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retail it solutions
  • 22 May

What’s next for VR technology?

Last week we attended VR World at London Olympia (a familiar location for those who visited us at RBTE earlier this month!) According to statistics shared in the keynote presentation, VR and AR technology is expected to make a $126 billion dollar contribution to the global economy by 2020, with a production value of €15-36 billion euros. As per the continuing technology revolution, which has seen tech replaced by photos < videos < VR, virtual reality is expected to be the near-future “go to” medium of information, entertainment and experience. Since early developments in VR, the gaming and entertainment industries had effectively dominated the space. However, more recent innovations across market sectors have introduced us to VR application within education, manufacturing, travel, robotics, architecture, and even health. These were definitely as prominent as entertainment and gaming at the Expo. Here’s a round-up of the key VR trends 2017 to look out for this year, identified from the Expo. VR for Engagement In a presentation by Facebook Oculus on the key drivers for VR adoption, we learned more about Facebook Spaces, available with Oculus Rift. A personal avatar is created and launched into an interactive social session, experienced through your Oculus VR headset. The app allows users to share everyday or special moments with friends, in an immersive online experience. For example, in today’s world it’s impossible to always be physically near the people in your social circle. Facebook Spaces provides a virtual meetup platform, with the ability to introduce photos, videos and links to the session. This could also be incorporated into a virtual shopping experience:Will shopping centres of the future be #vr locations where friends meet in #socialmedia #sellingspaces & shop together online? #retail #tech — Alan Morris (@Alan_R_Morris) May 18, 2017Building on this “shared” experience, we also saw VR experiences in which users enter a pod, individually or in interactive groups, removing the need for the somewhat bulky headsets. One stand at VR World featured an immersive sensory reality pod, with immersive 360 3D video and sound, as well as scent and temperature differences to enhance the experience. We also saw VR experiences to allow users to engage with brands, or celebrities. A good example in the music industry was a VR experience whilst listening to your favourite tunes. You could see through the eyes of the music producer, or singer, going about their everyday life, or even get their perspective whilst playing on a stage. In this way, fans become more emotionally engaged with the artist. This could work similarly in fashion, where VR could allow a user to follow their favourite fashion designer as they go on buying trips, sample fabrics or create new designs. Specific market application – Health and Education We were impressed by the use of VR within the medical sector, such as interactive training from Dual Good Health on how to carry out effective CPR. Wearing a VR headset, a dummy became a real life patient on a bed. The…
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IT Services and Solutions
  • 15 May

A spring in their step: latest retail footfall 2017

What was retail footfall in April 2017? Latest research from BRC Springboard reveals that over the last three months, footfall has increased 0.7% – marking the first positive three-month average since May 2014 and the highest since February 2012. Overall, footfall in April increased by 1.6%, enjoyed its fastest monthly growth since March 2014. The inclusion of Easter and Bank Holidays in April will have contributed to such big numbers, however despite this, the picture over the last quarter has been largely positive.Clearly, there is still a strong desire for physical bricks-and-mortar shopping – research carried out by Retail Week found that 71% of consumers make at least 60% of their purchases in a physical store. However, we know that purchasing alone is not enough. Retailers must integrate their store into a wider omnichannel retail strategy: in the next year, 35% will use stores to ‘browse, touch and feel’ items before buying online; while 9% will use them for click and collect in their collection of online orders. Where are they shopping? As our infographic above displays, UK high streets attracted a large increase with footfall up 2.3% in April – the fastest growth since March 2014. Retail parks saw their shopper numbers increase by 2.7%. However, footfall at shopping centres declined 0.6% year-on-year, set against a three-month average decline of 0.9%. BRC Chief Exec Helen Dickinson said April footfall figures were boosted by visits to shopping destinations during the Easter holidays. The increase was also fuelled by the weakened pound, which drove an increase in tourism: figures from London’s West End highlight this trend, with a 2.7% uplift in footfall this April. Out of Hours One of the more interesting statistics in the report points towards the social shift towards leisure-focused experiences. Whilst high-street footfall rose 1.9% during retail trading hours, trips after 5pm increased by more than 3%. If your IT services and solutions aren’t supported during out of hours, which is the “peak time” for many retailers and hospitality operators, see how our retail IT support could help. Our team is available 24 x 7, supporting end users in 9 languages, in 18 countries. Find out more here, or get in touch about your IT support requirements via marketing@retail-assist.co.uk In other news, our retail technology blog has been recognised in the Top 100 Global retail tech blogs, as ranked by Feedspot. Thanks for reading!  …
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Retail Assist RBTE
  • 10 May

