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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

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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IT services and solutions
  • 23 Jan

NRF17: Key Technology Takeouts

We’re back from an insightful and exciting week at NRF17 in New York, where, amongst many retailers, technology and IT services and solutions suppliers, we investigated the latest trends to shape retail in 2017. It was great to see some familiar faces in New York, as well as making new connections. You might have already seen our NRF17 video updates from the Show, reported by Retail Assist’s Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson. Watch them below, as we provide a 5 minute overview of the top technologies seen each day: If there’s one thing which stood out as a theme at this year’s NRF Show and Expo, it was the power of data. A phrase that stuck with us is that “data is the new oil” in retailing. Whether it’s to process unstructured data, as demonstrated with IBM Watson technology making sense of emotions, or customer data used to make experiences more meaningful, there’s a whole host of options for retailers to look into. Power of continued learning The cognitive processes showcased at NRF17 are the gift that keeps on giving for retailers. “Continued learning” is a benefit offered by most AI tools, including IBM Watson in the video update from Day 1 above. Through the continuous processing of a customer’s data, information is generated to make the retail experience as contextually and emotionally relevant as possible. Innovations using NFC and RFID, showcased in video 2, are taking personalisation to the next level using real-time and location based information to push realistic and useful information to customers. For example, a skier wearing a Spyder jacket can tap the logo, to find out latest ski slope conditions and recommended goggle lenses for the current mountain environment. Endless Aisle As all retailers know, footfall can be challenging, which means they must do all they can to ensure a successful conversion in-store, especially when the stakes are actually getting higher. To have the items in stock that customers really want, or to know where product is accurately in real time, the power of a fully integrated omnichannel supply chain solution and 100% visible data will allow for this. Virtual stocking – or endless aisle – will become increasingly important for retailers, reflecting the need to optimise inventory levels. Experience as a customer is likely to become more relevant, and more fulfilling, as “out of stock” frustration becomes a thing of the past. Innovations such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, demonstrated in video 1, or VR technology, can allow the customer to experience the product even if it isn’t physically held in the store. Making this tech transactional will allow the item purchase to be completed. Automated labour in the form of stock-sensing robots was another innovation showcased at NRF17 that ties into this trend. Offering retailers a continuous flow of in-store stock information, these “shop-floor robots” could become increasingly popular if automation takes off in a big way. Until then, solutions such as Merret Tablet Inventory offer a smart human alternative. If retailers know more from…
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retail technology news
  • 18 Jan

NRF17 Vlog Day 2

Hello from New York! Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing at Retail Assist, brings you highlights from the Show in the second of our NRF17 videos, exploring how technology will serve the needs of rapidly changing consumers, changing the ways in which customers and retailers interact. Watch it on YouTube here. (You can catch up with our Day 1 round-up here). From Day 2, the Top 3 Technology concepts that we identified as the big players are: Augmented Reality in hospitality Cognitive Computing – further updates RFID Great to see technology developments for the hospitality sector showcased at NRF17 this year, given that this represents a growing proportion of Retail Assist’s customer base. We were particularly impressed with Augmented Reality technology showcased in the Innovation Lab with Marriott Hotels. In a new location, AR overlays a map of the area with data and information on local restaurants, bars, and the option to book tables as well as taxi journeys. A clever use of technology to provide a convenient service – quickly and virtually “walking around” the area for the time conscious consumer. Next – it’s that dress. . . The fashion savvy amongst you might have seen this before, at the Met Gala 2016 worn by Karolina Kurkova. The same interactive and cognitive principle was showcased at NRF17: IBM Watson is learning from and making sense of unstructured data in the form of tweets with the hashtag #WatsonCommerce, evaluating the emotion within the tweet, and changing the dress colour in real-time response. Quite a spectacle at NRF17 and on the red carpet, but we wonder how it will catch on and feed into mainstream retailing? We met up with Catalyst, the RFID and NFC technology arm of Li & Fung global. We worked with Catalyst last year to showcase latest technologies at Nexpo, our retail technology pop-up. In the video example, RFID and NFC is embedded within clothing (such as sportswear), to deliver real-time contextual information to its wearer, or potential purchaser. Thanks for following our NRF17 updates. We’ll be summing up our experience and predictions for the biggest things in retail this year, so stay tuned for our NRF17 feature blog post. If you’re interested in any of the technologies featured, or want to discuss further, comment below and we’ll get back to you!…
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retail technology news
  • 17 Jan

