IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Blog Archive

  • 30 Dec 2019
What a Year! Here’s Our Round-Up of 2019’s Best Bits
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead, and Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer 2019 has certainly not been without its events: a general election, Brexit (almost!), the first sub two-hour marathon, another royal baby and England nearly winning another rugby world cup have all captured just some of the headlines this year. So, as we all reach the end of this year – and this decade – it gives us a chance to reflect on the year we’ve also had and a few of our own headlines. Thank you for all of your support over the last year. From us all here at Retail Assist, we’d like to wish you all a wonderful, successful and prosperous 2020. Happy new year! January We kicked off the year by attending the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show. Held in New York City, Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, and Anna Murphy, Communications Lead, represented Retail Assist at the show, vlogging live from the show floor. Read their blogs from Day 1 and Day 2, and also to watch their videos from Day 1 and Day 2.   February In February, we were very excited to welcome Smythson to our growing list of customers. Read more about how we support Smythson here.   March March held some very exciting news for us as we won ‘Best Service Desk CX (Customer Experience’ and were finalists for ‘Best Managed Service Provider 2019’ at the IT Service & Support Awards, hosted by SDI. Click here to read our overview of the evening and for a few more photos, including our Greatest Showman-inspired finalist video!   April This month saw the launch of our video mini-series, talking to smaller retailers and seeing how they approach providing the best customer experience, including 200 Degrees, Bird & Blend Tea Co. and Doughnotts.   May In May, we visited RBTE to network, walk the show floor and to record our highlights from the show. But that wasn’t all… we also won the ‘Sales and Marketing 2019’ award at the Nottingham Post Business Awards!   June On 16th June 2019, we turned 20! With celebrations both in our offices and also at our client drinks event in London, we welcomed in our next decade. Read our round-up here.   July At Retail Assist, we pride ourselves with the positive relationships that we build with our customers and we were thrilled to announce the contract extension with our customer, Hobbycraft.   August Over the summer, we enjoyed having YouTube blogger, Lydia Violeta, as a welcome addition to our marketing team. As a placement student, she produced videos for us, including ‘A Day in the Life’ as an insight into what it’s like to work in our Nottingham head office and Help Desk.   September In September, we attended the E-Commerce Expo, held at London’s Olympia. We also enjoyed a guest blog from Nelson Blackley, Retail Research Associate at the Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, and published our latest Gen Z research.   October Even more awards success! This time it was the turn…
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Boxing Day Stats 2019
  • 23 Dec 2019
Will It Be Boxing Yay? Our Round-Up of Black Friday Stats and Boxing Day Sales Predictions
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead Peak trading is here. Retail’s busiest time, followed by Easter and Halloween, has landed with a bang and, with it, has brought some much-needed festive cheer to an otherwise challenging industry environment. But just how good was Black Friday 2019 and what does it suggest about Christmas shopping and the more traditional Boxing Day sales? Black FridayAs predicted in our annual Black Friday survey, 2019’s Black Friday sales proved to be a hit. In fact, the British Retail Consortium found that November clothing sales were up 6% for the period from 27 October to 23 November, compared to the same period last year. Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, said the figures suggested shoppers were “ready to take advantage of the great bargains available, both online and on the high street”. The good news continued for the high street, as Black Friday footfall rose by 3.3% year on year compared with the equivalent day in 2018, research by intelligence analyst Springboard found. Alongside this, Barclaycard said that transaction values were up by 16.5% compared to 2018, with the volume of transactions up 7.2%. However, whilst this spells out great news for retailers who could capitalise on sales and increased footfall, will it lead to a quieter December as consumers bagged their bargains earlier than usual? Christmas Spending 2019Feel like your Christmas list seems to get bigger every year? You’re not the only one. Advisory firm Deloitte ran their European Christmas Survey which suggested that us Brits are the highest festive spenders in Europe, with people in the UK spending £567; this is up by £6 from last year and significantly higher when compared to the average European budget of an anticipated £395. But how is this money being spent? Unsurprisingly, the majority of UK shoppers’ budgets are headed for presents (£299), with £143 being spent on food and drink, followed by £63 on socialising and £62 on travelling over the party season, highlighting real opportunities for retailers and hospitality vendors to capture consumer spending. Deloitte also analysed more than 800,000 online and in-store products and suggested that this Christmas could see average price cuts potentially topping 50% by Christmas Eve for the first time, meaning that savvy shoppers could even grab a bargain in the run up to the big day, rather than waiting until Boxing Day for their sales items. Boxing DaySo, with a more positive outlook during this trading period, is it set to continue? Potentially, yes: in 2018, footfall on the 27, 28 and 29 of December was a third higher than on Boxing Day and it’s predicted that footfall on each of these days will be higher this year. This also leads support to our 2019 Black Friday survey analysis, which suggested that customers are now more tech savvy, taking the time to research where to find the best bargains before venturing to the high street. But when will the bargains go live? And is there a…
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What It's Like To Work At Retail Assist
  • 16 Dec 2019
“It’s just a great place to work, I love it!” Go behind the scenes to see what it’s like to work at Retail Assist!
