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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Blog Archive

What Can the High Street Learn from Independent Retailers? 00 Degrees
  • 20 May 2019
“Keep what you do simple”: We talk to 200 Degrees in the next instalment of our retailer mini-series
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive The UK’s first coffee shop was opened in Oxford in 1652: walk down any UK high street today and you’re bound to come across at least one. However, with so much competition – both from chains and local establishments alike – what does it take to grow in an otherwise busy market? This week, we continue our video mini-series on what can be learned from independent businesses as we speak to Matt Douglas, Marketing Manager for 200 Degrees. Originally starting as a roast house, the brand expanded and now have eight shops around the country, including Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff and Sheffield. Offering a mixture of both hospitality and with retail areas within their store estate, 200 Degrees serves great coffee in stylish surroundings. Watch the video here: Click here to watch the video on YouTube Matt explains: “We started off as roast house originally, then added our shops to showcase our coffee products. The shops were turned into an experience all of their own and really transform people’s perceptions (of a coffee shop).” So what’s 200 Degrees’ differentiator? Matt says: “We engage all the time with people around us. We run several different types of activities and events or experiences; we’ve got a barista school upstairs (in the Nottingham flagship store) and we’re also looking at opening up our roast house to show how it goes from a raw bean to what you enjoy. “We really want people to have an (excellent) experience every time they come into the store, from the moment they’re greeted…all the way to sitting down by the fire. It’s an escapism.” What advice would Matt give to larger chains? He says: “I think keep what you do simple and easy for the customer to understand: it needs to be that frictionless experience. It is the meeting and greeting people at the door – a really small thing, but making sure it’s positively done and welcoming. Also, all the in-store events do give another reason to come to the high street other than beyond (just) drinking a coffee. “We are going through a growth phrase and we are learning and understanding how difficult it is (to stay true to the brand whilst growing). But one of our key values is to make sure we retain that community aspect and that focus on the experience.” Watch Matt’s video to see more insights into how 200 Degrees approach their store strategy and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel here to stay up-to-date with our latest video releases.…
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IT Managed Services - Retail Assist
  • 13 May 2019
Perk Up Your Productivity! Let our IT Managed Services increase your business’ efficiency
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive A lot has changed in the last twenty years. Fears of the Millennium Bug, dial-up connection and memorising phone numbers were the status quo and the concept of being on the phone AND on the internet at the same time would have been mind-boggling! However, 20 years ago, employing staff once meant a body of workers confined to one location, yet recent years have seen increasing amounts of businesses in all sectors adopt new working methods. The rise of secure Wi-Fi connection and laptop technology has meant that remote and flexible options are now commonplace and have widened talent pools to provide benefits to employers and employees alike. One working method being eagerly embraced by many retailers is that of IT Managed Services: outsourcing IT support to experts that support your company at extended reach. Retail Assist provides a number of Managed IT Services to leading retailers and hospitality operators across the globe, including the following: Help Desk Services, IT Outsourcing, Retail Systems Support, Project Management, Technical Services, Operations Support and IT Due Diligence. Here’s what your business can gain from outsourcing to our service provision. Specialist Knowledge and Expertise The biggest attraction of IT Managed Services is the ability to tap into specialised expertise and knowledge which is sector specific and may not be available within your own company. Whilst many IT experts may have a broad knowledge that covers many areas, finding those that have very specific skills and awareness of exactly what is needed in terms of the IT used in each individual industry can sometimes be challenging. Using IT Managed Services ensures that such expertise is easily accessible when required, without the time, effort or cost of recruitment, whilst also safeguarding against the threat of in-house experts leaving their current positions to go elsewhere. Cost Savings Costs are crucial to every business, no matter what the sector. IT Managed Services can help make significant cost savings, primarily by removing the associated staffing costs that hiring additional staff brings; office space may also be saved or utilised more effectively. Direct employees are able to focus on more value-adding activity, whist your outsourced teams take care of the day-to-day running of the business. Naturally, fluctuations in workload often occur in IT, so having a dedicated IT Managed Services team allows you to utilise the resource capabilities of the external team to your advantage to increase or decrease with market demands and your own teams can still focus on other important matters. Long-term and Proactive Approaches As IT lies at the centre of many businesses, having a system that operates reliably and without interruption is incredibly important. By using IT Managed Services, a proactive approach can be taken, which can allow problems to be foreseen and reacted to before they occur. Long-term strategies can be implemented, with the option for IT services to feature increased activity when needed, such as if a new project is due to launch. Expanded workloads can be reacted…