Top Technology Takeaways: RBTE 2017

Thanks to everyone that came by our stand at RBTE. We had a busy few days, making new contacts, catching up with old ones, and exploring new opportunities. We’ll be following up with you all over the next few days, but if you have any further queries in the meantime, please feel free to contact the team at marketing@retail-assist.co.ukAway from the stand, we took some time to visit the various RBTE Conference Theatres, to find out more about latest technology developments, challenges, and innovations affecting the retail and hospitality sectors. Here’s a quick round-up of our findings. RFID We noticed a real change in pace surrounding RFID (radio frequency identification) development at this year’s Expo. Attending a panel on “RFID in Real Life” really set the bar for this technology: 20 of the top 30 UK retailers are currently using RFID within their supply chain strategy. The panel included John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and River Island. Instead of focussing RFID on the customer experience, the discussion focus shifted inwardly, to the ways in which RFID is benefiting retail operations: The RFID examples discussed offer solutions to the back-end issues faced by omnichannel retailers:Increasing operational efficiency: RFID, sewn into garments, or applied via hard tagging, removes the need for store associates to painstakingly barcode scan every item in a stock-take. Instead of a lengthy, inaccurate process, retailers can use one centrally-located RFID reader to obtain a complete view of their inventory. Stocktaking can therefore occur more regularly, as a reliable and efficient process. Thanks to faster stock takes, less staff are stuck in the stock rooms, and more are available to sell, increasing customer service levels too. Improving stock accuracy: definitely the buzzword on the panel. As said by River Island’s representative, “don’t go into peak season guessing, and know what your exact stock position is”.  Increasing profitability. Of course, this is the Holy Grail for every retailer, and stock accuracy is making this happen. By understanding where stock is held in real time and how well it’s selling, better decisions can be made to sell more stock at full price and reduce discounting. RFID also offers opportunities to improve the refund process in retail, especially for those without a receipt, by holding unique product information – a great real life example shared by Marks & Spencer.   Payment at your fingertips From mobile, to contactless, and now – fingerprint?Biometrics are the latest development in the payments sphere, as revealed by Visa at their seminar on Day 2 on Retail Futurology. Half of consumers that were surveyed would use fingerprint tech to pay for items, and 81% see fingerprint as the most secure biometrics identification method, over iris scanning and facial recognition. Visa is now using this technology as part of its Visa Checkout product. We’ve already seen this technology take off with smartphones, and in-app purchasing. Further traction in the physical world must take place through partnerships between the payment provider and the retailer. 3D immersion And…
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RBTE Retail Assist 235
  • 2 May

RBTE 2017: See you next week!

If you’re attending Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) at London Olympia next week on Monday or Tuesday (8th and 9th May), make sure to stop by our stand 235! We have some exciting new digital content of Retail Assist’s services in action, and our Sales and Marketing teams will be on the stand to chat through your IT services and solutions requirements. Check out just some of the brands that we support on our customer page. From POS implementations to 24 x 7 IT Support, data exchange to store openings, we offer the full range of services to suit your needs. With 10X better performance than industry average IT Support, we were also awarded the ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ globally last year. We would be happy to discuss how we can help you save 30% of your IT costs and much more. If you are attending or exhibiting, and would like to meet up at the Expo, please fill in your details here. Want to know who’ll be on the stand? Put a face to the name with our “Meet the Team” blog here. Want to know our location in the Expo Hall? This year’s RBTE is bigger than ever! Here’s a handy floorplan of the RBTE layout at London Kensington Olympia to help you locate our stand.Don’t miss an update: Stay updated ahead of RBTE by reading our blog, or follow us on Twitter for daily updates with #RBTE2017. Our Marketing team will also be sharing the latest action from the Show floor, conference and presentations via Instagram Stories @retailassist. Want to schedule a meeting? We have meeting spaces available, if you’d like to arrange some time with a member of the team. Just fill in your details via our form here, and we’ll be in touch. We look forward to meeting you on Stand 235! Make sure to register for RBTE here.…
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  • 24 Apr

Why should I implement omnichannel?