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The new year also brings a new start and, if one of your new year’s resolutions is to embrace a new challenge in 2020, then look no further… with a vibrant office environment, an ever-evolving technology industry and brilliant people, why not join Retail Assist? We’ve gone behind the scenes to bring you a sneak peek into what it’s like to work here, with insights into the industry that we operate in and the buzzing environment in our workspaces. Watch the video below to see some members of our team from our Nottingham-based head office and Help Desk, and from both our Northampton App Centre and Data Centre, for further insights into what it’s like to work at Retail Assist. Click here to watch the video on YouTube Our Industry The industries which Retail Assist operates within are certainly fast paced. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, said: “We have some fantastic brands that we get to work with across retail and hospitality, and they’re both based in the UK and have international presence. “The market sectors in which we work of retail and hospitality are really exciting, too. It’s continually changing, continuing evolving, and we have to make sure that we’re up on that and supporting our customers in the best way.” What part does our Help Desk play in this? David Thomas, Help Desk Territory Specialist, explained: “We support clients from their head office in the UK and we also support them in territories as far away as France, Germany and America, offering the same level of service.” Just as in retail or hospitality, everything we do is with the customer – and end-user – in mind. Because of this, we’re constantly looking to keep our level of service as consistent as possible, no matter what the time of day or where the customer might be in the world. Our People So that’s what we do – but what do our people say about us? Here are just a few things that our team have to say about why they love working here: Neil Behagg, Senior Systems Engineer: “Every day is different, and every client has different needs, different technologies and different platforms, so having the ability to work across a wide range of technologies always keeps the job interesting.” Clara Roberson, Client Lead Analyst (CLA): “It’s very diverse and quite relaxed; you hear different languages every day, you experience different things every day. It’s not your standard company office job! Within the seven months that I’ve been here, I’ve done quite a lot and I’ve been promoted to CLA. It shows how much you can progress within a couple of months.” Simul Peda, Help Desk Call Analyst: “I really love my job because helping people makes me really happy!” Joe Throup, Commercial Executive: “Everyone in the team is great, even working across teams… everyone is one big family and that includes the directors as well. I really like that they have an…
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Retail Trends 2020
  • 9 Dec 2019
2020 Vision: What Retail Trends Can We Expect to See Next Year?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead As we head towards 2020, the retail industry in the UK finds itself in unchartered territory. Whilst much speculation has gone into gauging the impact of Brexit and what leaving the EU will do to domestic retail in terms of both supply and consumer demand, there is also further pressure from spikes in retail rent, changes in consumer spending habits and environmental expectations by both governments and consumers alike. However, with the current decade ending and question marks over what the next year will bring, looking at the retail industry in other terms is more beneficial. So, for 2020, where is the industry headed, what part will technology play and what should retailers be doing now? Looking Up: Consumer Spending Set to Rise The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) suggest in their Retail Forecast 2019-2020 report that consumer spending is set to rise by 0.8 per cent, and by a further 1.4 per cent in 2021. It is worth noting that these predictions come with the assumption “that Brexit will occur later in 2019”, and as this political decision still hangs in the air, this could throw the CRR figures into doubt somewhat. Yet taking this aside, the fact that the CRR still anticipates a rise in consumer spending should be seen as encouraging; a further boost comes from their assertion that international world trade is starting to grow again after slowing down in 2019-20 and, even more positively, that they don’t predict a world slump in 2020-21. Looking at these predictions, retailers looking to invest in new technologies and ways of working can do so without having to worry about saving money to combat negative sales as a result of macroenvironmental influences, focusing instead on improving the customer journey. Do Your Systems Support the Best Customer Journey? As always, customer expectations will drive the retail landscape in 2020. Considering which processes make the buying process as enjoyable and frictionless as possible for the customer is always at the heart of any good retail strategy, and meeting these desires will involve the increasing use of technology. Forbes predicts that rapid delivery of items will be a major trend that will have to be adapted to and one of the most efficient ways of doing this is by retailers using auto replenishment systems to move stock between locations where it is most in demand, purchase order management to build up product ranges and warehouse management systems to keep proper track of items. Forbes also cites ‘social shopping’ as being vital, with a consumer being able to take visuals of clothing items and find them online, click items they see others wearing in images and purchase them, with 360 degree data all playing a part. Ensuring that your product data is consistent and adapted to the correct audience is critical to support the customer journey and using a Product Information Management (PIM) solution will play a vital role in achieving that. Efficiency and Effectiveness In a…
