IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


What is an EPOS System?
  • 16 Jul

What is EPOS? (Electronic Point of Sale) – Retail Definitions

What is an EPOS System? What is EPOS? How do I implement an EPOS system? How can I support my EPOS system? What is the benefit of an EPOS system? What does EPOS stand for? 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. Keeping any retail business up to date and embracing new technology and ways of working is vital to success. In a competitive marketplace, those not constantly looking for ways to improve their working practices are often left behind by rivals who are doing so. An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system is something that many are looking towards as one such way of becoming more efficient and cost effective. Inevitably with any piece of technology, there will be occasions where you need help and support to ensure your EPOS system is working sufficiently and to the best of its ability; to this end there are many EPOS helpdesk services available to retailers to ensure your EPOS system doesn’t let you down. What is an EPOS system? An EPOS system is essentially an update of the classic ‘checkout till’, bringing in advanced and sophisticated features suitable for a modern retail environment. As well as recording what sales have been made, EPOS systems can take information and data and use it to create reports that can help retailers refine and adapt their business approaches. Other features can also be included, with the ability to incorporate inventory management, staff planning and loyalty schemes. What does an EPOS system do? As mentioned above, an EPOS system is capable of performing many different tasks. The ability it has to store and process information is a big part of its importance, as said information can be used to benefit a business in whatever way they see fit. It performs the functions one might associate with a checkout, such as the ability to print out receipts, but adds the capability to manage and print any vouchers or promotional offers that may be desired to attract repeat custom. An EPOS system also benefits from connectivity that can see it linked up to existing infrastructure within the retail environment. A retailer’s website can be connected, and information communicated between the two, as can different terminals, giving the opportunity for real-time stock availability to be obtained. How does an EPOS system work? To the casual observer an EPOS system very much resembles a checkout till; all the components you would expect to find there are contained. A cash draw, keypad, chip and pin facility and customer display can all be present, as well as barcode scanners. A screen will be visible that resembles that found on a touchscreen computer, and is used for the manual inputting of payments and data. There are additional hardware extras that can push an EPOS system further, and add value. Printers can be connected either by cables or using wireless…
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  • 9 Jul

Chatbots – a personal shopper for every customer

Guest blog by Retail Assist’s Marketing Officer, Andrea Williams.  Imagine being able to offer every consumer a personal shopper, to guide them through the purchasing process, help influence their decisions and offer a very personal level of customer service, from which a transaction will take place, all in one conversation, on one app. That’s where chatbots come in. Chatbots work right into this medium and provide a multitude of communications, services and transactions through a conversational interface powered by artificial intelligence. They are used as a means for influencing both choice and demand by making the customers’ search experience and buying process as simple possible. Nowadays if it’s not on demand – it’s irrelevant. If we have to search and scroll for it, it’s monotonous. Millennials especially, expect instant gratification and real-time communications and therefore marketing is evolving to accommodate this, through bot-powered commerce. There’s no need to besiege consumers into downloading a novelty app that they’ll never use again, why not communicate with them from where they spend the most of their time? Usage of messaging apps is on the rise, having overtaken the use of social media, meaning there is the opportunity for a new channel of communication. Unlike traditional forms of direct marketing, the consumer has control, they decide to follow the brands they like, but they also have the ability to unsubscribe, unfollow and even block. This makes contact strategies via messaging apps far less disruptive and therefore have much higher opening rates than traditional mediums, which consequently creates automatic brand engagement. When considering the immense growth of fast fashion, consumers are incredibly spoilt for choice, making purchase decisions lengthy and not overly worth it. This is where chatbots come in, as recommendation engines are used to make purchases informed by finding out exactly what the consumer wants and giving it to them. From a sales perspective, a chatbot can use the conversation to cross and up-sell products, nurturing the buying process. Some retailers, such as H&M and Sephora are even offering chatbots with styling tips that will find your outfit for you and the accessories that will match. Not only is the purchasing experience itself personalised but so is the relationship. For starters the consumer makes first contact, they already follow you, they already see your content, and they are engaged before your bot even replies. This creates a level of trust and thanks to the emotional intelligence and natural language processing the bot uses, a level of brand intimacy is developed throughout the customer journey, allowing a brand loyal relationship to flourish By 2020, 8 in 10 businesses will operate a chatbot and therefore businesses need to differentiate their offering through making the conversation more natural and enabling bots to handle more macro-decisions than just every day service FAQs. Consumers value human interaction, and with technology moving much faster than the average consumer, soon we won’t have any idea whether we’re talking to a human or a bot, as Google showed recently at I/O…
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mobile device management
  • 25 Jun

