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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 learningThe 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 AisleAs 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 RFIDGreat 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 RealityWe 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, 2017So 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, 2017Lesson #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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toptech-vid-snap
  • 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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IT services and solutions
  • 19 Dec

A Year in Highlights: Retail Assist 2016

Reflecting on 2016, it’s been a fantastic year at Retail Assist. Check out a few of our annual highlights: from customer news, to innovative events, we’ve enjoyed supporting our customers’ successful omnichannel retail and hospitality operations, across the globe, 24 x 7 x 365. If you’re interested in any of the below highlights and want to know more, just get in touch via marketing@retail-assist.co.uk, to see how we could support you. January As with the start of every year, in January comes our annual trip to The National Retail Federation’s BIG Show and Expo (NRF) in New York. In 2016, we identified top 5 technology trends in vlogs live from the Expo Hall, which you can view on our YouTube channel and below. So, did we predict it correctly? We thought the top 5 realistic technologies at NRF 16 were Cognitive Computing, Virtual Reality, Wearables, RFID and Changing Room Tech. Virtual reality has definitely become more mainstream with the introduction of affordable gaming headsets from Sony just in time for Christmas. RFID and smart fitting rooms were showcased in a real, integrated retail setting at our retail technology pop-up, Nexpo, which you can read about in the September round-up below. We can’t wait to see what NRF 17 holds! If you’re going to NRF and would like to meet up whilst in New York, please get in touch via our NRF page here. March Karen Millen is just one of our customers benefiting from smart stock management technology in-store. We went to their Covent Garden store to capture the benefits of using our Merret Tablet Inventory solution in action, which you can view on Youtube here. The flexibility the solution gives to store staff is invaluable. Without being constrained by fixed terminals or outdated hand held devices, still able to walk the shop floor and interact with customers, store staff can do the following through Merret Tablet Inventory, as mentioned in the video:Process Inter branch transfers (create, send and receive) Receive stock from the warehouse Progress write on / off transaction Undertake a stock-takeCarrying out these processes in response to real-time sales data, Merret allows effective movement of stock that is 100% visible and accurate, helping maximise stock availability by placing it where it is needed most. In this way, more profitable business decisions are made and actioned. Retailers can then fulfil more orders, and sell more stock at full price. You can read more about the solution on its dedicated webpage here. AprilIt’s all about our Awards win of the year at the SDI Institute’s IT Service and Support Awards, where Retail Assist’s Help Desk won the global Best Managed Service Desk Award! This was a well-deserved recognition for our 24x7x365 IT Help Desk, which sits at the heart of Retail Assist to ensure our customers in retail, hospitality and leisure can trade with minimal disruption thanks to greater IT systems uptime. The SDI’s annual Awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals,…
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new-piktochart_548_87a2368fcfdad86540fca542d2681c7fc461af0e
  • 12 Dec

NRF 2017: See you there!

As 2016 draws to a close, and the Christmas festivities set in, we begin New Year planning for the retail show of the year: our annual visit to the National Retail Federation’s Show and Expo in New York – NRF Expo. There’s just one month to go until NRF Expo, Retail’s BIG Show 2017, 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 Retail Assist to review latest innovations in retail technology, and network with faces old and new. Last year, we made short videos of our NRF experiences to bring you daily retail technology blog content; the most interesting and innovative retail IT solutions from the Expo floor, and our opinions on the top retail trends to watch. The Catalyst Delay Mirror, featured in our NRF 2016 video roundup below, even played a part in Nexpo, our pop-up store of the future held in London this September. That’s just one example of how technology showcased at NRF inspires us.Watch our NRF 2016 highlights here. If you would like to meet up whilst we’re in New York at NRF Expo, please get in touch with us. We’re looking forward to arranging meet-ups with other retailers and suppliers – just click here to schedule time to meet with the Retail Assist team. Make sure to watch our daily video updates, which will be published on Retail Assist’s YouTube channel. We’ll also be tweeting @RetailAssist with the latest trends and innovations from the Show. We hope to see you there!…
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black-friday
  • 28 Nov

Are you coping with peak demand?

Whether your Black Friday sales period took place over one weekend, one week, or in some cases, 10 days, did your stores cope well with Black Friday demand this year? And are you prepared for the festive sales to come? On Black Friday, some of our customers were transacting around £1million per hour on average – sales figures that can’t be put at risk. This blog will look at how Retail Assist can help to improve your performance at peak times, to ensure a profitable Christmas trading season. Retailers know when to expect a sales surge, and so at these times, your IT infrastructure must operate consistently at 100%. However, downtime can affect anyone, even the most organised. Our IT services and solutions are developed with this in mind, for example the high availability of our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, and our 24×7 international Help Desk support, to keep your store transactions running smoothly. Venturing into the peak retail season, putting the correct processes in place is critical. Our Peak Trading Checklist is a great place to start. We developed this guide with input from leading retailers, in order for you to check off areas that encompass all aspects of IT store support.Retail IT Support: our Help Desk. It’s all about being proactive. Our Help Desk analysts work to reduce the number of incidents our customers experience, by identifying patterns and data trends, to prevent future issues from recurring. This might also involve identifying where costs are being incurred unnecessarily, and reducing the number of chargeable hardware call outs for example. Consumers now have the ability to transact anywhere, at any time – Black Friday 2016 stats show a peak of customers shopping from 1am! Therefore, retailers’ IT support must reflect 24 x 7 expectations. Outsourced service providers, like ourselves, can bridge the gap between in-house capabilities. We play a vital “weekend” or “out of hours” role for some many of our customers, working as a crucial extended part of their own teams. Improved systems availability, enhanced customer service, reduced overall service cost and, most importantly, increased profits, are all benefits to be expected of a well-resourced IT support service. If you’d like to implement our award-winning services, our retail project management team can manage the service transition end-to-end within months. Get in touch here for more information or to register your interest for our IT services and solutions.…
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Nottingham Trent University
  • 21 Nov

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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black-friday-begins
  • 14 Nov

Black Friday 2016 begins

With just 10 days to go until Black Friday traditionally launches on the last Friday in November, shoppers are already taking advantage of early deals. Where are the best Black Friday deals 2016? Amazon UK launched ‘The Black Friday Sale’ today, and remains the first etailer to do so. Extensive discounts are available across all departments, with “double the number of deals” compared to last year. The online retailer said it was extending its promotions, which ran for a week last year, in response to customer feedback.Other retailers will be soon to follow Amazon’s early start: Argos will be begin cutting prices on Friday 18th whilst Tesco starts its Black Friday deals on Monday 21st. Debenhams will also begin the sale early, launching on Monday 21st.But with all the media hype, retailer backlash on margin damage, and so called “consumer fatigue” towards the event, why are retailers still making so much of Black Friday? Sales volumes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday make up a large amount of Christmas purchases. In 2015, Amazon (UK) sold over 7.4 million items over its week-long event in the UK: selling on average 86 items per second at peak time. Black Friday 2015 was also the largest and most successful shopping day for Argos in its trading history. Retail Week reported that both Amazon and Argos are increasing their workforces, with Argos recruiting 10,000 seasonal workers and Amazon hiring 20,000. In essence, retailers are still competing on price. If you can find your favourite fragrance for a third of the price at another retailer, what’s to stop you ditching your go-to department store in the face of a cheaper item? Consumers now have the knowledge, and paired with unlimited choice, this definitely gives them the power. Look out for our full Black Friday analysis after the event. Don’t slip up on customer experience during peak trading season. Ensure your stores are well prepared with our free checklist: download it here.  …
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