IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


Black Friday 2017 online
  • 27 Nov

Black Friday 2017: the verdict

Black Friday 2017 stats The squeeze on consumer spending power and the spread of discounting over a longer period may have made Black Friday 2017 a harder sell. We round up the statistics following the official Black Friday weekend to find out if the consumer appetite is starting to fall. Black Friday 2017: The stats are in Online has dominated Black Friday sales this year, as predicted in our Black Friday research. Overall spending is up on last year, despite a fall in the number of shoppers visiting stores. Early on Friday, a dip in web traffic and fewer shoppers on the high streets suggested that the appeal of Black Friday might finally be in decline. Despite this, momentum built throughout the day, with Barclaycard estimating that Black Friday spending was 8% higher than last year, before the official results are in from the ONS. Black Friday vs Cyber Monday Online transactions in the week before Black Friday were up 11.3% as retailers launched their sales early. This trend may have accounted for the dilution of high street figures. On Black Friday itself, John Lewis said that it had seen its biggest ever hour of online trading, with 705 units purchased per minute on average between 9am and 10am. “iPad” was their number one search term recorded, suggesting that technology is still a preferred product for Black Friday deal-searchers. Cyber Monday, taking place today, is in full swing, with retailers promising to continue Black Friday discounts until close of play. Black Friday on the high street While ecommerce continues to grow, this year significantly less shoppers hit the high streets to take advantage of Black Friday deals, continuing a longer-term shift in shopping habits.  The best clip to sum up Black Friday 2017 on the high street? Perhaps the the following video live from Oxford Street. At 8am, with national media gathering to capture the doors opening at Currys PC World, one lone shopper made the headlines instead of the usual frenzied crowds.   And the doors are open…. the rush came and went (quickly) #BlackFriday @BBCLondonNews @BBC_HaveYourSay pic.twitter.com/jkUjFnhwMo — Frankie McCamley (@Frankie_Mack) November 24, 2017 Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times. High street footfall was down 4.2%, whilst retail parks and shopping centres also experienced a 3.6% decline in footfall. The statistics, compiled by Springboard, were significantly worse than an expected decline of 0.6%. What can we expect next year? Has Black Friday finally moved from an “event in its own right” to playing a part within wider Christmas promotions? We have definitely experienced a shift over the last couple of years to longer Black Friday sale periods. Not only does this reduce increased pressure on retailers to perform on one day only, but also reduces the possibility of websites crashing and long queues in store – one of the biggest “put off” factors for consumers. Although many analysts have begun to call time on Black Friday, and given that more consumers themselves planned to avoid Black Friday,…
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Black Friday 2017
  • 23 Oct

Black Friday 2017 Survey

Black Friday 2017: all you need to know When is Black Friday 2017? This year, Black Friday 2017 falls on Friday 24th November. We expect the discounting event to continue over the weekend, with Cyber Monday on 27th November, and stretching over the rest of the week. Last year, £1.23bn was spent online on Black Friday alone, making it the UK’s first billion pound shopping day. Spanning the whole week, from Monday 21st November to Monday 28th November in 2016, online sales rose to an estimated £6.5bn in the UK. But how many people will shop on Black Friday this year, taking place in just 5 weeks’ time? The results may surprise you, as the “death of Black Friday” has begun to dominate the retail headlines, with retailers reluctant to participate in order to protect their margins. As in previous years, check out our Black Friday 2017 research in our infographic below. Black Friday 2017 infographic In order to analyse consumer sentiment towards Black Friday trading, this year 400 respondents took our Black Friday survey, powered by digital insights company Toluna. See our full findings in the below Black Friday 2017 infographic. You can view our Black Friday 2016 survey results here. For the first time ever, more consumers plan to avoid Black Friday this year than those who are planning to participate. With just under half of respondents planning to buy something on Black Friday (49%), this is significantly lower than the same percentage as in 2016. Of course, this does not account for the impulse buyers that could take unexpected advantage of deals over the sale period. However, many analysts have pointed towards the fact consumers have become accustomed to an ongoing discounting calendar throughout the year. Summer and autumn in particular have been stunted by mid-season sales. If sales and discounts are less of a “big deal”, and just part of the retail fabric, it’s understandable why the consumer mindset has shifted in the same way as Black Friday becomes “just another sale day”. Another reason for the declining popularity of Black Friday can be understood from consumers’ strong disdain for Black Friday “hype” – over a third of respondents (33%) dislike Black Friday for this reason. An online-only affair 79% of respondents are set to be online Black Friday shoppers, which is a small increase on 77% in 2016. The shift to online in recent years can be tracked through our research displayed in the infographic. The majority of Black Friday spend in 2016 was via online channels, rising 12% year on year. Ensuring that you have extra capacity in place is critical for omnichannel retailers and pureplay etailers alike, as a surge in website traffic can cause fatal outages for those who are unprepared. As well as completing special data capacity increase projects for peak trading, Retail Assist’s 24×7 operations monitoring and support is facilitating greater systems uptime, which is critical for any brand over Black Friday. Priming your retail operations for peak trading Long…
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retail IT services
  • 6 Mar