Intelligent Supply Chains

Guest blog by Andrew Busby. Andrew Busby is a former retailer, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist. Omnichannel Supply Chains Ever wished you had 100% visibility of your inventory – in real time? Always wished your merchandisers were able to effectively ensure products are in the right place at the right time? Need to confidently fulfil customer demands without inflating inventory in order to maximise stock turn? Want to have fewer mark-downs by optimising stock levels to allow you to fulfil your customer demand with fewer stock outs? I’m sure the answer is yes to all of the above. Who said logistics was easy in this age of omnichannel retailing? Driven by increasing consumer demand and higher expectations, it’s in the supply chain where some of the most exciting innovations, as well as sound, solid business process improvement can be found. Increasingly defined by their final mile delivery capability, retail brands have quickly realised the fact that their supply chain is not only the beating heart of their business, but the biggest opportunity to deliver another great customer experience. Let’s take a few scenarios. World Cup Woes or Goals? It’s the World Cup, England are playing and so what does that mean? Well, apart from the now traditional disappointment and frustration, sales of beer are likely to go through the roof. But you’re prepared, you checked the England fixtures weeks ago and stocked up, job done. OK so that’s a pretty easy one; not too difficult to predict demand for certain lines in such a scenario (excepting that you forgot the Kleenex to mop up all those tears when we’re knocked out…again!)  But maybe a little trickier to predict and plan across the entire business and across the entire year. But that’s exactly what is required in this world of omnichannel retailing. The ability to not only predict demand at any time, in any scenario at any location but have the capability to move stock around proactively in order to satisfy that demand. Intelligent robots – coming soon to a warehouse near you The Humble Goldfish We’re all familiar with the humble goldfish and its attention span of just nine seconds. It used to be a source of amusement, regularly mocked. That is until now. We are living in an age not only of unprecedented change but of unprecedented social behaviour; the ‘Uberisation’ of society if you will, as personified by apps such as Tinder. Never has it been easier to meet people; after all, why bother to spend time getting to know someone when you can simply swipe right in just a couple of seconds? And it is this which is now so critical to omnichannel retailing. If you’ve got teenage children you’ll know that in reality a goldfish’s attention span far surpasses theirs at a whopping nine seconds! So if you’re marketing to millennials and especially Generation Z you need to appreciate how they operate. Bouncing between three and five screens at a time,…
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  • 18 Jun

How Much Time Can You Save By Using A WMS?

