IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Whats In-Store for 2015?

  • 29 Dec 2014
Whats In-Store for 2015?
Following on from our Twitter series #RATechXmas where we have been looking in to statistics around retail shopping habits and the growing dependency on technology for both consumers and retailers – we wanted to further explore the impact of technology in-store and how this looks set to grow in 2015. Changing customer shopping habits will certainly be the driver in direction for in-store innovation in 2015. Customers want user experience, convenience and personalisation and retailers are striving to achieve this. Technology will play a huge part in in the direction of the omnichannel journey, even highlighting the importance of side-line tech such as iBeacons. iBeacons are promoted as a way to push out messages to people and track shoppers movements in-store providing an interesting angle from which to monitor shopping habits. The changing nature of technology will be reflected in in-store design, and this is also driven by how comfortable and familiar shoppers have become with using technology in-store and the overall omnichannel journey. Peter Cross, Communications Director at John Lewis comments; “They move effortlessly between channels, yet 85% of shopping experience still involves the shop in the same way. And so it’s really retailers looking forensically at what this means for each channel in the future.” Retailers need to really analyse the purpose of the bricks-and-mortar shop and what role it will play in the shopping journey. In 2015 customer facing technology will become the norm. for many retailers and if it isn’t in your 2015 plans it really should be as it will grow to be an expected requirement for many shoppers. In 2014 there was much questioning of the physical store and its future. However instead of dying out, the physical store seems to have become very much a part of the omnichannel journey. The advances in technology and indeed delivery options such as click-and-collect have actually had an extremely positive effect and have helped to revive the store experience. As long as retailers remember that the store is part of the overall shopping journey and embrace in-store technology they will definitely not be facing extinction in 2015 – but continue to move from strength to strength. The way in which stores evolve is very much becoming part of the social fabric of consumer lives.  No longer content with a simple shopping trip, consumers want a social experience and again this is a factor for retailers to bear in mind in 2015. By providing engaging spaces that really stand out from the crowd retailers will still attract consumers, providing connections with their audience at every stage of their shopping journey. Live demos, interactive displays and the creation of social hubs will give shoppers more reason to not only visit your store but also remain in their for longer periods of time. Aesthetics will be vital – having engaging shop windows, the correct lighting/music and creative store layouts will further develop you customer offering, creating the experience you customers expect and demand; making the whole shopping process a…
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  • 22 Dec 2014
Black Friday vs Boxing Day
Click here to read our shopping survey results for Black Friday 2017. Click here to read our shopping survey results for Black Friday 2016. In the UK Boxing Day is a well-established tradition in the retail calendar. However, over the past couple of years, the American import that is Black Friday is proving to be tough competition. While the event has been an important part of the US shopping calendar since the 1960s, Black Friday has only been running in the UK for four years and already looks set to overtake Boxing Day. Retailers are jumping on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday trends by kicking off the festive sales nice and early, and helping to boost not only footfall but also customer engagement. The extraordinary success of this event has got many experts thinking about whether Black Friday could fundamentally change the UK shopping calendar. Online Director at John Lewis, Mark Lewis, commented; “Black Friday has definitely become one of the key dates in the UK’s shopping calendar. Following steady growth over the last few years, Black Friday really emerged in the UK in 2013, when we saw the day break our previous records for a single day’s online trade.” Lewis added; “Black Friday is changing the way our customers plan their Christmas shopping.” Some experts have warned that with this growth in popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday it could mean the death of Boxing Day sales. From a consumer’s point of view, why would they want to rummage through all of the left over stock when you could pick up cheap Christmas presents a month before the big day? But with price drops in the lead up to Christmas, it doesn’t leave retailers much scope to further reduce prices on 26th December. Tesco says it expects Black Friday to beat Boxing Day sales in 2014 as it reported discounts of as much as 70%. According to Visa on Black Friday, consumers spent £1m on its cards every 3minutes throughout the day. Both IBM and Adobe highlighted the impressive impact of mobile devices over the long weekend that included both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Adobe commented; “Smartphones nearly doubled their share of total online sales on both days.” IBM added; “Thanksgiving Day mobile traffic accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic – the first time mobile devices has outpaced their PC counterparts for online browsing.” An estimated £810m was spent online by British shoppers on Black Friday, according to internet retail experts IMRG – this was an increase of 74% on 2013 figures. Cyber Monday also showed an increase on last year’s figures of 44%. Even if the sales season continues on through to Boxing Day, it’s unlikely we will see the same success that was had on Black Friday. Needless to say how retailers perform on 26th December this year will be a key indicator of things to come in the future of retail sales.…
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  • 15 Dec 2014
Shopping in a Social Hub