We’re now one year on from the downfall of BHS, and unfortunately we’re still seeing casualties on the fashion retail scene. Agent Provocateur and now Jaeger are some of the most recent retailers dominating the headlines after falling into administration. It begs the question: why are so many omnichannel retailers still struggling to meet customer demands, whilst also maintaining a profitable strategy? It often comes down to the systems and processes underpinning this. Omnichannel retailers who have a fully integrated front and back end and an integrated organisational structure are twice as likely to deliver double-digit growth. If you want to know more about how to implement omnichannel, visit our dedicated webpage here. Read more on latest supply chain upgrades carried out by Retail Assist for Morrisons and Harvey Nichols. Stock Management A single view of the customer at every part of the customer journey is the crux of omnichannel, with the underpinning objective being improving visibility.  The use of real-time information has enabled an invaluable shift from reactive to proactive supply chain management. Some of our supply chain software’s most powerful functionality within allocation and replenishment, with a host of user defined rules that ensure stock can be automatically and dynamically moved between your warehouse and stores. Stores vs Ecomm Retailers need to start by taking the “vs” out of the equation! Adopting a strategy whereby stores become a crucial step in the omnichannel customer journey, is essential. Methods such as ship-from-store enable retailers to maximise their inventory potential, by using store stock to fulfil orders. A high and undesirable amount of inventory by the end of the season can be managed effectively before it becomes a problem, preventing stores from unprofitable stockholding. 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, rather than sourcing the same item from the Distribution Centre (DC). Overall shipping costs for the retailer also decrease, as shipments from the DC reduce dramatically. Retailers can prevent frustrating web “out-of-stock” situations: 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. This captures sales that might otherwise have been lost.International Selling overseas has become more important to retailers post-Brexit. Most international retailers, for example our customer ASOS, now sell through country-specific websites, that include local currency, language, and payment choices. Our Merret software application also supports zonal pricing, for optimising international pricing. 100% data accuracy is key to ensuring a successful international strategy, and solutions such as our Ra-X data exchange (ETL solution) can facilitate the timely and accurate transfer of business critical information between your retail partners. Want to talk more about how we can implement your vision of omnichannel? Just email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk to start the ball rolling. We’ll also be at RBTE…
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google home vs amazon echo
  • 18 Apr

What’s next for voice technology?

Hey Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google… Voice personal assistants are an accepted, integrated part of digital existence for all smartphone-owners today. Over the last few months, AI and voice technology have gained significant traction in the home through the introduction of smart speakers. Firstly, we had Amazon Echo, and now, Google Home. Google launched its device – with virtual assistant ‘Assist’ – in the UK at the beginning of April, hot on the heels of Amazon’s Echo system.Google Home vs Amazon Echo Through voice recognition, these devices are always learning, adapting to your speech patterns, use of vocabulary, and personal preferences. Echo and Home aim to remove your smartphone from the equation, able to play video and audio, control apps, and buy products, just activated by speech. The question most are asking: can this really work for retail? The ability to instantly order household basics is the most obvious use for voice-enabled retail. The biggest commonality between Echo and Home as ordering devices is their disruption of the grocery sector, through making and ordering your required shopping list. This is all well and good for the common and mundane, by removing unnecessary friction from this aspect of the customer journey. Ordering groceries is a requirement, viewed by most as a chore. Making this easier has huge appeal. However, the capacity for voice technology to disrupt other retail sectors might not take the form of automated ordering. In fashion retail for example, where there is enjoyment to be had in browsing and choices to be made, would you really ask Alexa to order you a black dress for an upcoming party in the same way you would a pint of milk? In this way, voice ordering might become the final method in this customer journey, once prior decisions on brand, style and colour had been made. That’s unless there are significant advancements in AI to tell us what we want, before we know this ourselves. Voice and Search Retailers must also be looking to online search capabilities to factor in the search algorithms of virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. As Planet Retail’s Miya Knights commented to Retail Week, optimizing voice searches is critical, as only the very top results will win sales as a result:Planning for the future Google reported that 20% of mobile searches by US Android device users were made by voice in 2016. Additionally, Accenture research found that 10% of millenials have already used voice-activated ordering, and 38% of millennials are willing to try it. With this in mind, the influence of voice on shopping habits could just be warming up. Are bets on for when Apple might release a similar home assistant? Post your comments below.…
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RBTE 2017 Retail Assist
  • 7 Apr

RBTE 2017 – Meet the Retail Assist Team!