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RetailEXPO 2019 Round Up
  • 7 May 2019
“Millions of opportunities to get it wrong and lots of complexity to get right!” Our Retail Expo 2019 Round-Up
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Conferences, stands, thousands of visitors and, of course, the obligatory appearance from Pepper the Robot – it can only be RetailEXPO! Held at the Olympia London over two days, RetailEXPO unites Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE) to represent all things in the world of retail and ecommerce. And this year, ‘customer experience’ were the words on everyone’s lips. With the Tech Zone, Design Zone and Digital Signage Zone, many aspects of the retail environment were represented. Click here to watch the video on YouTube We spotted two brilliant applications to combine online and in-store shopping experiences. Near Street uses a retailer’s high street inventory to drive traffic, ushering people to locate products in their locality. As an effective way of getting people to visit their local high street, it’s currently in use in shops as far as Orkney. Similarly, Mercaux’s app uses tablets to help sales associates to make outfit recommendations, offers automated alternatives and styling suggestions, aiding the sales associate to increase a brand’s offering, all whilst standing next to the customer. In another way, CloudCasting uses mirror displays to show digital content. Their smart mirrors have a digital screen hidden behind the mirror, as retailers can update communications that are reflected out to display adverts or promotions to customers. The interrogation of the customer experience and what modern retailers must offer was reflected in the conference, too. Andy Murray, Asda’s Chief Customer Officer, took to the main stage to discuss their approach to customer improvement, especially when working with the scale and legacy that Asda holds. He explained that there are “millions of opportunities to get it (the customer experience) wrong and lots of complexity to work through to get it right”. After starting his role in February 2016, Andy and his team took their approach back to basics by asking: what is the real customer value proposition? For Asda, that meant helping busy customers save money and live better and to move away from distinct customer stereotypes that had been shown in historical Asda TV adverts. For Andy, his view of a customer is very simple. He said: “Anyone who puts food in their mouths and eats is my customer!” For more of our retail technology reflections, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.…
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RetailEXPO 2019 - Retail Assist
  • 29 Apr 2019
We’re off to RetailEXPO 2019! See you there?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Shakespeare famously asked ‘What’s in a name?’ and we reckon he might have been onto something. RetailEXPO, previously known as Retail Business Technology Expo – or RBTE – might have undergone a name change, but it’s the same innovation-centred expo that previous visitors will know and love. This year, we’ll be walking the floor to give you an insight to the Expo. As one of Europe’s leading events for retail technology, RetailEXPO unifies three of the UK’s retail shows: Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE). Split over two days (1st and 2nd May 2019) at the Olympia, London, it promises to be a showcase for all things retail and we’re excited to see what the new format will deliver. With three different zones – the tech zone, design zone and digital signage zone – and with keynote speakers, the expo promises to deliver the best of UK retail technology. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, and Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, will be on hand to deliver the top highlights, right from the show floor. Here’s a taster of our recap from last year’s event: Click here to watch the video on YouTube Also heading to RetailEXPO and want to meet up? Get in touch here or drop us a line at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. Can’t make it? No worries – subscribe to our YouTube channel here to stay up-to-date with the latest UK retail developments.…
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Doughnut miss this! Retail Assist & Doughnotts
  • 23 Apr 2019
Doughnut miss this! Our video mini-series continues with Doughnotts
