Marks & Spencer Experiments with AR to Launch its First Virtual Influencer

M&S has announced an expansion to its popular Insider programme with the arrival of five new Insiders – one of which is a first of its kind for UK retail; a virtual persona named Mira [Marks & Spencer, Influencer, Reality, Augmented] that has been developed using a combination of photography, cutting-edge CGI and computer vision.  


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M&S Insiders’ launched in 2018, and is made up of M&S colleagues – from store assistants and stylists to buyers and designers – who share style inspiration and product finds with their followers. There are now 13 Insiders, and they often produce some of M&S’ best performing social content – returning, on average, 30 per cent higher engagement than external influencer programmes.   

Mira will join the Insiders in showcasing M&S’ latest collections, trends and style tips as 1 in 4 people in the UK say they are influenced by social media to buy clothes*. Through the introduction of a virtual character, M&S will be able to experiment by responding to trending conversations at pace and be agile with how and when content is captured. Creating a Virtual Influencer also gives M&S the opportunity to connect with a younger audience and build a community with those that are interested in this new form of technology.  

M&S is the first High Street retailer to experiment with its own digital character and it is the latest example of M&S testing and trialling new technology to reach and inspire customers.   

Anna Braithwaite, Director of Marketing for Clothing & Home, said: “We are excited to welcome Mira – UK retail’s first Virtual Influencer – to our M&S Insider family. Her introduction is the just latest example of how M&S is testing and learning with emerging technology and trends to inspire our customers – whether that’s our Live Shopping events or our expert online consultation services such as digital bra fit. A virtual influencer means we can be more fleet of foot in responding to trends and conversations and opens possibilities in both the physical and virtual world in the future.” 

Mira was created in collaboration with creative tech agency, Happy Finish. Whilst Mira is a virtual character, her content will play out in the real-world and will be managed by M&S’ in-house team.  

Jeremy Yates, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Happy Finish, said: “It’s brilliant to see our latest project with M&S launch today. Marks & Spencer are real leaders when it comes to strategic use of cutting-edge technology to engage existing and new audiences. A big part of our work for M&S focuses on helping the brand unlock new ways to bring its product ranges to life and enrich customer experience. Creating Mira to complement the existing M&S Insiders team is set to do both. We look forward to many more innovative projects with the amazing team at M&S.” 

In addition to Mira, four other Insiders are set to join the programme. This includes a Menswear Stylist (@marksandspencer_dan) and, for the first time, two Insiders who will focus on engaging their audiences on M&S’ Kidswear offering (@marksandspencer_sharon and @marksandspencer_jodie) and an Insider focused on Beauty (@marksandspencer_bethany) as the retailer focuses on evolving the category through the introduction of dynamic third-party brands, including Clinique and Benefit Cosmetics, and developing its own-brand products, including Apothecary which has grown to a £20m brand in just two years. 

Leveraging digital technologies to inspire customers 

Today M&S also launches its first dedicated live shoppable Christmas series on M& which will feature guest presenters covering a different theme each week, including dressing the home for Christmas, great value gifting and a what to wear guide. The show streams live every Thursday at 6pm.  

M&S first launched Live Shopping in January to give customers the opportunity to join a completely shoppable live broadcast, hear more about a product range and pose live questions to a M&S expert. It taps into a growing trend that’s expected to account for 10-20% of global e-commerce by 2026**.  

Other digital-first initiatives implemented over the last 24 months, include the launch of M&S’ new digital Click & Collect format with 1 in 2 M& orders facilitated through the service, and the introduction of online video consultations for customers browsing furniture, menswear and lingerie on M& Through a partnership with Emplifi Live Commerce, M&S has been able to facilitate consultations with more than 60k customers and 86% of those surveyed said they would use the service again. 

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