IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


Rebound Returns
  • 22 Oct

Return to sender: why ReBOUND Returns are leading the revolution

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive at Retail Assist It’s Thursday lunchtime: you’ve got a huge event on Friday night and you desperately need something to wear. Looking through your shopping apps, you panic buy ten things with Next Day Delivery in the hope that something might fit the bill. It all arrives in time, but alas – nothing works: it’s either too big, too small or just doesn’t suit you. So you pack everything back up, fill out your returns note, drop it off at the Post Office or local shop accepting returns and wait for your refund to come through. It’s by no means a new concept to buy things online: in fact, one in every £5 spent in UK shops is now online (source: Telegraph). However, with more and more of us shopping from the comfort of our sofas, brands are having to catch up. With returns proving to be a costly service to run, it’s something that is taking up more and more of a retailer’s resources. We recently attended and part sponsored the Returns Revolution Conference, hosted by ReBOUND Returns. Held at The Skyloft at the Millbank Tower, London, ReBOUND Returns invited key retailers and industry experts to discuss the issues facing returns and how retailers can plan efficiently. We wanted to share with you some of the industry insights that were highlighted during the course of the day. To start the day, we heard from ASOS. Although many businesses outsource their returns process, ASOS have a dedicated returns team, and, because of this, feel able to make more informed decisions through data gathering, which allows them to predict and forecast return rate patterns – a clear advantage to any retailer. The thinking was that it will be the returns process, rather than any other factor, that will soon distinguish brands from their competition across the marketplace. With this in mind, it was fantastic to hear how our shared client, ASOS, uses returns to their benefit. Alistair Sercombe, Returns Programme Manager at N Brown Group (owners of fashion brands such as Simply Be and Jacamo, amongst others) revealed that returns are roughly costing retailers a huge £20 billion annually. He highlighted the need for retailers to work with different partners to avoid these costs and to build an integrated returns chain. Neil Kuschel, CEO Europe at e-commerce technology company, Global-e, presented his thoughts on ‘Cracking International Markets’, highlighting the need for a strong and dependable returns service, concluding that ‘returns is about creating a lifetime value with a customer’. If a retailer has a great returns process, in addition to the positive buying experience, that customer is much more likely to buy with that retailer again and again. Whilst we may be thinking of our UK returns process improvements, the day certainly highlighted the difference in returns globally, particularly those cited in Japan and Taiwan. We heard from Royale who shared insights with us which suggested that whilst online shopping is growing, the returns policies…
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is Amazon Go the future of bricks-and-mortar stores?
  • 15 Oct

No cash, no queues, no worries – is Amazon Go the future of bricks-and-mortar stores?

By Anna Murphy, Communications Executive You’re in the supermarket. You see the person in front of you pick up a loaf of bread and put it in their handbag. Next, they reach for an apple and put it in their pocket. By the time you’ve walked down to the next aisle, they’ve squirreled away more than ten items, yet they’re not carrying a shopping basket. After this, you see them walk out of the shop without paying. Are they shoplifting? Or are they buying their groceries from an Amazon Go store? For customers just popping in to get a few food or household items on their lunchbreak, supermarkets can be a laborious task. Queueing for checkouts, even though a customer might only have a couple of things in their basket, can be time-consuming. Amazon Go promises a stress-free store experience, removing the need for queues, tills or even cash and physical card payments altogether. The Amazon Go store in Chicago How does it work? Before entering, a customer simply downloads the free Amazon Go app on their mobile phone, which is linked to their Amazon account. This is scanned in on entry. From this moment on, cameras and computer technology track the customer around the supermarket until they leave, where they walk out without anyone else checking their items or asking for payment. An itemised bill is then emailed to the customer, including details of the time spent within the store, and a payment, linked to the information on their Amazon account, is deducted. Amazon Go’s technology is similar to that of self-driving car, using a combination of machine learning, computer vision and sensors, which detect whenever an item is taken off – or put back on – a shelf. Customers must first download the Amazon Go app before they pass through the barriers Once they’ve downloaded the app, customers simply swipe their access code through the barriers to start their shopping experience Once they’ve exited the store, customers receive an itemised bill and payment is taken What can I buy at Amazon Go? Customers can purchase anything that they could also buy from their local convenience shop. Food, household cleaning products and toiletries all line the shelves, from basics to ‘Amazon Meal Kits’, where customers can get all the ingredients they need for a certain recipe, ready to be cooked at home. The range might not be considered as extensive as some of the larger supermarkets offerings, but the emphasis is more on convenience, and, specifically, speed, than variety or choice. Customers can browse from a range of various products, with cameras tracking the items that are lifted on and off the shelves Amazon Go offers a range of various food, drink, toiletries and household products Is Amazon Go the future of retail? Amazon’s new store technology is certainly exciting; indeed, the ease of walking in and walking out – without being stopped – is a clear advantage. However, that being said, when we visited one of the Chicago…
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Omnichannel vs Multichannel
  • 8 Oct