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Retail Assist Client Drinks
  • 2 Dec 2019
We’ll drink to that! Celebrating Another Successful Year at Our Client Drinks Event
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead It might only seem like a few weeks has passed since our summer birthday drinks event, but it was time to party again! Held at the new Simmons bar on Oxford Street, we were right in the heart of London’s infamous shopping district. With our customers and partners all gathered, we saw out the year with some festive cheer. A huge thank you to everyone who attended – we had a brilliant time and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces, and to meet some new ones, too. Did you attend? Scroll down to see our photos of the night.…
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Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
  • 25 Nov 2019
Unlock the Future of Retail: Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
Guest blog by Jake Marshall, Content Executive, Mercaux It’s hard to imagine reading about the future of retail without seeing the word ‘digital’. Much of the commentary on the store of the future is centred around digital transformation — the idea that retailers need to ‘adapt or die’ as they face increasing pressures from e-commerce. It’s clear that the future of in-store retail is digital. But what does this actually mean? As part of Mercaux’s store of the future report, we surveyed senior executives working in retail to find out more. So, what exactly should we expect from the digital store of the future? Customer Centricity Unsurprisingly, 87% of retailers believe that customer expectations will become more important when defining the store experience in the future. In a digital age of social media, e-commerce and instant gratification, customer expectations are ever increasing. Whether consumers demand an efficient service to fit in with their busy lifestyles, or they are looking for a personalised, curated retail experience, technology is key. 85% of customers expect click and collect today, while cutting-edge technologies like interactive screens and augmented reality are a future expectation for 76% and 84% of customers. By putting the customer first, retailers benefit from increased customer lifetime value and brand loyalty. Yet only a fifth of retailers report that they are capable of reacting to shifting customer expectations quickly. Many need to invest in basic tech functionalities – like click and collect – before they can move on to experimenting with more advanced in-store technology such as augmented reality or touchscreen mirrors. Empowered Employees Earlier this year, Retail Assist conducted a survey between Gen X, Y and Z, and found that the vast majority of people are using smartphones as an extension of their everyday lives: with this in mind, it’s needless to say that shopping habits have evolved to follow suit. Stores are continuously competing for their shoppers’ attention against smartphones, which offer a distracting stream of inspiration and rich content. So, when 40% of retailers say that their employees don’t have enough product information to effectively make a sale, how can store staff keep pace with the endless amount of information available online? The challenge lies in empowering sales associates with product information and content like branded digital lookbooks, marketing videos and social media content that they can use to inspire shoppers and tell a story about the brand. This challenge presents an opportunity to increase dwell time, build the customer relationship and help store staff to feel more empowered, to take ownership and to therefore achieve greater job satisfaction. Consistent Experiences The role of the store is shifting. 80% of retailers said that the most important purpose for the store today is a place for people to purchase products. When you look forward five years, however, the same number of retailers expect the main purpose of stores to shift towards being experience and discovery centres. The modern shopper is channel agnostic. With this comes a need to create…
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We Celebrate More Awards Triumph With Our Award-Winning Team
  • 18 Nov 2019
They’re Simply the Best! We Celebrate More Awards Triumph With Our Award-Winning Team