Fashion Retail Forecast 2017

Retail Week research, in partnership with Barclaycard and Rakuten Marketing, examines what fashion retailers should prepare for after a turbulent past 12 months in the sector. Retail Forecast 2017 Infographic via Retail Week. Here are our top takeaways from the infographic. Protecting your margins Almost half (48%) of retailers’ stock in the UK clothing market was discounted throughout 2016. Sadly, this is a growing trend that must be addressed. The total market offered at least 44% of its stock at a discount in any given month throughout the year. That’s nearly half of your entire inventory damaging margins. The profitability challenge in fashion retail must be tackled through the effective management, movement and sale of stock. Granted, this is difficult when price is consumers’ main consideration when making a purchase, and the womenswear market is rife for discounting, but steps must be taken to bolster margins and drive full price sales. Given that the fashion market is predicted to grow by 20% over the next four years, there could not be a better time to invest in your core systems to prepare you for increased demand. Retail Assist’s Merret omnichannel supply chain solution is helping retailers to increase their full price sales by making sure stock is in the right place, at the right time to fulfil omnichannel retail practice. Location, location, location As the stats show, customers’ willingness to buy differs greatly on location, and all retailers know how important it is to monitor sales from its different channels, as well as optimising in-store stock from flagships to regional towns, analysing where stock performs best. However, in order to achieve better inventory optimisation in this way, some retailers are falling short on two key requirements: the need for 100% stock visibility, and the ability to carry out stock movements in a timely fashion. Merret’s real time stock availability is cited by many retailers as a strong benefit of using the solution. If you’re running below optimum stock in your flagship store, for example, our Merret retail replenishment module will automatically send more stock based on your trigger levels. Ship-from-store is also a key principal in getting the right stock in the right places. For example, your flagship store might sell out of the new range bestseller, whereas a smaller store could end up with a surplus that are difficult to sell. Rather than having to discount this stock, retailers can maximise full-price selling through using the store inventory to fulfil orders, rather than sourcing the same item from the Distribution Centre (DC). Retailers can prevent discounting in this way by selling stock with a holistic view of its inventory: just because an item might not be available in the DC, it might be hanging on a rail in-store, dressing a mannequin, or have been returned to a store.  We’re supporting 20 fashion retail brands with Merret, including ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Morrisons Nutmeg, Karen Millen and more. For more information or to discuss the points raised in this blog, contact…
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Nottingham Trent University
  • 21 Nov

