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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Research

Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
  • 25 Nov 2019
Unlock the Future of Retail: Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
Guest blog by Jake Marshall, Content Executive, Mercaux It’s hard to imagine reading about the future of retail without seeing the word ‘digital’. Much of the commentary on the store of the future is centred around digital transformation — the idea that retailers need to ‘adapt or die’ as they face increasing pressures from e-commerce. It’s clear that the future of in-store retail is digital. But what does this actually mean? As part of Mercaux’s store of the future report, we surveyed senior executives working in retail to find out more. So, what exactly should we expect from the digital store of the future? Customer Centricity Unsurprisingly, 87% of retailers believe that customer expectations will become more important when defining the store experience in the future. In a digital age of social media, e-commerce and instant gratification, customer expectations are ever increasing. Whether consumers demand an efficient service to fit in with their busy lifestyles, or they are looking for a personalised, curated retail experience, technology is key. 85% of customers expect click and collect today, while cutting-edge technologies like interactive screens and augmented reality are a future expectation for 76% and 84% of customers. By putting the customer first, retailers benefit from increased customer lifetime value and brand loyalty. Yet only a fifth of retailers report that they are capable of reacting to shifting customer expectations quickly. Many need to invest in basic tech functionalities – like click and collect – before they can move on to experimenting with more advanced in-store technology such as augmented reality or touchscreen mirrors. Empowered Employees Earlier this year, Retail Assist conducted a survey between Gen X, Y and Z, and found that the vast majority of people are using smartphones as an extension of their everyday lives: with this in mind, it’s needless to say that shopping habits have evolved to follow suit. Stores are continuously competing for their shoppers’ attention against smartphones, which offer a distracting stream of inspiration and rich content. So, when 40% of retailers say that their employees don’t have enough product information to effectively make a sale, how can store staff keep pace with the endless amount of information available online? The challenge lies in empowering sales associates with product information and content like branded digital lookbooks, marketing videos and social media content that they can use to inspire shoppers and tell a story about the brand. This challenge presents an opportunity to increase dwell time, build the customer relationship and help store staff to feel more empowered, to take ownership and to therefore achieve greater job satisfaction. Consistent Experiences The role of the store is shifting. 80% of retailers said that the most important purpose for the store today is a place for people to purchase products. When you look forward five years, however, the same number of retailers expect the main purpose of stores to shift towards being experience and discovery centres. The modern shopper is channel agnostic. With this comes a need to create…
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Gen X vs Y vs Z Shopping Habits
  • 16 Sep 2019
Gen X VS Gen Y VS Gen Z: Our New Shopping Habits Survey
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead For the purpose of this blog and infographic, Gen Z refers to those aged 17-24, Gen Y 25-38 and Gen X 39-58. A lot can happen in three years. Whether it’s a new relationship, a proposal, a marriage, a new house or a new arrival, our lives and circumstances are continuously evolving. In June 2016, we surveyed members of Gen X, Y and Z to ask them about their shopping habits and, in particular, how Gen Z’s approach might dictate the shopping culture of the future. With the youngest of those surveyed then being 14 years old, much will have changed in their lives over these last three years and the ways in which they spend their money. So, with 630 survey respondents and over three years later, what’s changed? Analysis With so many news stories proclaiming the death of the high street, there’s been a lot of doom in the retail news. However, our survey found that, encouragingly, Generation Z still strongly favour the high street, with 43% saying it was their favourite mode of purchasing. Gen X was split evenly between online and the high street, with 40.68% apiece, whilst Gen Y were more in favour of online. However, with this particular group entering further on into their careers, this could be down to convenience rather than preference of experience. There was also a large rise across multichannel shoppers. Those who might, for example, buy online but return in-store has risen across all generations, highlighting the need for a strong omnichannel offering from retailers. Ensuring that products are always in stock is integral to keeping this experience fluid, allowing all generations to seamlessly move between all selling channels. Implementing an efficient retail stock management system is a way for retailers to meet these expectations. Interestingly, all three generations agreed on several other matters, saying that delivery was often their biggest barrier to making a purchase online, that their preferred method of payment was paying by card and that all three generations like to make shopping part of their day out, also involving going for coffee or having lunch out. However, it was Generation Z, at 84.46% that overwhelmingly chose to spend their time in this way, highlighting the importance for retailers to embrace hospitality opportunities within store environments. Finally, both Gen Y and Z said that they would make a purchase due to a social media recommendation, with 67.19% and 69.52% respectively. Whilst this figure may have slightly reduced for Gen Z and slightly increased for Gen Y, the numbers are still incredibly high for both age groups. Retailers must be in a position to capitalise on this, ensuring that they use software such as a PIM to respond quickly to adapt their online content and also to ensure consistent messaging across all channels. For more industry insights and research, subscribe to our blog here.…
