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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Generation Z shopping habits
  • 12 Feb

Generation Z shopping habits

Generation Z and the Future of Retail Driven by new technologies and the changing buying behaviours of younger consumers, the retail industry is undergoing a monumental transformation. Most retailers have focussed on the demands of millennials, but the younger Generation Z (born post 1995) have come into spending power, and now represent the future of retail. By 2020, Generation Z will account for 20% of working adults. We took part in a research project with students at Nottingham Trent University – ‘University of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education Awards 2017 – to find out more about Gen Z in retail. Retailers must face the reality that there is a significant sales uplift when consumers are offered an omnichannel experience: where they can start shopping in one channel, browse in another, and complete the journey in either, with their basket history and previous purchases remembered. One survey found that 69% of customers who entered a store to pick up an item they ordered online bought additional products. Younger consumers also want more transparency where inventory is concerned, so they know if a product is available, and if not, where else they can get it. This gives rise to the first trend identified: convenience. Generation Z and convenience It came as no surprise that the focus group preferred brands like Asos, that sell multiple brands in one place, with a powerful search function that finds exactly what Gen Z are looking for. Not only does this a) negate the need to physically walk around different shops to browse products from different brands but b) negates the need to do the same virtually. This example is a clear feature of Gen Z shopping: convenience is king. Generation Z like to shop, but the experience needs to be centred completely around them. We still have a way to go in the “final mile” in retail: delivery. However, Gen Z do not expect a product to be delivered to their home, nor to a store – not to an exact address, but to themselves as the location, wherever that may be. Although delivery speeds have increased in recent years, location-based delivery should invite similar attention if Gen Z’s demands are to be fulfilled. Generation Z and experience “We grew up with technology; we’ll try anything”.   Generation Z multitask across 5 screens on average, and spend a staggering 10.6 hours a day consuming digital content. As digital natives, Gen Z are natural information-seekers. They know how to locate the information that they’re looking for – so if they can’t find it, that’s a big turn off. This means that ecommerce must be easily searchable to ensure that the most relevant products are displayed. Visual search technology was an innovation made for Gen Z. If a Gen Z consumer is struck with inspiration – a celebrity outfit, a product on screen, or on another real-life person – they want to be able to shop it, now. Visual search enables their shopping journey to be completed…
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product information management system
  • 5 Feb

Why Product Information Management must be central to retail strategy

The rise and rise of Asos, the boom of the Boohoos and proliferation of Pretty Little Things. Fast fashion is only becoming faster: as the shelf-life of retail products diminishes to as little as 6-8 weeks, creating and launching products must be accelerated in order to remain competitive. It comes as no surprise that retailers with shorter supply chain lead times, introducing new products at a faster rate, experience much greater sales growth. In our latest retail whitepaper, learn: Why product information accuracy is critical to omnichannel success; How to shorten product lifecycles to remain competitive in a fast-fashion environment; How to improve channel partner strategy for more efficient product creation; PIM best practice. Download our Product Information Management in Retail whitepaper here. What is a PIM? A retailer’s Item Master Data, or product information management system (PIM), is the source of initial product data as it enters the supply chain. Before a product is released for sale, retailers create and configure the product, assign a description for its purchase order, define the product properties and attributes, and assign the product to its relevant retail category hierarchies.  The number of retail teams, and the varying information they require surrounding the product, calls for a centralised system capable of unifying product information in one accurate, real-time, dynamic view. PIM systems must support multiple geographic locations, as well as the maintenance and modification of item master data by the retailer’s teams and third parties where necessary. Retailing is more dynamic than ever. Frequently changing product information is handled efficiently by PIM, to ensure easy re-class and re-coding, especially during time critical periods and promotions.  Why do retailers need a PIM? When retailers were single channel, using only bricks-and-mortar stores to sell their products, the need for detailed product information was negated by store assistants, who provided all the information about a product that a customer required. Add to this a slower pace of product introduction, and a smaller inventory, a PIM might not have been a priority. Fast forward to today, where the number of channels is expanding at a rapid rate. An essential part of most retailers’ strategies are partners, franchises, concessions and affiliates. Channel partner standards are changing, which places new demands on retailers. With a proliferation of channels, and different demands for product information, managing products is a labour-intensive nightmare, especially if multiple systems are used. Once a retailer’s product is ready to release to market, administrative blockers such as product information conformity causes serious delay. Furthermore, if your attributes are not provided in the correct format for different channels, your product will fall low in any searches, reducing saleability. A product information management system makes the product introduction and acceptance process easier to manage through greater efficiency and accuracy, with a single place to record rich product information. Confidence in your products is the cornerstone of profitable, customer focussed retailing. If you’d like more information on how we support leading retailers with our supply chain software, please get…
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IT Help Desk
  • 29 Jan

