M&S and First Insight predictive analytics partnership set to expand

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has been using First Insight’s predictive analytics to make design, buying, and pricing decisions on several of its key categories – and the partnership looks set to expand.

As M&S invests more in data science in the coming years, notably through its recently announced training partnership with Decoded, First Insight CEO Greg Petro says his company is looking forward to expanding its relationship with the retailer into additional categories.

Currently, M&S is using the software to help it make decisions in apparel, lingerie, footwear, accessories, food, home and beauty, among others areas.

M&S says the software has enabled the business to test tens of thousands of products in order to buy more of what customers like, with the platform helping shape collections and pricing strategy. In recent years, M&S has been criticised – notably for flat sales in its womenswear, where there have been multiple changes of leadership as the company looks to regain its once-elevated position as a leader in women’s fashion. 

First Insight uses online social engagement tools to gather real-time preference, pricing and sentiment data on potential product offerings. This information is then filtered through a predictive analytic system to determine which products present the greatest opportunity, according to the vendor.

Gordon Mowat, director of supply chain & logistics at M&S, commented: “Everything M&S does as a company is filtered through the lens of what we know about our customers, and every decision starts with them.

“First Insight’s technology gives us invaluable feedback on new products during design and development, so we can buy more of what our customer likes and eliminate products that score less well.”

Earlier this year, M&S CEO Steve Rowe admitted his business was behind in terms of its use of data and its overall digital proposition. He committed to changing this situation to help boost sluggish trading in its clothing and general merchandise categories.

Since then, the retailer has announced a strategic artificial intelligence partnership with Microsoft, the aforementioned Decoded collaboration – which will see all thousands of its workforce trained in data science – and a start-up incubator programme alongside Founders Factory. It’s drive to become a digital-first retailer is well and truly under way, it would seem.