IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


Retail Project Management Services
  • 13 Aug

Retail Project Management Services

Watch: Karen Millen Video If you have business transformation or technology projects upcoming, bringing in an expert can help. Our programme managers can support projects of any scale, for as long as required, with a fully managed approach. Taking the pressure off your internal teams, Retail Assist delivers end-to-end Project Management Services, whilst you focus on business as usual. As well as coordinating your own internal teams, Retail Assist’s strong industry relationships support quality 3rd party management. We’ve been working with leading global brands, such as Karen Millen, to deliver Retail Project Management to migrate their IT infrastructure from a server to a cloud-based solution. Watch our Retail Project Management Services video featuring our customer Karen Millen: Watch our Retail Project Management Services video here. Lily Lalehparvar, Project Manager – IT & Business Development at Karen Millen explains, “Retail Assist’s knowledge of our systems and end-user environment meant that they understood the importance of IT running seamlessly, in order to deliver a great customer experience that’s expected in all Karen Millen stores and online. “Retail Assist understood the need to have the ability to flex during peak trading. As we have grown as a global brand, our existing shared infrastructure just wasn’t scaling for us. The project was vital as a platform for future growth and improved performance, especially during peak trading periods as we experience a high traffic of shoppers and we can’t afford any downtime. “We required project completion before peak trading. Throughout our peak periods, the uplift in capacity allowed Karen Millen to perform well. Our service levels and systems availability were maintained without any disruption.” Retail Assist has recently moved Karen Millen’s shared iSeries infrastructure over to their own solution based at Bluechip. Retail Assist was initially tasked with finding 6 different options to solve existing infrastructure independence and capacity issues Karen Millen faced with their old shared server. Retail Assist helped advise on the preferred solution, manage the networking and configuration of the software as well as managing the entire data transition process to Bluechip. Retail Assist managed the entire process to work around and be live for a sale and peak trading target, which was successfully completed. Whether it’s hardware, software, or stores related, our project management team has technical expertise in a range of retail and hospitality projects, including: New store openings Payment solutions upgrades Ecommerce web platform upgrades Hardware rebuild and rollout Tablet configuration and rollout Large scale data migration Server upgrades and more. Click here to find out more about our Retail Project Management Services. Or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk with your request for more information.…
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Seasalt partner with Retail Assist
  • 6 Aug

Seasalt launches new IT support partnership with Retail Assist

SEASALT GOES LIVE WITH RETAIL ASSIST’S IT HELP DESK May 2018: Cornish womenswear retailer, Seasalt, has partnered with Retail Assist for IT support. Retail Assist provides IT support for 54 Seasalt shops, its distribution centre, and design studios, including Help Desk, Remote Desktop Support, On-Site Desktop & Technical Support, Remote Technical Services and Operations Support. Retail Assist also manages third party hardware maintenance. With 54 shops across the UK, Seasalt required a service provider that could offer nationwide onsite support, with flexibility to deliver future enhancements and service options as the business expands. With 24 x 7 availability, Retail Assist acts as a single point of contact for all of Seasalt’s IT requirements. Retail Assist’s expert knowledge of the retail systems used by Seasalt further inspired confidence in the service transition. Adam Cotgreave, Business Systems Director at Seasalt, explains, “In Retail Assist, we saw a dependable support partner for our current IT network, that can add further value through proactive recommendations to support Seasalt’s future business strategy. “Culture was another important concern for Seasalt, and Retail Assist is a brilliant fit – acting as an extension of our internal teams, and working in partnership with other suppliers to deliver expert end-to-end support.” Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the new relationship: “We’re delighted to partner with Seasalt to help fulfil their growth strategy. The flexibility of Retail Assist’s service offering to meet current and future requirements, along with the benefit of proactive incident reduction, will truly optimise the cost of Seasalt’s IT.” Retail Assist, which employs 220 staff and has a £15m turnover, works with over 45 high-profile retail and hospitality brands including ASOS, Karen Millen, Vue Cinemas and Pizza Hut. The business was recently named Services Company of the Year at the BCS UK IT Industry Awards, as national recognition for the quality of its managed IT services. Want to know more about our Help Desk Services? Send an enquiry here.…
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  • 30 Jul

What’s Happening On Our High Streets?

