Marks and Spencer

LONDON — Marks & Spencer has signed a strategic partnership with Microsoft, as it seeks to reshape its strategy and become more digitally focused. As part of the tie-in, Microsoft AI engineers will work with the retailer, to integrate technologies such as AI across the company, in order to optimize operations and improve customer experience, both in-store and online.

“We firmly believe that AI has the power to amplify human ingenuity. The retail sector is one of the most challenging landscapes in the U.K. right now, and we are thrilled to be working with Marks & Spencer to explore how AI can help the brand,” said Cindy Rose, chief executive officer at Microsoft U.K.

The announcement comes after a number of store closures, which are part of a five-year restructuring plan aimed at “making M&S special again.” The company plans to close 100 U.K. stores by 2020 and scale down the rollout of its “Simply Food” stores, in a bid to establish a smaller network of brick-and-mortar stores that offer a better, digitally enhanced customer experience and to grow its e-commerce channel.

“M&S is transforming into a digital-first 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,” said Steve Rowe, the retailer’s ceo. “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.”

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