IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Blog Archive

NRRKEC Retail Symposium
  • 15 Jul 2019
“Omnichannel is the future of British retail” Our round-up from the NRRKEC Retail Symposium
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The 4th Annual NRRKEC (National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre) Retail Symposium was held on Thursday 11th July in the Nottingham Conference Centre at Nottingham Trent University.  Whilst the theme for the day was ‘Innovative, Independent Retail’, the symposium featured keynote speakers who have their eyes on the wider retail environment and the effects on the high street that stretch beyond independents. Retail of the Future Bill Grimsey, author of The Grimsey Review and former CEO of Wickes and Iceland, is the Executive Retail Director of the NRRKEC. In his introduction to the day, he said: “Retail of the future won’t be based on conventions of the past.” To illustrate his point, Bill spoke about how his granddaughters had asked for Amazon vouchers for Christmas. The vouchers were given to them on the 25th December and, by the time that Bill had gone to visit them on the 27th December, their presents had not only been ordered, but also delivered. He argued that perhaps ‘retail’ is an old-fashioned term as stores start to move towards experiential spaces – towards entertainment, even. Convenience is Key Susan Hallam, founder of digital agency Hallam, spoke on ‘Being Creative in a Place’, exploring the different ways that retailers can engage with their audience. She explained that 80% of people will still go in-store for an item they want immediately, offering credence to the ‘Google My Business’ tool, where searches can be tailored to be ‘near me’. Coupled with this, another tool for large and independent retailers alike is Google’s In Store Inventory; this is a version of paid ads, where retailers can upload their inventory and, the next time someone searches for a ‘hot pink midi dress’, Google will not only show them the results, but will show the customer where they can buy the actual item, including how many miles away it is from them (and, because it’s Google, they will also give the address and opening hours of that retailer). Adding to her belief that “convenience is the new loyalty”, Susan argued that this tool could be utilised by all sizes of retailers to help drive footfall to stores. The Future is Omni Rounding up the day, Krisi Smith, co-founder of Bird & Blend Tea Co., spoke about the need for retailers to successfully blend the wider online world with the physical. Bird & Blend Tea Co. has an innovative approach to their retail space; offering their customers a cohesive blend of the senses in-store, they also engage with them through holding diverse events in their store space and through many different social channels, including invite-only Facebook groups and product development groups. She said: “I passionately believe that omnichannel is the future of British retail. “It’s more than okay for our staff to spend 30 minutes with someone, for the customer to then leave without a store sale and to then complete the purchase online. Being a true omnichannel brand means being there whenever the customer…
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Fix Your Issues, Fast! Meet Our IT Managed Services Superheroes | Retail Assist
  • 8 Jul 2019
Fix Your Issues, Fast! Meet Our IT Managed Services Superheroes
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive   Technology is a wonderful thing. However, it’s certainly not wonderful when your working day is disrupted due to an IT issue. Whether it’s a broken till, a laptop that’s somehow not working properly or a store returns device that is being ‘a bit funny’, you don’t want your productivity to be stalled by something out of your control. So, next time you encounter an IT issue, don’t send out the bat signal – here’s who you should call! With the help of Retail Assist, retailers can free themselves from the worries that surround technical issues and focus their attention on other aspects of their business. Meet our IT Managed Services Support superheroes… Storm: Help Desk Support Just like Storm, our Help Desk Support analysts are knowledgeable, empathetic and quick to react. Retail Assist is proud of its award-winning Help Desk team who give retailers and hospitality operators a single point of contact, meaning that our customers’ retail and hospitality brands can continue with business as usual, with minimum disruption. Our IT Help Desk Support, as well as Operations Support, functions like an extension of any business. The costs and hassle of employing staff directly is removed and a proactive approach ensures that problems are identified and adapted to in advance, as often as possible. As it is a single point of contact, confusion between suppliers is avoided and problems are managed right through to the point of resolution. Perhaps the most important aspect of the IT Help Desk Support is that it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and in a variety of languages, meaning problems and issues don’t have to wait for standard office operating hours. Although, unlike Storm, we’re afraid that they can’t control the weather… Iron Man: Technical Services Team Intelligent, tech-savvy and creatively minded: no, we’re not talking about Tony Stark, but our Technical Services team! Alongside the IT Help Desk Support and Operations Support that Retail Assist provides, our Technical Services department are geniuses when it comes to all things technical. Server Management and Installation covers all aspects of dealing with servers, from offering advice and recommendations as to what is most suitable for a retailer, to monitoring them whilst active, as well as preventing or solving any problems. In a similar manner, the Network Management and Design services offered by Retail Assist make sure that communication lines are monitored and trouble free. This becomes especially important when viewed in the context of retail supply chains; any disruption in communication could lead to loss of revenue and customer satisfaction very swiftly. Retail Assist also handles all aspects of Wi-Fi Management, including what usage is occurring, content being shared, and how data lines are performing, making them impressive IT all-rounders that Jarvis would be proud of. Black Panther: Retail Systems Support Agile, quick, responsive and approachable, our Retail Systems Support team share a lot in common with Black Panther (although sadly not…