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead We think very highly of our staff and services, so it’s always great when that’s recognised by those outside of our organization, too! This year has been fantastic for awards success. Having won ‘Best CX (Customer Experience) 2019’ at the SDI’s IT Service & Support Awards and also the ‘Sales and Marketing’ award at the Nottingham Post Business Awards, we were also finalists for four other awards and categories across the business. However, never ones to rest on our laurels, the hard work and dedication of our team has officially been recognised again. Tina Hand – ‘Empowering Potential Leader’, East Midlands Leadership Awards Head of Systems Support, Tina Hand, was recognised at the East Midlands Leadership Awards, winning ‘Empowering Potential Leader’. Held on 6th November 2019, the awards, run by TheBusinessDesk.com, applauded business talent from a variety of sectors across the East Midlands. Since joining in February 2018, Tina has redeveloped the Help Desk structure to create new roles, which allows for better progression opportunities for our staff, which also gives a smoother and more responsive experience for the customer. Along with this, she has also made a variety of changes across the systems and processes used amongst the Help Desk, always with the customer and her staff in mind. Nominated by her Help Desk colleagues, one person said: “She always has time for us, no matter how busy she is. Tina always has some incredible advice and has a very calming effect on everyone around her. If I think about empowering leaders, I couldn’t think of anyone else who would be more suitable for the award than Tina.” Well done, Tina! Andi Williams – ‘NTU Placement Student of the Year Award’, Nottingham Trent University Placement Employer and Student Awards Our Marketing Officer, Andi Williams, first joined Retail Assist on her placement year whilst studying Marketing at Nottingham Trent University. Quickly impressing her marketing colleagues with her ambition, maturity and drive, Andi showed a fantastic aptitude for marketing and knowledge of the retail and hospitality sectors. She was nominated for the award by Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing. Alex said: “She has the maturity and business acumen of someone far beyond her years: you actually forget she is still a student!  We’ve been so impressed by her that she is also working for us on a part-time basis whilst she finishes her degree.” Although the calibre of nominations for the award was extremely high, Andi was granted the ‘Placement Student of the Year’ award after beating stiff competition across her peer group. Congratulations, Andi! ‘Services Company of the Year’, BCS UK IT Awards Held on Wednesday 13th November at Battersea Evolution, the BCS UK IT Awards celebrates success across the IT industry. After an award application followed by a presentation in Manchester, we were delighted to be placed as finalists in the ‘Services Company of the Year’ category. Having won the category in 2017 and also placing as finalist in 2018, we were thrilled…
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Black Friday 2019
  • 11 Nov 2019
Black Friday Survey 2019
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead November can only mean one thing – Black Friday is imminent! With just 19 days to go before Friday 29th November, our annual survey is here to predict this year’s trends and spending habits. Top Takeaways This year, our survey indicates a rise in the people planning to bag a bargain. In fact, 57.86% of those surveyed plan to take part this year – the highest response since 2016, and a sharp rise from 48% last year. For the first time since we started our survey five years ago, we asked the people who said they weren’t going to participate why they gave that answer. Interestingly, of the people who said no, 59.79% of those said that they might change their mind, which aligns with Mintel’s reflections from last year; Mintel claim that 58% of Black Friday buyers delayed making a purchase until they had seen the promotions, suggesting that perhaps the figure of those taking part might be even higher this year. So, how are they going to shop? Our survey predicts that online is set to be the biggest winner, with 70.65% of people saying they plan to shop digitally. As Black Friday is a normal working day, this is perhaps not that surprising, as people turn to online shopping for convenience, no matter whether consumers are sat at their desk, on the bus or even whilst still in bed. However, whilst it might seem that high street shoppers are a considerably lower figure this year, standing at 3.26%, a much more promising 26.09% of people plan to combine both online stores and the high street. Perhaps this is where people might be converted to make a last-minute purchase. What are people going to buy? Year on year, technology is the most popular trend, with some big discounts to be found both online and on the high street. Our survey suggests that 2019 will no exception, with technology purchases set to be the most sought-after at 46.74%. However, that being said, 44.57% of people said that they’re on the lookout for technology, clothes and homewares; 2018 saw people making more purchases but spending less, suggesting that perhaps smaller ticket items found in fashion retail and homewares could fare a little better. The Latest Shopping Trend? Shrewd Shoppers Our survey also indicated that shoppers appear to be getting more savvy; 80.44% of people say that they don’t get carried away on Black Friday purchases – a 5.44% increase from last year. Similarly, 78.26% say they haven’t returned a Black Friday purchase, again suggesting that much research has gone on beforehand.   Are your stores ready for peak trading? Click here to download our peak trading checklist.…