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Frosted, glazed, jam or chocolate: however you enjoy yours, we know a store that’s got the perfect one for you. We continue our video mini-series, as we look at what larger retailers and hospitality vendors can learn from their independent counterparts, talking to Wade Smith, Director of Doughnotts. Along with his business partner and Co-Director, Megan Scaddan, Wade started Doughnotts in 2015. From humble origins in a family kitchen and starting with just £10 and a wok, the pair grew the brand from a doughnut delivery service to their first doughnut bar in Nottingham. And we’re not just talking any old doughnut; with themes, seasonal products and treat-laden doughnut rings, their products look as good as they taste. With further stores now in Derby and Leicester, and new stores planned to open in Nottingham and Lincoln this year, the duo have had to change and adapt their retail strategy to fit customer demand. Watch the video here: Click here to watch the video on YouTube So what can larger retailers learn from Doughnotts? Wade argues that retailers should listen to their customers, be ready to adapt and to keep it simple. Wade explained: “The concept of our stores has changed three times now. So (the first store in Nottingham) was a takeaway, then we opened a sit-in place in Derby, then when we opened Leicester, we thought ‘right, we need to go back to a takeaway.’” “However, we are changing our concept of in-store again. With the new store that’s opening in Nottingham, there’s going to be an in-store bakery so that you’re going to be able to come in and see a baker making doughnuts there and then.” Doughnotts also has a loyal social media following with an impressive 50,500 Instagram followers. But rather than over-complicating things, when it comes to a social media strategy, Wade also prefers a straight-forward approach. He explained: “So for growing Instagram, we were basically just posting every day. It was talking back to customers and sharing customers’ photos. We have a very, very Instagram-able product: Instagram was made for this!” If you’d like to see more videos in our high street retailer mini-series, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.…
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Retail MOT - Retail Assist
  • 15 Apr 2019
Have You Had Your Retail MOT? How To Health Check Your Retail Systems
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive It was all so different in retail days of yore. Keeping things functional required little more than ensuring sufficient till roll was available and that the change drawer was well supplied. However, flash forward to 2019 and maintaining a functioning, efficient and healthy retail system now involves the sort of expertise, time and money that would have stunned our retail predecessors. One of the main issues facing any retailer is recognising exactly how they are going to ensure IT systems are well managed. Customer expectations continue to rise – as does competition – and a retail system that is not in optimum health can have major consequences. Dedicating the time, capacity and staff to the undertaking can be challenging, but certainly not insurmountable. Built on our 20 years of experience, here are Retail Assist’s top health checks for retail systems. Engine: Keep Things Ticking Over Sales are the main driving force in any business and ensuring that there are no glitches to cease or stall trading is paramount. Any issues with retail systems should always receive immediate and thorough attention – something that Retail Assist acknowledge with a 24/7 flexible, multi-lingual retail Help Desk service. As there is one single point of contact, retailers can quickly connect with our Call Analysts and see their issues managed right through to the point of resolution. The specialist support offered means that retail employees with no knowledge of how retail systems operate can flag a problem and have it swiftly dealt with, resulting in no time being wasted. Brakes: In-Store Monitoring When there are devices used in-store, it’s prudent to employ a central device management system, such as AirWatch; this remotely monitors devices in a store environment and monitors the health of those devices. However, it also has the ability to ‘put the brakes on’ by locking the device remotely in the case of theft and to also put in place security measures to monitor which devices are connected to the network and control what sites those devices are accessing. Steering: Check that Your Systems are Headed in the Right Direction With modern retail demanding that brands expand over new digital channels, retailers may find they aren’t in a position to fully maximise all selling opportunities. If legacy systems are holding you back or you’re not sure how to implement new channels into your current digital offering, installing a PIM solution can help to steer your business in the right direction. A PIM offers a single, central point of data entry, where product information is optimised and managed through workflow processes, before being published to whichever selling channel is provided. Retail Assist’s software, OMIO PIM, delivers an end-to-end solution that comes with ready-built connectors and integrations to all digital marketplaces. Mirrors: Proactive Reflection Just as retailers continually strive to offer better levels of service, Retail Assist are also continuously improving and looking at new processes and procedures. This involves pro-active monitoring of all retail systems in order…
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What Can The High Street Learn From Independent Retailers? Bird & Blend Tea Co.