Omnichannel vs Multichannel Solutions

In the world of retail, omnichannel solutions are sometimes placed in the same bracket as a multichannel solution. There is, however, a large difference between the two, with both offering different benefits to the retailer and, ultimately, the consumer. What are omnichannel solutions? Omnichannel retailing essentially aims to give any customer an experience that is fully joined up, connected and integrates all channels, however the customer has chosen to shop. Everything should be seamless. For example, imagine a customer visits a retailer’s website; they go to buy a dress, add it to their online basket, but change their mind and exit the browser before completing the purchase. Later, the brand emails the customer mentioning a discount code, and places subtle, unobtrusive adverts on Facebook, which the customer views on their mobile phone. The customer then changes their mind again, uses their mobile to buy the item via the brand’s app that they have on their mobile and has it delivered to their home address; after delivery, the customer can either keep the item or perhaps might choose to return it to a store of their choice. All options are available, meaning that the sales channels are connected and operate universally. By embracing the fact that customers may well choose to browse in store before considering and purchasing online, omnichannel retailing can give retailers an advantage over their rivals: they are not limited to an ‘either/or’ approach, but instead can integrate their messaging into the consumer’s interaction with the brand, both physical and digital. As mentioned, a good omnichannel approach might also incorporate elements of social media and other relevant targeted communication that is in sync with the way customers wish to engage with a retailer. Essentially, it is intended that all different channels merge into one, to create a single commercial experience for the customer that is immersive and has them at the centre, receiving a service that is perfectly tailored for them. Their actions – and the psychology behind them – will therefore form part of their omnichannel experience.   What are multichannel solutions? Multichannel retailing is all about offering customers the choice and making it as easy as possible for them to exercise that choice and make a purchase. However the customer might wish to look at a product, assess it or purchase it, the process can be undertaken in as smooth a manner as possible. This could involve offering products via different channels, but with a fully branded and recognisable service to ensure that customers know and feel engaged with the retailer. It may be, for example, recognising social media use, and offering the chance to purchase directly from the consumer’s favoured social media channel, rather than simply offering a link that takes them through to a retailer’s online store. Each method of purchase within a multichannel solution is seen as an entirely separate opportunity, with emphasis being placed on the channels and methods that are seen to have the most impact and be the most lucrative.…
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Retail Assist's Great British Bake Off Takeover
  • 3 Oct

Retail Assist’s GBBO Kitchen Takeover

Retail Assist and 200 Degrees join forces for another Great British Bake Off  We’ve seen chocolate week, bread week and biscuit week. But nothing we’ve seen so far on the Great British Bake Off can compare to Helpdesk Call Analyst Kay Thompson’s chocolate cake extravaganza. Kay, the winner of the Retail Assist Bake Off, was chosen by a panel of judges including representatives from the Nottingham Post, Nottingham-based charity Emmanuel House and coffee shop chain, 200 Degrees. Kay said: ‘When I found out that I’d won the Retail Assist Bake Off, I was so shocked. My daughter says I should go into baking but I just find it therapeutic. I like losing myself in the kitchen and chilling out for a few hours.’ After arriving at 200 Degrees’ Carrington Street store, she donned her apron and instantly got to work in their kitchen – although, impressively, without a written recipe in sight. Kay said: ‘I’ve made this cake so many times as it’s one of my grandchildren’s favourites. I know it off by heart. ‘They’ll often put an order in for cakes and cupcakes, and I love making them.’ Kay’s star bake included a Victoria sponge topped with chocolate icing, along with Malteasers, Orange Matchmakers and Minstrels. Joined by 200 Degrees’ Head Chef, Lucy Hickling, Kay built up her chocolate masterpiece over three hours in the professional kitchen, and, after chilling overnight in the fridge, it was placed on sale the next day. Lucy said: ‘The moment we saw Kay’s original cake, we knew it would sell well. People eat with their eyes and this cake looks great, as well as tasting delicious. Our chocolate treats generally sell the best, so I’m expecting this cake to do well! All the proceeds from the sale of the cake are being donated to Emmanuel House. Lauren Howatson, Marketing Manager for Emmanuel House, also popped down to view Kay’s efforts. She said: ‘We’re so grateful for all of Kay’s hard work today and also for the generous donation by 200 Degrees. We’re currently doing lots of fundraising to prepare our service in the run up to winter, which is accessed by many homeless people and vulnerable adults over winter.’ If you would like to buy a slice of Kay’s show-stopping charity cake, head down to 200 Degrees’ Carrington store. But you might want to hurry… we don’t think it’ll stick around for long! Thank you to Kay for all her hard work and also to Lucy for letting us steal the 200 Degrees kitchen!…
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Halloween, the new Christmas?
  • 1 Oct

Halloween, the new Christmas?

