IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


retail technology blog
  • 24 Jul

3 Amazon Developments you might have missed

The last week has been big for Amazon. Here are 3 tech developments you might have missed in our retail technology blog 1. Amazon Spark: shoppable stories for product discovery Spark, released last week, is currently only available for Prime US customers. It’s a shoppable social feed, functioning with the ecommerce style capabilities of Pinterest, combined with the picture-feed face of Instagram (Amazon declined to comment on the similarity). On signing in, Amazon asks you to select 5 categories that you’re interested in, curating a feed of content that includes relevant products for you as a user. Users can “like” images with a smile. Non-Prime users may still use the feature, but they are not able to post or comment. As the picture displays below, product links are visible when clicking on the photo, taking the user to the actual items for sale on Amazon. In a nod to Amazon enthusiasts, you can actually buy Jeff Bezos’ full outfit: You too can buy Jeff Bezos’ bodywarmer jacket, t-shirt, and jeans. In a more realistic example, if you’re scrolling the feed and spot a holiday image with a beach towel that you like, you can tap on the towel to see if it’s linked to the product page on Amazon. This feature makes Amazon Spark different to other social shopping channels, due to the seamless ability to purchase. As Amazon keeps growing, it’s clearly looking to be more than a trusted banner for convenience and price. Amazon Spark, despite its current beta feel, is an experiment in making Amazon shopping a social experience, too. 2. Amazon Meal Kits: another attempt to crack the grocery market Amazon has been trying to crack foodies for a while now. First of all, we had initiatives such as the Amazon Fresh grocery service in the US, then news of the Amazon Go tech-savvy grocery stores, where you can walk out with your sandwich in the knowledge that payment has already been taken care of. Last but not least, we had Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. Rumours circulating last week have been confirmed: Amazon now sells pre-packaged meal kits in the US. It has similarities to subscription services such as Hello Fresh which is a popular “recipe-discovery” meal delivery service in the UK. Again, as with the Spark example, Amazon has created a platform with similarities to existing experiences, to make it a relevant one stop omnichannel shop. 3. Amazon Prime Day: bigger than ever, but should not eclipse all retailers Taking place on the 11th July, Amazon celebrated its most successful 30-hour Prime Day to date, with sales growing 60% globally compared with last year’s figures. Amazon also claimed that its Prime Day sales bonanza resulted in the largest single day of sales ever recorded, overtaking Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The top-selling item in the UK was the Amazon Echo Dot interactive speaker. With July being a particularly sluggish time for retailers, Amazon once again used Prime Day as a…
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  • 17 Jul

Video: Auto Replenishment System

A retailer’s replenishment system is one of the most powerful engines for ensuring the correct levels of stock are in the right place, at the right time, for optimum sales performance. With the right replenishment software, not only are you improving margin and cost-to-serve the customer, but customer satisfaction is further increased with better omnichannel stock availability. We’ve just launched our latest Merret video, highlighting the key benefits of our auto replenishment system. Over 20 leading global retail brands are benefiting from our award-winning solution, which is responsible for the dynamic movement of stock between their warehouses and stores. Replenishment algorithms within Merret are user defined, allowing businesses to have dynamic control over their operations, using 100% stock visibility and critical data analysis to make better decisions on inventory management and forecasting. This means that retailers are achieving more full price orders and maximising their stock turns: margin is made every time the stock in the warehouse is sold or “turned around”. Our auto replenishment system maintains optimum inventory levels on all products using 3 types of store replenishment, which can be manually selected/de-selected: Ideal replenishment (setting min/max levels to prevent under/over stocking). Sales performance is tracked and ideal stock levels replenished. Changes to ideal stock can also be forecast and prior to specific activity e.g. promotional events, to avoid selling out. Replenishment to planned cover Improved stock and sales insight allows inventory forecasting and planning stock cover/safety. ‘n for 1’ For continuity or seasonal items, this rule keeps stock levels at their optimum, whether this be fixed, increasing, or decreasing.  Merret also helps retailers avoid out-of-stock scenarios by using a combination of stock rationing in the instance of low/zero stock, replenishing based on rules that ensure it is assigned to the store where it can be best sold.  Stock substitution can also be activated to provide relevant substitutes to continuity products. Read more about the benefits of our auto replenishment system on its dedicated webpage, here. If you want to see how Merret’s replenishment system supports omnichannel retailing check out our dedicated video here.…
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Retail Assist Chairman
  • 10 Jul