Managing Help Desk Demand

Is your business growing faster than your IT can handle? A well-managed, efficient and slick IT Help Desk service acts as so much more than an IT function. By the very nature of the service, users contacting a Help Desk will be experiencing problems or issues, and may often be stressed, or frustrated. Having their issues quickly and professionally dealt with can have a huge impact on individual satisfaction and productivity, and sends out an image of the brand taking a professional and serious approach to problems, without disrupting customer service. What can cause problems for a Help Desk? Meeting expectations on levels of service can often be difficult when faced with the challenges encountered on a busy service desk. Response times can be seriously impacted by a lack of efficiency or inappropriate focus. Many service desks will look at their initial response times as a focal point, aiming to provide a rapid answering time. This can often result in positive first impressions that may well not be followed through to a successful end result, due to focus being misplaced. A high first line fix means much more than a low answering time with longer resolution. Problems can also arise around creating a cost effective approach, where sufficient financial priority is placed on the areas and timeslots that matter or are subject to enhanced demand. Managing this can of course be difficult, and can be subject to many types of internal pressure, not least of which can form around how to calculate the worth of individual components to the business as a whole. Gauging issues based on their priority can also be difficult and time consuming, as well as escalation to the relevant third parties.  How can Retail Assist help? The specialist Help Desk team at Retail Assist offers services designed to make a business more effective, by providing a streamlined approach to issues. By centralising all problems to one single point of contact, any incident that occurs across an entire business can be logged and resolved in the same place, creating a uniformed and unified service. As the service blends seamlessly with internal teams, the IT Help Desk forms an extension of the business, where problems are managed end-to-end from the point of contact to resolution. The financial benefits to the business are very valuable. The service removes the need for staffing internally, such as the ability to flex cover over peak periods, and all costs are transparent. Regular meetings with users of the IT Help Desk service mean that improvements are continually made in order to align with expectations. In a similar manner, a proactive approach is taken to the incidents about which the IT Help Desk is contacted in order to prevent occurrences of issues in the future. As a result the top issues that the IT Help Desk encounters each month are collected, assessed and removed in order to reduce the volume of incidents that may occur. Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk service is ISO 20000…
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NRF 2018 Retail Assist
  • 22 Jan

NRF 2018: Technology Takeaways

Retail Assist NRF 2018 We’re back from another successful visit to NRF 2018, Retail’s BIG Show and Expo. Over 5 floors at the Jacobs K Javits Center in New York, we were immersed in the latest solutions, technology developments, and trends driving retail in 2018 and beyond. If you haven’t already watched our NRF 2018 vlogs, reported by Rhianne Poole, you can watch Day 1’s vlog here, Day 2 here, and both below. We bring you 5 minute round ups of the top technologies seen each day: So, what were Retail Assist’s key technology takeaways? “Retail is nothing without AI” Once again, and as reported in 2017, artificial intelligence came out on top. However, at this year’s Show artificial intelligence was taken to the next level through relevant application in retail. We were excited to see many use case scenarios and retailer case studies, taking AI from conceptual to applied benefits. AI has transitioned from “data is the new oil” to “retail is nothing without AI”. Retailers must see how critical it has become to operations as well as the customer experience. Beyond more relevant personalisation, there are opportunities for better product visibility, better product suggestion, and enhanced stock positioning. No longer an example in isolation, AI is offered with complementary technologies, such as inventory search; when blended together it becomes a valuable offering which the consumer can relate to.  IBM Watson, always a leader in AI, has applied Watson technology to its retailer chatbots, which are able to understand and respond to the tone of voice used by the customer in the chart below. Should the customer type more quickly, or use a frustrated tone of voice, the chatbot will adapt its semantics and speed of response to fulfil their demand with the best reaction. This leads us onto the next trend – convenience. The customer journey must exist at lightning speed, from browsing, to selecting a product, to payment completion. As Andrew Busby put it, automation is not to be afraid of in retail, and technologies such as those offered by Slyce and Mercaux make the product discovery process more fun, as well as more successful. Convenience for the retailer is just as important: and RFID has finally become more mainstream, enabling greater store and warehouse stock accuracy. We saw examples of an RFID gun sweep in 5 seconds recording over 200 pieces of inventory – pretty impressive for a daily stock take. The dress below has dual tagging – RFID and security embedded within one tag, which can be easily re-encoded. For the retailer, store associate, or customer, AI will combine with more and more elements of the retail customer journey to offer convenience and optimised experienced.…
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  • 17 Jan