Retailers work hard to ensure their customers can enjoy a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience, but with the added complexities of personalisation and brand loyalty to contend with customers expect more than just a new item of clothing from their shopping experience. Customers want ‘shoppertainment’. They expect the in-store experience to provide this, not only delivering the product they want, but also want excellent customer service and a visually stimulating and engaging environment. They want to be able to socialise whilst doing their shopping and make more of an event out of the process. High-street retailers have had to work hard drawing shoppers back in to the city centres, and with the lure of the internet this has been an even harder challenge. Research consultancy Allegra Strategies had revealed that coffee shops on the high street help to boost footfall by almost 30% and local economies. Over 50% of consumers questioned stated that they would be more likely to stay and shop in a city centre destination if there was a coffee shop nearby. Retailers are therefore submerging themselves in these ‘social hubs’ but that is not all they are doing. They are also developing in-store experiences to not only drive customers in store, but also to keep them in there for as long as possible. Creating digital content displays in stores is one way in which retailers are working to keep customers engaged in the physical store. Burberry for example presents their runway collection on large screens and provides the ability for customers to order items seen in the collection from iPads. Magic Mirrors and other emerging in-store technology helps to elevate the in-store experience allowing customers to virtually try on one garment and see how it would look on them in differing colours and styles. This is also developing in regards to social media with customers now able to share the outfits they are trying on via multiple social networks for instant feedback from family and friends. Drawing on the coffee shop theme, stores such as White Stuff regularly advertise tea mornings where they draw customers in with the lure of tea and cake. It is through ‘social hubs’ and use of current and emerging technologies that increases footfall in stores but also delivers endless ways in which to combat the engagement and brand loyalty aspect of consumer expectations. Just remember that all this needs to be linked seamlessly and consistently with your overall omnichannel offering. If you are interested in Retail Assist and would like to see how we could help improve you in-store experience by helping you to deliver an omnichannel experience then please take a look at our website: Or you can get in touch with us via email: or call us on: 0115 853 3910.…
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  • 11 Dec 2014
Software and Hardware Upgrade and Migration
December 2014: Drawing on their knowledge of IT and retail, Retail Assist’s project managers have successfully managed the upgrade and migration of new hardware and software for one of their customers – providing them with an increased level of support and efficiency. Retail Assist’s customer, a speciality retailer with over 500 stores in the UK, who already receives technical support from Retail Assist, has once again turned to them. This time to facilitate and manage the upgrade of their operating system, and the upgrade of their hardware system; resulting in an increased level of support. The speciality retailer commented; “We were running on an unsupported operating system throughout our stores and head office so often encountered challenges obtaining a reliable and secure communications infrastructure. With aging hardware we also had added issues around our hardware support. The requirement to upgrade all hardware and software was of paramount importance for future retail growth.” Heading towards the Christmas change freeze added additional challenges to the project as no further software or hardware changes could be made beyond September. Timescale and cost were key project challenges, giving Retail Assist a mere 7 month window in which to manage the upgrade and migration of new hardware and software, and to complete the project, allowing no scope for time creep. The project was completed on time even with the added pressures of project changes and additions along the way, including a change to the IP address scheme. Planning and testing were crucial aspects of this project and due to the precision in which these elements were conducted both intermediate and overall deadlines were met. The project was delivered within budget due to Retail Assist analysing areas of cost savings. By replacing the existing equipment a reduction in the number of racks being used was made, lowering hosting costs. Following a decommissioning exercise Retail Assist were able to help their customer downsize from 19 different partitions to 11. This meant a reduction in licencing costs, and also reduced support costs due to the updated kit, helping to deliver further efficiency in both performance and cost. Dan Smith, Chief Executive Officer – Managed Services said; “Due to the work that was carried out our customer was left with a much faster processing system, which resulted in time benefits and a brilliant working relationship due to the hard work and great communication between both Retail Assist and our customers teams. The project was delivered on time and within budget, helping to reduce costs from hosting, licencing, maintenance and support.” Retails Assist’s customer concluded; “With the smooth transition and management of the upgrade across all software and hardware, we are now in a much stronger position for future retail trading ahead of the key Christmas period.”…
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  • 8 Dec 2014
Retail Assist Dictionary Week 3: IT Solutions
