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Black Friday 2018
  • 12 Nov

Black Friday Survey 2018

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive This year, Black Friday falls on Friday 23rd November. However, whilst we didn’t see as many hordes of people waiting to push through the doors of their favoured store as we had done with borderline hysterical scenes from previous years, Black Friday was still a huge retail event in 2017, with an estimated £1.39bn spend in the UK alone. So, is 2018 set to match this? In order to take the pulse of consumer response towards Black Friday, 200 participants took part in our Black Friday survey, conducted by digital survey professionals, Toluna. High (street) hopes Remarkably, the responses reflected a positive outlook for the high street; this year’s survey showed the first drop in people planning to shop online. Although 73% of consumers plan to buy online, 27% of consumers plan to hit the high street to grab their bargains. Although this might only be a 6% rise in comparison to 21% last year, the previous three years have shown a steady decline YoY, perhaps heralding the theory that consumers aren’t prepared to ditch the high street just yet. The research revolution Interestingly, whilst some shoppers might succumb to FOMAD (Fear of Missing a Deal), our survey advocated otherwise. 75% of consumers said that they don’t get carried away over Black Friday, with 79% claiming that they’ve never returned a Black Friday purchase. This suggests that customers are clued-up on their buys, supporting the research revolution, where consumers are using webrooming (looking online but buying in-store) and showrooming (looking in-store but buying online) to their advantage, empowering consumers to make the right choice for them. Returns However, for the slim percentage that had returned Black Friday purchases, 24% said it was because they regretted an impulse buy, with 35% of respondents saying that their return was due to sizing problems. A further 28% returned the item due to finding it cheaper elsewhere, highlighting the need for retailers to be price savvy – or customers will take their business elsewhere. However, 13% explained that they returned the item due to ‘insufficient funds’ perhaps highlighting that, for some, the opportunity for a good deal is too good to miss! Black Friday Participation This year, our survey found a small drop in people planning to participate in Black Friday, suggesting that just 48% of people plan on taking part. Whilst previous years had seen higher numbers, with 2015 and 2016 suggesting that 59% of those surveyed were going to participate, last year was only 1% higher. This could suggest that whilst there might have been an initial hype surrounding Black Friday and the deals that were offered in relation to it, consumer interest has waned, but is showing signs of stability.   Whilst a figure of 48% might seem low, this figure doesn’t factor those impulse buyers who might be swayed by attractive deals and price reductions. Are you ready for peak trading? With the possibility of mounting queues over a short period, till downtime and slow…
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  • 5 Nov

Generation Next: how can retailers support Gen Z’s retail expectations?

Guest blog by Marketing Assistant, Hannah Waterfield Generation Z (born post 1995) are now the largest demographic in the world, accounting for 33% of the global population, with 2.5bn of them worldwide (Gartner, 2018) topping their Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial counterparts. The oldest of them are entering the workforce and the youngest of them are in primary school. They are the first demographic to have grown up with technology at their fingertips; they are ‘tech-innate’ and, by 2020, will make up for around 40% of the global consumer market (Adweek, 2017). But how do Generation Z differ from their predecessors and what steps can retailers make to keep them engaged? What does Generation Z want from retailers? Whilst technology is simply second nature to Generation Z, numerous retail reports have gathered that the vast majority of Generation Z value experience as opposed to assets. A 2017 Accenture Global Consumer shopping survey revealed that 60% of Generation Z shoppers prefer to purchase products in-store as opposed to online and around 46% of them check a product in-store before making an online purchase. Moreover, 67% of Gen Z say they liked to always shop in-store, while 31% said they liked to do so sometimes (IBM, 2017). This emphasis on physical experience suggests that Generation Z favour a shopping experience that amalgamates both the physical and digital side of retail, with an experience curated entirely towards their own favours and habits. The question is: how do retailers do this? How can retailers successfully interact with Generation Z? Although Generation Z might have been born with technology at their fingertips, it doesn’t mean that they’ve abandoned the high street. In fact, the interest in physical stores and online shops remains to be pretty even, with 40% of respondents saying that they prefer shopping in store, whereas 45% preferred to shop online (Drapers, 2018). Whilst online shopping is nothing new, the demand for a joined-up approach to online sites and bricks-and-mortar stores is growing. Habits such as ‘showrooming’ and ‘webrooming’ are also prevalent in Gen Z (Drapers, 2018), merging both the virtual and physical store experiences together to purchase their perfect product at the right price. In response to this, retailers are expanding their omnichannel offering, joining together bricks-and-mortar stores, online websites, outlets and social media sites. Offering convenience and supporting how – and, perhaps most importantly, when – consumers (especially immediate-living Gen Z) want to shop will become increasingly important. Retailers are also beginning to think outside of the box when it comes to the customer experience, instead considering a more holistic approach. A rise of in-store features such as coffee shops and beauty bars appearing in bricks-and-mortar stores are becoming more prominent, with retailers considering their customer’s experiential needs. For example, Retail Assist’s customer, Harvey Nichols, offer a champagne and nail bar in their Liverpool-based concept store, ‘Beauty Bazaar’, for customers who want to relax and enjoy the time they spend shopping in store. These added immersive features play to Generation…
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Is Mt Machine Learning about Retail?
  • 31 Oct

Retail Reflections Part Two: Is My Machine Learning About Retail?

