M&S announces AI strategy tie-up with Microsoft

M&S Microsoft

Marks & Spencer and Microsoft have today announced the signing of a strategic partnership focused on testing the integration of the latter’s AI technologies into the retailer’s customer experience, stores and wider operations.

The partnership will see the two organisations work together to explore how technologies such as AI can be utilised within the retail environment to improve customer experience and optimise operations.

A team of AI engineers and product personnel from Microsoft will partner with the M&S Retail Labs team to accelerate the retailer’s digital transformation.

The announcement forms part of M&S’s drive to become a digital-first business, as part of its wider transformation plan.

“M&S is transforming into a digital-first retailer, at a time when the sector is undergoing a customer-led revolution,” chief executive Steve Rowe said.

“We want to be at the forefront of driving value into the customer experience using the power of technology.

“Working together with Microsoft to understand the full potential of how technology and artificial intelligence can improve the in-store experience for our customers and the efficiencies of our wider operations could be a game changer for M&S – and for retail.”

Microsoft UK chief executive Cindy Rose added: “We firmly believe that AI has the power to amplify human ingenuity.

“The retail sector is one of the most challenging landscapes in the UK right now and we are thrilled to be working with M&S to explore how AI can help such an iconic brand transform the customer experience and improve wider operations.”

The Microsoft partnership comes just days after former M&S digital boss, Mark East said that the department store should be “looking seriously” at a tie up with Amazon.

Other aspects of M&S’s five-year turnaround plan, which was first launched in November 2017, includes a slowdown in the Simply Food store opening programme, an acceleration of the UK store estate closure programme, a restructure of the customer, marketing and digital team, a new leadership team responsible for overhauling clothing and home division, and the appointment of two new non-executive directors to its board.

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