“Halloween is now the third largest celebrated festivity.” Us typically reserved Brits tend to turn our noses up at the Americanised event that goes by the name of Halloween. We picture overly embellished yards that host giant ghoulish inflatables and overcompensating spun web garlands, all neatly encompassed by a white picket fence. It’s never really been our thing, just something to entertain the kids during October half term, right? Wrong. In 2017, UK Halloween spend was set to reach £320m with a 3.2% YoY increase, with 46% of UK adults also declaring that they’d be making Halloween purchases. In fact, Halloween is now the third largest celebrated festivity, surpassing Valentine’s Day and falling short to Christmas and Easter. You’ll have probably noticed that 31st October is a date that creeps in earlier every year; shop windows will be laden with pumpkins and aisles stacked with purple and green themed confectionery as soon as the first day of Autumn hits. Throw yourself back to 2008 and this would be extremely uncommon. So, who are these people and why are they jumping on the bewitched bandwagon? Millennials, aged 22-37: representing 26.5% of the UK market, sitting at roughly 17 million. They entered adulthood during a time of economic downturn and therefore are achieving adult life milestones (mortgage, marriage and children) at a later age than the generations preceding them. This is therefore a generation that are getting to stay younger for longer, and are more inclined to partake in events that resonate with their childhood. Halloween therefore, typically a ‘holiday’ for children to enjoy dress-up and sweets, is parallel with the millennial hunger to throw out all responsibility while they still can. What does this mean for retailers? This offers a multitude of opportunity for retailers, as millennials are such a large yet unique demographic, rich with heterogeneous traits and habits. One of these traits is the infatuation with customer experience. Over 50% of millennials value experience over physical products and 2 in 3 millennials seek innovation when it comes to the in-store experience. Therefore, an immersive experience is vital to attract a generation of promiscuous shoppers and, because of this, retailers need to woo them to win them. Targeting Millennials with Halloween promotion is an opportunity for retailers to vary the customer experience through innovation to create brand affinity, which is a vital consideration in the lead up to the ultimate peak trading period, Christmas. And with spending forecast set to increase YoY, Halloween is a bandwagon that retailers must jump on – or prepare themselves for their own retail fright. Written by Andrea Williams, Marketing Officer at Retail Assist.…
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  • 24 Sep

Why You Should Be Using EPOS

What is EPOS? What does EPOS stand for? How are EPOS systems changing retail? Why are EPOS systems important? Why should a retailer be using EPOS? Read on to find out more about the benefits an intelligent EPOS system can bring to your retail business: we provide Help Desk services that can support your EPOS system. An Electric Point Of Sale (EPOS) system is fast becoming one of the most important tools a retailer can utilise as they become more in control of their operations, more profitable and more competitive. Not to be confused with the average electronic till system – although they look similar – an EPOS, or POS, system allows retailers to utilise much more information and data to help their business to run smoothly. As retail IT services replace and update the humble ‘cash register’, POS systems usher in a whole host of features suitable for the modern retail environment, with the ability to store and process data being particularly valued. Where once retailers may have had to scrutinise various sales records in order to compile information as to shoppers’ choices and habits, POS systems can produce reports and show growing and declining sales with ease. Other attractive features include being able to tap into nurturing millennial and Gen Z retail expectations of an ‘instant’ shopping experience by printing out vouchers or offers, whilst also being able to link up communication with existing infrastructure and websites and recording of the activities undertaken by staff whilst using it. How are POS systems changing retail? Offering a variety of new ways to improve transactions, there can be no doubt that POS systems are bringing change to the retail and hospitality sector in making it more streamlined and able to effectively compete with rivals. A major way in which this change is manifested is perhaps just as reactive as it is proactive; retailers need to reduce the costs associated with ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing as much as possible, in order to remain viable as the bite from online enterprises continues to be felt. One of the ways this can be done is through readjusting the thinking as to exactly how physical stores work with online activity; closer links are needed, which is something POS systems can provide. Instead of a business model where high street locations compete with online sales, modern POS systems are making it easier for the retail world to work as one. Linking with a retailer’s website, a POS system can provide real-time data to users as to whether local stores have products in stock and provide an easy collection point for them. Online orders can also be fulfilled more promptly via processes that can see stock sent out to online buyers from stores nearest to them, or those that are experiencing an excess of certain stocked items, thus helping to provide the ‘I want what I want when I want it’ notion that underpins millennial and Gen Z shopping habits. The ability to target customers more…
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IT Help Desk
  • 17 Sep

