IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

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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

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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RBTE 2018 video
  • 4 May

RBTE 2018 Video: Top Technology

As you get back into the office after a busy two days at Europe’s biggest retail technology Expo, we bring you our RBTE 2018 video highlights! Katie Anderson reports in our top technology round up video from the Show. What were the highlights at RBTE 2018? You can view the video on our YouTube channel here. Fintech meets Fashion: Qivos As you’ll hear in the interview above, Qivos’ CEO Vagelis Karalis notes the importance of creating a jewellery item that could pay, rather than creating another wearable payment device. Qivos’ world-first partnership with Links of London and Folli Follie shows exactly this: that fashion forward payment devices are a real departure from the gadgets we have seen in previous years. With a simple contactless tap, the wearer can pay for any item with Qivos’ Visa-verified jewellery pieces. They improve safety (no need for cash/cards), user experience (simple, one-tap contactless payment), and are designed with the wearer in mind. Mercaux X Olapic Retail Assist has worked with Olapic on a previous project, to bring social media streams of user generated Karen Millen content into our Nexpo Store of the Future, with #MyKM. At RBTE, it was great to see that Olapic has now partnered with Mercaux, to bring the best UGC to Mercaux’s mobile platform. We were impressed with how seamless the customer journey is from inspiration to transaction – with just two clicks to purchase – which you can watch in the demo above with Ed Addo from Olapic. Virtual Reality: the Omnichannel edition VR first came onto the scene a few years ago, as a piece of technology that created an immersive gaming/entertainment experience, with no real user case for the retail sector. At RBTE 2018 we were impressed to try out GK Software SE’s VR solution, which integrates with a retailer’s stock pool and store systems, in order to provide an end-to-end omnichannel journey. Purchasing straight from the headset in a realistic high street setting, the order doesn’t always have to be fulfilled online – as the store is also notified of the transaction activity to allow store fulfilment, should it be the more cost-effective option.  We can’t believe another RBTE has come to an end, and are already looking forward to next year! It was great to meet up with clients, partners, and new faces. What were your Show highlights? Comment on our retail technology blog below.…
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RBTE 2018 Retail Assist
  • 30 Apr

RBTE 2018: Top Trends Prediction

What will be the top trends at RBTE 2018? It’s just 2 days to go until this year’s RBTE, 2-3rd May at Olympia London. To meet up with any of the Retail Assist team over the 2 days, please email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. See you there! Look out for our live updates from RBTE 2018 on our Twitter page @RetailAssist. We’ll be rounding up our insights in an RBTE video update later this week, which you can see on our YouTube channel. So, with NRF, Retail Week Live, and World Retail Congress behind us, what do we expect to be the top trends at RBTE 2018?… The Fast and The Furious One of our favourite insights from the recent World Retail Congress in Madrid comes from Retail Reflections: “If you’re not obsessed with speed, you’re probably obsessing about the wrong thing.” “Rapid ultra-fast adoption of technology is undoubtedly now at the core of modern retailing but combined with a willingness to realise that the rules have changed”, says Andrew Busby. With a call for new experiences, and faster trend adoption,  retailers must start creating new rules to play by. Gen Z’s comfort with a fast pace of change allows retailers to bring out their latest technology innovations quicker than ever before, with reduced fears of low adoption. AI or Die Retailers recognise that to manage and support future growth, they need to invest in technology. One of the industry’s greatest success stories, ASOS, is seeing that a rising capex and greater investment in technology is paying dividends. ASOS completed 1,200 tech updates during the last six months alone. In this space, AI has taken up the most attention. On the subject of AI, Nick Beighton comments: “[AI] is going to be a game-changer for us in many important areas, not only improving customer experience but also lowering the cost of how we operate our business model.” We expect RBTE will place huge importance on harnessing the power of AI, to improve customer engagement, empower employees and optimise operations. Predicted AI buzzwords: accuracy, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Why tech must enhance, not challenge On the subject of efficiency, we have seen increasing emphasis on the need to empower the retail workforce. Mercaux’s Sales Assist app. Providing the detailed information that customers want – on products, their availability, and delivery options – removes the risk of lost sales and customer churn. Customers are satisfied because they don’t have to wait for store associates, and store associates are happy in the knowledge that they can provide accurate, personalised information. If you want to see our partner solution in action, make sure to check out Mercaux on stand J141.…
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  • 23 Apr

