The internet has radically changed the way in which many of us shop and this has had a visible effect on our high streets, with many household name retail chains struggling or even closing altogether in recent years. Retailers are always on the lookout for technologies that can improve the experience they offer to customers and at the same time boost their own trading performance, tempting people back into stores and linking together physical and online experiences. The latest development to spark the attention of the retail sector is the use of artificial intelligence.
Thanks to the internet and the use of loyalty cards, retailers now have more information about their customers than ever before. But extracting useful data remains a challenge and it’s one where AI is seen as a key tool.
Leading high street chain Marks & Spencer certainly thinks so and has signed a deal with Microsoft to use AI to improve its shopping experience. Described as being a ‘game changer’ by M&S chief executive Steve Rowe, exact details as to how it’s going to work remain a little sketchy, but Microsoft engineers are set to work alongside the store’s retail labs team.
What we do know is that Microsoft is believed to be working on a technology that will rival Amazon’s automated stores, eliminating the need for cashiers and queues for the checkout.
The M&S difference
Marks & Spencer has struggled in recent years with profits dropping over 60 per cent in the last financial year, the second consecutive year its profits have fallen. In part, this has been attributable to the costs of closing stores which were underperforming. This latest AI move is part of a five-year plan to restructure the business. It is aimed at turning the retailer into a leaner business and one that is more focused on the digital marketplace.
The company hopes that using AI will help it to improve the customer experience, optimise its day-to-day operations and help speed up the digital transformation of the business. It’s also expected to deliver efficiencies of around £30 million a year by financial year 2021/22. 
The move by M&S comes as many retailers are seeking new ways of tempting customers back into their stores and away from shopping on the internet. There have also been rumours that M&S is seeking some form of partnership with Amazon. What is clear is that the company’s leadership team is seeking to turn the business around using innovation to overhaul its image.
Successful digital transformation of any business means not only partnering with the right suppliers but also having the right senior team. You need people who can understand the benefits technology can bring and apply them to the business in a practical way. The experienced recruitment team at Clifford Associates can help you find the right people to drive the transformation of your business, so why not call us to discuss your requirements?
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