NRF 2018 Vlog Day 2

Retail Assist NRF 2018 Hello again from New York! Rhianne Poole from Retail Assist’s Marketing team brings you more highlights from Retail’s Big Show in the second of our NRF18 videos. In our video we see demos from L’Oréal and Fingopay, as well as catching up with Retail Analyst Andrew Busby and hearing his highlights from NRF 2018. Press play below to watch the video, or watch it on YouTube here. (You can catch up with our Day 1 round-up here). AR (Augmented reality) Augmented reality and digital mirrors have been around for a while in the retail space, but we were pleased to see more realistic and relevant user case scenarios in the beauty/cosmetics industry. Used with cosmetic brands, the technology improves the convenience of trying different make up looks, and provides post-engagement to increase conversion. The value of this technology to the customer was much more evident than in previous years. Frictionless payments By 2020, it is expected that more than $5.6 trillion in payments will be secured by biometric technology. Fingopay, developed by Sthaler, is the world’s earliest customer identification technology powered by Vein ID biometrics. Seamless payments remove the number of touchpoints in the transaction journey, and Fingopay is a great example of this. Fingopay not only offers greater convenience for the customer though frictionless checkout, but also provides benefits for the retailer. By integrating with the retailer’s loyalty proposition, engagement with the brand and repeat transactions are encouraged. Retail Reflections We also caught up with Andrew Busby, who gave his insights into the top trends this year at NRF18. We share perspectives on the empowerment of the store and its teams. The place of the store in the retail customer journey must be prioritised: 98% of Gen Z still want to shop there. Experiential Retail is key for their demographic. To sum up the sentiment of the conference, sessions and Expo itself – Retail will be nothing without AI. You can check out Retail Reflections’ NRF18 content on their website here.…
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  • 16 Jan

NRF 2018 Vlog Day 1

Retail Assist NRF 2018 Hello from New York! Rhianne Poole from Retail Assist’s Marketing team brings you highlights from the Show in the first of our NRF18 videos. The key trend we identified from Day 1 of NRF 2018 is the advancements in AI, turning the power of data into realistic, use-case scenarios. Watch our technology insights from NRF Expo 2018 in the below video or over on YouTube here. Here are our 3 tech highlights from NRF 2018 Day 1. AI for product visual search: Slyce Visual search was brought onto the retail scene last year by ASOS, to enable the customer to take a photo of a product in real life, on a catwalk, or from a magazine – whenever inspiration or a customer need occurs. Slyce is taking this to the next level, partnering with retailers such as American Eagle, Tommy Hilfiger’s UK and US app, and Urban Outfitters. Working with another AI disruptor, Find Mine (used by Adidas), Slyce offers slick integration with a chat bot to provide the instantaneous social commerce favoured by Gen Z. Slyce’s customers have reported a 20% increase in average order value thanks to the technology’s ability to successfully identify product in an engaging way, or offer similar items to close a sale. AI and conversational commerce: IBM Watson now reacts to emotion in real time during conversational commerce. The demo seen in our vlog above is applied to an online scenario, but also works paired through voice. AI is playing a role in the following: • Supply chain – for efficiency • Operational – for merchandising • Consumer – to interact in a retail context (voice, natural language, emojis). The consumer is the main focus for Watson Commerce. Watson’s Chatbot demonstrates conversational commerce and learns to undertake emotion, changing the content to meet consumer needs. In the demo, the user has asked to see a range of sweaters. She asks the chat bot “Add that to my cart”. But what is “that”? Watson is able to identify which item the user might desire based on the fact that she clicked into the item detail, and by inferring positive sentiments from her language use. Rather than a typical Siri based “all questions, less answers”, Watson has learned to pre-empt and suggest to improve the customer experience. This links to Google Home/Alexa, whereby asking “where is my order” can bring up previous order history and delivery details. And the buzzword process for cognitive? Understand, reason, learn, interact. You heard it here first! Digitisation of the store through smarter product looks You may have seen recently that Retail Assist has partnered with Mercaux. The in-store technology company enables retailers to transform their in-store shopping experience by bringing the benefits of digital into physical stores. Mercaux, which supports the likes of United Colors of Benetton, L.K. Bennett and French Connection, offers a mobile platform that unifies a retailer’s online and in-store sales experience and empowers store associates to deliver an exceptional omnichannel customer journey.…
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NRF 2018 retail trends
  • 8 Jan

