UK apparel, food and homeware retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced it has acquired Thread’s brand, technology and data, in order to integrate the functionality into its customer offering. 

Thread’s inception started 10 years ago as a personalised fashion marketplace. Its goal was to make it easier for men and women to dress well: “To achieve this we pioneered how to combine cutting-edge AI with expert stylists, to give each person the perfect set of recommendations,” said Kieran O’Neill, CEO and co-founder of Thread.

The acquisition provides the opportunity to integrate the cutting-edge, proprietary tech into the M& platform to accelerate personalisation and deliver a unique customer experience. The personalisation capabilities will stretch across all clothing products available on M&, including the retailers’ third-party brand partners which complement and enhance the core offer at M&S.

In recent years, M&S has generated substantial value through its customer data, personalising offers and language and providing repeat purchase and product recommendations, with 20-25% of all digital interactions anticipated to be personalised this year. 

Outfit recommendations have proved particularly valuable; the ‘frequently bought together’ recommendations are estimated to be worth an incremental GBP20m of revenue over the last 12 months, added M&S. Moreover, the brand anticipates that personalisation will generate more than GBP100m of annualised incremental revenue for the business.

As M&S reshapes for growth, this acquisition reflects a ‘buy not build’ approach, enabling the retailer to move quicker in its personalisation strategy, integrating the tech in under 12 months versus a likely three-year build timeframe. 

Following the administration of Thread, M&S is hiring 30 of its former data scientists, software engineers and styling & creative teams who will lead the integration and form a new personalised discovery team, within our data and digital function. This includes Kieran O’Neil and Ben Phillips, who founded Thread in 2012.

Katie Bickerstaffe, co-CEO, Marks & Spencer commented: “We’re taking personalisation to the next level to inspire our customers with tailored outfit inspiration. 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, whilst further unlocking the potential of our third-party brand strategy, by adding outfit-completing product ideas.”

“We already know the incremental value personalisation can bring and we anticipate that personalisation will generate more than GBP100m of annualised incremental revenue for the business,” she added.

O’Neill, who joins M&S as senior head of product in December, said Thread was a result of work that spanned over a decade, build on the “most advanced” AI personalisation for online fashion, proven to increase customer conversion and repeat order. The co-founder further said, “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.”

Earlier this month, Marks & Spencer launched ‘M&S Capsules’, claiming it to be the brand’s most versatile and best value rental collection to date, available on the rental platform Hirestreet. This partnership with Hirestreet, which launched in 2021, supports M&S’s commitment to drive the circular economy, as part of its target to become a Scope 3 net zero business by 2040.