As in any business, time is money in the retail sector. Saving time can mean focussing on increased sales potential, business growth, and seeing increased profits. Implementing a Warehouse Management System (WMS) can provide cost savings in a number of ways; all of which have the end result of a better running, more efficient and profitable retail operation. Managing inventory more efficiently Efficiency savings directly relate to time savings; retailers dealing with inventories that rely on rapid stockturns and quick transitions from supplier to customer need a process that is quick, dependable and slick. The benefits of taking a fast fashion approach to stock are of course that waste is minimalised, warehouse costs lowered, and overstocking reduced. The downside is that any problems in delivering the inventory can bring things to a halt and wreak havoc with customer expectations. As these issues usually centre around poor planning and large fluctuations in demand, a WMS can help by collecting and analysing trends and allowing closer control of inventory levels. Efficient picking patterns Warehouses are by nature, vast units, which are time consuming to walk around. The time that can be saved during the manual picking process can be instrumental to increasing warehouse efficiency. Second-accurate stock information held by a WMS, with real time visibility of its exact location, means that pickers should never visit a location that doesn’t have accurate stock. This saves time through items being readily available in exactly the right place, rather than a picker returning from a wasted journey with empty hands. ‘Omnichannel picking’ also offers the flexibility to pick multiple orders at once, rather than one by one, which means that a picker saves time by never visiting the same location twice. Retail Assist’s WMS even has options to begin picking items straight from the point of delivery before initial put-away, which means that stock can be sold on your shop floors on the same day. This is a huge pragmatic advantage of a WMS, especially relevant for new items or bestsellers. Improved quality A large amount of time is lost in the warehouse if products are put away without being adequately checked, which means that at the time of picking, time is wasted bringing poor quality items back to the packing table, to find that they are unsuitable for the customer order. If a WMS has an optional 2 stage intake process (checking and putaway), this offers the ability to carry out intake checking, with integrated Quality Control measures for efficient handling of stock. Better supplier relations Having good relations with suppliers can also result in time savings. A WMS can provide alerts and updates as to when suppliers will arrive, meaning that neither they nor the retailer are kept waiting. Information can be shared and time spent waiting for deliveries that may be delayed can be eliminated, increasing the efficiency of the warehouse workforce. Retail Assist’s integrated supplier management system runs throughout the intake system, allowing for better supplier monitoring. This control and capture…
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Purchase Order Management
  • 11 Jun

Purchase Order Management Definition

Purchase Order Management: Retail Definitions Purchase Order Management in retail. What is PO management? How do I implement automatic PO creation? How can I improve my purchase order management? How to improve the processing of purchase orders? How do I raise purchase orders in retail? Can I have flexible purchase orders in retail? What is Purchase Order Management Purchase order management is a standard part of any retail business; buying teams create purchase orders to place and manage orders with chosen suppliers. As well as being the source of financial commitment information, purchase order management systems can also provide centralised visibility over order status. Being able to view the status of all global orders in one location is a key benefit of automating the purchase order process. Teams across the business can view important moments in the PO process, for example which purchase orders have been approved and rejected, and which purchase orders have been sent. Parameters can also be set within the system for workflow approvals, and financial budgets set for buyers to prevent overspending. Purchase order management facilitates this level of accuracy and authority. Purchase order management also ensures that retailers maintain an audit trail, which can support better supplier relationships with increased transparency. Increased flexibility with suppliers is also facilitated by a purchase order management system, supporting flexible purchase orders: there is no need to re-raise orders for incomplete deliveries, as the system permits receipt of additional deliveries. Multi-drop purchase orders allow larger commitments to be made with suppliers, with stock is phased into the business to suit requirements. Whilst flexible, these processes exert a level of control over the supplier relationship. As we move into the era of automation, automatic purchase order creation defaults can be set by user to speed up purchase order processing, as well as a copy function for faster processing of similar purchase orders. Increasing efficiencies is the top of most retailers’ agendas. Retail Assist’s purchase order management solution has been developed for today’s dynamic omnichannel environment, and offers many benefits, including: Budgetary Control: Minimise financial risk with authoritative (hierarchical approval) and monetary (buying budgets) parameters. Complete landed costs, including the product as well as freight and duty, means retailers can see the full impact of purchasing decisions before approval. Automated PO processing: A centralised system provides the ability to share purchase order templates for quicker processing, and built-in approval workflows means that purchase orders are verified more efficiently. Streamline communications: All purchasing documents are centralised in one location, accessible from anywhere. This makes purchase order referencing far less painful, especially for supplier relationships.…
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Retail IT Outsourcing
  • 4 Jun