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  • 11 Mar 2019
St Patrick’s Day: Will the Luck of the Irish Turn its Hand to UK Retail?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, and Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer Saint Patrick might be the patron saint of Ireland, but his name and feast day has come to be synonymous with celebrations. However, whilst many people around the UK will take part in St Patrick’s Day events on the 17th March, in America it’s a billion dollar industry; in fact, predicted spending for 2019 is expected to exceed $5.61bn. If the UK has followed American retail trends in the past, is St Patrick’s Day set to become a key UK trading event of the future? According to NRF, 55% of Americans plan to celebrate this year, with the biggest spends unsurprisingly going on food and beverages. Yet consumers are also looking to spend their pretty green on decorations and apparel, with 77% of men and 84% of women planning to wear green on the day. Interestingly, the breakdown in this percentage indicates that 87% of 18-24 year olds and 82% of 24-34 year olds plan on wearing green, perhaps providing an unexpected link between the saint’s day and the rise of Halloween, as Gen Z and their millennial counterparts tap into the ‘dressing up’ element of the revelries. NRF’s annual St Patrick’s Day research also highlighted retailers such as Aldi who are targeting shoppers with products such as green or beer-flavoured cheese and other grocery chains embracing the holiday’s feature colour with displays of Granny Smith apples. However, it’s not just the supermarket sector. A quick google of “St Patrick’s Day Clothes” leads to some UK retailers, such as River Island, linking to a selection of their green clothes and accessories whilst other global brands are taking it one step further. Adidas recently announced their St Patrick’s Day collection: a limited edition run of their Handball Spezial trainers which has three different Irish-themed colourways and “a clover sign-off to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day”. Perhaps this is yet another example of the globalisation of retail, as certain location-specific trends start to spread to other localities. So is St Patrick’s Day a growing trend? NRF certainly thinks so. A decade ago, only half of consumers under the age of 35 planned to celebrate, whereas now it has grown to over 70 percent. And, if the rising popularity of Halloween is anything to go by, with Mintel now praising it as the third biggest retail event of the year after Christmas and Easter, it suggests that St Patrick’s Day looks set take the UK retail and hospitality sector by storm.   Retail Assist provides IT support to the retail and hospitality sector, which is crucial for peak trading periods. Want to hear how we can reduce your IT costs by 30% whilst also reducing system downtime? Click here or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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  • 23 Jul 2018
Love Island – “I’m (Brand) Loyal”
The Brands Behind Love Island It’s 8.59pm on a Monday evening. You hear the famous jingle… You run down the stairs in excitement. Your phone won’t stop buzzing, the group chat is going off! You settle down as Iain Stirling narrates to you the events of the night before. Parents, husbands and maybe even the dog will complain of your ritual, but by the end of the 8 weeks, they’ve slipped into the same routine with secret enjoyment. It’s Love Island. The craze that floods our social media channels and steers office gossip the next morning. If you haven’t watched it, you’ve definitely heard of it – let’s be honest, you had to find something else to grumble about now the World Cup is over. However, not only has this year’s Love Island taught us a lot about loyalty, it’s also enriched us with an outlook on purchase habits, particularly in the Gen Z and Millennial demographic. Sponsors of the programme include Superdrug and Missguided amongst others, and since partnering, both have seen immense financial and brand success. Superdrug saw a jump in its pre-tax profit by 16% to £92.9m last year and increased its market share to 32% in the cosmetics market. It attributed the steady financial figures to marketing campaigns such as its sponsorship of Love Island, by kitting out the islanders and hosting the ad breaks. Figures disclosing brand success at Superdrug as a direct result of sponsoring last year’s Love Island. Source: ITV Media Online fashion giant Missguided, however, has taken its sponsorship a step further. Missguided sales have reportedly spiked 40% in the evening, when the show airs, and this is down to more than just successful sponsorship. Missguided has provided clothing for Islanders on the show, giving new meaning to “buy the look”, rather than this just being a website option. Watchers of the show can see for themselves how the clothing looks, as Islanders are effectively modelling and promoting its clothing line. Targeting: The show captures a 56% share of the 16-34 demographic, targeted at females who watch TV during peak hours. This naturally aligns with Missguided who creates celebrity inspired high street fashion for females aged 16-30. Therefore, the context is already set, and Missguided fit perfectly as a sponsor, rather than brands like Lucozade and Rimmel who have had to alter their branding to force a fit. In essence, this gives Missguided direct access to their core customers 6 nights a week for 8 weeks, giving them compelling frequency and depth of engagement like no other! Product Placement: It’s also worth noting that this digital native demographic of Gen Z-ers and Millennials is highly influenced when it comes to purchasing – so the fact that Missguided is supplying the islanders with clothes, as well as appearing in most, if not all ad breaks, only enhances brand engagement and likelihood of purchase. Missguided has established its product placement further by making the clothes easily accessible, by posting natural screenshots of the islanders…
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Generation Z shopping habits
  • 12 Feb 2018
Generation Z Shopping and Buying 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 the Gen Z buying habits 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 and buying habits: 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…
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Black Friday 2017 online
  • 27 Nov 2017
Black Friday 2017: the verdict
Black Friday 2017 stats The squeeze on consumer spending power and the spread of discounting over a longer period may have made Black Friday 2017 a harder sell. We round up the statistics following the official Black Friday weekend to find out if the consumer appetite is starting to fall. Black Friday 2017: The stats are in Online has dominated Black Friday sales this year, as predicted in our Black Friday research. Overall spending is up on last year, despite a fall in the number of shoppers visiting stores. Early on Friday, a dip in web traffic and fewer shoppers on the high streets suggested that the appeal of Black Friday might finally be in decline. Despite this, momentum built throughout the day, with Barclaycard estimating that Black Friday spending was 8% higher than last year, before the official results are in from the ONS. Black Friday vs Cyber Monday Online transactions in the week before Black Friday were up 11.3% as retailers launched their sales early. This trend may have accounted for the dilution of high street figures. On Black Friday itself, John Lewis said that it had seen its biggest ever hour of online trading, with 705 units purchased per minute on average between 9am and 10am. “iPad” was their number one search term recorded, suggesting that technology is still a preferred product for Black Friday deal-searchers. Cyber Monday, taking place today, is in full swing, with retailers promising to continue Black Friday discounts until close of play. Black Friday on the high street While ecommerce continues to grow, this year significantly less shoppers hit the high streets to take advantage of Black Friday deals, continuing a longer-term shift in shopping habits.  The best clip to sum up Black Friday 2017 on the high street? Perhaps the the following video live from Oxford Street. At 8am, with national media gathering to capture the doors opening at Currys PC World, one lone shopper made the headlines instead of the usual frenzied crowds.   And the doors are open…. the rush came and went (quickly) #BlackFriday @BBCLondonNews @BBC_HaveYourSay pic.twitter.com/jkUjFnhwMo — Frankie McCamley (@Frankie_Mack) November 24, 2017 Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times. High street footfall was down 4.2%, whilst retail parks and shopping centres also experienced a 3.6% decline in footfall. The statistics, compiled by Springboard, were significantly worse than an expected decline of 0.6%. What can we expect next year? Has Black Friday finally moved from an “event in its own right” to playing a part within wider Christmas promotions? We have definitely experienced a shift over the last couple of years to longer Black Friday sale periods. Not only does this reduce increased pressure on retailers to perform on one day only, but also reduces the possibility of websites crashing and long queues in store – one of the biggest “put off” factors for consumers. Although many analysts have begun to call time on Black Friday, and given that more consumers themselves planned to avoid Black Friday,…
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Black Friday 2017
  • 23 Oct 2017
Black Friday 2017 Survey
Black Friday 2017: all you need to know When is Black Friday 2017? This year, Black Friday 2017 falls on Friday 24th November. We expect the discounting event to continue over the weekend, with Cyber Monday on 27th November, and stretching over the rest of the week. Last year, £1.23bn was spent online on Black Friday alone, making it the UK’s first billion pound shopping day. Spanning the whole week, from Monday 21st November to Monday 28th November in 2016, online sales rose to an estimated £6.5bn in the UK. But how many people will shop on Black Friday this year, taking place in just 5 weeks’ time? The results may surprise you, as the “death of Black Friday” has begun to dominate the retail headlines, with retailers reluctant to participate in order to protect their margins. As in previous years, check out our Black Friday 2017 research in our infographic below. Black Friday 2017 infographic In order to analyse consumer sentiment towards Black Friday trading, this year 400 respondents took our Black Friday survey, powered by digital insights company Toluna. See our full