Mercaux’s Top 3 Trends Ahead of RBTE 2018

An RBTE 2018 guest blog from our partner Mercaux, by Bhavna Sakhrani. Mercaux’s Top 3 Trends Ahead of RBTE 2018 2018 has been the year for transformation at scale. As the Amazon effect continues to impact the retail industry, improving customer experience and thus increasing store sales are at the core of retailers’ in-store strategies. Most importantly, it is an opportune time to implement solutions that blend the online and offline shopping journey to create a seamless experience that is unique and memorable. With just one week left before the industry’s biggest event of the year, the Mercaux team has highlighted a few key themes and innovations we expect to see at this year’s Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) on May 2nd & 3rd. 1) Creating Unique and Memorable In-store Experiences Customers in retail stores come in search of a physical experience that blends the convenience of purchasing online with the human element of shopping in-store. For customers who know what they want and are simply in search of a particular product, they can go online to purchase for the convenience and rapidity of e-commerce. However, those who come to buy in-store, come to explore, seek inspiration and guidance, and expect a superior customer experience. One way for retailers to deliver an impactful experience is by offering styling suggestions and outfit recommendations to create a personalised inspirational experience. Mercaux’s Digital Styling app features a looks gallery with marketing and UGC content, looks created by sales people via digital outfit builder, product cross-selling and alternative recommendations. The solution is powered by an AI-driven engine to deliver seamless personal styling experiences in-store and allows sales associates to email outfits to their customers for further engagement. 2) Improve Store Operations and Efficiency Visual Merchandising is one component that highly impacts the overall look and feel of the store, which in turn affects the customer’s willingness to buy and come back. With “fast fashion” trends becoming even more important, effective and consistent communication between Head Office and Visual Merchandising teams should be a high priority for all retailers. Retailers looking to improve efficiencies and simplify existing processes should consider technology platforms that offer real time communication features. Mercaux’s recently released Visual Merchandising tool offers features such as mobile store reports, real time feedback and notifications, and the ability to track, compare and review all Visual Merchandising guidelines. 3) Blend the Online and Offline Shopping Journey with In-store Technology Today, customers entering retail stores are channel agnostic and use multiple devices to research products and get acquainted with brands. Retailers can benefit from blending the online and offline experience by empowering their sales people with in-store mobile technology to enhance the end-to-end shopping journey, from product discovery and styling inspiration to instant checkout. Creating a seamless experience that is powered by technology enables discovery, generates new demand, and builds relationships. With a digital infrastructure in place, stores will: Become a marketing channel where customers can browse through digital content Carry less stock, but sell more…
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product information management
  • 16 Apr

Purchase Order Management: Know What’s Where, When

What is a Purchase Order Management System? Installing and running an efficient, streamlined and dynamic process is undoubtedly the aim of any forward thinking retailer. A Purchase Order Management system should play a prominent role, facilitating accurate knowledge of what has been ordered, when it will be delivered and what needs to be re-ordered in a manner that is as easy as possible.   Accurate and transparent costs The biggest advantage of using a Purchase Order Management system is its financial impact. Expenses and costs can be better understood and therefore budgets managed confidently. Using the ability to auto calculate freight and duty (landed costs) means that full accuracy and transparency can be provided at the first stage. The capability to break down financial costings at the beginning of the purchase process rather than the end means that stock orders can be run based solely on whether they are financial profitable. This can also improve control over relationships with suppliers. More efficient deliveries Due to the fact that Merret‘s Purchase Order Management system has the ability to create flexible purchase orders, any incomplete deliveries that may be received are dealt with without needing manual input. Purchase orders can also be re-raised, and the system will allow receipt of additional deliveries. Multi-drop purchase orders are also possible, which means that forming large commitment agreements with suppliers can be achieved, bringing in many benefits. As the stock can be phased in to suit requirements, significant financial savings can be made by using this approach to purchasing. Safeguards Installing safeguards are part of a Purchase Order Management system, and can be customisable to allow for full flexibility. Removing financial commitment after a stated period is possible, as is keeping track of various outstanding balances; this prevents financial processes getting out of hand and maintains a better level of financial control. In another example, issues such as stock shortages in certain geographical locations or seasonal demand can be factored into the ordering process, and safeguarded against by a system that allows for buyers to build up product ranges in a structured manner. Enhanced knowledge of stock and suppliers Being aware and having detailed knowledge of any financial commitment on inventory can be achieved through a Purchase Order Management system.  Clear visibility can be provided on the present state of stock levels, reorder levels, available stock, and stock that is being held, meaning that shortages can be foreseen and prevented. Cost prices can also be viewed alongside sales prices, resulting in greater awareness of profit margins.   …
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  • 9 Apr

Why is inspiration so important in retail?

The rise of retail inspiration: the browser-shopper In recent years, many analysts have noted a marked difference in the way we shop, due to the rise of ‘the inspiration stage’ – browsing. Ecommerce has offered consumers a digital shop window from which to browse a brand’s products, and even better, check their availability. Google statistics show a 55% rise in searches using the word “ideas” between 2015-17. Combined with indisputable role that social media plays in our lives – with mobile devices offering an ‘always on’ connection to peers, influencers and brands – inspiration can quickly turn into a purchasing decision. This means that before a customer enters your store, or visits your website, they have already been inspired, and already know why they are there. Immediately fulfil desire As consumers become more informed, and therefore more demanding, the stakes are getting higher. Brands will find themselves less relevant in the eyes of the consumer if they are unable to respond quickly to a fast-moving trend. Instagram Shopping With 500 million people using the platform every day, Instagram Shopping has tapped into a market of social media users who use apps to make their purchasing decisions. No longer are posts used just for inspiration – if made “shoppable” with the new Instagram feature, users don’t even need to leave the app to purchase the item. This is a powerful example of truly frictionless retailing from inspiration to transaction stage. Product availability So, to recap: I want the item, not necessarily the brand. I’m time poor, searching for the exact item at the best price. What will make a brand stand out? According to consultancy PwC, product availability is the most important factor in driving loyalty, for 42% of UK consumers across all retail sectors. This perhaps goes some way to explain the relative successes of the new generation of ‘ASOS retailers’. For example, Boohoo group sales surged 100% to £228.2m in the final quarter of 2017. And at Pretty Little Thing, to which hundreds of products are added daily, sales nearly trebled to 191% y.o.y. As explained in our Product Information Management Whitepaper, the ability to introduce new products at a rapid rate is the new measure of retail success. Download your free PDF here.…
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Easter retail footfall
  • 3 Apr

