IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Technology

How Will 5G Affect the Retail Industry
  • 2 Mar 2020
Gimme 5(G)! How Will 5G Affect the Retail Industry?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The days of dial-up and dodgy buffering are long gone: long live 5G! Last year, 2019 saw the first 5G systems installed and running within the UK: a far faster version of the 4G version that many are used to. Although at present its coverage is limited to certain areas, 2020 will see it expand across the nation and be utilised not just by consumers but businesses as well – not least the retail industry. Whilst there still needs to be a fair amount of work undertaken on the networks – something which may take some time – it’s exciting to consider the changes that a new 5G network will bring about. So, with these changes on the way, how will 5G affect the retail industry and what innovation will it bring? New opportunities to link online and offline Retailers are increasingly looking for ways to capture the imagination of their customers and reinforce their branding. Whilst much of this stems from creating positive and innovative experiences, focus has been placed on the ways in which in-store and online environments can work together and integrate: something that 5G will no doubt help with. The higher connectivity speeds also open up opportunities for innovations such as overlaid visuals via customers pointing their smartphones at products, the use of 3D technology or even in-store sensors to trigger recommendations and tailored advice. Retailers will be able to interact with their customers in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before. Embracing of AI and new technology While the use of AI and technology in retail is not explicitly tied to 5G, it will thrive on the speed and enhanced data flow that it offers. The faster that information can be shared, the faster it can be used and therefore the more efficient AI can become. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will also become easier, giving consumers the opportunity to do things such as to virtually wear clothes or place items in their home to see how they look, which could also impact the amount of returns that retailers are currently having to process. The personal approach The improved speed of 5G also expands the opportunity for retailers to make personalisation a priority through the use of software such as Mercaux’s sales assist solution, which brings the benefits of digital in-store to drive sales uplift. The ability to respond to the purchases customers make and their patterns of behaviour will be greatly enhanced as a result, meaning that content can be specifically tailored in real-time. This will have a place most obviously with the online customer but 5G can also enhance instore performance as interactions with store assistants, the advice they can give and personal recommendations they can make will be made smoother by the speed of 5G. Communication Not only could the communication between customer and retailer be improved, but also the communications between the retailer and their various contacts. Supply chains will be able to…
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How to Ensure Your Retail Brand is Ready for Return Culture
  • 24 Feb 2020
Point of No Returns: How to Ensure Your Retail Brand is Ready for Return Culture
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead It’s a fantastic time to be a consumer. Never before has so much choice been available to us, with a variety of channels, delivery options, ways of shopping, payment options and even discounts. In fact, we now approach online shopping with the same approach as trying things on in changing rooms – we can take in as many items as we like, try them on and return the items we don’t want to buy, all without having to pay a single penny. However, even better than a changing room experience is that this can now be done in our own homes, all without getting hot and bothered or even having to queue to wait for an available cubicle to become free. All this and throw in a free – and often speedy – delivery service and where once online orders might have been arduous and with tricky returns processes, now the shopping experience has evolved. Many consumers have become used to ordering lots of items from a variety of stores, to find the perfect item or fit and then to return the surplus. The ease with which this is done has been a big spur to many people ordering online; it’s ok to ‘risk’ buying something you haven’t physically seen as you know it can be easily returned if you don’t like it. The downside, of course, is that each returned product is an inconvenience to retailers. But, with a well-rounded customer experience being crucial to a retailer’s success, what’s the solution? Make sure product information is accurate A common reason a customer will give for returning an item is that it isn’t as they were expecting or that it didn’t fit correctly. The best way to reduce the likelihood of this happening is to ensure that all the product information is as accurate and consistent as possible. The easiest way to do this is via dedicated retail IT software such as a Product Information Management (PIM) solution, which ensures that all content is enriched across the many channels a consumer uses, that information updates occur simultaneously and that everything happens in real time. The more information given to the customer, the less likely they are to be dissatisfied and see a need to return. Ensure good warehouse management is in place It’s vital to have a structure in place that allows items to be processed and dealt with efficiently in order to reduce the impact they have on a functioning business. A warehouse management system (or WMS) updates what stock is in the warehouse following returns and is important as ensuring that it is labelled, identified and stored correctly, so that it is immediately ready for re-sale. With a single-view of stock, Merret Pro ensures that this happens, increasing the chances of selling items at full price. Ensure mistakes don’t happen We’re all human and with the necessity for speed to market, mistakes can – and do – happen. However, you can minimise…