findings in the below Black Friday 2017 infographic. You can view our Black Friday 2016 survey results here. For the first time ever, more consumers plan to avoid Black Friday this year than those who are planning to participate. With just under half of respondents planning to buy something on Black Friday (49%), this is significantly lower than the same percentage as in 2016. Of course, this does not account for the impulse buyers that could take unexpected advantage of deals over the sale period. However, many analysts have pointed towards the fact consumers have become accustomed to an ongoing discounting calendar throughout the year. Summer and autumn in particular have been stunted by mid-season sales. If sales and discounts are less of a “big deal”, and just part of the retail fabric, it’s understandable why the consumer mindset has shifted in the same way as Black Friday becomes “just another sale day”. Another reason for the declining popularity of Black Friday can be understood from consumers’ strong disdain for Black Friday “hype” – over a third of respondents (33%) dislike Black Friday for this reason. An online-only affair 79% of respondents are set to be online Black Friday shoppers, which is a small increase on 77% in 2016. The shift to online in recent years can be tracked through our research displayed in the infographic. The majority of Black Friday spend in 2016 was via online channels, rising 12% year on year. Ensuring that you have extra capacity in place is critical for omnichannel retailers and pureplay etailers alike, as a surge in website traffic can cause fatal outages for those who are unprepared. As well as completing special data capacity increase projects for peak trading, Retail Assist’s 24×7 operations monitoring and support is facilitating greater systems uptime, which is critical for any brand over Black Friday. Priming your retail operations for peak trading Long…
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retail IT services
  • 6 Mar 2017
Fashion Retail Forecast 2017
Retail Week research, in partnership with Barclaycard and Rakuten Marketing, examines what fashion retailers should prepare for after a turbulent past 12 months in the sector. Retail Forecast 2017 Infographic via Retail Week. Here are our top takeaways from the infographic. Protecting your margins Almost half (48%) of retailers’ stock in the UK clothing market was discounted throughout 2016. Sadly, this is a growing trend that must be addressed. The total market offered at least 44% of its stock at a discount in any given month throughout the year. That’s nearly half of your entire inventory damaging margins. The profitability challenge in fashion retail must be tackled through the effective management, movement and sale of stock. Granted, this is difficult when price is consumers’ main consideration when making a purchase, and the womenswear market is rife for discounting, but steps must be taken to bolster margins and drive full price sales. Given that the fashion market is predicted to grow by 20% over the next four years, there could not be a better time to invest in your core systems to prepare you for increased demand. Retail Assist’s Merret omnichannel supply chain solution is helping retailers to increase their full price sales by making sure stock is in the right place, at the right time to fulfil omnichannel retail practice. Location, location, location As the stats show, customers’ willingness to buy differs greatly on location, and all retailers know how important it is to monitor sales from its different channels, as well as optimising in-store stock from flagships to regional towns, analysing where stock performs best. However, in order to achieve better inventory optimisation in this way, some retailers are falling short on two key requirements: the need for 100% stock visibility, and the ability to carry out stock movements in a timely fashion. Merret’s real time stock availability is cited by many retailers as a strong benefit of using the solution. If you’re running below optimum stock in your flagship store, for example, our Merret retail replenishment module will automatically send more stock based on your trigger levels. Ship-from-store is also a key principal in getting the right stock in the right places. For example, your flagship store might sell out of the new range bestseller, whereas a smaller store could end up with a surplus that are difficult to sell. Rather than having to discount this stock, retailers can maximise full-price selling through using the store inventory to fulfil orders, rather than sourcing the same item from the Distribution Centre (DC). Retailers can prevent discounting in this way by selling stock with a holistic view of its inventory: just because an item might not be available in the DC, it might be hanging on a rail in-store, dressing a mannequin, or have been returned to a store.  We’re supporting 20 fashion retail brands with Merret, including ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Morrisons Nutmeg, Karen Millen and more. For more information or to discuss the points raised in this blog, contact…
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Nottingham Trent University
  • 21 Nov 2016
Thinkubator Challenge: The Future of Retail