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Retail Assist Welcomes Cosmetics Powerhouse, Morphe
  • 7 Nov 2019
Retail Assist Welcomes Cosmetics Powerhouse, Morphe
We are delighted to announce our latest client partnership: international beauty brand, Morphe. Retail Assist delivers first-line Help Desk support to Morphe’s stores across both the United Kingdom and North America, with support soon rolling out to their newly-launched stores in Australia. Acting as a single point of contact for all IT-related issues, our award-winning Help Desk is on hand to prevent and support any in-store issues that Morphe might encounter, reducing till downtime and supporting the best in-store customer experience. Tahir Kara, Senior IT Project Manager at Morphe, said: “We chose Retail Assist based on the great feedback from their existing customers and the family type ethos that they embrace resonates completely with Morphe! After meeting the team and hearing of their long-standing relationships with customers, we were very happy to find a partner who will support us through our expansion plans and work closely with us to improve the in-store experience we provide to our customers.” Founded by brother and sister duo, Linda and Chris Tawil, Morphe has developed an ever-growing, loyal fan-following, delivering professional quality makeup and artistry tools at accessible prices. Thanks to their expertise in the retail sector, our store systems team have been co-ordinating the IT set-up of Morphe’s new UK stores, including Liverpool and Nottingham. Furthermore, Morphe will benefit from Retail Assist’s 24 x 7 support, so that help is on hand no matter what time, day of the week, or even time zone. Dan Smith, Retail Assist’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Retail Assist is here to offer global IT support to Morphe’s expanding store estate, helping their store teams to provide a superior customer experience. We are looking forward to supporting Morphe’s technology and infrastructure as the brand continues to expand its omnichannel offering and global growth.” Retail Assist recently received the ‘Best CX (Customer Experience) Award 2019’ at the Service Desk Institute’s IT Service & Support Awards as national recognition for the quality of their on-going provision and dedication to their customers.…
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Desktop Support
  • 4 Nov 2019
Desktop Support: Don’t Get Mad, Get Even (Better IT Help!)
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead We’ve all been there. You’ve got five minutes before an important meeting, but the printer refuses to print your notes out, your laptop seems to think that right now is the best time to reboot and everything seems to be running verrrryyyyy slowwwwlyyyyy. You could angrily hit your keyboard (Note from Editor – not advised), cursing that the universe is out to get you – or you could just ring our IT experts who specialise in desktop support to get everything back on track. via GIPHY When it comes to using technology, it can often be the difference between a good day or a terrible day. Whatever IT issues your head office teams face, no problem is too big or too small for our desktop support team, keeping your business running smoothly – and stopping people from pulling their hair out. Here’s our top three reasons why we’re the team to sort your head office headaches. #1 Get Issues Sorted ASAP When things go wrong in IT, they simply can’t wait. Getting problems rectified immediately can be the difference between a business continuing uninterrupted and things grinding to a costly (and customer-angering) halt. Not to mention the problem caused to the reputation of your business if your IT systems are not functioning effectively. Having outsourced desktop support means that someone is on hand to start problem solving straight away. Your business doesn’t need to spend time and effort trying to figure out what has gone wrong, what might have caused it and what the next step is; all that needs to happen is for you to get immediate help, when you need it. #2 Free Up Your Teams Maintaining a close eye on finances is always important and desktop support can help significantly with this. Often the IT issues that head office teams face are relatively simple and by outsourcing these problems to a third party means that your internal IT teams are freed up to focus on projects or strategy, rather than time-consuming, smaller matters. Our desktop support team work as an extension of your internal IT department, meaning that they can continue with their work, safe in the knowledge that the day-to-day tech problems are being handled swiftly and efficiently. #3 Access to Dedicated and Passionate Experts When you’re in an IT panic, it really helps to know that you’re in touch with people who are experts at what they’re doing. It’s doubly helpful when the same people have the passion and dedication needed to support whatever situation presents itself. Adrian Tillett, Desktop Support Manager at Retail Assist, explains: “Our desktop support team is a made up of highly talented individuals with a passion for a supportive team ethos and applying an excellent standard of collaboration to everything we do. We seek out opportunities to better the service for our customers and we have formed many strong relationships to help deliver service excellence to the many different clients that we support. “Retail…
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