Retail Assist welcomes new Chairman

Retail Assist, the technology specialist whose IT software and support services are used by leading retail and hospitality brands, has appointed a new Chairman to its Board of Directors. After securing significant investment earlier this year from Foresight Group and RBS, Retail Assist has appointed Bill Joss to oversee the strategic direction of the business, providing focus for its ambitious growth plans. Bill’s 20 years of non-executive Chairman experience includes positions with leading technology, engineering, and managed services businesses around the world. As well as providing strategic expertise to Retail Assist’s Operational Board, Bill will represent the interests of Retail Assist’s Shareholders and investors. Explaining the new appointment, Retail Assist’s CEO Dan Smith said: “We’re going through an exciting transformation that comes with being a growing organisation, underpinning the technology infrastructure and operations of some of the biggest names in retail and hospitality internationally. “Retail Assist is performing brilliantly, securing high-profile clients amongst large scale investments to drive us to the next stage in our growth. Bill will help us to capitalise on that growth by securing wider opportunities for Retail Assist as it continues to become an even bigger player in the market.” Bill Joss, the new Non-Executive Chairman of Retail Assist, added, “I see huge potential for the business as a dynamic technology provider in a changing retail environment. By focussing on the best opportunities for Retail Assist, we shall unlock further potential in the market. “The demand for external managed services and outsourcing has become increasingly important in recent years, and Retail Assist is well-positioned to respond to this, having a credible history of industry achievements and an impressive client base.” Based in the UK, Bill is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and a competitive endurance cyclist. Retail Assist employs more than 220 people across 6 UK sites, supporting over 40 retail and hospitality brands worldwide, 24 x 7 x 365.…
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Retail IT Services
  • 3 Jul

Behind the Scenes at Vue: Retail Assist’s Help Desk

In the second instalment of our Help Desk ‘Behind the Scenes’ blog, we present our latest video filmed with our customer, Vue. We have supported all Vue cinemas across their UK estate for 8 years. Vue now has 86 cinemas throughout the UK and Ireland, with 839 screens. Watch the video on our YouTube channel here. As Vue’s Head of Technical Services comments, if one of the cinema screens is down, the Retail Assist team provides critical systems support to identify any issues, and get the screen back up and running, so that the service Vue provides to its customers is not affected. Available 24 hours a day, the Help Desk supports Vue’s peak periods, such as evenings and weekends. Retail Assist recently supported Vue to roll out paperless ticketing technology: “Retail Assist are the backbone to supporting that technology”. Our project management team is on hand to ensure that the brand benefits from latest technology innovations. Vue originally looked to Retail Assist to improve IT alignment across a growing estate; the teams on the ground needed no confusion when it came to IT support, with just one number to call. The chain had experienced significant growth in the UK and internationally, through the acquisitions of the Apollo UK, CinemaxX and Multikino estates. This created a business with a growing IT infrastructure. The single point of contact for problem resolution was key for clarity across the business and speeding up resolution time, and the scalability of the international Help Desk support provided an adaptable support partner for Vue’s growing business needs. It’s not just cinemas we support: in the hospitality and leisure sector, Retail Assist supports nearly 700 restaurants, and 230 coffee shops for leading global chains. Want to see how our hospitality and retail IT services could support your customer experience? Please get in touch at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk Special thanks to Vue for partnering with us for this production.…
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retail Help Desk
  • 26 Jun