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Hobbycraft Celebrates Renewed Contract with Retail Assist
  • 4 Jul 2019
Craft Work: Hobbycraft Celebrates Renewed Contract with Retail Assist
We are delighted to announce that Hobbycraft, the largest arts and crafts retailer in the UK, has continued to develop its relationship with Retail Assist through a further extension of its IT Help Desk support. Having supported Hobbycraft since 2012, we provide a comprehensive IT Help Desk service; with 94 stores nationwide, Retail Assist acts as the first point of contact when stores encounter IT issues, helping to drive incident volumes down and minimise disruption to critical business operations. With Retail Assist also providing Head Office and Data Centre support, Hobbycraft has extended their contract until July 2021. Our award-winning Help Desk operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With over seven languages spoken across the desk, our services ensure that critical issues are addressed whenever Hobbycraft needs to call for IT support. Matt Louth, IT Director at Hobbycraft, says: “We value that Retail Assist offers a single point for our store teams to log and resolve calls, whilst also offering the flexibility to evolve as our business expands. These combined factors make them an ideal provider to partner with and I look forward to continuing our successful relationship together.” Having 20 years of experience within the retail industry, our expert knowledge of the IT systems used by Hobbycraft also delivers flexibility to ensure future enhancements and service options are met as their business expands. Dan Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Retail Assist, concludes: “We are delighted to be working with Hobbycraft and continuing to develop our relationship further. Hobbycraft is a market leader: a successful, innovative business with an exciting future. This contract renewal is a testament not only to the quality of our services, but also to the strength of our ongoing relationship.”…
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How Retail Data Can Improve the Customer Experience | Retail Assist
  • 1 Jul 2019
Talk Data to Me! How Retail Data Can Improve the Customer Experience
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Whether you count yourself as a first-class Mathlete or have a decent case of arithmophobia, there’s no denying that a critical tool in the drive for better customer experience is data. Whatever your role within retail, data enables you to gain further understanding of the successes and failures of your operation, make predictions for the future and analyse trends – all of which can shape the way your business works. However, the biggest benefits are felt in what it can do for the customer. So how can retail data improve the customer experience? Let me count the ways! Number One: Customer journey analysis Understanding the behaviour of a customer is a vital part of being able to assist them; data enables businesses to predict trends and looking at data can track the journey customers take to purchasing an item. Observing how long they spend on particular parts of the purchasing process, such as product descriptions or images, will draw attention to where focus needs to be concentrated on a webpage. Likewise, looking at the route they take to the purchase the item is valuable; whether they come from a homepage directly, are looking around the site before going to checkout, or taking a much more direct approach from a social media post. The data obtained can be used to make this journey easier, smoother and more pleasurable for the customer. Number Two:  Targeted promotions Retail data can be used for more effective and impactful targeted promotions; rather than generic mailers, instead marketing messaging can be more focused, with individual offers and enticements aimed directly at a customer, based on their likes, interests and previous interactions. Recommendations as to what else they may like to purchase, products that are often purchased together and things in similar styles can all be made. Customer experience and satisfaction will be enhanced as recommendations are thoughtful and tailored – two things that are vital for any successful customer experience. Number Three: Make It Personal The advantages of retail data are not only felt in online retailing, but also in-store purchasing. Loyalty schemes can be tailored based on information that has been obtained, as a picture is built up about the behaviour of a customer. This can, of course, go hand in hand with offering traditional ‘discount coupons’ at POS systems or simply to give staff an awareness about what they could recommend to a customer. Retailers that operate specific in-store equipment, such as staff being equipped with iPads, will be able to take particular advantage of data, using information about a customer that is available to them immediately to help them on a more personal level. Number Four: What’s the Problem? Dealing with issues and problems efficiently and quickly is one of the major aspects of customer satisfaction and is something that data analytics helps with. With our Store Stock Management System, trends and spikes in the popularity of an item can be spotted and recognised rapidly, with action…
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Retail Assist Summer Drinks 2019
  • 24 Jun 2019
It’s Party Time!