NRF 2018: Retail Technology Trends

NRF 2018 With just 6 days to go until NRF Big Show and Expo 2018, we’re preparing ourselves for the miles of retail technology on show. Taking place from Sunday 14th January – Tuesday 16th January 2018 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, Kevin Greathead, Head of Partnerships, and Rhianne Poole, representing Marketing, will be in New York for the duration of the Show. CES 2018, the Consumer Electronics Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas, usually gives an insight into the types of innovations and retail technology trends we might expect to dominate 2018. At CES, wearable technology has become even smarter: how about L’Oreal’s nail-size chip that monitors UV exposure, or smart shoes which detect if its elderly wearer has fallen? Wearables have definitely evolved from ’tech-for-tech’s sake’ gadget types to genuinely useful devices that benefit the user in day-today experiences. And that’s the key word: experiences. Experience-led retail Oasis at Tottenham Court Road delights customers with a cocktail bar, coffee lounge, and in-house nail & hair salon. In 2018, retailers must focus on their customers’ omnichannel experiences, and the stories they want to hear. It’s no coincidence that Instagram launched ‘Stories’ last year as a method of documenting its users’ lives “in the moment”. Retail must follow this example to continue to excite and delight its customers. It has become a well-quoted statistic, but as Generation Z and millennials acquire a greater proportion of consumer spending power, they prefer experiences to a simple transaction: why they are buying an item (the story behind the product or experience surrounding the purchase), rather than what they are buying.   Retail Reflections has put forward “Immerse, Inspire, Intrigue” as the 3 pillars of customer experience for 2018. We’ll be meeting up with Andrew Busby, founder of Retail Reflections, and Vend Top 100 Retail Influencer, whilst in New York, so stay tuned for further insights. Retail Technology Vlog Retail Assist’s retail technology blog and NRF vlogs will combine new perspectives on retail trends, by identifying upcoming technology innovations as well as purposeful, easily deployable solutions.  If you’d like to meet up with us whilst in New York, just fill in your details here and one of our team will be in touch. Not attending NRF? Don’t miss an update! We’ll be tweeting @RetailAssist, posting Facebook Live videos and compiling NRF 2018 vlogs on our Youtube channel. Want to check out our highlights from NRF 2017? Watch our 2017 retail technology vlogs featuring RFID, AI, cognitive computing and more.…
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NRF Retail Assist
  • 2 Jan

Countdown to NRF 2018

Retail Assist NRF 2018 Happy New Year! It’s just under 2 weeks until NRF’s BIG Show and Expo in New York, taking place from Sunday 14th January – Tuesday 16th January 2018 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Attending NRF Expo annually, Retail Assist continues to lead the way with retail technology insights. The show brings great opportunities to chart latest developments, and network with faces old and new. We’ve already heard from some of our partners and customers, but if you’d like to schedule some time to meet up with the Retail Assist team whilst in New York please fill in your details here and we’ll be in touch. This year, Kevin Greathead, Head of Partnerships, and Rhianne Poole, representing Marketing, will be in attendance for the duration of the Show. Want to check out our highlights from NRF 2017? Watch our 2017 vlogs of the technology highlights, including cognitive computing, RFID, and more: We’ll also be recording vlogs this year, as well as posting live feeds from our Twitter and Facebook page via the Facebook Live function. So, what can we expect to see from NRF 2018? Cognitive Computing Last year at NRF 2017 the Retail Assist team saw impressive advancements in IBM’s Watson technology as the biggest opportunity for retail. The amount of data generated continues to grow at an exponential rate. Cognitive computing, making sense of unstructured data sets, is the gateway to more relevant, and more intuitive retail personalisation. Once brands begin to mine data intelligently using cognitive, we can expect to see personalisation become successful: to use a well-worn phrase, ‘cool’, rather than ‘creepy’.   Empowering stores with Digital Many retailers attend NRF in the spirit of ‘New Year, new technology’. Retail Assist’s latest partner, Mercaux, is on the cutting-edge of store digitisation – if you’re looking for a simple, powerful solution to increase store conversion, visit Mercaux on Stand 438. Offering a dynamic mobile platform for store associates, Mercaux brings the power of digital in-store to enable better store-to-store communication, improved stock visibility, and optimised customer service. Find out more about Mercaux here. If you’re attending NRF in January, join us for a demo at Mercaux’s stand: just fill out your details here to schedule a meeting. Click here to meet up! We’re looking forward to seeing you next Sunday.…
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christmas 2017 video
  • 18 Dec