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How Technology Can Improve Sustainability
  • 18 Feb 2020
Sustain in the Membrane! How Technology Can Improve Sustainability
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead Wherever you live in the world, sustainability and the effect that your business has on the environment around us are ever-increasing hot topics. From ethical trading to single-use plastics, people everywhere are being encouraged to consider what changes we can implement and how we can continue living – but with much less impact. Receiving much scrutiny is the fashion industry: sourcing of fabrics, use of dyes, ethical labour, overall mileage and use of plastics are all areas where consumers and lobbyists want to see change. And, with younger consumers feeling that it’s important that their values align with the brands they like – including 52% of Millennials and 48% of Gen X – it’s not just a good PR or selling opportunity but a catalyst for moral change. So, what methods are retailers employing to make a difference? Here’s our round-up of recent retail innovation. More Accurate Fit Details Our customer, ASOS, have stepped up their fit accuracy to help customers make more informed choices, helping to reduce the number of miles – and potential returns – that their items are making using augmented reality. Instead of viewing one model who might not represent the customer’s chosen size, a customer can select a model that might match their height and/or size. Then, ‘See My Fit’ digitally maps the product onto that model in a realistic way, taking account of the size, cut and fit of each individual garment. In-store Clothes Recycling Stations Having recycling points in a store isn’t a wholly new concept, with many brands such as & Other Stories, M&S and Zara running clothing deposit schemes, but H&M are bringing in technology to aid the process. Starting in their New York City flagship store, H&M is set to install “smart” recycling bins across its stores in a bid to encourage more shoppers to use its Garment Collecting initiative and donate their old clothes. Customers can bring in unwanted clothing, then after placing their bag into the bin, the donation is weighed and the digital screen displays a QR code that gives the shopper a 15% discount code to either spend in-store or online. Sustainable Edits Our customer, Whistles, is a great example of designing for a more environmentally-friendly future. Their plan is to substitute a selection of their fibres with more sustainable alternatives, such as recycled polyester or regenerated cashmere. Their current Sustainable Collection features a variety of items that customers can buy now, with more items being added as they strive for a more sustainable future. Brand Edit And it’s not just in-house brands. Net-a-Porter has released a new platform, Net Sustain, with an edit of brands that meet various sustainability criteria to make ethical shopping even easier for their customers. Both beauty and fashion brands have been curated and have to align to at least one aspect from a list of human, animal and environmental welfare rights. Jean Genies Jeans – and specifically cotton – use astonishingly high numbers of…
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Common Supply Chain Issues and How to Avoid Them
  • 20 Jan 2020
Chain Reaction: Common Supply Chain Issues and How to Avoid Them
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead January. Whether you see it as a dull, grey, long month (why does it feel like there’s 5,847 days?) and you can’t wait for it to be over or whether perhaps you take the more optimistic view and regard it as the exciting start to a promising new year, there’s one thing that binds everyone. If December is about looking back and reflection, January is for looking forward. As a retailer, it’s always imperative to look forward, too, and what better time to move processes forward is there than January? Keeping operations moving quickly and smoothly has never been more important. Here’s our list of the top 3 supply chain issues, and what can be done to avoid them. 1. Forecasting and data Let’s get back to basics: the most obvious issue that a supply chain can face is a lack of supplies! Modern consumers lack patience when it comes to finding products and if they can’t find it via one of your channels, you can bet that they’ll begin searching for it elsewhere. The key is to be able to accurately forecast demand and recognise the trends and dynamics that lie behind shifts in demand. The best way to do this? Data. Collating, analysing and using the information that can be acquired from customer activity, insights can be gathered into behaviour and trends forecasted. Using an omnichannel supply chain solution such as Merret Pro offers real time data, so that it’s easy for merchandising teams to see what’s selling well and where, so that decisions can be made to either replenish or to send more stock to a certain area or store. A WSSI is another useful tool for in-season planning, enabling future stock levels to be calculated in comparison to targets 2. Managing demand Success – you’ve created an amazing product and now everyone who shops in your Oxford Street store wants one. However, whilst it’s selling fairly well in other stores, it doesn’t seem to be doing as well in Sheffield or Bristol. Items must be in the correct place, at the correct time, in order to maximise profitability; having something in stock but in a location where it is not needed is always a problem. By moving stock to around to where it’s needed can mean a lowering of costs alongside an improvement in profit margins and, of course, a rise in customer satisfaction. Critical to ensuring that demand is met by managing distribution is an allocation and replenishment system that ties into a warehouse management system in order to fulfil stock based on order volumes or sales: by utilising these two aspects together, the process is well-functioning, efficient and can recognise where items need to be located and when. By using your stores as distribution hubs, stock can be moved not only from your warehouse but also items that have already made it to the shop floor 3. Lack of information It doesn’t matter who you are or where…