NRF17 Vlog Day 1

Hello from New York! Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing at Retail Assist, brings you highlights from the Show in the first of our NRF17 videos, exploring how innovative technology is enhancing the ways in which customers and retailers interact. Watch it on YouTube here. From Day 1, the Top 3 Technology concepts that we identified as the big players are: Cognitive Computing Wearables Virtual/Augmented Reality We explore the latest from IBM Watson and On Star Go, which maximises the time retailers can connect with consumers during otherwise “unused” or “wasted” time – for example, when in the car. Instead of being stuck in traffic, it becomes time well spent. How can the brand integrate into your routine and add value? In the example given, the consumer is sent personalised promotions based on their journey route, location, end destination, and even weather. The technology can also integrate with order management systems, so that the car can “tell” a retailer when the consumer is on the way to pick up an item. Using On Star Go, Watson “learns” about you, your journeys and routines, and therefore can connect with you in more relevant and sophisticated ways. In the wearables space, contactless payment technology has become more and more popular. However, new technology from Visa shows a ceramic payment ring that charges using only your blood flow. The ability to integrate methods of payment into smaller wearable devices is definitely more convenient, but would you really wear it? Being critical, for this type of wearable technology to be adopted, would it be more popular as “worn, but not seen”? If this could be integrated into a ring or piece of jewellery you actually own, it becomes much more relevant. Lastly, we were introduced to VR/AR at last year’s NRF Show, but this year it makes a return with AR and Microsoft’s HoloLens. Making these types of technology more retail focussed has been demonstrated well by integrating HoloLens with “endless aisle” in a store environment. This allows the consumer to experience the product without it needing to be physically there – we can “see” it, but will “touch” ever be integrated to join up the full sensory experience of buying a product? Make sure to check our Twitter @RetailAssist for retail technology news and live updates from NRF17, and we will be posting our second retail technology blog tomorrow! Stay tuned for NRF 17 vlog number 2. If you’re in New York and want to meet up, please drop us a line here. If you’re interested in any of the technologies featured, or want to discuss further, comment below and we’ll get back to you!…
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retail IT solutions
  • 9 Jan

NRF 2017: Retail Technology blog

It’s just 5 days until NRF’s BIG Retail Show in New York, and we’re looking forward to sharing our insights. As with any technology expo, NRF Expo promises to showcase latest innovations in technology for revolutionising the retail sector and enhancing the customer experience. However, after reading articles from CES 2017 in Las Vegas, some of the “innovations” demonstrated were somewhat questionable, honestly reviewed by the BBC here. Would you wear a pair of “tickle jeans”, vibrating to direct you to your destination instead of getting out your smartphone? Or perhaps a smart bin, able to tell you exactly what you’ve thrown away in order to automatically create shopping lists. Very interesting with some spot on observations about when can technology can become pointless BBC News – CES 2017: https://t.co/7BOsTC8TBO — Alan Morris (@Alan_R_Morris) January 4, 2017 So true! Am hoping NRF next week won’t fall into the same trap. Trick will be to sort the wheat from the chaff https://t.co/zyfGprc91u — Andrew Busby (@andrewbusby) January 5, 2017 Lesson #1: identify the need being satisfied. “Just because you can monitor an activity doesn’t mean you should […] A lot of times we see products that are trying to solve a problem that just isn’t there.” – tech analyst, Caroline Milanesi. Lesson #2: make it unique, but not tech for tech’s sake. Purposeful deployment, where a need is satisfied, must be the goal. Lesson #3: technology is an investment, so returns must be tangible. It’s no use introducing new technology that promises a new experience for the customer, unless the end result is profitable. Magic Mirrors perhaps declined for this reason, outplayed by interactive fitting room technology able to upsell and increase conversion rate. You can be assured that our retail technology blog and NRF vlogs from Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson, will combine new perspectives on issues in the retail sector with purposeful, easily deployable technology solutions. It’s the same thinking behind our retail technology pop-up, Nexpo, hosted a few months ago with Karen Millen. If you’d like to meet up with the Retail Assist team whilst in New York, please visit our NRF 2017 page. Not attending NRF? Don’t miss an update! We’ll be tweeting @RetailAssist, posting Facebook Live videos and compiling NRF 2017 vlogs on our Youtube channel.…
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  • 4 Jan

Countdown to NRF 2017

There’s just 11 days to go until NRF’s BIG Show and Expo in New York, taking place from Sunday 15th January – Tuesday 17th January 2017 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in NYC. The Show brings great opportunities for us to experience the latest developments in retail technology, and network with faces old and new. We’ve already heard from some of our partners and customers who are attending NRF Expo, but if you’d like to schedule some time to meet up with the Retail Assist team whilst in New York please click the following link: http://www.retail-assist.co.uk/join-us-nrf-2017/ Borys Krywyj, Head of Business Development, Roger Bannister, Head of Account Development, and Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, will be in attendance for the duration of the Show. Last year, Alex recorded vlogs live from the Expo Hall featuring some of the most eye catching innovations and technology highlights: You can check out our other retail technology videos on our YouTube channel. We’ll be recording similar vlogs this year, as well as posting live feeds from our Twitter account and Facebook page via the Facebook Live function. So, what can we expect to see? Last year at NRF 2016 the Retail Assist team was very impressed with IBM’s Watson, a good example of cognitive computing: a system that learns from and builds a high-powered database, enabling it to respond to questions and situations with a learned set of responses. The retail example we saw, in collaboration with specialist outdoor wear retailer The North Face, is featured in the video below from 1 minute 10 seconds onwards. The customer is taking a holiday to Jackson Hole in February, and Watson showcases the most appropriate jackets for the forecasted weather conditions, without having been asked to.It will be interesting to see if customer data in the form of social media is also leveraged to power personalised interactions such as the one above. Wouldn’t it be impressive if a retailer knew your social calendar, and could also make recommendations based on previous like history, as well as future event plans? This is the next step that we’d like to see. The fitting room is a physical space in store that can be used more effectively to increase conversion. Customers who use a fitting room are 71% more likely to buy (InovRetail statistics, 2016) but what about the possibilities of upselling? This is a concept we explored at our pop-up event Nexpo, with fitting room technology that allowed the retailer to know what was in the fitting room, and push notifications of other products on an in-booth tablet. New ways of maximising fitting room potential might be demonstrated in this year’s NRF innovations. What are you hoping to see at NRF Expo this month? We look forward to speaking about retail technology and its possibilities to enhance the customer experience with you in New York. Click here to meet up!  …
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