IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


  • 11 Apr 2016
Retail Assist Roundtable Discussion: Personalisation
When does “Up Close and Personal” become “Too Close and Freaky” during the retail customer experience? In the first of our Roundtable Discussions, we dig deeper into the personalisation concept, how far consumers are comfortable with sharing their information, and what retailers must be careful to consider. Watch the full video on our YouTube channel here, and look out for our next instalment soon.  …
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  • 14 Mar 2016
Getting Personalisation Right
This week we wanted to share some interesting content we have seen on Twitter that caught our attention, from some of our favourite retail experts. “When Does Up Close and Personal Become Too Close and Freaky?” is a discussion point we have been interested in recently. Retailers can focus so much on trying to grab your attention and create a personalised customer experience, that they completely miss the point and instead annoy you. Whether it be with targeted ads on your Facebook page, to greeting you by your name in the store. How much personalisation is too much? We have noticed this topic crop up a number of times lately, for example, in a recent Retail Week discussion on store associates:   The Retail Week debates are often hosted by Katie Barker, Creative Lead at Retail Week. In the #storeassociate discussion, we can see the conflicting opinions of the personalised retail experience. Although @ManhAssocUK states an important point that 49% of consumers would interact more with store associates if the experience was personalised, Katie Barker and Georgia Leybourne show their concern of the difficulty of keeping a personalised experience ‘cool’ and not ‘creepy’. Miya Knights, Head of Global Technology Practice at Planet Retail, caught our eye with this Tweet where she seems to have experienced a bombardment of retailer ‘spam’ through email, suggesting that there is such thing as a step too far: too much direct Marketing, too much spam, too much “big data”.   We are eager to see how the concept of personalisation in retail (in-store and online) will evolve through technology such as cognitive computing. Yet we’re staying wary of how retailers could jeopardise the relationship with their customers by trying too hard to engage with them on a personal level. We will be releasing a video roundtable discussion, “When Does Up Close and Personal Become Too Close and Freaky” very soon. Make sure to keep an eye out for it on our Retail Technology Blog. In the meantime, drop your comments in the below box or tweet us, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Featured Tweets: Miya Knights, Head of Global Technology Practice at Planet Retail Katie Barker, Creative Lead at Retail Week @ManhAssocUK Georgia Leybourne, International Marketing Director at Manhattan Associates    …
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retail technology blog
  • 7 Mar 2016
Sound Thinking for Customer Experience
Recently, we have been watching some insightful TED Talks – the international ideas exchange – and thinking about how general methodologies and thinking patterns can be applied to the retail experience. We’ve blogged before about the importance of atmospherics in-store, with some great insights from our business partners Inovretail. You can read it here. The environment of the store has a serious impact on your customers, and when at its optimum, retailers can experience more sales and a better store conversion rate. So, how can I increase dwell time in store, increasing the store’s conversion rate? Listen up, and raise sound in your consciousness. In his first TED Talk, Julian Treasure explained that sound affects people in four ways: Physiological – it affects hormone secretions, heart rate, and our brainwaves. Psychological – it changes our moods and our emotions. Cognitive – it changes how clearly and comfortably we think, and how productive we are when making decisions. Behavioural – it changes where we go and what we do. You move away from unpleasant sound, and gravitate towards pleasant sound. All of these factors are in play in a shopping environment. Most retail sound is inappropriately deployed and for the most part hostile, and these soundscapes can decrease sales by 28%, according to Treasure. Are you encouraging your customers to make comfortable decisions about purchasing products, by creating the best environment to do it in? Dwell time increases when shoppers are calmer, less stressed, not overwhelmed or fatigued: remember, we experience with five senses and all must be considered in the retail customer experience. You can watch the full TED Talk below:…
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retail technology blog
  • 29 Feb 2016
Amazon launches own-label fashion: what’s to fear?