  • 8 Apr 2019
What Can the High Street Learn from Independent Retailers? We launch our new video series
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Lights, camera, action – this week sees the launch of our latest video series! Filming on location, we talk to the independent retail disruptors and what the high street can learn from them. In our first video, we speak to Krisi Smith, co-founder and Creative Director of Bird & Blend Tea Co. As expert tea blenders, their store space provides a mixture of retail and hospitality opportunities; having grown from a bedroom in Krisi’s mum’s house in Nottingham, Bird & Blend has now evolved to include seven stores across the UK with a global online presence, too.   Watch the video here: Click here to watch the video on YouTube Krisi explains: “We’re very much an omnichannel business. As we’ve grown over the years, it’s been quite a challenge to make sure the service levels are delivered consistently across all our channels.” Setting them apart from their competition, Bird & Blend is innovative in the way it engages with its customers, especially through their use of store events. Inviting customers into store, Krisi and her team have organised yoga classes, cocktail nights, Valentine’s Day meet and greets, tea blending workshops and prohibition style drinks events. But with so many innovative customer experiences, how do Bird & Blend maintain personality and a customer-centric focus whilst also expanding their store estate? “It’s really important to us that everyone gets the same customer journey,” says Krisi. “We do a lot of training around that with our teams to make sure that everyone gives the same intro to the brand, with the same recommendations and the same experience, but that our team members also have enough freedom to bring their own personalities into the spaces that they work in.” With a quarterly tea range as well as familiar favourites, Krisi develops their products by taking inspiration from food trends, fashion, travel and also customer suggestions from social media. “We’re really experienced based in-store,” says Krisi. “The most exciting zone in all of our stores is the tea wall where customers can get down different teas to sample.” Customers are always encouraged to engage their senses, with team members encouraging customers to smell and taste the teas, offering personal recommendations on how best they prefer to serve them. Watch Krisi’s video to see more insights into how Bird & Blend approach their store strategy and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel here to stay up-to-date with our latest video releases.…
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SDI Best Service Desk Customer Experience 2019
  • 1 Apr 2019
What a night! Retail Assist Celebrates Success at the SDI Awards
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive One win, two trophies and a big night to celebrate! This year, Retail Assist entered the IT Service & Support Awards, hosted by SDI, and we are extremely proud to announce that we not only won Best Service Desk CX (Customer Experience), but were also finalists for Best Small Enterprise Managed Services Provider 2019. Whilst the night itself was an excellent evening celebrating success within the service desk industry, it had been a robust process consisting of an extensive written application, a presentation and Q&A session with the category judges, then followed by a site visit, complete with another presentation and site tour. However, we relished the opportunity to wax lyrical about our philosophy surrounding customer service and to celebrate the excellent work that our Helpdesk Call Analysts achieve every day. We explained the ways in which we engage our team to define and build a service desk culture focused on customer excellence whilst delivering exceptional business value, including many examples of where our analysts have gone above and beyond to deliver unique customer service. However, it wasn’t all presentations and written applications… Another particularly fun part of the process was filming our Helpdesk video. So, without further ado, we present ‘The RA Show’!  Click here to watch the video on YouTube Held on Tuesday 26th March 2019, the SDI’s annual awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals from across the globe. Having won Best Managed Service Desk in 2016, Retail Assist was keen to re-enter following a host of innovations to its service desk provision. Delivering the award for Best Service Desk CX 2019, Tim Ingham, one of the category judges, said: “Customer experience is something that’s really close to my heart and I think it has the ability to have a really big impact on the way we deliver support. As a judge, it’s really nice to see the kind of programmes in place that will deliver an impact for customers on the local, national and international stage. But, there can only be one winner and that is Retail Assist!” Along with this, we were delighted to also be a finalist for ‘Best Small Enterprise Managed Service Provider 2019’, which recognises the wealth of services offered across our Managed Services. Dan Smith, Retail Assist’s CEO, said: “We are extremely proud to have won the Best Service Desk CX award and to be a finalist for Best Small Enterprise Managed Service Provider, gaining both national and international recognition for our work. We pride ourselves on delivering excellence to our customers who include many leading retail and hospitality brands. This is a wonderful achievement that celebrates our team and gives them the recognition their hard work and dedication deserves.” Thank you to everyone at the SDI for their support and help over the last few months; we had a brilliant night and a fantastic conference. And well done again to the whole Retail Assist team!…