Fix Your IT Issues Fast

Managed Services for Retail and Hospitality Operating in a reliable manner and free from disruption is the cornerstone to any success in the retail world; those that manage it find themselves well placed to deal with the many other challenges the industry brings. With the help of Retail Assist, retailers can free themselves from the worries that sometimes surround technical issues, and focus their attention on other aspects of their business. Help Desk Support Retail Assist is proud of its award winning Help Desk team who give retailers and hospitality operators one single point of contact, should they encounter any IT difficulties within any element of their technical infrastructure. The expertise of the Help Desk staff means that operations can continue with minimum disruption. The IT Helpdesk Support, as well as Operations Support, operates 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 and 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 Helpdesk 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. Technical Services Alongside the IT Helpdesk Support and Operations Support Retail Assist provides, lies a multitude of Technical Services. 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; what usage is occurring, content being shared, and how data lines are performing. Retail Systems Support Taking advantage of Retails Assist’s expertise in the industry, Retail Systems Support runs alongside the IT Helpdesk and Operations Support to provide deep understanding and help within retail, particularly in the area of deploying technology. Thanks to the many good relationships Retail Assist has cultivated, recommendations can be made for certain products that will suit an organisation best, and costs can often be saved via cost negotiations. Full round the clock support is provided, and working with the Store Development aspects of Retail Assist, complete store openings, refits and closures can be tackled from beginning to end.  What are the benefits of getting technical support from Retail Assist?  As mentioned above, support is available 24 x 7 x 365 meaning that at no point will any problems…
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  • 10 Sep

How Managed IT Services Can Boost Your Productivity

Managed IT Services Retail Assist provides a number of Managed IT Services to leading retailers and hospitality operators across the globe, including the following: Help Desk Services, IT Outsourcing, Retail Systems Support, Project Management, Technical Services, Operations Support and IT Due Diligence. Employing staff once meant a body of workers confined to one location. Recent years have seen increasing amounts of businesses in all sectors adopt new working methods. Remote and flexible options have widened talent pools and provided benefits to employers and employees alike. One new working method being eagerly embraced by many retailers, is that of Managed IT Services; outsourcing IT support to experts that don’t work within your company. The advantages of this are wide-ranging. Use of specialist knowledge and expertise The biggest attraction of Managed IT Services is of course the ability to tap into specialised expertise and knowledge, which is sector specific and may not be available within your own company. Whilst many IT experts may have a broad knowledge that covers many areas, finding those that have very specified skills and awareness of exactly what is needed in terms of the IT used in each individual industry, can sometimes be challenging. Using Managed IT Services ensures that such expertise is easily accessible when required, without the time, effort or cost of recruitment. Cost savings Crucial to all business initiatives, are the costs involved. Managed It Services can help make significant cost savings, primarily by removing the need for the employment of a direct team and the associated costs that hiring staff brings. Office space may also be saved, as the need for physical locations where employees work is removed entirely. Your outsourced team use their own office space and resource, without any direct financial impact on you. Efficiency can also be improved, as work can be delegated to and focussed on by the chosen outsourced team. Naturally, fluctuations in workload often occur in IT, so having a dedicated Managed IT Services team allows your own teams to focus on other important matters. Adopt long term and proactive approaches As IT lies at the centre of many businesses, having a system that operates reliably and without interruption is incredibly important. By using Managed IT Services, a proactive approach can be taken, which can allow problems to be foreseen and reacted to before they occur. Long term strategies can be implemented, with the option for IT services to feature increased activity when needed, such as if a new project is due to launch. Expanded workloads can be reacted to in a way that is productive and doesn’t impact on efficiency. Flexibility is possible Managed IT Services can be fully integrated with existing working practices, meaning that they can fit in and complement how a business chooses to operate. This gives a flexible approach that will grow and develop as the levels of IT support required changes over time. Those looking to move into new areas and utilise new working methods or ideas can do so with…
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Pizza Hut visit Retail Assist
  • 3 Sep

Retail Assist’s Help Desk get a slice of the action!

Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk provides support to Pizza Hut Restaurants 24X7X365 Bill Parker, IT Service Manager for Pizza Hut Restaurants, visited Retail Assist to praise its IT Help Desk for what he called a “tremendous team achievement” Sharing thanks: Liz Donagain (left) and Richard Winstock (middle) were thanked by Bill Parker, Pizza Hut’s IT Service Manager On Wednesday 29th August, Pizza Hut Restaurant’s IT Service Manager, Bill Parker, travelled up to Nottingham to personally thank the Retail Assist Help Desk, bringing with him lots of pizzas to treat everyone. The IT Help Desk provides support to Pizza Hut Restaurants available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has recently overseen the transition from Ambercat to Jira’s issue tracking software. Bill said: “Retail Assist has exceeded my expectations with the migration; it has been seamless from our side. I wanted to express our thanks to everyone that has been involved in making it happen. I believe we are already seeing the benefits. I feel this does demonstrate how investing in the planning reaps rewards with the transition”. “I’ve experienced many different transitions, but this has been the smoothest and most streamlined to date.” The Help Desk’s work is part of a continued relationship with Pizza Hut Restaurants, who renewed their contract agreement for a further three-years with Retail Assist earlier this year. Bill particularly wanted to thank IT Help Desk colleagues Liz Donagain and Richard Winstock, calling their work “outstanding” and especially praising “their commitment, dedication and prompt follow-up”. Retail Assist has supported Pizza Hut Restaurants since 2013, as a single point of contact for everything IT related in their restaurants. Retail Assist’s first and second-line Help Desk teams proactively manage all elements of IT support for 7,500 Pizza Hut Restaurants employees working across 256 restaurants, with 24 x 7 availability. Dan Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Retail Assist, said: “We are delighted with Bill’s feedback as we’re very proud of our relationship with Pizza Hut Restaurants. Our proactive approach to planning and supporting our clients aims to reduce issues, with our unique hospitality service provision benefiting thousands of members of the Pizza Hut Restaurants’ team across the country.” Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk won ‘Services Company of the Year 2017’ at the UK IT Industry Awards in 2017, and also won the ‘Best Managed Service Desk 2016’ at the Service Desk Institute’s Annual IT Service and Support Awards.…
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Retail Assist's Great British Bake Off
  • 29 Aug

Retail Assist try their hand at the Great British Bake Off

#GBBO The Retail Assist team have turned their hands to baking to raise money for charity… but who received the Hollywood Handshake? Guest judges, (left to right) Lynette, Lucy and Matt. On Tuesday 28th August, Retail Assist colleagues downed tools and picked up their baking bowls to raise money for Emmanuel House, a charity that helps support homeless people in Nottingham. With three guest judges including Matt Douglas and Lucy Hickling from Nottingham’s own 200 Degrees, and Lynette Pinchess, Nottingham Post’s food and drink editor, there was a tough crowd to please. The Retail Assist team had brought in every kind of baked good, from cheese scones to a unicorn cake – and not a soggy bottom in sight. With so much choice, there was something there to tickle everyone’s (fondant) fancy. However, with so many top contenders, judging the winner was not a piece of cake. 200 Degree’s Marketing Manager, Matt, said: “There have been so many tastes and textures, with savoury as well as sweet. We’ve also been really impressed with the presentation.” Lauren Howatson, Marketing Manager for Emmanuel House, added: “Everyone has made such an effort. We were so impressed!” The Showstopper – A unicorn shaped cake with a matcha and lemon sponge The overall winner was Helpdesk Call Analyst, Kay Thompson, with a chocolate extravaganza showstopper. Gifted by 200 Degrees, Kay won the chance to not only replicate her cake in their kitchen, but to see it being sold in 200 Degrees stores. Kay said, “I’m delighted to have won! I put lots of effort in and I’m so pleased that we are raising money and awareness for Emmanuel House. They are such a great charity.” Head Chef at 200 Degrees and fellow judge, Lucy, added: “There was a massive array of colour and when we saw the winning cake, we knew we would love to replicate it. It will fly off the shelves!” The winning bake, made by Kay Thompson The Nottingham office raised a current total of £208.67, with all proceeds going to Emmanuel House. Offering support to the city’s homeless and vulnerable adults, Emmanuel House provides vital help and guidance to those most in need. They have over 1,000 visits a week where they offer essential survival services such as hot food and drinks, an opportunity to change into clean, dry clothing, shower and laundry facilities as well as support in the following areas: mental health, tenancy and resettlement, benefits and welfare, training and workshops and access to the Winter Shelter. Well done to Kay and thank you to everyone who took part! Think you could add to our cake skills? Retail Assist is expanding! Visit our careers page at https://retail-assist.co.uk/careers/ for more information.…
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