Marks & Spencer is teaming up with Microsoft on a strategic initiative designed to transform the retail experience through AI, Retail Week can reveal.

Microsoft AI engineers and M&S’ digital development team Retail Labs will work together to explore and test how technologies such as AI can be embedded in M&S’ stores and operations to improve customer experience and processes.

Steve Rowe

Steve Rowe wants M&S to be a ‘digital-first retailer’

M&S is also seeking a chief digital and data officer to complete its senior management team.

The Microsoft partnership is the latest in a series between retailers and tech giants. Google has revealed partnerships with both Carrefour and in the past fortnight.

Such collaborations are seen partly as attempts to fend off Amazon’s increasingly dominant position.

M&S chief executive Steve Rowe said: “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.”

Microsoft UK boss Cindy Rose 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.”

On the chief digital and data officer role, Rowe said: “Strengthening our digital capability is critical to delivering our plans to transform M&S into a digital-first retailer and as such we are now recruiting for a senior hire.

“This role will be responsible for developing and embedding a modern digital culture right across our business and will complete the senior leadership team at M&S.”

M&S and Microsoft strike 'game changer' tech deal