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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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Are Your Systems Ready For Peak Trading
  • 28 Oct 2019
It’s That Time of Year Again… But Are Your Systems Ready for Peak Trading?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The leaves are falling, it’s definitely ‘wear a jacket’ weather and people are already moaning about seeing festive fare in the shops. Yes, it’s October, but is there ever a bad time to hear a Christmas song? I think not. (As a dedicated Christmas-lover, I’ve been known to play the odd festive tune in the summer. Haters, don’t @ me.) However, whilst some people might argue that Christmas starts earlier every year, there’s one thing you can never start too early – getting your systems ready for peak trading. Whether your busy trading period is Black Friday, the run up to Christmas or perhaps the post-Christmas sales, the prospect that all of your retail tech is in top condition is paramount for a thriving, positive in-store customer experience. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry – we’ve got your back. Here’s our peak trading checklist so you can check off what’s naughty or nice before Santa even gets to town. Want to hear how our award-winning Help Desk can support your stores over the festive season? Click here or get in touch at info@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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RetailEXPO 2019 Round Up
  • 7 May 2019
“Millions of opportunities to get it wrong and lots of complexity to get right!” Our Retail Expo 2019 Round-Up
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Conferences, stands, thousands of visitors and, of course, the obligatory appearance from Pepper the Robot – it can only be RetailEXPO! Held at the Olympia London over two days, RetailEXPO unites Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE) to represent all things in the world of retail and ecommerce. And this year, ‘customer experience’ were the words on everyone’s lips. With the Tech Zone, Design Zone and Digital Signage Zone, many aspects of the retail environment were represented. Click here to watch the video on YouTube We spotted two brilliant applications to combine online and in-store shopping experiences. Near Street uses a retailer’s high street inventory to drive traffic, ushering people to locate products in their locality. As an effective way of getting people to visit their local high street, it’s currently in use in shops as far as Orkney. Similarly, Mercaux’s app uses tablets to help sales associates to make outfit recommendations, offers automated alternatives and styling suggestions, aiding the sales associate to increase a brand’s offering, all whilst standing next to the customer. In another way, CloudCasting uses mirror displays to show digital content. Their smart mirrors have a digital screen hidden behind the mirror, as retailers can update communications that are reflected out to display adverts or promotions to customers. The interrogation of the customer experience and what modern retailers must offer was reflected in the conference, too. Andy Murray, Asda’s Chief Customer Officer, took to the main stage to discuss their approach to customer improvement, especially when working with the scale and legacy that Asda holds. He explained that there are “millions of opportunities to get it (the customer experience) wrong and lots of complexity to work through to get it right”. After starting his role in February 2016, Andy and his team took their approach back to basics by asking: what is the real customer value proposition? For Asda, that meant helping busy customers save money and live better and to move away from distinct customer stereotypes that had been shown in historical Asda TV adverts. For Andy, his view of a customer is very simple. He said: “Anyone who puts food in their mouths and eats is my customer!” For more of our retail technology reflections, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.…
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RetailEXPO 2019 - Retail Assist
  • 29 Apr 2019
We’re off to RetailEXPO 2019! See you there?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Shakespeare famously asked ‘What’s in a name?’ and we reckon he might have been onto something. RetailEXPO, previously known as Retail Business Technology Expo – or RBTE – might have undergone a name change, but it’s the same innovation-centred expo that previous visitors will know and love. This year, we’ll be walking the floor to give you an insight to the Expo. As one of Europe’s leading events for retail technology, RetailEXPO unifies three of the UK’s retail shows: Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE). Split over two days (1st and 2nd May 2019) at the Olympia, London, it promises to be a showcase for all things retail and we’re excited to see what the new format will deliver. With three different zones – the tech zone, design zone and digital signage zone – and with keynote speakers, the expo promises to deliver the best of UK retail technology. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, and Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, will be on hand to deliver the top highlights, right from the show floor. Here’s a taster of our recap from last year’s event: Click here to watch the video on YouTube Also heading to RetailEXPO and want to meet up? Get in touch here or drop us a line at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. Can’t make it? No worries – subscribe to our YouTube channel here to stay up-to-date with the latest UK retail developments.…
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Retail MOT - Retail Assist
  • 15 Apr 2019
Have You Had Your Retail MOT? How To Health Check Your Retail Systems
