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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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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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Are Your Systems Ready For Peak Trading
  • 28 Oct 2019
It’s That Time of Year Again… But Are Your Systems Ready for Peak Trading?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The leaves are falling, it’s definitely ‘wear a jacket’ weather and people are already moaning about seeing festive fare in the shops. Yes, it’s October, but is there ever a bad time to hear a Christmas song? I think not. (As a dedicated Christmas-lover, I’ve been known to play the odd festive tune in the summer. Haters, don’t @ me.) However, whilst some people might argue that Christmas starts earlier every year, there’s one thing you can never start too early – getting your systems ready for peak trading. Whether your busy trading period is Black Friday, the run up to Christmas or perhaps the post-Christmas sales, the prospect that all of your retail tech is in top condition is paramount for a thriving, positive in-store customer experience. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Here’s our peak trading checklist so you can check off what’s naughty or nice before Santa even gets to town. Want to hear how our award-winning Help Desk can support your stores over the festive season? Click here or get in touch at info@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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Retail Insights - Retail Connections Little Earthquakes Event
  • 21 Oct 2019
“Retail’s Never Boring!” Our Round-Up of the Retail Insights from ‘Little Earthquakes’ Retail Connections’ Event
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead It’s fair to say that there’s a lot going on in retail at the moment; Brexit uncertainty, shifts in customer behaviour, squashed margins, a plethora of new digital channels and a growing public conscience and responsibility surrounding sustainability are all presenting issues in our industry. Held at the One Aldwych Hotel, London, the Little Earthquakes event brought together both retailers and suppliers to discuss the current challenges that the industry is facing and to hear from three key brands to hear the different ways that they’re navigating these stormy retail seas. Chairing the evening was Retail Connections’ Chairman and Head of Innovation, Chris Field. He started: “What’s the truth? Let’s spend this evening between the optimism and pessimism of retail. What’s in front of you right now? At least retail’s never boring!” John Lewis – Focusing On Services and Staff First up to share his retail insights was Simon Russell, Director of Operations Development, John Lewis. Simon explained: “At John Lewis, we’re focusing on the services around the products. We’ve been around for 153 years and it’s fair to say now that our customers have bought a lot of stuff! But now there’s new emerging competition. How do you differentiate? And, once they’ve bought items, how do you keep them coming back?” “We need to be WAC – what Amazon can’t. If you want to buy ‘stuff’, there’s bags of competition. Wrapping services around our products with the trust that our brand has is key; customers don’t want to buy ‘things’, they want to buy solutions. “For example, if a customer wants to buy a ceiling light, that’s only half the problem: the other half is fitting it. We’ve trained our delivery drivers to offer this service. Another is with Waitrose; we know that our customers are often out of the house but need to get their food shopping delivered, so we’re trialling a service where customers can get a smart lock fitted so that our drivers have access and will put your shopping away if you’re out.” Simon explained that John Lewis’ personal styling service has seen a huge uptake in customer engagement – up 42% up from last year. The service is completely free for customers, with no obligation to buy. But it’s not just services that John Lewis are focusing on. Simon continued: “We truly believe that investing in our staff is a big differentiator and makes a huge difference to our business and to the customer experience. We want our front-line staff to feel empowered to solve problems.” Simon gave the example that in the mattress department, for example, those staff members are not only trained in the different mattress varieties, but are often sent to the factories to see the processes and different types being made, so as better to explain the reasoning behind prices or benefits of various models or fabrics used, etc. “It’s been a huge learning curve for us to leverage our staff, but to succeed,…
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The Top Halloween Retail Trends of 2019
  • 14 Oct 2019
All Treats, No Tricks! The Top Halloween Retail Trends of 2019
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead What’s scary, sweet and worth a lot of money? Halloween might have traditionally derived from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, but it could prove scary for retailers that choose to ignore its full potential. Here are the top Halloween retail trends of 2019. Haunt Couture: America Halloween Retail Trends The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Halloween survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, explored the American trends set to take this year by storm. Shoppers say they will spend an average of $86.27 each this Halloween (a figure which is down just slightly from $86.79 in 2018). So how does that translate into spending? The breakdown of each category is suggested as $31.05 on costumes, $26.03 for decorations, $25.37 on sweets and $3.82 on greetings cards, showing a shift away from the perception that Halloween is merely celebrated as a food and drink event, allowing more scope for retailers to cash in. But how are consumers looking to participate? 69% plan to celebrate by handing out sweets, with 49% planning on decorating their homes, 44% will carve a pumpkin, 32% will throw or attend a party, 29% will take their children trick-or-treating, 22% will visit a haunted house and 47% are planning on dressing in costume. And it’s not just the humans – 17% of people plan to dress their pet in costume too, with the most popular pet costumes including pumpkins, hotdogs and superheroes. Whilst 35% of those surveyed cited online search as their top source of costume inspiration, the most popular adult costumes don’t really deviate from the most traditional: 8.9% said they planned on going as a witch, with 3.6% dressing as vampires and 3.1% as superheroes. Historically, the UK has a tendency to mirror the USA’s retail trends, so it’s interesting to see the rise of 18-24 year olds planning on taking part this year; although Halloween might be associated more with children going trick-or-treating, there’s a rise of young adults participating, with 66% of 18-24-year-olds in 2009 to 73% in 2019. Is this something that we’ll see mirrored on our side of the pond this year? Spooky Figures? UK Halloween Retail Trends In 2018, Halloween proved a real treat for retailers; although traditionally more of an American holiday than one celebrated on our side of the Atlantic, 51.5% of UK consumers spent on the occasion. Emily Salter, Retail Analyst for GlobalData, who conducted the survey, said: “More consumers bought clothing and costumes, driven by 16-34 year olds participating in Halloween events where dressing up is encouraged. Additionally, clothing retailers including ASOS and Topshop launched Halloween discounts across their websites on the day of the event, using the occasion as an excuse to drive sales across the board.” And it’s not just online opportunities for brands to take part; with Halloween now the third biggest retail event (behind Christmas and Easter), it means that bricks-and-mortar retailers have an opportunity to engage with their customer base. Ojay McDonald, Chief Executive at the…