Retail Technology is ever growing and changing and it’s with these changes that new terminology is evolving. We thought we would provide you with a useful Retail Assist dictionary so you can keep up to date with some of the most prevalent retail technology buzz words. This week we will be exploring terminology that surrounds IT solutions, and this is the 3rd and final Retail Assist dictionary blog. You can see week 1 ‘International’ here and week 2 ‘On the Go Technology’ here. Supply Chain: This is a network of businesses and contractors that work and coordinate closely together to manufacture, transport, distribute, and sell retail goods. Unlike a regular supply chain which is more of a linear process that follows a product from one phase to the next, an integrated supply chain is more collaborative and can entail joint product development, shared information, and common systems. Merret is our supply chain solution that has been designed and constructed for today’s omnichannel age. Merret provides a complete end-to-end solution, with a single stock pool, allowing retailers to maximise trade across numerous customer facing systems. Merret also provides a seamless shopping experience across all available channels whilst utilising a single stock pool, enabling customers to shop the brand, not just the channel. Central Stock Pool: Merret stock management enables sophisticated, in-season management of product ranges. Merchandisers are able to effectively manage complex assortments, allocating and replenishing stock, by channel. Merret significantly reduces the complexity inherent in the omnichannel grading, initial allocation and replenishment processes. Merret’s Weekly Sales Stock and Intake (WSSI), is a vital tool for in-season planning within stock management. The WSSI tool within Merret provides an accurate weekly position of sales, stock and planned intake, ensuring that crucial allocation, replenishment and pricing decisions are made, from up to date and correct information. From the single stock pool vision, stock can be managed efficiently and effectively across multiple global retail channels. Omnichannel: The next generation of cross-channel and multi-channel retail. Omnichannel means establishing a presence on several channels and platforms (i.e. brick-and-mortar, mobile, online, catalogue etc) and enabling customers to transact, interact, and engage across these channels simultaneously or even interchangeably, whilst receiving a consistent brand experience. Omnichannel, for example, gives customers the convenience and flexibility to purchase an item using your shopping app, and then letting them pick up the merchandise in your store, plus allowing them to process a return via the website. It’s important to note that omnichannel goes beyond simply being on multiple channels or platforms. Just because you have a website, a mobile app, and a physical store doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an omnichannel retailer. In order to truly be one, you must fuse all those channels together so they give customers a seamless and consistent experience. Multichannel: This term refers to companies using multiple channels (e.g. social media, web and stores) to transact with their customers. Companies with this approach are adopting two or more channels to engage their customers; however, they are…
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  • 1 Dec 2014
Retail Assist Dictionary Week 2: On the Go Technology
Every year brings its own set of retail buzz words, and the last few years have been no different, awash with terms that describe these fast changing retail trends. That is why over the next couple of weeks we will be exploring this new and expanding terminology, with our Retail Assist dictionary of key terms. Last week we looked at ‘International’ retail terminology which can be viewed here. This week we are focussing on ‘On the go Technology’ and next week we explore ‘Omnichannel Retailing’. Mobile Device: A mobile device is a small, handheld computing device, typically having a touch screen display. It’s a computing device that has an operating system (OS), and can run various types of apps. Most handheld devices are also often equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities and also have access to the internet. Smartphones are popular mobile devices, they are easily carried on your person and are amongst some of the most powerful and practical mobile devices. Smartphones can be a valuable asset for both customers and retail workers alike. It gives customers the ability to access knowledge about an item prior to purchase, and it allows retail employees to provide a more personalised service. Tablet devices are a form of mobile device and with low cost tablet based computing, retailers can now bring technology onto the sales floor at an acceptable cost. Employing mobile technology enables retailers to tap into smarter ways of keeping check on stock. Unlike the previous generation of Hand Held Terminals, today’s Tablets are multifunctional devices, enabling your store teams to manage inventory, to browse the catalogue and process their emails and store instructions. For more information on mobile devices please click here. Mobile Payments: This pertains to the services and technology that enables consumers to pay using their mobile phones, instead of traditional forms of payment like cash or credit cards. Mobile payment solutions come in many forms, including; Near Field Communication (NFC)-based solutions such as ISIS or Google Wallet, and app-based solutions like PayPal. Relationship Retailing: This is a strategy that businesses implement to build loyalty and forge long-term relationships with customers. Relationship retailing can come in the form of loyalty programs, personalised experiences, or tailored customer service. eCommerce: Electronic commerce, is trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the internet. It draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic transfer of funds, supply chain management, internet marketing, online process of transactions, data collection and inventory management systems. Etailing: Short for “Electronic Retailing”, this is the practice of selling goods over the Internet. Etailers come in all shapes and sizes, and can be as big as giants like Amazon and as small as stay-at-home mums selling crafts online. Etailing has seen tremendous growth over the years, thanks to the emergence of platforms that make it easy for just about anyone to buy and sell online. In 2012, comScore reported that retail e-commerce spending amounted to over $44 billion in the US alone, which was…
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  • 28 Nov 2014
