The former online chief at Marks and Spencer says the struggling retailer should consider selling products through Amazon.
M&S announced last month that it will close 100-plus stores by 2022 in a radical plan which will see one in three of its core clothing and home branches disappear from the high street.
The firm, which is currently led by CEO Steve Rowe, also reported a 62 per cent decrease in annual profits to £66.8 million due to falling clothing sales and the huge costs associated with closing stores.
Marcus East told BBC 5 Live’s Wake Up To Money programme that although many traditional retailers have put up a great fight in the digital space, working with Amazon was ultimately the best way forward.
“[Online sellers] provide incredible services for consumers – great choice and great convenience,” he told the show’s host Sean Farrington.
“I would agree that for a lot of retailers, although they’ve put up a great fight, ultimately working with the likes of Amazon is probably a good way to tackle the digital space.
“I don’t know what the dynamics of the business are today, but they’ve got to be looking seriously at it.”
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East was brought in under former M&S CEO Marc Bolland as global digital director in December 2015 with the remit of transforming its online business.
East, who left the company 14 months later and is now chief technology officer at National Geographic in the United States, continued: “The challenge is getting to new customers rather than serving existing customers.
“A lot of retailers are finding it difficult. It’s less about the strategy [you adopt] and more about how do you change the company to be truly digital?
“There are very few bricks and mortar retailers who have truly cracked the digital space. Some of the fashion brands have managed to make that transition.
“Those companies that are most successful in the digital space are those who have a strong digital culture. That’s why you see the pureplays like the ASOS and the Amazons of this world being incredible successful at growing their customer bases.”
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East has spent more than 20 years in technology, including four years as head of eCommerce solutions at Apple in Silicon Valley.
“Big technology projects are always challenging and you have to have the patience to see it through,” he said.
“You have to invest in the technology but also the people to run it and build out those experiences.
“I love M&S’ food, but how do you get that online? There’s no silver bullet – you’ve got to be prepared to experiment. It’s hard for a public company to experiment with so much scrutiny on it.”
Amazon has unveiled plans to create over 1,000 new jobs in Ireland after opening its new 170,000 square foot office in central Dublin.