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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

What is a WSSI

what is a WSSI
  • 25 Sep

What is a WSSI

What is a WSSI? Breaking down retail terminology, this blog will explore the benefits of a WSSI: a standard merchandising reporting tool that plays a critical role in the day-to-day running of a retail business. WSSI stands for weekly sales, stock and intake data. As an application, it maximises sales by ensuring that stock levels are effectively controlled and optimised. A WSSI allows retailers to manage their inventory based on sales forecasting, actual sales made, and stock information. This helps the retailer determine how much stock is required and when, by generating what is known as Open to Buy. By measuring trading conditions and their impact on stock and sales, the WSSI can support accurate forecasting, and keep markdowns to a minimum. A standard WSSI will consist of sales, stock, purchase order data and more, and can be used in any order or combination that the user requires. Data is then divided into weeks, with each week displayed as a row or column of data. What to look for in a WSSI? For omnichannel retailers, it’s essential to use a WSSI that allows planning and trading at any level of your product hierarchy. It’s also beneficial if each level can operate independently of one another, with the ability to “roll up” lower levels of the hierarchy to see bigger picture. Easy analysis Whilst dealing with very complex information, one of the best attributes of any WSSI is powerful, rich functionality, with a simple, easy user interface. Ensure that “dimensions” can be dragged and dropped in any number or sequence, into and out of the display. Any system used should have a fully integrated export to Microsoft Excel – a “must have” for merchandisers.  This formats the data accordingly, and shows all the row labels and column headings automatically. Sales should further be automatically downloaded, and all plans updated without any need for IT intervention or user action. Can you also plan by different criteria? Planning by Seasonality, by Channel, or Key Lines, are all benefits of an effective WSSI. User adoption With any new system, it should be flexible and intuitive enough to accommodate varying data displays, whilst also being simple enough to adopt, administer, and implement. Offering a customisable view, once a user has defined a way of viewing the data, the same view can be adopted by other users. Users should have the ability to create as many WSSI templates as required, which can be for specific attributes, or different countries, for example. Powerful decision making Powered by Decision Systems, their industry leading Merchandise Planner tool includes Retail Value (Incl & Excl VAT), Cost, Units, Margin Value and Margin % for every data element, (e.g. sales, stock etc.), without the need to specify the necessary calculation or have separate data elements for each. Together with the ability to include Channel and Store plans as well as a traditional Product WSSI, this gives a more accurate, complete picture of performance from which better business decisions can be made for…
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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, including the following: 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. Merret is Retail Assist’s omnichannel supply chain solution for your entire global estate of stores and warehouses, including zonal pricing modules for optimising international operations, and user defined replenishment rules to ensure stock can be automatically and dynamically moved for maximum sales performance. Furthermore, integrated click-and-collect ability and rule-based fulfilment, including the ability to Ship-from-Store where suitable, utilise your entire inventory for greater profitability.…
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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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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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Retail Assist RBTE
  • 10 May

Top Technology Takeaways: RBTE 2017

Thanks to everyone that came by our stand at RBTE. We had a busy few days, making new contacts, catching up with old ones, and exploring new opportunities. We’ll be following up with you all over the next few days, but if you have any further queries in the meantime, please feel free to contact the team at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk Away from the stand, we took some time to visit the various RBTE Conference Theatres, to find out more about latest technology developments, challenges, and innovations affecting the retail and hospitality sectors. Here’s a quick round-up of our findings. RFID We noticed a real change in pace surrounding RFID (radio frequency identification) development at this year’s Expo. Attending a panel on “RFID in Real Life” really set the bar for this technology: 20 of the top 30 UK retailers are currently using RFID within their supply chain strategy. The panel included John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and River Island. Instead of focussing RFID on the customer experience, the discussion focus shifted inwardly, to the ways in which RFID is benefiting retail operations: The RFID examples discussed offer solutions to the back-end issues faced by omnichannel retailers: Increasing operational efficiency: RFID, sewn into garments, or applied via hard tagging, removes the need for store associates to painstakingly barcode scan every item in a stock-take. Instead of a lengthy, inaccurate process, retailers can use one centrally-located RFID reader to obtain a complete view of their inventory. Stocktaking can therefore occur more regularly, as a reliable and efficient process. Thanks to faster stock takes, less staff are stuck in the stock rooms, and more are available to sell, increasing customer service levels too. Improving stock accuracy: definitely the buzzword on the panel. As said by River Island’s representative, “don’t go into peak season guessing, and know what your exact stock position is”.  Increasing profitability. Of course, this is the Holy Grail for every retailer, and stock accuracy is making this happen. By understanding where stock is held in real time and how well it’s selling, better decisions can be made to sell more stock at full price and reduce discounting.  RFID also offers opportunities to improve the refund process in retail, especially for those without a receipt, by holding unique product information – a great real life example shared by Marks & Spencer.   Payment at your fingertips From mobile, to contactless, and now – fingerprint? Biometrics are the latest development in the payments sphere, as revealed by Visa at their seminar on Day 2 on Retail Futurology. Half of consumers that were surveyed would use fingerprint tech to pay for items, and 81% see fingerprint as the most secure biometrics identification method, over iris scanning and facial recognition. Visa is now using this technology as part of its Visa Checkout product. We’ve already seen this technology take off with smartphones, and in-app purchasing. Further traction in the physical world must take place through partnerships between the payment provider and the retailer. 3D immersion And…
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