Thinkubator Challenge: The Future of Retail

Last week, Retail Assist had the opportunity to discuss the future of retail with bright young minds at Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, at the annual “Thinkubator Challenge”. Now in its fourth year, the event saw Nottingham Business School undergraduates and postgraduates, research students, Alumni Fellows and academics, split into thinking hubs to create commercial solutions for real business challenges, in just three hours. The retail technology focused challenge Retail Assist presented to students was: How can retailers engage better with their customers, in order to sell them more? As a retail technology specialist, understanding what consumers want from retailers will enable our own developments to align with future expectations. Firstly, students identified current issues with the retailer-consumer relationship, which were generalised in the following points: Consumers require help with choosing products – owing to feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of choice. Consumers are frustrated when orders are not fulfilled according to expectation. Consumers want to see what products look like before a purchase. Ethics: don’t assume customers are happy to share their data and personal information, the opt out option is very important. Customers want to be involved with content creation; it is a 2 way communication between retailer and customer. Importance of mobile as a communication channel. We were really impressed with the responses from students, as value enhancing technology was chosen over gimmicks and short-term gadgets. Could these ideas be the future of modern retailing? The students pointed out that they are much more likely to buy items that have been honestly reviewed by real customers, and cited bloggers as examples of consumers rewarded regularly by retailers for their widely disseminated reviews. A “Reward 4 Review” programme would encourage real, everyday customers to review products, building up credibility for the retailer, and a more comprehensive picture of product popularity and why. The incentive for the customer review is that a customer who reviews 10 products for example will receive a reward in return from the retailer, e.g. a 10% discount. In-store mapping – It is sometimes frustrating in-store when you can’t find the item you’re looking for. You might have been browsing online, and know exactly what you want. An in-store map, loaded onto the retailer’s app, could direct you straight to the product. Better still, by scanning the product with your smartphone, you should also be able to complete the payment there and then rather than queueing at a till. Retailers will know where its customers migrate to in-store, and where the bestsellers are located. Future fitting room – This idea was very similar to technology showcased at our Nexpo pop-up event. The fitting room “knows” which items have been taken in through a scanning device, and can recommend complimentary products to the customer, which is an opportunity for the retailer to upsell. A swipe to like/dislike feature on the mirror will also enable retailers to know which items are popular and why, and which items are being discarded. The future fitting…
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  • 15 Feb

Click and Collect benefits for retailers

What is Click and Collect? How do I implement Click and Collect? What are the benefits of Click and Collect? Read on to find out more about the delivery method improving customer experience in the name of convenience: we’re helping leading retail brands achieve this with Merret. After our retail blog focus on the Ship from Store process, and the benefits of using it to fulfil orders from/through any channel, we wanted to bring you another retail process that’s in focus this year: Click and Collect. Definition: Click and Collect enables shoppers to purchase items online and pick them up in the physical store, merging eCommerce and physical retail outlets together. It can often make the shopping journey more convenient for consumers: making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, and collecting the item whenever is most convenient for them, instead of paying for shipping and not being in to take delivery of the item, or waiting for their delivery to arrive. In research conducted by ourselves last year, we found that over a third of consumers enjoy the benefits of using Click and Collect and will continue to use it as their delivery method of choice. So, what are the benefits to the retailer? We’ve rounded up the industry’s top stats, to give an insight into why you should consider implementing Click and Collect into your omnichannel processes. Points for Consideration Additional load to the store must be appreciated. Ensure that staff are trained effectively and ready to cope with the potential demand placed on stores for processing the additional Click and Collect deliveries, as well as despatching orders to the customer in store. Ensuring that there is room in the store, for example the back office, to receive and process Click and Collect deliveries. Training for upselling during the Click and Collect process is critical for making the most of Click and Collect sales uplift. For example, if the store staff scans a package and sees that it contains a black dress, they could suggest shoes or accessories to pair with it whilst at the till point. Ensuring that stores embrace Click and Collect as a cultural change rather than see it as a hindrance. As such, procedures need to be in place to ensure that the store despatching the order is credited for the sale. Also, incentivise store staff to hit store despatch targets in the new omnichannel culture. Retail Assist has worked hard to engineer its supply chain solution with the above points in mind. If you’d like to speak with one of our retail IT team about how to make your Click and Collect operations more time and cost efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0115 853 3910. Or, for more information about our retail IT solutions, check out our website page.…
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  • 4 Jan