Easter Retail Footfall 2018

Bank Holiday washout. Three words dreaded by businesses and consumers alike. The Easter Bank Holiday saw shoppers stay indoors: consumers failed to get a spring in their step with Easter retail footfall plummeting. Easter Bank Holiday in numbers Total shop visits were down by 2.4% between Friday and Easter Sunday, compared with last year. Easter High Street footfall fell 9.6% on Good Friday. On Saturday it dropped 6.9% and, after a 1.9% uplift on Sunday, shopper numbers declined 6.4% on Easter Monday. The early bout of rain on Monday morning further deterred would-be shoppers – high street footfall Easter Monday was down 13.9% by midday. A soggy start to Spring Just a week ago, Springboard had predicted that 2018 Easter retail footfall in the UK could end up 2.7% higher than last year’s, though it had said this depended on “normal weather” conditions. Easter Bank Holiday footfall had been anticipated to increase due to the timing of UK payday falling before Easter, and the increase in February footfall. But is this not the key message – that retailers need to brace themselves for all conditions, ‘whatever the weather’? When will retailers see the sun? Springboard’s Insights Director Diane Wehrle said: “In overall terms footfall is still down compared with Easter last year. Easter footfall also declined in the previous two years, so it is clear that Easter is becoming less important as a key retail trading period.” However, online shopping and traffic to mobile devices has again appeared to weather the storm, showing increases as opposed to scenes on the High Street. Once again, the figures show why it is of prime importance to offer your customers a relevant and convenient experience, whichever channel they choose to shop. If your IT services and solutions aren’t supported during Bank Holidays, a peak time for retailers and hospitality operators (but often considered ‘special hours’ by some suppliers) see how our retail IT support could help. Our team is available 24 x 7, supporting end users across 8650+ global locations in 12 languages! Find out more here, or email your IT support requirements to marketing@retail-assist.co.uk…
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IT retail systems
  • 26 Mar

Stock Replenishment: Speed To Sell

Replenishment Systems Most consumers have visited a store, or browsed online, and found an item they wished to purchase out of stock. For the customer, this is frustrating and an annoyance, especially when special effort has been made to visit a specific location for an intended purchase. From a retailer point of view however, items being ‘out of stock’ can be a significant problem. Erosion of confidence In an age of unlimited consumer choice, retailers that frequently experience stock issues are quickly subject to a major erosion of confidence in the eyes of the customer. This means we now live in the age of limited brand loyalty. Whereas in the past, a consumer may have returned at a later date to obtain an item, now they will simply go elsewhere, noting in the process that the first brand tried was unreliable. Future sales have been lost too: they demand, and they need it now. The internet has of course made visiting multiple locations easier than ever, with purchases from alternative suppliers being made via a simple click of a button. This problem can easily be remedied by utilising dynamic, real-time IT retail systems to keep your stores and websites up to date with latest stock information. Supply chain issues A major problem with slow stock replenishment can be the issues it causes within the wider supply chain. The domino-type effect on which supply chains operate can mean that stock being short in one area, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, can have serious ramifications. IT retail systems that automatically identify when stock is low and order based on intelligent algorithms (auto replenishment systems) are a simple, effective solution. Great Expectations The expectations of customers have radically changed. Delivery times play a major part in this: same day and next day delivery are standard for many retailers, with consumers becoming accustomed to this level of convenience. The inevitable result is that expectations have risen, and standards of service are required to be higher than ever. Stock levels play a large part in this, not just in terms of having items available but in terms of the speed in which they can be with the consumer, via even distribution across the many locations (stores, web, concessions, franchises) a retailer may have. If one location has a large amount of stock, whilst another doesn’t, this could cause problems in terms of achieving a rapid delivery time. If expectations are not met, consumers will be swift to move towards a brand that they perceive will do so. Retail IT Solutions There are many IT retail systems available to ensure that stock shortages do not occur. Auto Replenishment Systems can help with the movement of stock between locations, via user defined algorithms and auto-monitoring of variables and trends. Allocation systems also offer optimised ‘speed to sell’ due to faster stock processing in the warehouse. Pre-allocation removes the need for an initial put-away process during intake, thanks to flagged pre-allocated stock being visible within a…
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