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SDI Best Service Desk CX 2019 - Retail Assist
  • 27 Mar 2019
We’re Your Number One! Retail Assist Wins at the Service Desk Institute Awards 2019
Retail Assist is delighted to announce that we’ve won the globally recognised ‘Best Service Desk CX 2019’ award at the Service Desk Institute’s (SDI) Annual IT Service and Support Awards. Held on Tuesday 26th March 2019, the SDI’s annual awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals, and celebrates their success. Having won Best Managed Service Desk in 2016, Retail Assist was keen to re-enter with a host of innovations to its service desk provision. Priding ourselves on the excellent provision we offer our customers, we entered Best Service Desk CX (Customer Experience) 2019, an award which highlights the amazing work upheld by our service desk team every day. Along with this, we were delighted to also be a finalist for ‘Best Small Enterprise Managed Service Provider 2019’, which recognises the wealth of services offered across the variety of our Managed Services. It was a wonderful evening and Retail Assist had representatives from across various parts of the business to enjoy the exciting gala dinner event at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole last night. The Service Desk Institute looks for excellence, professionalism and innovation in the service desk industry, with entries from across the IT support sector. Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the achievement: “We are extremely proud to have won the Best Service Desk CX award and to be a finalist for Best Small Enterprise Managed Service Provider, gaining both national and international recognition for our work. We pride ourselves on delivering excellence to our customers who include many of the leading retail and hospitality brands. This is a wonderful achievement which celebrates our team and gives them the recognition their hard work and dedication deserves.”…
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Influencer Marketing Retail Assist
  • 25 Mar 2019
The Rise and Rise of Influencer Marketing
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, and Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer Imagine being at a party. Your friend walks in wearing an amazing dress and you instantly love it; she looks so happy in it, the colour really suits her skin tone and, as she’s a similar size to you, you can already picture what it would look like on you. You ask her where it’s from, track it down either online or in-store and make the purchase, as an equally happy customer. Influencer marketing is certainly nothing new; there are generations of people who have been inspired by their peer group and who have been lead to making a purchase because they’ve seen someone else wear it or review it. However, with social media now ubiquitous, a brand’s potential reach is exponential and modern consumers can view products whether they’re actively shopping or not. In this way, Instagram is a powerful tool for retailers; whether it’s through increasing brand awareness, sharing reviews or even user-generated photo content, influencer collaborations or paid content. Brands can reach audiences that might have previously been difficult to target. In fact, word of mouth sales generate more than twice the sales of paid advertising and 81% of consumers make purchase decisions based on friends’ social media posts. Coupled with this, conversions are four to 10 times higher from offers shared by trusted advocates than brands. Our customer, ASOS, uses this strategy to great success. Instead, ASOS work with microbloggers (influencers with followers of several thousands or even hundreds, rather than Insta-famous influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers) to create ASOS Insiders. Here, the micro-influencers take photos of themselves wearing ASOS clothes and post the item’s unique code into the photo caption so that their followers can simply copy and paste it straight into ASOS’ website or app, leading straight to the item. In an interview with Drapers, James Apsley-Thompson, PR manager at fashion retailer I Saw It First, said: “Instagram opens up a direct conversation with our customer. We can immediately find out what she is shopping for, the trends she wants to invest in and the celebrity styles she’s lusting after. This constant dialogue is invaluable for fast fashion retailers in particular, as we can quickly adapt our product offering for commercial success.” Being able to react quickly is invaluable. Social media is a 24/7 tool and with users able to access it whenever they want to use it, it’s vital for brands to be able to respond quickly. Whilst involving social media influencers and micro-bloggers in campaigns has clear rates of return, retailers should also prepare to react quickly to getting their products recognised. If a key influencer has posted a positive review about a particular garment, updating that item’s SEO so that it is optimised effectively is vital to improve visibility and, therefore, the chances of it being found. Utilising PIM software is a great way to do this, enabling modern retailers to harness the power of influencer marketing and…
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