Christmas 2017: A Year in Highlights

Retail Assist Christmas Video 2017 Retail Assist wishes you a Merry Christmas 2017! In the spirit of Christmas, we’d like to share with you our annual Christmas video. You can also watch the video on our YouTube channel here. Reflecting on 2017 2017 has been a milestone year for Retail Assist. In April, we gained a multimillion pound investment, which will support continued business growth for Retail Assist as a global, software-enabled solutions and services business. We also celebrated our 18th year of trading, and gained 4 new customers, including Jigsaw, our latest Help Desk customer. We’re proud to provide around the clock support to 40+ brands, across 9,500 sites in 65 countries across the globe, in 10 languages. (And that’s an industry leading set of stats!) We also became Services Company of the Year, awarded by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT. We have been working to deploy latest technology and are developing some of our own. (Look out for this in 2018!). Internally, we have pioneered a UK first management apprenticeship scheme, to progress our next generation of managers. Of course, we could not have achieved this without our customers, partners and colleagues; thank you for your continued support throughout 2017. Have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a prosperous 2018!…
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supply chain
  • 11 Dec

Identifying Weaknesses In Your Supply Chain

For any retailer, having a supply chain that operates tightly and without error is the key to success. Failings in the chain can lead to time inefficiency, profit damage and ultimately the loss of customer satisfaction. The ramifications of not placing attention on the management of a strong supply chain can be severe. As a result of this, retailers are increasingly looking for ways in which to identify and eliminate any weaknesses. Look at the entire supply chain Where many retailers fall down is in the ability to look at the chain as a whole, end-to-end: from what occurs just before the point at which the product enters the supply chain, and when it leaves. A good way of examining this is via process flow mapping. This can be achieved by looking at all aspects of the product, and the various inputs and outputs encountered throughout its creation and distribution. This exercise provides valuable insight and awareness into where third party communication may be required through the need to develop dependable interfaces, as well as where supply chain efficiency may be at risk through poor stock management. Optimise efficiency: Auto Replenishment System When looking for a way to ensure that stock levels are optimised, having a robust, flexible replenishment system is the first module to consider. Forming part of an omnichannel retailing approach, an auto replenishment system, such as Merret, assists with the movement of stock between locations via user defined algorithms, which allows retailers to have dynamic control and maintain correct inventory levels. Sales performance can be tracked, whilst promotions or seasonal increments can be forecasted and stock level changes made accordingly. Removing issues around products ‘out of stock’, an auto replenishment system uses rationing, ensuring stock reaches the destination it is most needed, and intelligent substitution of continuity items.  Optimise cost control: Purchase Order Management Forming part of the omnichannel supply chain, a further benefit of Merret is its Purchase Order Management system, which allows buyers to build product ranges with financial accuracy in changing environments. Landed costs are accurately calculated automatically, with variables such as freight & duty included. As purchase orders can be set as flexible, re-raising them if a delivery is incomplete is unnecessary; the system allows for receipt of additional deliveries, should they be required. Other advantages of using Purchase Order Management include purchase order creation defaults, and multi-drop purchases orders, which allow agreements with suppliers for large amounts of product, which can then be phased into the supply chain when required. Optimise stock levels: Central Stock Pool The cornerstone of any omnichannel supply chain is a central stock pool, sitting at the heart of the chain. From a central pool, orders can be fulfilled no matter which channel due to a single, centralised view, meaning that inventory is used in the most cost efficient manner. This encompasses what is held in the warehouse, as well as in stores. As a result of this, terminal stock is reduced with less excess ordering, supply chain…
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