M&S swoops for firm to boost online personalisation

Marks2Marks & Spencer is aiming to ramp up online personalisation by snapping up the intellectual property of fashion marketplace Thread – which has just gone bust – as well as the defunct firm’s leading data scientists, software engineers and creative teams.

The deal, due to be confirmed today, is a so-called pre-pack administration that enables an insolvent company to sell its assets to the existing directors, a trade buyer or another third party.

The transaction is performed by the administrator almost immediately following their appointment.

The deal includes the source codes and algorithms developed by Thread whose “proprietary tech” will be integrated into the M&S website, allowing the retailer to make improved customer recommendations based on style, size and budget.

M&S is also taking on 30 of Thread’s top team, including co-founders Kieran O’Neill and Ben Phillips.

The retailer’s existing personalisation services, which recommend items that are frequently bought together, have boosted revenues by £20m, and M&S co-chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe maintains this could eventually be worth £100m a year to the business.

She told The Times: “In the next 12 to 18 months we are targeting 50% of digital customer interactions to be personalised [compared with 20-25% this year]. The integration of Thread technology will enable us to take personalisation to the next level.

“We have been working hard to deliver better, more stylish ranges and this algorithm will also put more of our great product in front of the customer.”

Bickerstaffe added: “The acquisition of Thread is the perfect example of a ‘buy not build’ approach — enabling us to accelerate our personalisation strategy by integrating the market-leading tech in under 12 months.”

Thread’s O’Neill added: “We have worked for the past ten years on building the most advanced AI personalisation for online fashion, proven to increase customer conversion and repeat orders.

“We’re so excited to join forces with M&S; through their infrastructure and support, we’re able to take our market-leading technology to the next level, providing a personalised and unique shopping experience for their 30 million customers.”

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