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive It was all so different in retail days of yore. Keeping things functional required little more than ensuring sufficient till roll was available and that the change drawer was well supplied. However, flash forward to 2019 and maintaining a functioning, efficient and healthy retail system now involves the sort of expertise, time and money that would have stunned our retail predecessors. One of the main issues facing any retailer is recognising exactly how they are going to ensure IT systems are well managed. Customer expectations continue to rise – as does competition – and a retail system that is not in optimum health can have major consequences. Dedicating the time, capacity and staff to the undertaking can be challenging, but certainly not insurmountable. Built on our 20 years of experience, here are Retail Assist’s top health checks for retail systems. Engine: Keep Things Ticking Over Sales are the main driving force in any business and ensuring that there are no glitches to cease or stall trading is paramount. Any issues with retail systems should always receive immediate and thorough attention – something that Retail Assist acknowledge with a 24/7 flexible, multi-lingual retail Help Desk service. As there is one single point of contact, retailers can quickly connect with our Call Analysts and see their issues managed right through to the point of resolution. The specialist support offered means that retail employees with no knowledge of how retail systems operate can flag a problem and have it swiftly dealt with, resulting in no time being wasted. Brakes: In-Store Monitoring When there are devices used in-store, it’s prudent to employ a central device management system, such as AirWatch; this remotely monitors devices in a store environment and monitors the health of those devices. However, it also has the ability to ‘put the brakes on’ by locking the device remotely in the case of theft and to also put in place security measures to monitor which devices are connected to the network and control what sites those devices are accessing. Steering: Check that Your Systems are Headed in the Right Direction With modern retail demanding that brands expand over new digital channels, retailers may find they aren’t in a position to fully maximise all selling opportunities. If legacy systems are holding you back or you’re not sure how to implement new channels into your current digital offering, installing a PIM solution can help to steer your business in the right direction. A PIM offers a single, central point of data entry, where product information is optimised and managed through workflow processes, before being published to whichever selling channel is provided. Retail Assist’s software, OMIO PIM, delivers an end-to-end solution that comes with ready-built connectors and integrations to all digital marketplaces. Mirrors: Proactive Reflection Just as retailers continually strive to offer better levels of service, Retail Assist are also continuously improving and looking at new processes and procedures. This involves pro-active monitoring of all retail systems in order…
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Mixed Reality Debuts At London Fashion Week - Retail Assist
  • 15 Feb 2019
One Well-Dressed MR: Mixed Reality Debuts at London Fashion Week
Written by Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer Anyone who’s anyone in fashion will be taking a seat in less than 7 hours, at 180 The Strand to encounter a catwalk experience like no other. Central Saint Martins, the world-renowned design and art college which forms part of the University of Arts London, will be producing a world first: a mixed reality catwalk, powered by 5G. Modelled by Lennon Gallagher, son of Oasis frontman Liam and actor Patsy Kensit, the collection designed by Gerrit Jacob will be based on 1980s gaming and classic fairgrounds. 5G networks claim to offer download speeds of 10 to 20 times faster than what we currently have on 4G now. Its power will offer higher quality videos that enable the use of Mixed Reality, through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. Lennon Gallagher at London Fashion Week (Evening Standard) What is Mixed Reality? Mixed Reality is a combination of both the physical and digital world, and merges Augmented Reality with Virtual Reality. It is a spectrum of real-world objects dynamically integrating with virtual matter to interact in real time. But how can Mixed Reality be achieved on the catwalk? The Magic Leap One Headset will be available to all those with front row passes. The headset works through superimposing CGI with the user’s view of the catwalk. Not only will the users see the clothes, but will also be able to experience animations and dramatic lighting effects. It has also been reported that viewers will be taunted by smiling tigers and laughing skulls. This is achieved through ‘computer vision’, which makes digital objects contextually aware, meaning they interact with dimensional and structural awareness. The headset also claims to feature ‘spatial audio’, offering sound distance and varying its intensity (a similar experience to surround sound), so users receive an all-immersive experience by appealing to more senses than just plain sight. How will Mixed Reality affect the High Street? These combined technologies allow designers to create a story and showcase their designs in an experiential yet meaningful manner. Naturally, catwalk designs influence the high-end ready-to-wear products, which are eventually adapted and mass made for the high street and, similarly, retailers will need to consider this Mixed Reality process not only for their products, but the experience they are offering in-store. Whilst Mixed Reality is offering a hybrid of technologies and virtual/real world experiences for the catwalk, it is the contextual experience, with clothes being demonstrated in a variety of virtual environments, that will prove to be the most significant to bricks-and-mortar. With the use of VR and AR technologies becoming prosaic to the high street, the combination of both MR and 5G heralds the opportunity for high street innovation like never before.   Read Andréa’s coverage of LFW 2018 here.…
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