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive There’s nothing like a birthday to give you a good excuse for a party, so on Wednesday 19th June 2019, we held our annual summer drinks event. Attended by our clients and partners, both old and new, we loved catching up with everyone whilst taking in the capital’s skyline views at the B&H Garden Room in London’s Leicester Square. And with the three Cs of fundamental birthday ingredients – cake, champagne and canapes – we all revelled as we welcomed Retail Assist into its next decade. Here’s a selection of our photos from the evening. A huge thank you to everyone who attended and helped us to celebrate!…
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Now We Are 20! Retail Assist Celebrates a Double Decade
  • 20 Jun 2019
Now We Are 20! Retail Assist Celebrates a Double Decade
This week, Retail Assist is very happy to celebrate turning 20! Having begun in June 1999, we have grown from a handful of team members serving just one client from an office in Bingham, Nottinghamshire, to 250 colleagues in multi-location offices across the UK, providing global scale support. We set out to provide Managed IT Services to retailers. From our initial support provided to Adams Childrenswear, our company rapidly gained an impressive client list in which we could name both Harvey Nichols and Whistles amongst our brands supported. We expanded our offering to provide software solutions to manage and centralise stock for retailers, and manage the data exchange between retailers and their trading partners, globally. At the same time, we extended our services to the hospitality sector, winning clients such as Vue Cinemas and Pizza Hut Restaurants, providing them with IT Help Desk support. Click here to watch the video on YouTube Winning multiple industry and global awards along the way, Retail Assist has grown significantly over the last 20 years and we have continued our growth trajectory. With investment gained in 2017 from the Foresight Group, we have continued to grow and have welcomed 18 new client brands, developed further software for the digital growth of retail, been shortlisted for 11 awards over the last two years, and have seen our turnover continue to grow, which is key to enabling investment in new solutions and services – something which is of prime importance to our team. Over the years, we have supported many of our clients through the challenges of the retail industry and have supported them to expand internationally, with 53% of our Help Desk analysts now multilingual, as well as being listed as the global winner of Best Service Desk CX Award at the Service Desk Institute Awards. Whilst we see long-term customers like Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Coast, Harvey Nichols and Paperchase continue their partnership with us, we have also seen new brands such as Ted Baker and Seasalt join our list of brands supported. We’ve come a long way since our initial support providing managed IT Services to just one brand, to now providing services or software solutions to 49 brands and counting. Celebrating with cake, balloons and a bottle of prosecco for every team member, colleagues had an opportunity to reflect on old photos and share memories. Chief Executive Officer, Dan Smith, says: “We come from many backgrounds, have many different skills and levels of experience, but we all know that when we step into the work environment of Retail Assist, we are working with colleagues who will go out of their way to help us to be successful in delivering great services and solutions to our clients. Reaching this milestone is testament to our team’s commitment and drive and I look forward to what the following decades will bring.”…
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Retail Assist Celebrates Its Platinum Anniversary
  • 17 Jun 2019
Now We Are 20! Retail Assist Celebrates Its Platinum Anniversary
Written by Alan Morris, Retail Assist’s Founder This year, Retail Assist will be 20 years old. Against a backdrop of fear that planes would fall out of the sky, power stations would melt down and – worst of all – tills in shops would stop ringing, in 1999 we created a business that was not only ‘Y2K compliant’ but ready for the 21st Century. By the mid 1990’s, it was clear to us that a paradox was occurring. Retailers were starting to demand more from technology but their attempts to harness the power and reap the benefits were being thwarted by a lack of technology providers that understood the sector. The big IT players dominated the industry and, whilst they were technically capable, they clearly didn’t understand the nuances of retailing. Alan Morris, Gary Broughton and Nigel Illingworth Recognising this, we created Retail Assist to be ‘retail ready’. We put the business use for the technology at the centre of everything we did. We created service level agreements that measured system performance in the overall context of business objectives; picking accuracy, sales data reporting and warehouse throughput were some of the outcomes measured each month, instead of just focusing solely on the technology layer as our competitors were doing. We employed people from a retail background to work on the front line of our operation to ensure the dialogue with our clients was conducted in a language that was meaningful to both sides – a standard that