Challenging the gap: Women in Tech

  “It’s high time for the tech industry to talk about the growing gender divide”. We were surprised to read recent Pareto Law research that only 7% of tech positions in Europe are filled by women. LinkedIn figures reveal a similar gender gap: just 17% of people in tech roles are female and 83% male. Hoping to challenge the shortfall of women in technical roles, an investigation into our own Retail Assist teams revealed that 34% of our overall workforce is female. What’s more, our Management Team is 34% female, and our Operational Board is 20% female, bucking the national trend. Retail Assist has always advocated inspiring and empowering women in the business and in the boardroom. We’re proud that our latest appointment to Retail Assist’s Operational Board, responsible for our entire Solutions portfolio, is female. The software development industry has long been considered a male niche, and yet our female Solutions Director brings over 25 years of expert technical and management experience. Inspiring women in business must be a necessity in 2016. It’s true that 2015 was a fantastic year, with a number of ‘firsts’ for women. In the recent New Year’s Honours List, there are 578 successful women candidates, representing 48% of the total – brilliant equitable recognition. The list also sees a significant rise in the proportion of awards to women at senior levels (38% female at Knighthood/Damehood/C-level compared to only 31% female at those levels in the 2015 Birthday Honours). During the course of 2015, Libby Lane became the First Female Church of England Bishop, Susan Ridge became the First Female British Army General, and Louise Richardson became the First Female Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University. At Board Level, there are now more women on FTSE 350 boards than ever before, with representation of women more than doubling since 2011. It now stands at 26.1% on FTSE 100 boards and 19.6% on FTSE 250 boards. This beats the Davies Report target set in 2011, to see the representation of women on FTSE 100 boards at 25% by 2015. There has also been a much needed reduction in the number of all-male boards: down from 152 to 0 in 5 years in the FTSE 100. It demonstrates a profound culture change at the heart of British business, but there is still a way to go in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector. Let’s hope that the culture of success of women in different areas of society is interconnected, and that the empowerment of women in one industry can reinforce success of women in another, permeating deeper into the technology sector. Our Technical Services and Operations Team in Northampton is currently looking for 2 Trainee Operators to join the department, helping to support our customers around the clock. Successful applicants will receive comprehensive on-site training with the opportunity for promotion to Operator role. Find out more and apply here.   Sources: Pareto, Women on Boards  …
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Black Friday 2015
  • 16 Nov

Vlog: Is the Black Friday model a sustainable approach to UK retailing?

In a shock turn of Black Friday events, retail giant Asda announced it’d be pulling out of this year’s proceedings. Arguably, as the Walmart-owned brand that first introduced the annual US tradition to the UK in 2013, Asda’s decision to refrain is a bold one. But, as our Head of Marketing explains in today’s vlog, is crippling annual Black Friday demand a sustainable model for UK retailers? Will others persevere with fulfilling customer expectations for mega discounting? Or will more retailers shy away from Black Friday?…
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  • 19 May

Is round the clock retailing backed up by 24 x 7 customer service and social media interaction?

April 2014: Multichannel retailing means consumers can shop round the clock, but are customer expectations being met in regard to customer service and social capability? We conducted some research to find out how the top 50 UK retailers use social media to aid customer service. We saw that only 10% of retailers provide around the clock support for consumers, however Amazon, Coast, Karen Millen, Next, Oasis and Paperchase came out on top providing 24×7 customer service. Our research found that every retailer has tapped into social media as an important consumer engagement platform, with 100% presence on Facebook and 95% coverage on twitter.  However, whilst 25% of retailers have recognised that twitter can act as a fast route to respond to customer queries by establishing a dedicated twitter customer service @handle, the research found that  the majority of retailers are still only offering limited customer service availability.  On average retailers are providing customer service availability for 62 of the 168 possible hours each week, which essentially means that retailers can only respond to consumer enquires for 36% of the time that customers could be shopping. As part of the research we submitted an easy to answer question to every retailers Facebook page.  Aldi, Boots and Waterstones all responded to the enquiry within 5 minutes.  On average retailers took around four hours to respond to a customer service post and 10% of retailers never responded to the consumer question posed at all. Alan Morris, Executive Chairman of Retail Assist comments: “This research shows that retailers could be under utilising the technology that is out there to help them engage with customers and deliver great customer service.  Social media is making retailers more accessible than ever and consumers expect to be able to engage with retailers whenever and wherever they want. Retailers have the responsibility of providing quality and timely customer service – consumers can shop 24×7, therefore they expect retailers to be available 24×7 too.” When consumer’s use social media to flag up customer service problems they are broadcasting problems to their own peers, which can damage retailer’s reputations. Our research found that Amazon, Argos, Boots, Carphone Warehouse, Homebase, John Lewis, Next, New Look, Oasis, River Island and Sports Direct have all established a separate twitter customer service channel which helps point customer problems away from the brand’s main social media channel.  However, in general it seems that many retailers could be using technology more effectively to ensure that their 24×7 omnichannel retail operations are reflected in their social media and customer services outlets. For more information on our services you can visit our website: http://www.retail-assist.co.uk/ or call us on: +44 (0) 115 853 3910. We are also on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram just search ‘RetailAssist’.…
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  • 17 Mar