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Why Omnichannel is Essential for Modern Retailing
  • 7 Oct 2019
Take a Chance Omni! Why Omnichannel is Essential for Modern Retailing
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead Recently, it seems that you can’t open a newspaper without hearing about the ‘death of the high street’ and how the rise of online shopping is bringing about its demise. Whilst there might be some pertinent arguments surrounding this issue, one thing is clear: in today’s society, customers have evolved to shop exactly how – and when – they want to. Whether that’s shopping online or in-store, convenience is king and retailers that fail to support this will find themselves struggling in this challenging retail climate. This is why omnichannel retailing is so vital to retailers. It’s important to recognise its central work and the very reason why it operates: making the shopping experience for a customer absolutely seamless. Whatever device they may be using to access online purchases, whichever physical location they may be visiting at the time – or even both options at once – all channels must be intrinsically interlinked.  The major advantages of achieving this position of seamless interaction are the positives it brings to the customer experience. Providing access not just to the products themselves, but all the other information such as materials, sizes, dimensions and reviews – at whatever time of day or selling channel – is vital. When these can be supplied across multiple platforms, the customer can be fully engaged.  How Do Omnichannel Customers Shop? Increasing the engagement which customers have involves knowledge and awareness of their shopping habits and actions. Omnichannel customers will fit into many different brackets: there will be those who see items in physical locations, consider them, then complete the purchase on an online platform, as well as those who reverse that process. Some may investigate making an online purchase whilst in-store, if they consider this more convenient or availability of things like sizes or colour is greater. Others will simply use one platform and one platform only. Omnichannel retailing ensures that all of these habits can not only be catered for but encouraged and allowed to thrive; crucially, it is also the only way to ensure that this happens.  What Do Retailers Need to Support an Omnichannel Process? Firstly, keeping the product information relevant and up-to-date is critical. If a product changes the design it uses or if different materials are used, getting this across quickly and efficiently to consumers should be a priority. Using software such as a PIM solution will help to minimise inaccuracies as PIM uses a single point of data entry, so that any changes can be implemented immediately across every platform, without the need for this to be manually handled with the chance of error this may bring.   While the customer journey may embrace all of these stages, it will come to a halt if an item is found to be ‘out of stock’ or ‘unavailable’. Loyalty will be lost as they look elsewhere and other retailers will be able to step in and poach the unsatisfied customer. Using an omnichannel supply chain solution, such as…
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How technology can improve the hospitality customer experience
  • 30 Sep 2019
Eat In or Tech Away? How Technology Can Improve the Hospitality Customer Experience
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead It’s hard to imagine a hospitality experience before technology. At this point in the 21st Century, the thought of a hospitality business not having a social media presence seems absurd, with EPOS systems now ubiquitous, online ordering systems commonplace, electric order screens being utilised in restaurant kitchens, iPads being used to deliver customer receipts, or even robots used to deliver food (as was the case for Alibaba’s restaurant, Freshippo). Whilst there are many aspects of hospitality that can only be benefited from a warm welcome and a friendly face, what new developments in retail technology solutions can further improve the hospitality customer experience? And what are the emerging trends in the hospitality sector? Recognition Technology Prevalent in other aspects of life, the ability to recognise images, faces and fingerprints is perfect for the hospitality industry. Access to hotel and guest accommodation, for example, can be granted based on recognition of biometric data, whilst orders can be made based on images and purchases conducted instantly. There can also be considerable security benefits as well as a streamlining of the management processes that occur in any hospitality business. Tablets and mobile technology It’s one of the most common retail industry technology solutions of the past decade and now the idea of using a mobile or tablet to conduct a transaction is so installed in the minds of customers. However, the impact it can bring to the hospitality industry is perhaps still to be exploited; key cards for hotels could be issued via mobile phones, guest check-ins done via tablets and room service orders conducted using in-room devices are just three areas which can be more widespread and utilised. Restaurant, café and bar menus could be studied at tables via tablets, with orders being placed via the same method. However, like all methods of technology, ensuring that the correct structure is in place to support in-store IT equipment is paramount to maintaining a consistent and seamless hospitality customer experience. Our award-winning IT Help Desk already provides support to key hospitality businesses, such as Vue and Pizza Hut Restaurants, to safeguard their systems and to enable our hospitality customers the opportunity to grow and expand. Augmented and Virtual Reality Although Virtual Reality is certainly nothing new, it could potentially influence how hospitality businesses market and promote themselves to potential customers. By allowing the user to fully explore a virtual environment by placing themselves in it, it is the ideal tool to use to show people what they are booking; rooms can be looked at, areas fully explored, and customer satisfaction improved as they discover exactly how environments will be before they arrive. Augmented reality differs slightly in that it doesn’t require such complex technology and can therefore be more accessible to a wider range of people. Customers can use their smartphone or tablet to create ‘information overlays’: for instance, pointing their device at something and seeing something extra, displayed on their screen. Uses in the hospitality world could…
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