Behind the scenes: Retail Assist’s Help Desk

It’s great to share our new video with you, showcasing our award-winning Help Desk service. Are your IT systems and technology supported for you to deliver the best customer experience? Our latest video shows the benefits of our Help Desk in action at Mint Velvet.  With experts immediately on hand, and the problem resolved on the call, we’re supporting leading retail brands including Mint Velvet as an extension of their IT team, for dependable, 24 x 7 IT support. Jacki, a style advisor at Mint Velvet in Solihull, comments on why the Help Desk service is so valuable to the brand – “it’s quick, efficient, the team is always there when you need them, solving problems whilst keeping the situation calm”. As you can see, a small glitch in their point-of-sale system risks losing a customer sale, but a quick call to the Help Desk resolves the issue before it impacts the customer experience. Latest findings reveal that our Help Desk has also performed above and beyond industry averages across a range of service delivery benchmarks, including 4 x the support capacity, and 10% higher performance against Service Level Agreements. Industry seal of approval from the Service Desk Institute means our customers are also benefiting from an award winning team of multilingual call analysts for international Help Desk support. Last year, the team was recognised globally as the industry’s Best Managed Service Desk. Click here to view the retail IT support video on our YouTube channel. It’s not just retail we specialise in: click here to view our hospitality Help Desk video on our YouTube channel. Thanks to Vue for partnering with us for this production, and look out for the blog next week.…
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Retail Assist investment
  • 19 Jun

Retail Assist Turns 18

Retail Assist had its official “coming of age” last Friday, as the business celebrated its 18th year of trading. It’s a very significant milestone for the company, after attracting significant investment in March. With ambitious growth plans for Retail Assist, our Board of Directors (headed by Dan Smith) will take the business on to the next stage of its development. So, what’s changed in 18 years? Since 1999, when Retail Assist was founded, retail has evolved into a whole different proposition; technology is not just important to retailers, but the cornerstone of their operations. We have seen the relentless rise of ecommerce, the launch of click-and-collect as the poster-child for customer convenience, UK retailers going global, and key changes in approaches to the traditional bricks and mortar store (who knew they would end up becoming virtual distribution hubs for web orders through ship-from-store?) In the face of these sector shifts, Retail Assist has adopted its services and solutions to an omnichannel world: 24 x 7 “always on” provision, software design and development to drive changes in retail operations, and supporting the “buy anything, at anytime, anywhere” principle. We now support major clients in the hospitality sector too. As well as 8000 retail stores, we also support more than 700 restaurants, and over 90 cinemas in 66 countries across the world. Check out our industry award-winning Help Desk stats here. Compared with industry averages, we have 10% higher achievement of Service Level Agreements, 4 x more sites supported, double the number of languages spoken and 4 x more support capacity than industry average. To celebrate our 18th birthday, we invited clients and partners to a summer drinks event in Soho. You can see the pictures on Facebook here. Internally, all staff were presented with a bottle of fizz to enjoy over the warm weekend. Thank you to all our clients, business partners and colleagues for all your support over the last 18 years. Looking forward to the 21st!  …
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retail technology blog
  • 12 Jun

How to target Gen Z?