Last week it was announced that Amazon had launched its own-brand fashion labels in the US, marking the retailers’ first march into the fashion marketplace. The brands available on Amazon’s US site feature up to 1800 new products, such as men’s suits and dress shoes, women’s casual and contemporary clothing, accessories, and children’s clothing. The news has provoked some raised eyebrows in the retail community. Will the ecommerce giant threaten the retail brands we know and love? There’s been some commentary that Amazon’s accomplished fulfilment model, slick delivery operations, and high levels of customer satisfaction are a combination that will pose a threat to the fashion marketplace. In addition, the products are retailing at a low cost point; when combined with the “Amazon effect”, it could be a deadly success. Amazon’s consumer electronics portfolio (Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV) really works. So, is diversifying into own-brand fashion any different? Short answer: quite different. There are key variances to mark between US and UK retailing, and perhaps a few downfalls with Amazon Fashion that we have considered. The “brands” that have launched in the US are Franklin & Freeman, Franklin Tailored, James & Erin, Lark & Ro, North Eleven, Scout + Ro and Society New York… Are those brand names at all memorable? To us, they’re a bit of a blur, and frankly (excuse the pun) vanilla. One thing has been proven in fashion retailing that’s very prevalent in the UK consumer mind-set: the brand must have a strong position, an original message, and offer a seamless customer experience across channels. Will this really work on Amazon, when the design of the ecommerce platform is no different from searching for novelty gifts? This leads on to the next flop. Do you want to order clothes on the same site you might order your lawn mower, Go Pro, or dog shampoo? You might buy a coat from Amazon, but would you buy a coat made by Amazon? Consumers enjoy the experience of buying branded clothing as a rather special, luxury feeling: “treating yourself”. If your new occasion-wear arrived in the same box as some batteries, would you enjoy the same levels of customer satisfaction? In addition, KeyBanc notes that only 15% of Amazon’s active customers currently buy clothing and accessories on the site. Amazon might be looking to own-label fashion to fuel its expansion plans, but is the demand really there? Despite this, Amazon has fast become the marketplace giant from which you can buy anything. It also has a vast amount of customer profile and purchase history data to draw on, which could be used to make fast-fashion wins. Why should fashion be exempt from its offering? What’s your view? Post your opinions in the comment box below:…
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discount december
  • 7 Dec 2015
A discounted December?
The verdict’s out on Black Friday, as this year’s sales figures are in. But did the event meet our predictions and expectations? It looks like our Black Friday research (featured here on Notts TV at 1:37) was correct. Online vs High St Online spend was up 36% year on year, smashing previous records by topping £1.1 billion sales on Black Friday. Online sales across the four day weekend, including Cyber Monday, amounted to a whopping £3.3 billion. It was a different story on the high street, however, as footfall fell 4.5%, a slump blamed not only on the “damp squib” that was Black Friday, but also due to the strong online offer provided by many retailers. In this sense, Black Friday definitely failed to provide high street fashion stores with the required boost in November, with sales down 4.9% year on year, following on from a similar October slump. So, why did consumers choose to purchase online, opting for shopping via ecommerce rather than bricks and mortar? Perhaps the mayhem that gripped the nation’s headlines last year acted as a deterrent to those hoping to shop in-store. Something that definitely stood out from last year is the drawn out nature of the discount period. It was a well organised, pre-Christmas shopping event rather than one manic day of unprecedented demand and unfulfilled expectations. Discount mentality Is there much that retailers can do in the battle to protect margins, in the face of the current consumer demand for discounting? 60% of shoppers time their purchases around sales (Conlumino 2014), a mentality that is harming retailers’ sell through of full price stock. If December is anything to go by so far, we’re still seeing extended discounts under different names: Cyber Monday Hangover, Manic Monday, Festive Frenzy… It’s interesting that the connotations of discounting still concentrate on the “flash” sale, despite deals being stretched out to prevent demand concentrating on days like Black Friday. Something retailers need to consider is the amount of returns they’re getting, and the need to process these with great efficiency. What’s the use of having an item “out of stock” on your website, or in-store for that matter, when said item is being returned, and could be being sold at full price? This is a cyclical process that needs to tighten up. Now more than ever, it’s critical for retailers to have 100% visibility of all stock, across all channels. We can help – just visit our dedicated Merret page to learn more about omnichannel supply chain efficiency, or get in touch with us here.    …
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Black Friday 2015
  • 16 Nov 2015
Vlog: Is the Black Friday model a sustainable approach to UK retailing?