Retail’s need for speed: beyond digital

Accelerating tech investment? Keep the customer in mind. Tech releases: the ASOS effect A few months ago, ASOS’ Nick Beighton commented that the fashion etail giant released 1,200 tech (code) updates in the last 6 months, double the number in the previous year. Visual search, try-before-you-buy, accelerating the use of AI: you name it, ASOS has pioneered it. Due to the increasing demands of customers for innovative technology within their shopping journey, some retailers have even released new software updates twice per hour, as they push to keep up with the likes of Amazon, ASOS, and soaring consumer expectations. Furthermore, 91% claim they will need to release updates even faster in the future. Excellent news for the customer experience – or is it? IT, can you support it? 74% of retail businesses have acknowledged that the “need for speed” in technology innovation could actually be detrimental to the customer experience (Dynatrace survey of over 200 CIOs in the retail sector). “Shoppers expect the steady flow of new e-commerce features and updates to work perfectly, without compromise. The challenge for retail IT teams is to deliver fast, while moving to a cloud native architecture and maintaining user experience” – Dynatrace. Putting the customer at the heart of your technology roadmap, and getting closer to them through technologies such as AI, is a common driver for IT focus this year. IT teams today spend a third of their time resolving issues, rather than focussing on business-as-usual, which can be detrimental to pursing an innovation-based strategy. 78% also commented that their business has experienced IT project delays that could have been prevented if IT teams could collaborate more easily and resolve problems more quickly. Check out how our IT Outsourcing model could support you to deliver faster projects with greater efficiency, and fewer technical errors. What’s more, we are supporting retailers with proactive incident reduction to ensure that technology issues do not impact on the customer experience.…
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Stock Replenishment
  • 29 May

What is Stock Replenishment?

What is Stock Replenishment? Stock Replenishment in retail. What is stock replenishment? How do I implement auto replenishment? How can I improve my stock replenishment? What is the benefit of auto replenishment? Read on to find out more about the most profitable replenishment solution for the omnichannel retailing. Stock Replenishment Definition Stock replenishment is a standard retail practice, to ensure that the right products are in the best place, at the optimum quantity. Retailers can automate replenishment using intelligent algorithms, which can be particularly beneficial during promotional or seasonal events. Replenishment is essential to avoid stock-outs. Can you distribute stock between your warehouse and stores, dynamically, and with 100% accuracy? That’s the requirement for every modern retailer today, operating with an omnichannel mentality, especially during peak periods and promotions. Improving your replenishment processes can support this. Retailers must be able to move stock quickly between different locations, such as stores, concessions and franchises, and partners, whilst also maintaining healthy warehouse stock for ecommerce orders. A central stock pool facilitates this flexibility. Increased speed to sell is just one of the benefits of optimum stock replenishment, ensuring that the customer is delivered the item that they demand, in increasingly fast timescales. Dependable automated replenishment, reducing the possibility of stock-outs, improves the customer experience by ensuring that products are more readily available across all channels, avoiding the dreaded “out of stock”. Stock replenishment isn’t just a process: analytically speaking, it can also help retailers to forecast more accurately with complete visibility of their global inventory and demand. Performance at SKU/Site level is automatically reviewed and ideal stock levels can be increased or decreased accordingly, enabling more full price items to be sold. Changes to future stock levels can also be forecast and systemically defined prior to specific activity e.g. promotional events.  Retail Assist’s auto replenishment solution has been developed for today’s dynamic omnichannel environment, and offers many benefits, including: Optimised sales: Order the right amount of product, to be delivered at the correct time, to the best place. Better stock replenishment maintains optimum inventory levels on all products so that you can sell more effectively where and when it is needed. Reduced mark-downs: Optimised stock levels allow you to fulfil your customer demand with fewer stock outs. With a greater sell through of full priced stock and a reduced rate of markdown, margins are protected and profits soar. Maximise stock turn: Confidently fulfil customer demands without inflating your levels of inventory, preventing over and under stocking, both of which damage business profitability. To find out more about replenishment visit our replenishment webpage here. Retail Assist offers 21 omnichannel scenarios for flexible and profitable use of your stock, e.g. Ship-from-Store, Deliver to address, click-and-collect. Want to invest in your retail IT infrastructure with improved store replenishment? Make an enquiry by filling out our quick form or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk for one of our experts to get in touch with you.…
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Retail Allocation
  • 21 May