Who are Gen Z? The demographic after Millennials, Gen Z are born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s, meaning that the current cohort range from teens to young adults in their early twenties. There have been a number of labels attached: digital natives, glued to their devices, social over physical, and lacking in brand loyalty… It’s easy to paint a somewhat undesirable picture of the newest generation to come into spending power, but don’t underestimate their influence. The youth of today definitely flexed their political muscle in the recent General Election, in what the Guardian has dubbed a “youthquake” of increased turnout. They have a strong voice, and want to use it. And their worth? A cool £16.5bn, as reported by Mintel last year. By 2020, Generation Z will account for 40% of all consumers. (And you thought you’d only just figured out Millennials). So, how to tap into this market and capture their attention? Getting the message across The average Gen Z-er has the attention span of about eight seconds. They have grown up at a time when they’re presented with media and messaging from all angles, and have therefore adapted to quickly scanning and devouring large amounts of information. This means that video messaging is more and more convenient to serve their needs. Nearly all of Gen Z use YouTube, and half of them can’t live without it. In a time when email subscription is being challenged by new data laws, and unsubscribing has reached a record level, brands are consistently fighting for success in this channels. Most (90%) consumers have taken themselves off retailer mailing lists in the last year, and 24% of those surveyed said they had unsubscribed from a retailer because the messages they received were irrelevant – and 15% said retailers never sent them relevant offers or updates. Gen Z is also pushing transparency and honesty over the perfectly preened post. 77% of teens today prefer ads that show real people in real life situations, and expect brands to depict people like them — who look like them and share their beliefs — in their creative messaging. The battle for newness This point relates to your product as much as the content and communications. If you’re checking your phone relentlessly throughout the day, you’re expecting to see something different. That’s why Gen Z demand more new content than any other demographic. ASOS, for example, is one of our customers that is continually refreshing their “New In” pages, with hundreds of new styles added every single week. As well as product and content newness, new technology is also on the agenda. More than half of Generation Z are either already using or interested in voice ordering; more than two-thirds are interested in social media purchasing; and 75% would sign up to subscription fashion services. To sum up, the title of this blog is the key: ensure that the targeting is correct, and the rest should follow. Thinking of targeting Gen Z, but want to ensure…
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supply chain solution
  • 5 Jun

Best practice: Retail replenishment

Can you effectively move stock between your warehouse and stores, dynamically, and with 100% accuracy? That’s the requirement for every modern retailer today, operating with an omnichannel mentality. As the war against discounting continues, starting at the source – stock management – can help to boost your full price sales, protect margins, and improve the customer experience with optimum stock levels, wherever the customer chooses to shop. Start reducing stock-outs, reducing over-stocking, and forecast accurately with complete visibility of inventory and demand. Our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, is used by leading retail brands including ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Karen Millen, Morrisons Nutmeg, and many more. User defined replenishment rules ensure stock can be automatically and dynamically moved between your warehouse and (web)/stores. Our automatic replenishment solution can cater for numerous retail scenarios, depending on the season, items sold, and promotional period. It’s a dependable, powerful process with flexible options: Ideal replenishment Ideal stock levels are often set as part of an initial allocation, with min/max levels to prevent under/over stocking. Product sales performance is tracked and replenished to ideal levels. Replenishment to planned cover With greater insights into your stock turn, forecasting and planning stock prevents selling out. ‘n for 1’ Great for continuity and/or seasonal items, a simple replenishment rule that maintains optimum stock levels, whether this be fixed, increasing, or decreasing. (For example, for every 1 that you sell, 2 get replenished). What are the benefits of improving your replenishment processes? Here are just a handful of the benefits of improved store replenishment: Optimise sales: Order the right amount of product, to be delivered at the correct time, to the best place. Our retail replenishment system maintains optimum inventory levels on all products so that you can sell more effectively. Reduced mark-downs: Optimised stock levels allow you to fulfil your customer demand with fewer stock outs. With a greater sell through of full priced stock and a reduced rate of markdown, margins are protected and profits soar. Maximise stock turn: Confidently fulfil customer demands without inflating your levels of inventory, preventing over and under stocking. We offer 21 omnichannel scenarios for flexible and profitable use of your stock, e.g. Ship-from-Store, Deliver to address, click-and-collect. We scope out our customers’ exact business requirements to implement omnichannel retailing. Merret is a global end to end solution for your entire estate of stores and warehouses, including zonal pricing modules for optimising international operations. Want to know more? Visit our dedicated page or watch our video guide below.  …
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retail it solutions
  • 22 May

What’s next for VR technology?

