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Marks & Spencer partners with Microsoft on artificial intelligence

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Marks & Spencer has signed a strategic partnership with Microsoft that will see the two explore the possibilities for artificial intelligence (AI) in retail.

The multichannel fashion-to-food business, an Elite retailer in IRUK Top500 research, says the partnership fits its strategy of becoming a digital-first retailer. It will see Microsoft AI technologies used in order to improve the M&S customer experience, both online and in stores, and to optimise its operations.

Microsoft engineers will work alongside a team from M&S Retail Labs. 

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

Cindy Rose, chief executive of Microsoft UK, said: “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 move also builds on M&S’ new-look approach to technology, unveiled in January. It is working to create a more agile commercial technology function, in tandem with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as part of its five-year plan to save around £30m a year by 2021/22, bringing with it a more customer-centric approach to technology services – at a one-off cost of £25m. As part of the move, about 250 M&S technology staff transferred to become TCS employees.

Image courtesy of M&S

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