we still hold true today. We understood that retailers must be flexible; they have lots of ideas and need to act quickly to survive and get ahead of their competition. Yes, we needed processes and procedures to ensure that what we did was replicable to the highest quality standards, but rather than put in place a standard, off-the-shelf methodology, we took the best bits of several different ones and created our own. Adopting this meant that we were able to keep pace with our clients’ demands whilst maintaining order and control over the architectures we were building. As the retail industry continued to evolve, with new channels to market being created, expanding trading geographies and variable opening hours, our proposition changed too. We invested a lot of time, money and endeavour to ensure that we kept sight of where the retail industry was headed and where new technologies and innovations could support and drive retailers forward. But now the role of technology in retail has changed; it is no longer just about supporting existing processes and making them, bigger, better, stronger and faster. Technology now defines the retail operation because customers are demanding an experience that means its involvement is imperative. This means that retailers are having to re-invent themselves in order to remain relevant to their target customers: this is not an easy challenge and it is one that is testing every aspect of their business. The need for speed and flexibility around deployment to support the retail proposition has never been…
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Here’s to the next 20 years | Retail Assist
  • 10 Jun 2019
“Thank you all for making a difference – here’s to the next 20 years!” Retail Assist’s CEO, Dan Smith, reflects on our company’s development
Written by Dan Smith, Chief Executive Officer As we move quickly through spring into summer, it is useful to reflect upon some of the good news that is coming our way and also where we are in the two years since the new investment in Retail Assist – and 20 years since Retail Assist began! Since 2017, we have welcomed 18 new client brands, developed software for the digital growth of retail, have been shortlisted for 11 awards and seen the turnover of Retail Assist grow, which is key to enable us to invest in new solutions and services – something which is of prime importance to our team. Not only this, but we have supported many of our clients through the challenges of the retail industry and have supported them to expand internationally, with 53% of our Help Desk analysts now multilingual, as well as being listed as the global winner of Best Service Desk CX Awards at the Service Desk Industry Awards. A busy couple of years! Whilst we see long-term customers like Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Coast, Harvey Nichols and Paperchase continue their partnership with Retail Assist, we have also seen new brands such as Ted Baker and Seasalt join our list of brands supported. We’ve come a long way since our initial support providing managed IT Services to just one brand, to now providing services or software solutions to 49 brands and counting. The size of our team has also grown to 250 members, with investment in many areas – Client Services, Sales, Training and Development – and new roles to support our future growth in Technical and Desktop Services. We find ourselves with members of the RA team working at the heart of our clients in Karen Millen, Oasis, ASOS, amongst others, and delivering services and solutions to 68 countries worldwide in seven languages, including Italian, Spanish, German, French, Swedish, Dutch and English. But it’s not just our people that are being developed: we’ve been working hard to develop new software for our new brand, OMIO, with the first module, OMIO PIM, being released later this year and a client signed up ready to go with the solution. We are thrilled to support our clients – both old and new – in their future digital growth aspirations. We will also be releasing OMIO Tablet, a solution to enable stores to become mini distribution hubs, allowing store staff to accept online orders to ‘ship from store’ and our own ‘click and collect’ solution, which can be integrated into any ERP solution, all from a simple and user-friendly application. However, whilst the ambition to grow is important for us to remain a vibrant business, it is also very important to understand what determines our current and future success. So what is the DNA that runs through the successful Retail Assist team? Taking personal responsibility for the happiness of our clients, challenging ourselves to improve every day so that Retail Assist can better meet the demands of our…
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Ted Baker Customer Testimonial
  • 3 Jun 2019
“Retail Assist was by far and away the best partner for Ted’s retail brand” Our Customer Testimonial Series Continues With Ted Baker