5 Steps to Successful Retail Allocation

Retail Allocation Systems Having sufficient stock levels is a vital component of any successful retail business, and is something rendered ever more important by changing consumer habits. Immediacy has become a dominant force in retail, and has significantly enhanced the need for stock to be available in the right place, at the right time. Using a retail allocation system is the best way to make retail allocation a more efficient process, in order to meet new and increasing demands. Allocation is the initial process of distributing stock upon delivery from the supplier, through the warehouse, and to a retailer’s various locations. 1: Implement a retail allocation system Using retail allocation systems and software helps retailers adopt new approaches to stock. Data can be gathered, interpreted and analysed from shopper behaviour and habits, in order to get a more localised and specific idea of what sells well in different locations. The process is sometimes referred to as ‘localisation analytics’ and supports effective store grading. Items that may be big sellers in a certain location may not sell nearly as well in another. Recognising and monitoring this can ensure that stock is allocated to the location it is needed most, avoiding low or overstocking. 2: Learn from your data This also provides the opportunity for retailers to encourage sales by pushing stock of a similar type, or that a certain type of shopper may favour, to certain locations. Having a system that allows this information to be analysed for future forecasting is something retailers can profit from. Not only are retailers able to react to trends, they are even able to predict them. The power of data within retail allocation is significant. Pre-Allocation tactics 3: Pre-allocate stock The way in which a retailer deals with their pre-allocation is important to consider during initial stock intake. Pre-allocation refers to products that have been decided at the time of purchase order management, and has the advantage of reduced handling time at the distribution centre, thanks to an ‘in and out’ approach. Using a retail allocation system which recognises and flags pre-allocated stock is highly beneficial in any retail allocation strategy. This removes the need for it to be subject to a put-away process, meaning that it can make its way to retail outlets much more quickly, fulfilling customer demand faster, and increasing sales potential. As well as improving relationships with customers, who are more likely to be satisfied, a smoother warehouse processing thanks to pre-allocation can also mean that suppliers are kept happier. Manual Allocation 4: Reacting quickly to changes Manual allocation is a useful secondary process, for example if there has been a smaller number of products delivered than anticipated, and another delivery needs to be allocated soon afterward. 5: Ensuring stores have the right product Retail Assist’s retail allocation system within Merret also has the functionality to define and recognise allocation exclusions. This can be particularly useful for global retailers trading in lots of different countries: for example, do not allocate certain…
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product information management system
  • 14 May

Retail Definitions: What is PIM?

What is PIM? What is PIM? How do I implement a PIM? How can I improve my retail PIM? What is the benefit of PIM? What does PIM stand for? Read on to find out more about the most profitable product management solution for the omnichannel world: we’re helping leading retail brands achieve this. PIM Definition Definition: PIM stands for Product Information Management, a software solution that helps a retailer manage its products via a centralised system. The number of contributing retail teams, and the varying detail they require surrounding the product, calls for a single system capable of unifying product information in one accurate, real-time view.  PIM benefits retailers in several ways. Firstly, it’s an efficient way to boost accuracy. In a given season, the average retailer introduces more than 60% new products to its inventory, with 20% errors due to duplicate information, which impacts operations as well as the customer experience. Add to this the need for retailers to react to market conditions: teams need to be able to modify and update pricing, descriptions and attributes, quickly and efficiently. Improving product attribution, especially online, captures sales that might otherwise have been lost by improving product visibility in the search function. When a customer begins a search, either broad or specific, online or offline, they expect to find the item they want, fast. Retailers that can deliver relevant results in a fraction of the time will succeed. As the shelf-life of retail products diminishes, with some having as little as 6-8 weeks on sale, creating and launching products must be accelerated in order to remain competitive. Industry analysts have reported that retailers with shorter supply chain lead times experience much greater sales growth (Goldman Sachs, 2017). PIM can help introduce new products faster than the competition, meaning that customers demanding new trends are satisfied, improving brand loyalty, and increasing sales growth. Retail Assist’s supply chain software has been developed for today’s dynamic omnichannel environment with the following points in mind; Thinking across channels. If product attributes are not provided in the correct format for different channel partners, your product will fall low in searches, decreasing brand visibility. PIM software removes the need for different systems for different channels, which makes the acceptance process easier to manage. Flexible attribution to suit the user. An ecommerce team uses product attributes to create trends and “stories”, which might display all items in a certain look. In the warehouse, operators have a better view over the items in the order if the product descriptions are relevant. Unique but consistent. Shared workflow processes within PIM allow the extended retail business and third parties to engage in the product enrichment process. Ensuring that this is centralised in one single format with no duplication is a key benefit of PIM.  To find out more about PIM download our free retail whitepaper here. If you have any further questions about ‘What is PIM’, or want to invest in your retail IT infrastructure, please get in touch with…
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RBTE 2018 blog
  • 8 May