Last week we attended VR World at London Olympia (a familiar location for those who visited us at RBTE earlier this month!) According to statistics shared in the keynote presentation, VR and AR technology is expected to make a $126 billion dollar contribution to the global economy by 2020, with a production value of €15-36 billion euros. As per the continuing technology revolution, which has seen tech replaced by photos < videos < VR, virtual reality is expected to be the near-future “go to” medium of information, entertainment and experience. Since early developments in VR, the gaming and entertainment industries had effectively dominated the space. However, more recent innovations across market sectors have introduced us to VR application within education, manufacturing, travel, robotics, architecture, and even health. These were definitely as prominent as entertainment and gaming at the Expo. Here’s a round-up of the key VR trends 2017 to look out for this year, identified from the Expo. VR for Engagement In a presentation by Facebook Oculus on the key drivers for VR adoption, we learned more about Facebook Spaces, available with Oculus Rift. A personal avatar is created and launched into an interactive social session, experienced through your Oculus VR headset. The app allows users to share everyday or special moments with friends, in an immersive online experience. For example, in today’s world it’s impossible to always be physically near the people in your social circle. Facebook Spaces provides a virtual meetup platform, with the ability to introduce photos, videos and links to the session. This could also be incorporated into a virtual shopping experience: Will shopping centres of the future be #vr locations where friends meet in #socialmedia #sellingspaces & shop together online? #retail #tech — Alan Morris (@Alan_R_Morris) May 18, 2017 Building on this “shared” experience, we also saw VR experiences in which users enter a pod, individually or in interactive groups, removing the need for the somewhat bulky headsets. One stand at VR World featured an immersive sensory reality pod, with immersive 360 3D video and sound, as well as scent and temperature differences to enhance the experience. We also saw VR experiences to allow users to engage with brands, or celebrities. A good example in the music industry was a VR experience whilst listening to your favourite tunes. You could see through the eyes of the music producer, or singer, going about their everyday life, or even get their perspective whilst playing on a stage. In this way, fans become more emotionally engaged with the artist. This could work similarly in fashion, where VR could allow a user to follow their favourite fashion designer as they go on buying trips, sample fabrics or create new designs. Specific market application – Health and Education We were impressed by the use of VR within the medical sector, such as interactive training from Dual Good Health on how to carry out effective CPR. Wearing a VR headset, a dummy became a real life patient on a bed. The…
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IT Services and Solutions
  • 15 May

A spring in their step: latest retail footfall 2017

What was retail footfall in April 2017? Latest research from BRC Springboard reveals that over the last three months, footfall has increased 0.7% – marking the first positive three-month average since May 2014 and the highest since February 2012. Overall, footfall in April increased by 1.6%, enjoyed its fastest monthly growth since March 2014. The inclusion of Easter and Bank Holidays in April will have contributed to such big numbers, however despite this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive. Clearly, there is still a strong desire for physical bricks-and-mortar shopping – research carried out by Retail Week found that 71% of consumers make at least 60% of their purchases in a physical store. However, we know that purchasing alone is not enough. Retailers must integrate their store into a wider omnichannel retail strategy: in the next year, 35% will use stores to ‘browse, touch and feel’ items before buying online; while 9% will use them for click and collect in their collection of online orders. Where are they shopping? As our infographic above displays, UK high streets attracted a large increase with footfall up 2.3% in April – the fastest growth since March 2014. Retail parks saw their shopper numbers increase by 2.7%. However, footfall at shopping centres declined 0.6% year-on-year, set against a three-month average decline of 0.9%. BRC Chief Exec Helen Dickinson said April footfall figures were boosted by visits to shopping destinations during the Easter holidays. The increase was also fuelled by the weakened pound, which drove an increase in tourism: figures from London’s West End highlight this trend, with a 2.7% uplift in footfall this April. Out of Hours One of the more interesting statistics in the report points towards the social shift towards leisure-focused experiences. Whilst high-street footfall rose 1.9% during retail trading hours, trips after 5pm increased by more than 3%. If your IT services and solutions aren’t supported during out of hours, which is the “peak time” for many retailers and hospitality operators, see how our retail IT support could help. Our team is available 24 x 7, supporting end users in 9 languages, in 18 countries. Find out more here, or get in touch about your IT support requirements via marketing@retail-assist.co.uk In other news, our retail technology blog has been recognised in the Top 100 Global retail tech blogs, as ranked by Feedspot. Thanks for reading!  …
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