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Having opened as a shirt specialist in 1987, Ted Baker has grown from its original store in Glasgow to the impressive international lifestyle brand it is today. With stores not only across the United Kingdom but also across the globe, Ted Baker’s impressive store estate – including airports and department stores – continues to provide excellent customer service, no matter what the trading hours. Ted Baker chose Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk to provide first-line IT services for Ted Baker stores across the UK and Europe, as a single point of contact for all IT-related issues, 7 days a week. We spoke to Simon Brealy, Global Service Delivery Manager, about why Ted Baker chose Retail Assist and what makes the service we deliver so valuable to their business. Click here to watch the video on YouTube After an RFP process, Ted Baker decided that “Retail Assist was by far and away the best partner for Ted’s retail brand”. Explaining what won Retail Assist the RFP, Simon added it was “the financial benefits of moving to a more European-centric partner”. He said: “Some of the best provision and offerings from Retail Assist were very much around the cost effectiveness, providing us with a 24/7 support function. Something that was critical for Ted Baker was the bilingual support we got from the team.” Simon explained that the benefit of outsourcing extra IT support has been clear. “Our service desk were looking after many hundreds of office based employees alongside looking after our retail partners. Since partnering with Retail Assist, we’ve been able to develop what (the service delivery within) Ted’s IT delivers; rather than focusing on 1st and 2nd line tickets coming in across our European estate, they’re now 100% dealt with by Retail Assist.” “Because of the standard Retail Assist has delivered to us, my service delivery teams have been able to focus much more on proactively supporting the business and focusing more on the project deliveries, which has in turn had a much more positive impact on the wider business.” If you’d like to hear more about how we can support your growing business requirements – and save you time and money in the process – then click here or email info@retail-assist.co.uk. Want to see more of our customer testimonial series? Click here to visit our YouTube page.…
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  • 28 May 2019
Collaborate to Innovate! How Retail Collaborations Can Grow Your Business
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Kate Moss and Topshop. Alexa Chung and M&S. Fearne Cotton and Cath Kidston. For years, celebrities have been teaming up with retailers to design their own, often limited edition, collections. Whilst the celebrity in question gets to add another string to their bow, retailers benefit from tapping into new audiences and engaging customers in a new and exciting way – often with a lot of hype. However, it’s not just celebrities that are getting in on the action. Increasingly we are seeing more and more collaborations between retailers, as brands are turning to other people with a different market share to work together to conquer the high street. How do retail collaborations encourage growth? The ultimate aim of any successful collaboration is that both parties benefit and take advantage of the market the other brings. This might come in the form of filling a gap in the market that previously existed, offering easier access to consumers or providing something strong and definitive that places both retailers far ahead of anything the competition can offer. An immediate PR boost can be felt by a retail collaboration as attention is drawn to the venture, which can also help with marketing. New contacts can be introduced, fresh and different expertise utilised, and ideas shared or implemented that were previously not possible. Doing things as part of a retail collaboration speeds up processes that may have taken a considerable amount of time. Potential new customers can be found and reached instantly, with all retailers involved in the collaboration being able to bring to the table the information they have collected over their separate trading experiences. What makes a successful retail collaboration? Like any successful collaboration, the best retail collaborations are based around shared agendas and aims. Retailers should offer goods that complement each other, but not be competitors, as well as targeting the same – or similar – audience. This means that joint audiences can be targeted and products offered together in a way that satisfies the customer and brings benefits to both retailers. In order for the collaborative process to be smooth, agreement on desired outcomes should be reached, and help brought in with the more practical and technical aspects of the collaboration, on a trading level.  Great retail collaboration examples include our customer, Oasis, collaborating with supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s, to have a store footprint within the supermarket estate. With Oasis’ fashion-forward designs, Oasis concessions have been carefully selected to be in Selly Oak and Sydenham supermarkets where Tu clothing performs particularly well. In the case of Selly Oak, its new flagship store, ‘complementary ranges (are) helping to make Sainsbury’s a fashion destination’ with Sainsbury’s clothing now accounting for £1bn of the retailer’s sales. Their partnerships allows Sainsbury’s to expand their fashion retail offering, whilst Oasis benefits from customers being able to pick up one of their dresses with the same convenience as a pint of milk. Other retail collaborations have been seen in Topshop Oxford Circus,…
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