Guest blog by Alan Morris. Alan is the co-founder and brand ambassador of Retail Assist. It could be argued that retailers can suffer from the Midas effect when it comes to specifying their requirements from technology; simply, they may not always know how to say what they want. Traditionally, we have written programs that tell the computer exactly what to do every step of the way. We define the input, create the calculation, and we set the criteria for the results. At no time do we allow the computer to consider the facts using its enormous capacity for performing simultaneous and complex calculations, and we never ask the computer to tell us what it thinks because computers have never been able to think for themselves. They may process millions of transactions, carry countless simultaneous calculations, and store massive volumes of data, but they don’t learn from it; only humans use data to learn and build experience so that they can make better decisions in the future. When it comes to decision support, technology has always been typecast into the support role. Technologists have been thinking about this for a long while, and ever since the reigning world chess champion at the time, Garry Kasparov, was beaten at chess by IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, they have been working to create a computer that will mimic the human brain. Surely machine learning provides this: using algorithms, it learns from data which factors are important in achieving a specific goal. For example, if the goal is to improve the profitability of a particular product category, the system will learn which of the variables in play are important and why; it will also understand the relationships and work out what needs to happen so that the goal is achieved. Unlike traditional programming, the system will continue to learn as the variables change. This learning will continue to develop the computers thinking, expanding its experience so that it ensures the goal is met, regardless of how the business evolves. Given this explanation, you begin to appreciate that today computers can learn and gain experience and as they begin to provide better insights, we will soon be able to rely on them to manage some key processes without human intervention: this is machine learning. Machine learning is already active in retail, with websites promoting other items we’d be interested in buying, based upon our past purchases. These sites are using machine learning to analyse our browsing and buying history to personalise our shopping experience and encourage us to spend more money. In other examples, machine learning is being implemented to improve the supply chain process. Adidas is co-creating a new supply chain with its customers. They use machine learning to look at hundreds of millions of pictures to determine trends in consumer desire and then translate that into a guided design of individualised products. Adidas typically take 18 months to turn trends into shoes, but the new prototype “speed factory” sees customers design their customized…
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Is Mt Machine Learning about Retail?
  • 29 Oct

Retail Reflections Part One: Is My Machine Learning About Retail?

Guest blog by Alan Morris. Alan is the co-founder and brand ambassador of Retail Assist. Even if you don’t take an interest in machine learning, it doesn’t mean that it won’t take one in you. We are all someone’s customers, and our digital footprint is being increasingly tracked and used by retailers who want to profile us. They want to know our interests, observations, comments, likes and dislikes so they can produce for us a tailor-made customer experience. The reason being? To encourage us to spend more money: this is the future of retail.   Machine learning will be the key that unlocks retail’s big data and enables this to happen. It will provide insights so comprehensive and accurate that retailers will know exactly what their customers want to buy, and how and when they want to buy it. This will give retailers a new data driven confidence. Going forward, these insights will be automatically actioned, and the results will improve the supply chain process to a level that the buying, merchandising and logistics teams never thought possible. If you are cynical, remember that the history of innovation is the story of ideas that seemed dumb at the time. Considering how retailers currently perform data analytics will help position machine learning. Retailers use spreadsheets, planning and forecasting applications, and Business Intelligence (BI) tools, to generate insights to improve trading performance. These solutions forecast what should happen and playback what has happened. They are strong when it comes to broadcasting good, bad and indifferent performance, but they fall short of explaining why some things work and some things don’t. This insight comes from how the people that use the technology interpret the information they are presented with, and the validity of their opinion is based upon their experience and understanding of retail. The problem for humans when analysing data is the more you learn, the more you realise what you don’t know. You begin acknowledging that to understand something totally, you must sometimes break away and look at things differently; then, once you have looked at things differently, you need to look at them differently again. The best insights are those that are achieved when you completely understand the relationships between all the variables in play that can affect the scenario you are considering. Traditionally, retailers analyse data by looking for recognised patterns such as ‘what was bought with what?’, ‘which products sold best?’, and ‘how do sales compare to this time last year?’. However, they don’t fully help you to understand the different relationships that exist within the data, so they can’t fully appreciate the importance these may have when it comes to making informed decisions. This requires working through thousands of computations, testing different theories based upon how to improve performance. This arduous process is how you learn and build the experience so that the insights you give are meaningful.   Some have suggested that there is a lack of data in retail businesses. I know from personal experience that there…
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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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