In an effort to explore artificial intelligence (AI), Britain’s Marks & Spencer Group (M&S) is collaborating with Microsoft. Through their strategic partnership, the companies will experiment with the integration of Microsoft AI technologies into M&S stores, as well as the retailer’s broader operations, retail news source Chain Store Age reported.
“We want to be at the forefront of driving value into the customer experience using the power of technology,” Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe said in a statement. “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.”
With the partnership, Microsoft’s product personnel and AI engineers will work with the retail labs team at M&S. The move comes as the retailer unveiled a plan in November to become a “digital-first” business.
The news also comes as Microsoft is working on self-checkout technology. According to a report in Reuters which cited six people familiar with the matter, Microsoft’s Business AI team is working on cashier-less technology that would track items placed in a shopping cart, removing the need to go on line and interact with a cashier.
Microsoft has been showing off the technology to retailers around the world, and Reuters reported the company has also held talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration. Microsoft’s Business AI group has explored placing cameras in shopping carts to track customers’ items and has researched how mobile devices can play a role. Some of the technology has already been presented to Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella, noted the report.
At the same time, Amazon is gearing up to expand its Amazon Go stores into Chicago and San Francisco, which has prompted retailers to start preparing for what they think will be another disruption by the retailer.