In a shock turn of Black Friday events, retail giant Asda announced it’d be pulling out of this year’s proceedings. Arguably, as the Walmart-owned brand that first introduced the annual US tradition to the UK in 2013, Asda’s decision to refrain is a bold one. But, as our Head of Marketing explains in today’s vlog, is crippling annual Black Friday demand a sustainable model for UK retailers? Will others persevere with fulfilling customer expectations for mega discounting? Or will more retailers shy away from Black Friday?…
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  • 21 Sep 2015
The changing face of out of town retail
The increasing importance of the store in the omnichannel retail world has taken centre stage in the past few weeks. Recent research has revealed that 73% of EU retailers expect the store to become more strategically important by 2020, a statistic that includes every type of store: flagship, city centre, market town, shopping centre, and out of town retail parks. “Out of town” doesn’t mean “out of mind” for big retailers. With the dawn of omnichannel retailing came a crucial need for retailers to re-evaluate the role of the store in the overall customer experience, with each store needing to play its part in emanating the brand. Over the years, out of town retail parks had received a bad image – “big box” units, “retail sheds”, nothing compared to their jazzy city centre counterparts, or websites, for that matter. Now, market leading retailers are giving more careful consideration to architecture and design, and use of internal space, to create a bold, attractive and interesting place to shop and spend leisure time. Next recently featured in Retail Week for its Longwater Retail Park store in Norwich; a prime example of a store re-writing the usual rules of edge-of-town retail architecture with a clever and intricate use of space that belies the vast blueprint. The store is also fitted out with a Costa Coffee, a good example of current retailer-hospitality collaborations which provide complimentary offers for the overall benefit of the customer experience. Digging a bit deeper, and considering the technology that underpins the store, what’s interesting to analyse are the subtle, but crucial, differences between city stores and retail parks. How does the space work, how is in-store tech used, how does the store operate in the supply chain? (i.e. is it a critical ship-from-store unit?; is click-and-collect a big operation?) Consumers have different demands of stores in different locations, meaning stores require different attributes in order to maintain a high retail conversion rate. A city centre store might be more inundated with click-and-collect orders in the week, for the working demographic that would rather pick up their order on their lunch break. Alternatively, a retail park might see more activity like this at a weekend, when trips out are planned to enjoy a leisurely shopping experience visiting different brands. The use of in-store tech (such as tablets to browse the web and make orders) might also command a different use in different locations – in busier stores where staff might not be as readily available, customers might prefer the convenience of ordering in-store themselves. These nuances are considerations that retailers must bear in mind when differentiating the store experience. As much as we have blogged about making the store a crucial channel in the customer journey, further consideration should be given to different types of store and what makes them successful. If you’re considering a transformation of your out of town retail store portfolio, or any part of your store estate, our project-focussed retail IT support can help. We are…
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IT Services and Solutions
  • 28 Aug 2015
Could a retailer’s flagship be its own website?
Last week we read an article on how the role of the flagship store is changing, and were pleasantly surprised to see a number of Retail Assist’s customers featuring in this post by Retail Week. London has some exceptional flagship stores, and Selfridges is perhaps the poster child for this, being the second largest store in the UK and hosting a plethora of designer brands. However, it seems some of our retail IT customers are breaking the mould of a ‘typical’ flagship store. A flagship is the retailer’s pre-eminent store, designed to showcase the brand and market itself to draw in consumers. With in-store technology becoming ever more prominent, the flagship boasts its most impressive technological devices and original ‘feng shui’ to create an unforgettable customer experience. Earlier this year, Oasis reopened its London Argyll Street flagship, focusing on tech and customer experience. The Oasis flagship creates in-store theatre, presenting a digital family tree wall behind the escalators, featuring moving framed portraits. Behind the cash desk there are digital windows that show a looped video of a meadow on a spring day, followed by clouds unleashing a downpour of rain. The men’s waiting area at Oasis’ flagship is known as the ‘library’, where people can sit, relax and read a book. Burberry’s flagship on Regent Street seamlessly blurs the physical and digital worlds. Burberry on Regent Street uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) for interactive mirrors that transfer into personalised screens. They also show live global screenings of their catwalks and events in-store. Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s CEO says “Walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World Live.” So where does ‘the flagship’s changing role’ come in? The typical presumption is that the flagship should be located in London, and the store itself should be the largest of the chain. Yet, Karen Millen’s Knightsbridge store is relatively small in comparison to other flagships (8,000 sq ft), and Paperchase homes its second flagship on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street. Glasgow’s Paperchase is 15,000 sq ft, making it smaller than the one on Tottenham Court Road, London. However, the interior makes up for its smaller space, giving it claim to be the brands’ true flagship. Similarly to Paperchase’s break from the norm, New Look have ‘brand flags’ rather than one flagship store, which are their selected best stores across the UK. Are stores breaking away from the typical flagship? As suggested in Retail Week, with ecommerce continuously on the rise, who’s to say a store’s flagship shouldn’t be its own website or mobile app? At the end of last year, Karen Millen created its virtual online flagship store. The virtual version of its Knightsbridge four floor shop was made to bring the in-store experience online, with the ability to navigate around each floor and pick items to add to your online basket. As the previous quote from Angela Ahrendts at Burberry explains, Burberry’s flagship was created to be as similar as possible to their website, insinuating that the consumer wants…