Black Friday 2014
Black Friday has a massive impact on the retail sector and as an IT company that works largely with retailers we wanted to explore exactly what Black Friday means and find out where the term came from. History Black Friday is the day that immediately follows the American holiday, Thanks Giving, which falls on every 4th Thursday in November. It is also the unofficial kick off of the retail Christmas shopping season, but it hasn’t always been this way. The term ‘Black Friday’ was first established by traffic police in Philadelphia in 1924, long before traffic lights. Although not an official holiday day many employers used to give their employees the day off so that they could take advantage of the discounts that were on offer. However this was not the case for the Philadelphia traffic police who weren’t permitted to have the day off to enjoy some retail therapy, instead they had to man the streets and try and contain the madness. They were rotated on 12 hour duty and even the police band had to lend a hand controlling the traffic in the city centre. So it was not uncommon to see the police band’s trumpet player waving traffic through. Not only did these police officers have to manage the high volumes of car and foot traffic during the day, but also when night-time fell they had to then deal with the crowds that descended on the streets to watch the Army/Navy football game. The Philadelphia Police Department starting using the term “Black Friday” as a negative term surrounding the hassle they would face in policing the day, to try and deter people from venturing out on the streets. The term then got adopted by retailers to signifythe transition of retailer’s financial records moving from the ‘red’ in to the ‘black’ i.e. back into profit. Now the term is becoming widely accepted in the UK, since Amazon first started launching Black Friday deals in 2010, and Asda with their buying power of Walmart behind them in 2013. Today Depending on your perspective Black Friday could be seen as a frantic shopping experience that makes you just want to crawl back under your duvet, or it could be a great opportunity to pick up a bargain just in time for the expensive Christmas period. Black Friday has clearly changed over the years, something that started as an America traffic issue has transgressed in to a shopping bonanza that each year keeps exceeding the targets reached in previous years. The internet has fundamentally changed the concept of Black Friday forever. There is no longer the need to start queuing outside stores from the early hours of the morning in the cold, or even the night before. Last year Amazon’s busiest trading time was at 1pm on Black Friday. This year’s projection for online sales shows that in the UK alone shoppers will spend £1m every 3 minutes which is £6k every second. In the US total sales have been estimated…
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  • 25 Nov 2014
The Retail Future’s Bright so let’s put on Google Glasses
With technology revolutionising the way we shop what does the future hold? November 2014: “The way people shop has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 20,” states Alan Morris, Executive Chairman of Retail Assist. “The age of online has revolutionised the way we shop and we have seen a progression from desktops through to laptops, mobile and tablets aiding our online shopping habits and forcing retailers to reinvent themselves in the digital age.” Continued Morris. It is now over 20 years since the first widely recognised online purchase of the ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’ album by Sting, sold for $12.48 plus shipping – and this was just the tip of the retail technology ice-burg. Over the last 20 years a lot has happened, there has been the launch of pure play e-tailers, such as ASOS and Ocado, whose business models simply wouldn’t exist without technology. In 2004 Facebook launched and become the largest online social media site, alongside later developments like Trip Advisor, in which customers were able to start generating their own online content. We have also seen the launch of the iPhone, and the online trading currency payment system, BITCOIN. Over the last two decades technology has progressed from a behind the scenes support system to an instrumental factor in long-term retail growth. Consumers are without doubt setting the pace for these changes in retail, and this means that companies have to be agile and fluid in order to keep up. With such exciting and dramatic changes having taken place throughout the last 20 years, what can we expect from the technology of tomorrow? Predictive Personalisation – Currently when placing a food order online systems remember your previous orders and makes the whole process easier second time round, automatically adding these items to your basket. But in the future this will progress even further with ‘predictive personalisation’ – systems actually recognising and encouraging sales in relation to your likes and dislikes, generating brand affinity – and this will not just be in regards to grocery retailing. Furthermore this could lead to the movement of computers from back-line to front-line, with the computer adopting the role of the manager, making the crucial decisions that the physical staff will then have to adhere to. Click-and-Collect – This still holds massive scope for future developments. Not only will the service become more popular, with a predicted 76% of online shoppers using the service by 2017, but will also help to shape and develop the high-street. This Christmas click-and-collect sales are estimated to reach highs of £3 billion, which is a 40% increase on last year. Additionally, retail consultancy firm Conlumino has predicted that each trip to collect click-and-collect purchases will result in a spontaneous spend of £27. With results like this and currently only two thirds of the top high-street retailers offering the service we expect this number to expand rapidly in 2015. ‘Shoppable videos’ – Video content which generates retail sales are already starting…
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  • 24 Nov 2014
Retail Assist Dictionary Week 1: International