Retail Business Technology Expo – 2014 – Show Highlights

Last week we visited the Retail Business Technology Expo at Earls Court in London; to catch up with some of our clients, to take a look at some of the technologies being exhibited, whilst also listening to some of the latest thinking regarding the future of retail. For us the show had 3 main themes of: Customer Service – A presentation by Charles Tyrwhitt shirts revealed that the business was built on ‘quality, value and service’.  These principles are the same in the business today. This theme was echoed by others at the show.  With the presence of social media the importance of customer service becomes even greater.  If a great experience is had the customer is likely to ‘tweet’ or share this socially.  However, if they’ve had a bad experience the same is true.  Therefore, the importance of getting social opinion right through great customer service is imperative. It is so much easier today for customers to access opinion, and the opinions of social peers.  It is a growing factor in the purchasing decision, particularly in the generation Y customer. According to latest research by Planet Retail, 44% of people see social media as a good source of reviews and recommendations. Charles Tyrwhitt stated that all feedback bad or good goes live on their website as soon as the opinion is given.  It is often from the bad feedback which they learn the most.  They learn how to do things differently next time, which is helping them to improve their customer service. Mobile and Payment Technologies – Mobile is propelling multichannel retailing.  It appears that customers are demanding change, and retailers who have an omnichannel retail strategy will be the ones who will capture market share. Not only are customers using their mobiles to research products or services, and use them for social sharing, but mobile payments are on the increase.  Gartner predicts that by 2015, 350 million people will use mobile to make payments. In-store technology – Combining both the physical and online world in the store has been a common theme in retail over the last few years, yet some customers have been hesitant to engage with the technology.  Some of the figures from Planet Retail show that this might be starting to turn around with: 14% of customers having used virtual mirrors in store 20% of customers having engaged with staff with tablet devices 22% of customers using digital display’s in store to search more products 19% of shoppers visited in-store kiosks. The other area shoppers want to see the combination of online and bricks and mortar retailing is when it comes to fulfillment and returns.  With 56% of shoppers wanting to return their online items to their local store, it is all about convenience for the customer, and facilitating a seamless journey regardless of channel. Did you attend RBTE?  What were your thoughts and highlights from the show? Share your answers here or email us at info@retail-assist.co.uk…
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  • 8 Apr

The Value of Client Involvement – Merret User Day Part 2

Whilst we can’t reveal the finer details of the day, the most recent Merret user session allowed us to gain feedback on a number of features that have either been developed, or are on the roadmap for development. We wanted to share what we can with you. The first of the discussions focused on CRM.  The retailers discussed the level of detail that would be valuable to them, alongside how they could integrate and feed data into their CRM systems. The capturing of customer data is an essential element of the omnichannel mix, to build the relationship and encourage further purchases across channels.  Whilst this is easy with e-commerce transactions, it becomes more of a challenge in store – particularly when the speed of the transaction and minimising queue times is crucial. The omnichannel retail discussions continued. The multitude of channels and the functionality required in each continues to grow.  With this growing trend in mind, Merret users are experiencing real benefits from the stock management approach.  Merret treats all stock – regardless of channel – as one central stock pool as Multichannel is at the heart of the solution. Discussions were held around how Merret’s intelligent sourcing is in place to allocate the stock from the most efficient route whether this be from a store, a warehouse, or distribution centre. There are growing requirements around ‘click and collect’ functionality, as such Merret is allowing customers to order from the store, and collect from the same store, or collect from a more convenient store at a different location, or have their items delivered to a home address. The global trading of many retailers adds in further complexities to the supply chain, yet discussions were held around the territory functionality that lies within Merret.  This handles multi-currency, multi-country trading –  this also comes into effect with timed and zonal pricing offers.  So as a promotion goes live at 18:00 in the UK, this allows pricing to go live at the equivalent time in Australia, or USA to ensure pricing is accurately  reflected within multiple time zones. Future requirements were discussed.  Two of the latest developments are: The ability to use Merret on a tablet in store and, further to this, transact.  This allows clients to gain product updates, make sales, and look up product all from the central stock pool via Merret in store. Notification system for Buyers and Merchandisers – a development coming to Merret that carries out alerts to Buyers and Merchandisers regarding product information.  They are then able to make critical product decisions around allocation, or re-distribution to ensure stocking levels reach optimum levels. These are just some of the new functional developments in Merret, but developing these with our users offers so much value to the users and teams building the functionality and development of the system.  We look forward to sharing more soon, and if you would like to discuss anything mentioned above please do contact us.…
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