.

Primark says the new site will result in the brand and its product ranges being much more visible online when people are browsing.

“This launch represents an important milestone for Primark shifting the way we’re using digital to connect to our stores,” says Matt Houston, group digital and strategy director at Primark. “We know that consumers today inform a huge proportion of their clothing purchases by browsing online. We see a significant opportunity to drive more footfall and more sales into our stores by upping our game in digital and ensuring that what we offer is more visible online. The new website gives us the opportunity to reach new customers who might not be stepping into our stores now and tempt them with the great products and value we offer.”

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Andrew Brothers, chief information officer, adds: “We know our new website is something that our customers have wanted to see from us for some time and we recognise we’ve moved later than most in this space. However, that brings with it an opportunity as we’ve been able to spend time understanding the role digital can play to enhance our business. The new site is underpinned by a modern and flexible technology architecture to give our customers the very best user experience.”

Brothers adds Primark has bolstered its team behind the website in recent months to provide the foundation to bring customers a “continually improving digital experience in the months and years to come.”

How will Primark’s new non-transactional website benefit the business?

Consumers are still unable to make Primark purchases online – a point GlobalData associate apparel analyst Louise Deglise-Favre says will have an impact on the retailer’s growth.

“While the new website does elevate Primark’s online presence and brings an added modernity to the brand, the lack of a transactional website will continue to be a major hindrance for Primark’s future growth. The website update looks great and adds a lot more functionality to the original website, especially with the availability checker, but it does not give consumers the convenience and ease of shopping online, which they have now grown accustomed to.”

She adds: “Opening a digital channel represents a major investment, which I believe Primark is not ready to make. Primark would have to invest in additional logistics and fulfillment capabilities, which can be very costly. Besides, Primark is able to keep its low prices due to having lower margins on its products, betting instead on volume to achieve its profits. The substantial cost increases linked to the investment of opening an online channel could eat away at these already low margins and drive the brand’s profitability down. Additionally, having an online presence will also mean dealing with returns, which can once represent large costs and weigh down on profit margins.”

Deglise-Favre does, however, believe the new site will most likely help sales in some capacity, as consumers are able to see more products and know if they are available in their local stores.

“Consumers will be able to browse easily and potentially see something they might want to go in-store for. However, by asking consumers to physically go in store, Primark is losing to its competitors on the convenience front. The new website will help its brand image, if only for the fact that when consumers search for the brand, they will find a well put together, modern-looking, and functional website, as opposed to the archaic and disjointed website it was before.”

In March, following the news Primark is considering a click and collect service, Deglise-Favre said a potential click and collect debut would be a “great” first step to starting its e-commerce proposition.

Primark owner Associated British Foods recently said it expects Primark sales for the first half to be well over 60% ahead of last year, with footfall picking up in most markets, particularly in the UK and Ireland.

This article first appeared in Just Style.