RBTE 2018: Technology Takeaways

RBTE 2018, taking place last week at Olympia London, offered a packed-out agenda with the latest retail technology on the Show floor, and industry insights shared across 4 conference theatres. Here are our RBTE 2018 video highlights! Katie Anderson reports in our top technology round up vlog from the Show.  RBTE 2018 video highlights You can view the video on our YouTube channel here. What else did we see at RBTE 2018? Pepper: Robots and CX   Just met @peppertherobot! Is this the future of in-store consumer interaction? #retailtech #cx #retail #rbte2018 @rbtexpo pic.twitter.com/i5LY9CoXaf — Retail Assist (@RetailAssist) May 3, 2018 If you’ve attended a technology conference in the last year, chances are that you will have met this little guy before. Pepper the Robot, representing the possibility of robotics in retail stores, has the potential to enhance several areas of the customer experience, becoming an alternative to an information kiosk/or tablet, offering a walking/talking service. It can show you where to find a product, “read” your facial expressions and interact accordingly, and even recommend products based on the clothes you wear. For all the buzz, we’re yet to remain convinced that robots will replace humans in-store entirely, especially in the fashion retail sector. Human-human interaction and expert product recommendations have a place in fashion that cannot be replicated in a truly sophisticated manner by robotics – for now anyway! .@PepperTheRobot has been developed to provide a richer #CustomerExperience, acting as a ‘middlerobot’ to assist store staff. #rbte2018 #rbte18 #rbte #retailtech #cx pic.twitter.com/zw8lt2RC6X — Retail Assist (@RetailAssist) May 3, 2018 Robots’ potential for enhancing the customer experience comes hand in hand with a human – a middle bot. For example, going to retrieve a product for the fitting room or check stock levels, whilst the sales associate interacts with the customer. ASOS: the story of retail success We were privileged to attend a keynote conference session at RBTE 2018 with Brian McBride, Chairman of ASOS. His session on ‘Evolve or Die’ involved fascinating insights on ASOS’ success, as well as lessons for all retailers to learn this year. Being online-only gives a competitive advantage to ASOS: they are able to know a lot more than their high street competitors, thanks to the huge amount of data their customers share with them. The challenge that high street retailers face is that the only data they usually collect is the bank the customer made the transaction with, unless they are making an omnichannel order requiring more detail. McBride went on to explain that machine learning and AI has helped ASOS to offer some of the best personalisation available. Since most ASOS customers are millennials – or better, Gen Z – they’ve been quick to adapt and have made extensive use of new features like visual search. ASOS the unstoppable vs the Amazon Effect Good to see ex-Amazon UK boss and now ASOS chairman, Brian McBride, at #RBTE2018. Paraphrasing Darwin, he says survival of the fittest in the current business world typically comes…
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