M&S buys intellectual property of AI personalisation marketplace Thread

M&S buys intellectual property of AI personalisation marketplace Thread


Photo: @thread

The retail giant has acquired the intellectual property as it seeks to deepen its revenue opportunities from personalised services.

The deal is a pre-pack one with M&S lined up to buy the business before its administration filing. The purchase price hasn’t been revealed.

M&S has taken on key assets such as source codes and the algorithms developed by Thread. The “cutting-edge, proprietary tech” will be integrated into its website, which means Britain’s biggest clothing retailer will now also be able to recommend clothes based on style, size and budget. The company already has an element of personalisation on its site and estimates that this has boosted revenue by £20 million so far.

Importantly too, it’s not just an IP deal with the new owner also taking on 30 of Thread’s former data scientists, software engineers and creative teams to lead the integration. 

Kieran O’Neill and Ben Phillips, who founded the business 10 years ago, are also part of the purchase.

M&S co-CEO Katie Bickerstaffe said that between 20% and 25% of its digital customer interactions are personalised at the moment and within 18 months it wants that figure to be 50%. She also said such services could eventually be worth up to £100 million annually for the business.

“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,” she explained. It could take around three years for the retailer to build the technology from scratch.

Kieran O’Neill, who joins M&S in December as Senior Head of Product, added: “We have worked for the past 10 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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