Despite reports that the high street is suffering, and with BRC stats showing a further decrease of 1.7% for footfall in store in July, Primark continues to say that it will not sell online. Is the retailer being too bold by not venturing into ecommerce, or does it absolutely not need to?

Some industry experts argue that the retailer’s figures speak for themselves. Low costs and high volume sales result in high profit margins for Primark. In fact, the retailer reported a 22% jump in quarterly sales last month so the high street is clearly driving sales, but could Primark do even better with a multichannel presence?

It is important to note that Primark is not completely “offline”. It hosts ‘Primania’, a social platform allowing customers to showcase photos of their Primark outfits. This works as a tool to display its brand personality, positioning Primark as a place for fast fashion, which allows customers to emulate global trends without breaking the bank.

Although this online community creates strong brand ambassadors, it is not a means of driving direct sales and is arguably a wasted opportunity. The popularity of Primark’s social platform shows an engaged online customer base, who would likely be receptive to an ecommerce offering. The internet often out-performs the high street in terms of growth and could be an area of opportunity for Primark.

In particular, online is a key channel for young shoppers, Primark’s target market. According to an international study of 18 to 30 year olds carried out by Telefónica, Millennials are defined by their high use of technology; 76 per cent of young people own smartphones and the internet is seen as the best source of entertainment by 64 per cent of young people. Brands must appeal to an increasingly tech savvy audience across many digital channels

Changing consumer habits mean that online is more important than ever. Today’s shopper flits between web pages, social media and mobile devices, as well as the traditional high street. Often a shopping trip starts with a click of the mouse and if retailers don’t meet these expectations they risk falling behind the competition who can offer an online experience.

Without a multichannel presence, Primark is missing out on targeting those consumers who may decide to make a quick, unplanned, purchase as they browse the internet. Research from Ipsos MediaCT Tech Tracker found that 38%of tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV at least once a day, and a quarter of these people said they are likely to shop online at the same time – it’s the perfect opportunity to target a shopper.

Online could also be key to Primark’s continued international expansion. An ecommerce presence would allow the retailer to provide cross-border services, opening up huge opportunities to grow their customer base globally.

Assigning spend for retail space, delivery logistics and payments solutions in an unknown market is risky but many retailers offset this by partnering with strategic publishers, who promote the brand on their behalf. By connecting with consumers through trusted publishers who echo the brands’ personality, Primark could deliver a shopping experience which is locally relevant, without risking huge spend without reward.

The support of a well-known, respected publisher means you establish trust for your brand in a new place from the start. As a result you reach new audiences quickly and gauge consumer appetite, but only pay out for the true engagement achieved.

Primark is continually successful with its business plan to offer low costs and produce high turnover. However, the brand could benefit from ecommerce to offer cross border shopping services and to reach digital savvy audiences. Digital marketing tactics such as retargeting and affiliate marketing can help to achieve this. As consumers are increasingly moving to online, having a multichannel presence, and therefore a complete view of the customer journey, would allow Primark to improve its profit margins even more. With an already engaged user base and so many opportunities opened through online, Primark has nothing to lose by testing the water and trying something new – this fast-growing brand surely cannot be content just yet?

Nick Fletcher

Nick Fletcher


Nick Fletcher, Director of service strategy at Rakuten Marketing.