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  • 17 Aug 2015
Bricks and clicks: a healthy omnichannel relationship
An interesting signing-off comment in Retail Systems really caught our eye last week: So, in this week’s blog, I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to Editor Scott Thompson’s very well-written observation: that the advent of omnichannel retailing gave the traditional retail store a new lease of life that no-one quite predicted. It was perhaps an over-exaggeration that the high street was “dying”, but it has struggled in recent times. The number of retail premises left empty last year almost tripled, as 5,839 shops were closed in 2014. A study of 500 UK town centres recorded net closures of 987, up from 371 in 2013. In other words, things were crumbling in bricks-and-mortar land, whilst £104 billion was splashed out online in the same year, the first time annual spending has exceeded the £100billlion barrier in the UK. However, clicks certainly haven’t “beaten” bricks, according to our own research. In a cross-generational survey we carried out earlier this year, the High St was still the favoured shopping channel for 40% of Generation Y and 48% of Generation X. Yet, when asked about shopping across channels, the majority of both groups shop in this way (92% of Gen Y and 80% of Gen X), suggesting that the general shopping experience is not exclusive to one channel alone. Although originally posited as the High Street’s nemesis, the ecommerce boom might have been responsible for turning the situation around. For the first time, the strength of online competition made retailers sit up and take action in the omnichannel retail world: how could they make the traditional store a more appealing, functional, and profitable part of the retail business? So why has ecommerce been the saving grace of the high street? Clicks and bricks (or ecommerce and bricks & mortar) work together to power omnichannel customer engagement in many ways, for a seamless brand experience. Click and collect has been without a doubt the most popular delivery initiative in recent times, tying ecommerce and the store experience together in the name of greater customer convenience. More than a third (35%) of UK consumers used click and collect services in 2014, according to Mintel. Also, benefiting in-store sales, studies have shown that shoppers going in-store to collect items spend on average £27 more per trip. Click-and-collect is definitely here to stay. Not strictly ecomm specific, but encompassing the omnichannel theme, Ship from Store practices allow retailers to fulfil orders via the most efficient channel, fulfilling the customer promise quicker. SFS unlocks the functionality of the store, enabling them to become virtual distribution hubs rather than stand-alone units detached from the omnichannel world. Retailers are making headway with smarter inventory management, and with greater stock visibility available to retailers, consumers also want to know where they can buy. 71% of consumers expect to view in-store inventory online, so that even if they browse a product on the web, they want to know that they can pick it up in store. Our omnichannel supply chain solution,…
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Click and Collect Retail IT Services
  • 6 Jul 2015
Why is John Lewis calling time on free click and collect?
If you read the retail headlines last week, delivery and fulfilment was a very hot topic. Whilst Amazon launched its premium one hour delivery offer in London, in a shock turn of events John Lewis announced it would be charging £2 for click and collect orders under £30, in a move away from “unsustainable” free fulfilment practices. John Lewis boss, Andy Street, said that at present only 18% of its orders are under £30 in value, a minority figure. Nevertheless, if there’s anything to be learnt here, it’s that the customer will ultimately hold the final judgement on this risky move. Consumers today have been taught to expect greater convenience, later cut-off times, faster delivery, and all of this not costing a single penny. But, you can’t continue to have something for nothing without someone losing out, and in a bid to reclaim this punishing cost on their product margins, John Lewis has made the call. It will be very interesting to see if other retailers follow suit, in sight of the outcome of John Lewis’ venture. The industry will be watching the impact of the decision with a keen eye. With Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser amongst the first retailers to shout about their plans to keep click and collect services free of charge to the customer, will they be left with their tail between their legs upon realising they’ve missed the boat to fulfilment sustainability later down the line? Earlier this year, we carried out an original Retail Assist survey, assessing the consumer sentiment around the click and collect delivery method. Here’s a helpful infographic of our findings: The majority of our respondents use click and collect service because it’s free. This statistic is slightly worrying for retailers thinking of charging for the service, and might well impact upon John Lewis’ online orders, changing the ecomm/in-store sales balance. 34% of shoppers we surveyed use click and collect at least once every three months, and 17% at least once a month, demonstrating that it’s a very popular choice. Latest statistics in Drapers on CACI’s retail demographic report show that the typical click and collect shopper is worth £112 on that trip compared with £62 for non-click-and-collect shoppers, another reason that click and collect is a good opportunity for retailers to cash in on, rather than destabilise with changes that are unfavourable to the consumer. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that with the current omnichannel approach to retail (any product, any time, anywhere) retailers need to develop new strategies to combat the impact of more demanding fulfilment practices on product margins. What’s your opinion on John Lewis’ latest move? Will other retailers follow in their footsteps and U-turn on free fulfilment? Post your comments below. Share this Infographic On Your Site <p><strong>Please include attribution to with this graphic.</strong></p><br /><br /><br /> <p><a href=’’><img src=” alt=’Click and Collect Retail Assist’ width=’540px’ border=’0′ /></a></p><br /><br /><br /> <p>…
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