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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

back to school 2017
  • 4 Sep

Back to School: lessons to learn for retailers

With the arrival of September and the cooler weather, it’s officially that time of year: back to school 2017. As a prime time for reflection and forward-planning as peak trading approaches, here are 5 back to school lessons retailers can learn from the last year. Your stores are a valuable asset, when used in the right way No more “death of the high street” as retailers continue to reap the benefits of Ship from Store strategy. If you’re not using the stock within your stores to fulfil orders from the website, or orders from other stores, you could be missing out on a huge number of sales. For example, just because your new season bestseller is out of stock online, it doesn’t mean that the order can’t be fulfilled from a store with surplus stock. In this way, there are benefits for the retailer and customer alike. Stores have taken on prime importance as “virtual distribution hubs” within retailers’ omnichannel strategy. One of our customers reported 20-30% increased web sales after implementing ship from store.                  Single view of stock in real time As a proviso for point 1, having a single view of stock is critical for successful omnichannel trading. An increased number of concessions, faster introduction of new products, and greater international presence has provided big successes for retailers in the past year. But consolidating all of this retail data, including a real-time view of the product, is a must have in order to provide the most seamless experience, wherever the customer is shopping. Getting price right is more important than ever Selling internationally can be hard, and in the wake of Brexit, all retailers experienced the effects of the devaluation of the pound. A year and a half later, we’re still feeling it. However, as ASOS’ Nick Robertson said, “Get your prices right, and the rest follows”. As retailers such as ASOS have shown by continuing to report growing profits, providing a price point that is competitive, whilst pleasing the customer, is achievable, by implementing techniques such as zonal pricing to adjust prices in different territories. You can find out more about the benefits of our price management solution on our dedicated webpage. Empower your store associates Thanks to big data and the smartphone boom, customers have more and more information at their fingertips, meaning they’ll be disappointed to find store associates who can’t provide them with the answers they need, and fast. “Is this available in my size/a different store/a different colour?” – we have all been there. Store associates need to be able to provide second-accurate information, as well as a result – can the customer have the item delivered from another store to their home, for example. Our multifunctional tablet inventory solution has replaced bulky, single-function HHTs to empower store associates to fulfil customer demand more easily. Watch the video to find out more. Your customers will continue to demand more As retailers buckle up for the run-up to peak trading, now is not the…
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UK IT Awards
  • 29 Aug

Finalists for BCS UK IT Industry Awards

We are proud to announce that we are Finalists for the BCS UK IT Industry Awards 2017, in the Organisational Excellence category of ‘Services Company of the Year’. Firstly, a big “well done” to our teams delivering exceptional Managed Services to major international retail and hospitality brands. We couldn’t have come this far without our award-winning team – also voted ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ last year by the Service Desk Institute. The BCS UK IT Industry Awards recognise and award organisations that have demonstrated excellence in their industry during the past 12 months. The awards seek to reward organisations who have contributed to the development and deployment of innovative IT systems that improve business operations or enhance public services. With tough competition, Retail Assist has made the prestigious UK IT Awards shortlist, alongside 9 other IT services and solutions providers. You can view the full shortlist here. Retail Assist provides IT services and solutions to retail and hospitality operators, 24 x 7, across 8500 global locations, and in 10 languages. You can find out more in our latest IT Managed Services video below, featuring our customers Vue cinemas and Mint Velvet. Next steps in the awards process include a Judging Day, where Retail Assist is invited to present its award entry to the panel. Winners will then be announced at an Awards ceremony in London on 15th November. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using #UKITAwards. Fingers crossed!…
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  • 21 Aug

Is visual search the future for fashion retail?

ASOS: tech pioneer Last week, ASOS launched visual search capabilities within its app. The move is a no-brainer for ASOS – 80% its UK web traffic comes from mobile devices. Currently available in the UK for iOS users, the app will be rolled out for Android, and internationally, in due course. Renowned for its investment in technology, ASOS is paving the way for a fashion-forward, customer centric way of searching for products. So, how does visual search work? The technology ASOS has developed matches items in photos with products directly from the ASOS catalogue. As the picture below shows, when uploading a photo to the app, it then displays instantly shoppable search results of visually similar, or complementary products. Their Head of Product & UX explains, “if you’re not quite sure what you want, or you’ve seen something that’s inspired you, visual search is designed to kick-start that discovery… It’s about getting as close as possible to giving you something that is visually similar.” Who are you wearing? The capability taps into ASOS target market – the tech savvy millennial – with absolute precision. The technology powers the social trend of “social media stalking”, be it strangers, celebrities, or influencers, by enabling the user to “get their look” without difficulty. It’s also instantaneous, removing the pain of scrolling through pages and pages of products. The most impressive feature is the tool’s ability to search the sheer amount of inventory held by ASOS. Given that it adds about 5,000 products every week, it certainly comes as a relief for the customer. Fashion inspiration can strike at any time – a stranger’s outfit on a bus, a post on Instagram, an advert on a Tube – and ASOS has recognised this. “Now, with just a couple of taps of their mobile device, ASOS customers can capture that fleeting moment and instantly search our 85,000 product lines to find the item that’s inspired them – or similar – at just the right time.” explains Andy Berks, digital product director at ASOS. It’s fast fashion in a nutshell. Voice vs visual There have been many articles predicting voice search as the next big thing for retail.  However, as commented before in our blog, we haven’t been convinced that voice search fits the bill for fashion retail. The ability to instantly order groceries or household basics is the most obvious use for voice-enabled retail. But in fashion retail, there is enjoyment to be had in browsing choices. Would you really ask your Amazon Alexa to order a black dress for an upcoming party in the same way you would a pint of milk? Of course, ASOS’ target market wouldn’t. That’s why visual search has paved a new way for using the technology as a simplifier for ordering in fashion retail. Less steps from the initial inspiration to completing the purchase is a win-win for the retailer and customer alike. For more retail technology insights, download our new whitepaper – What is Omnichannel Retailing? – available…
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  • 14 Aug