  At Retail Assist we are passionate about the future of retail technology. The developments within this sector are dramatically changing the way retailers operate and consumers shop. Global expansion is the future for many retailers, and is opening up numerous possibilities. With the help of technology global expansion and omnichannel shopping are possible. Perpetual advances in retail technology means there is always new terminology to get to grips with, and this is why we have created a Retail Assist Dictionary of key terms and how our solutions facilitate these retailing requirements. Over the next three weeks we will be focussing on three key themes that will reflect the featured terminology and definitions. This week will be ‘International’, week 2 will be ‘On the go Technology’ and week 3 will focus on ‘Omnichannel Retailing’. Ra-X Data Exchange: Trading across multiple locations presents many challenges in the sending and receiving of data, as it is often in varying data formats. Ra-X is our data exchange software solution set up to manage the transfer of business critical data between our customers, their trading locations, trading partners and suppliers across the UK and overseas. Ra-X is a “Cloud” based solution providing customers with a low cost, and high dependency solution to a significant business operation, and facilitates efficient global trading. Global Retailers: We know how important it is for retailers to be able to trade more effectively with their global trading partners, across company owned stores, concessions, standalone stores and franchises. Global expansion is a massive factor for a number of our customers, already we support over 3333 stores in over 62 countries, and this number just keeps on growing. Having the ability to expand worldwide opens retailers up to a wealth of opportunities, including more profitable and successful trading relationships, with existing and future partners across the world. Information received will be transformed into the correct format, sent to your trading system and used to make key strategic decisions. Multi-currency: With global retailing, systems need to be able to trade effectively across multiple currency rates, managing not only currency exchange, but different taxation. Our supply chain solution, Merret, and data exchange solution Ra-X, manage and allow retailers to price goods and services in a variety of foreign currencies, while continuing to receive settlement and reporting in their home currency. Cloud: Simply put cloud computing is an emerging model that allows its users to access their databases from anywhere, with any connected device. A virtualised infrastructure will increase availability and connectivity with end users, but most importantly provide a scalable solution without the requirement for a large capital outlay from the outset and throughout. Time zones: Global retailing requires retailers to trade wherever and whenever they can, across multiple territories, with multiple partners, in multiple time zones. We now live and trade in an ‘always on’ world, requiring retailers to be able to support customers purchasing requirements around the clock. Merret, our supply chain solution and Ra-X, manages the information sharing, automatically taking…
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  • 17 Nov 2014
What can you expect from Shoppers this Christmas?
With Halloween now out of the way retailers are full steam ahead for the manic Christmas period. The fight is certainly underway to attract more custom than in 2013 and with the economy on the rise you would expect consumers to be ready to splurge this Christmas. However there is some evidence to suggest customers will be maintaining a tight hold on their purse strings this festive period. 57% of online shoppers plan to spend more than last year with 26% of online consumers planning to spend the same. There is however 33% who plan to spend less than previous years; and while inflation is still low, wages are still lagging behind and this constraint on the household income could be a factor in the percentage of people planning to spend less this Christmas. Online shopping is going to be a massive contributor in the results of retail Christmas spends this year and becoming more prevalent during the busy Christmas period will be a connected and seamless omnichannel offering. With the development and growth in technology, especially smartphones and tablets, it is likely to attract a high volume of shopping traffic. On average over the past 3 years online shopping has increased in December by 19%, and click-and-collect is set to increase by 40% found Conlumino. Research has also found that 52% of consumers plan on doing most of their Christmas shopping before December, meaning it will be a busy end to November 2014. Of the early shoppers 58% are female compared to 46% of men. With the abnormally warmer weather for the season it has meant that the Christmas shopping period has got off to a slower than normal start and could result in a turbulent trading period. The unusual weather has also had an impact on the autumn trading period, so could this have a knock on effect on the success of Christmas trading? Unless we experience an imminent cooler spell forcing shoppers to start purchasing a winter wardrobe, retailers may have to consider pre-Christmas price reductions. This could however drive in shoppers who are searching for the perfect Christmas bargain but would impact retailer spend margins. This Christmas period will not go by without its up’s and down’s and it’s sure to be a nail biting finish. In our view retailers will fare the storm and this nursery rhyme seems to nicely sum up the current retail situation; “Whether the weather be fine Or whether the weather be not Whether the weather be cold Or whether the weather be hot We’ll weather the weather Whatever the weather Whether we like it or not.” For more information about our services and solutions or how our Merret supply chain solution could help you provide a seamless shopping experience across all available channels whilst utilising a single stock pool, then please visit our website at: or for more information why not email us: or call us: 0115 853 3910. You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram…
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