Last week, Retail Assist had the opportunity to discuss the future of retail with bright young minds at Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, at the annual “Thinkubator Challenge”. Now in its fourth year, the event saw Nottingham Business School undergraduates and postgraduates, research students, Alumni Fellows and academics, split into thinking hubs to create commercial solutions for real business challenges, in just three hours. The retail technology focused challenge Retail Assist presented to students was: How can retailers engage better with their customers, in order to sell them more? As a retail technology specialist, understanding what consumers want from retailers will enable our own developments to align with future expectations. Firstly, students identified current issues with the retailer-consumer relationship, which were generalised in the following points: Consumers require help with choosing products – owing to feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of choice. Consumers are frustrated when orders are not fulfilled according to expectation. Consumers want to see what products look like before a purchase. Ethics: don’t assume customers are happy to share their data and personal information, the opt out option is very important. Customers want to be involved with content creation; it is a 2 way communication between retailer and customer. Importance of mobile as a communication channel. We were really impressed with the responses from students, as value enhancing technology was chosen over gimmicks and short-term gadgets. Could these ideas be the future of modern retailing? The students pointed out that they are much more likely to buy items that have been honestly reviewed by real customers, and cited bloggers as examples of consumers rewarded regularly by retailers for their widely disseminated reviews. A “Reward 4 Review” programme would encourage real, everyday customers to review products, building up credibility for the retailer, and a more comprehensive picture of product popularity and why. The incentive for the customer review is that a customer who reviews 10 products for example will receive a reward in return from the retailer, e.g. a 10% discount. In-store mapping – It is sometimes frustrating in-store when you can’t find the item you’re looking for. You might have been browsing online, and know exactly what you want. An in-store map, loaded onto the retailer’s app, could direct you straight to the product. Better still, by scanning the product with your smartphone, you should also be able to complete the payment there and then rather than queueing at a till. Retailers will know where its customers migrate to in-store, and where the bestsellers are located. Future fitting room – This idea was very similar to technology showcased at our Nexpo pop-up event. The fitting room “knows” which items have been taken in through a scanning device, and can recommend complimentary products to the customer, which is an opportunity for the retailer to upsell. A swipe to like/dislike feature on the mirror will also enable retailers to know which items are popular and why, and which items are being discarded. The future fitting…
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  • 15 Feb 2016
Click and Collect Benefits for Retailers
What is Click and Collect? How do I implement Click and Collect? What are the benefits of Click and Collect? Read on to find out more about the delivery method improving customer experience in the name of convenience: we’re helping leading retail brands achieve this with Merret. After our retail blog focus on the Ship from Store process, and the benefits of using it to fulfil orders from/through any channel, we wanted to bring you another retail process that’s in focus this year: Click and Collect. Definition: The Click and Collect concept enables shoppers to purchase items online and pick them up in the physical store, merging eCommerce and physical retail outlets together. It can often make the shopping journey more convenient for consumers: making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, and collecting the item whenever is most convenient for them, instead of paying for shipping and not being in to take delivery of the item, or waiting for their delivery to arrive. In research conducted by ourselves last year, we found that over a third of consumers enjoy the benefits of using Click and Collect and will continue to use it as their delivery method of choice. So, what are the benefits to the retailer? We’ve rounded up the industry’s top stats, to give an insight into why you should consider implementing Click and Collect into your omnichannel processes. Points for Consideration Additional load to the store must be appreciated. Ensure that staff are trained effectively and ready to cope with the potential demand placed on stores for processing the additional Click and Collect deliveries, as well as despatching orders to the customer in store. Ensuring that there is room in the store, for example the back office, to receive and process Click and Collect deliveries. Training for upselling during the Click and Collect process is critical for making the most of Click and Collect sales uplift. For example, if the store staff scans a package and sees that it contains a black dress, they could suggest shoes or accessories to pair with it whilst at the till point. Ensuring that stores embrace Click and Collect as a cultural change rather than see it as a hindrance. As such, procedures need to be in place to ensure that the store despatching the order is credited for the sale. Also, incentivise store staff to hit store despatch targets in the new omnichannel culture. Retail Assist has worked hard to engineer its supply chain solution with the above points in mind. If you’d like to speak with one of our retail IT team about how to make your Click and Collect operations more time and cost efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0115 853 3910. Or, for more information about our retail IT solutions, check out our website page. You can also fill out our quick and easy contact form and someone will be in touch.…
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