Guest blog by Andrew Busby. Andrew Busby is a former retailer, Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist. Darwinism on the High Street and why talk of a retail apocalypse is fake news Walk down virtually any High Street today and it doesn’t take too long to come across the sad sight of a once proud retail store, now shuttered and looking forlorn. These are often iconic brands, they had a place in our lives, we enjoyed going there, spending time there. And now they’re gone; probably forever. The headlines scream “retail apocalypse” and “death of the High Street” – we could actually be forgiven for believing what we read. After all, according to statistics compiled by The Local Data Company, in 2017 5,855 UK High Street stores closed, with fashion and footwear outlets being the hardest hit. Maplin Putney High Street So, the death of the High Street is real and in future we will all be shopping online; cast as mere disciples of our online masters. Not quite. Because that’s to miss a vital ingredient; here’s why. It is true that with most of us now carrying smartphones wherever we go, online has become extremely adept at making the whole process of obtaining goods and services incredibly easy. The ‘uberisation of society’ is now truly a reality; with just a few taps on our smartphone, a meal arrives or a taxi arrives or tickets to a concert turn up. Whatever we desire, the power of online brings it right to us whenever we wish. But if you’ve ever tried getting a haircut online, you’ll know that this doesn’t hold true of everything. The changing face of retail is, unlike the headlines, an incredibly complex process, with many different factors and influences impacting it in different ways. However, fundamentally, what we are experiencing – albeit extremely rapidly – is an evolution, not a revolution. Evolution, according to Charles Darwin, is the process by which species develop through a process of natural selection of the strongest. So why is it that oft quoted external influences, such as Brexit, the weather, rising costs, rent and rates etc. in other words influences which affect all retail businesses, result in some surviving whilst others do not? What we are witnessing is a natural culling of the weakest, to allow the strongest to survive and to allow growth through new entrants; more willing, more able to adapt to change. “In the long history of humankind…those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed” – Charles Darwin Online spending in the UK continues to increase, the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics showing that in May 2018, it had reached nearly 18% of total sales, up from just over 16% in the same period a year ago. However, it would be a fallacy to conclude that this spells the end for the High Street. For example, in research co-sponsored by IBM and NRF (National Retail Federation) in…
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  • 23 Jul

Love Island – “I’m (Brand) Loyal”

The Brands Behind Love Island It’s 8.59pm on a Monday evening. You hear the famous jingle… You run down the stairs in excitement. Your phone won’t stop buzzing, the group chat is going off! You settle down as Iain Stirling narrates to you the events of the night before. Parents, husbands and maybe even the dog will complain of your ritual, but by the end of the 8 weeks, they’ve slipped into the same routine with secret enjoyment. It’s Love Island. The craze that floods our social media channels and steers office gossip the next morning. If you haven’t watched it, you’ve definitely heard of it – let’s be honest, you had to find something else to grumble about now the World Cup is over. However, not only has this year’s Love Island taught us a lot about loyalty, it’s also enriched us with an outlook on purchase habits, particularly in the Gen Z and Millennial demographic. Sponsors of the programme include Superdrug and Missguided amongst others, and since partnering, both have seen immense financial and brand success. Superdrug saw a jump in its pre-tax profit by 16% to £92.9m last year and increased its market share to 32% in the cosmetics market. It attributed the steady financial figures to marketing campaigns such as its sponsorship of Love Island, by kitting out the islanders and hosting the ad breaks. Figures disclosing brand success at Superdrug as a direct result of sponsoring last year’s Love Island. Source: ITV Media Online fashion giant Missguided, however, has taken its sponsorship a step further. Missguided sales have reportedly spiked 40% in the evening, when the show airs, and this is down to more than just successful sponsorship. Missguided has provided clothing for Islanders on the show, giving new meaning to “buy the look”, rather than this just being a website option. Watchers of the show can see for themselves how the clothing looks, as Islanders are effectively modelling and promoting its clothing line. Targeting: The show captures a 56% share of the 16-34 demographic, targeted at females who watch TV during peak hours. This naturally aligns with Missguided who creates celebrity inspired high street fashion for females aged 16-30. Therefore, the context is already set, and Missguided fit perfectly as a sponsor, rather than brands like Lucozade and Rimmel who have had to alter their branding to force a fit. In essence, this gives Missguided direct access to their core customers 6 nights a week for 8 weeks, giving them compelling frequency and depth of engagement like no other! Product Placement: It’s also worth noting that this digital native demographic of Gen Z-ers and Millennials is highly influenced when it comes to purchasing – so the fact that Missguided is supplying the islanders with clothes, as well as appearing in most, if not all ad breaks, only enhances brand engagement and likelihood of purchase. Missguided has established its product placement further by making the clothes easily accessible, by posting natural screenshots of the islanders…
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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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