Video: Price Management

We’re excited to share with you our latest video in the Merret series, featuring our price management solution. Advanced pricing functionality has already enabled one of our customers to increase their weekly global sales by £400,000. Find out how in the video below: As ASOS’ Nick  Robertson notably said, “get your prices right and the rest follows” – this statement came after rolling out zonal pricing to improve the brand’s international performance. Zonal Pricing Global retailing often results in the requirement to introduce different pricing in different territories. Our solution manages advanced pricing across the globe in the following ways: Timed promotions When operating a promotion across different time zones, such as Black Friday, it can throw up operational challenges. How can Black Friday “begin” at the same time in all countries? Merret’s global infrastructure can set up time zones to trigger promotional offers in the correct timeslot. As shown in the video, a Black Friday 16:00pm start in the UK will be offset to ensure the US also experiences a 16:00pm start. Exchange and Price Point tables Retailers might not always want to use exchange rates to calculate international prices, due to their volatility. Merret has therefore been developed to operate with static international prices in a ‘Price Point’ table, which could mean that £50 always equates to €60 or $70, regardless of any fluctuations in exchange rate. The retailer can manually set price points. Over 20 leading global retail brands are benefiting from our award-winning solution, which is responsible for managing advanced pricing strategies across the globe, in order to maximise profitability, and ensure a consistent customer experience no matter which country you’re shopping in. If you want to see how Merret’s pricing functionality supports omnichannel retailing, check out our dedicated video here.   For more retail technology insights, download our new whitepaper – What is Omnichannel Retailing? – available as a free PDF.  …
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  • 7 Aug

Latest Omnichannel Whitepaper

If you’re looking for the latest insights into omnichannel retailing, including trends, stats, innovative approaches, and best practice, download our latest whitepaper here: “what is omnichannel retailing?” In a free PDF, we’re providing information to retail decision-makers on all things omnichannel. As retail industry experts, our intimate knowledge of omnichannel is benefiting 20 retail brands using our supply chain solution, Merret. Read how Harvey Nichols and Morrisons are benefiting after recent upgrade projects. Real time stock availability and stock accuracy are some of the biggest benefits cited by our users. DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PDF NOW In a feature-length download, we expand on the need for a single stock pool, why retailers should be using their stores to fulfil orders, and the benefits of omnichannel approaches to the product journey. Watch our omnichannel video below to find out more, or download the whitepaper here.  …
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  • 31 Jul

Why retailers must invest in tech

Despite headlines being dogged by Brexit woes, and consumer-confidence lows, the current underlying message begs more attention: businesses must invest in tech, or get left behind. Invest for the future Commenting to Retail Week, Sunday Times economics editor, David Smith, summed up the sentiment: “good companies invest when others don’t and seize the opportunity. If you wait until everything is right then it is probably too late.” The challenge for retailers is to invest in their products, people and systems, no matter what the external backdrop. And what better poster-child for technology investment news than Amazon? It’s been a busy week for Amazon UK, as they unveiled shiny new 600,000 sq ft headquarters in Shoreditch, which will house its research and development teams. As part of Amazon’s push to expand its UK workforce, the company plans to double its technology team in London from 450 to 900 by the end of 2017. Since 2010, Amazon has invested £6.4bn into research in the UK. In line with the “London is Open” message, this development completely nullifies the impact of Brexit on business’ ability to secure top tech talent in the UK. Innovating for the customer Whilst new Amazon staff in Shoreditch will be developing its Prime video service, in other areas, there have been big leaps in AI with Alexa innovation. If you have one of Amazon’s voice activated personal assistant devices, you’ll understand the frustrations of holding a “normal” conversation with Alexa: attempting to go beyond a weather update, or calling for the lights to be switched off, is currently asking for frustration. However, Amazon says that rapid progress is being made behind the scenes.   As well as updates to Amazon Echo’s skill set – 37 times more than Google’s – the Amazon Echo family recently introduced two new models. One has a built-in screen, the other – still in test mode – is designed with two cameras to make recommendations about what you should wear, based on the user modelling outfit choices in front of the device. Amazon’s UK boss, Dave Limp, commented to the BBC: “The ability to have a machine-learning algorithm distinguish through Style Check which outfit is better to wear at that particular moment, is just mind-boggling. It’s informed by human beings but the algorithms are coming along quite nicely – I’m very optimistic that this is a problem that can be completely solved by machine learning. “The thing I am sure of is that this time next year she will be significantly more intelligent than she is now, and that sometime in the future we will hit our goal of reinventing the Star Trek computer.” Another example in the fashion retail sphere is ASOS. It’s no coincidence that the pureplay etailer’s continued growing sales and profits come after launching more than 300 tech releases in the last quarter alone. What to take from this? Albeit tongue in cheek, Amazon’s goal to create a Star Trek supercomputer is pretty lofty. But, why not? Both Amazon…
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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 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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