We’re exhibiting at RBTE, taking place in just under a month on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th May, at Olympia London. We’d love to share introductions to our team before the Show! If you don’t already know us, get familiar with the Retail Assist team here, and put a face to the name. We’ll all be on our Stand 235 for the duration of the Show.Borys Krywyj, Head of Business Development Chat to me about your new business requirements – POS implementations, Help Desk outsourcing, new store openings, global expansion – there’s so much scope to our Managed Services. Roger Bannister, Head of Account Development Looking forward to meeting up with our customers on the stand. Drop by to discuss new opportunities, or let me know if you’re at the Show and we’ll grab a coffee. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing I’m interested in everything marketplace related, so speak to me about latest developments and how your technology can keep up. Gary Stimpson, Account Development Manager Although I’m a new face in Sales, I’ve been with Retail Assist for a while. Talk to me about our latest Help Desk projects. Katie Thompson, Digital Executive Want to know about our latest stats? Happy to discuss our industry benchmarking and more! Rhianne Poole, Marketing Executive Talk to me about latest technology trends and our global industry award win, ‘Best Managed Service Desk’. Now you’ve got to know us, feel free to schedule a meeting with our team! From POS implementations to 24 x 7 IT Support, data exchange to store openings, Retail Assist offers a scalable range of IT Managed Services to suit your requirements. With 10X better performance than industry average IT Support, we were also awarded the ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ globally last year. See our latest benchmarking stats here – the stats don’t lie! Check out just some of the brands that we support on our customer page. We would be happy to discuss how we can help you save 30% of your IT costs and much more.  Stay updated ahead of RBTE by reading our blog, or follow us on Twitter for daily updates with #RBTE2017. If you are attending or exhibiting, and would like to meet up at the Expo, please fill in your details here. We look forward to meeting you on Stand 235!…
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Monsoon KETL IT event
  • 3 Apr

What does the IT Team of the Future look like?

Last month, we had the pleasure of speaking at Monsoon Accessorize’s “Future of IT” Panel Event, hosted with KETL, as IT strategists from a range of sectors converged on Westfield London to debate some of the current issues facing decision-makers in technology. What role does technology play in a transforming retail business? Retail Assist was lucky enough to kick-start the session, as our Chairman, Alan Morris, explained the background to the company, and how it is still solving the same business problems today. Alan explained that having worked in retail IT for 30+ years he has seen a lot of changes, and noted that IT and retail have not always been aligned. Retail Assist was therefore founded to close the gap that he had witnessed, when retailers were not sufficiently involved in technology and the benefits it can bring. A common theme in both retail and technology is change, which means that one of the biggest challenges for technology strategists is often around managing transition, transformation and dynamic change. How do you get to a position where you have a team of people who are all pulling together in the same direction so that the management team and the Board see IT and technologists as a core competency of the business? In essence this is largely a cultural change, where technology and IT is recognised as a core function, and where technology reports into the CEO. CEOs believe that technology will transform their business more than any other global trend.In today’s digital age, technology underpins everything retailers do. Companies like Ocado, Air Bnb, and ASOS – who we support with Merret – wouldn’t exist without technology. Retail technologists need to shake things up, challenge their Boards and have a respected voice, especially in areas such as product lifecycle, customer service and project implementation. Because having the people with that unique mix of skills is a challenge, getting the right balance of in-house and outsourced functions is critical.  The Skills Debate Further statistics from PwC’s CEO Survey show that although CEOs understand the need for talent with 83% saying that digital skills are important to their organisation, 2/3 think recruiting staff with these skills is difficult. And 77% of CEOs are concerned that a shortage of key skills could impair their company’s growth. CEOs know they can’t innovate using technology alone. NashTech also shared some interesting research on what should be included in the next generation of IT, including a mind-set that encourages inter functional collaboration and coordination, flattened hierarchies, and an environment that encourages the generation of new ideas. The importance lies in applying technological skills to real business problems. Some of the main reasons to outsource were cited as: Freeing up resource to focus on core business Provides access to skills not available in-house Saves money Improves flexibility in use of resources Improves ability to innovate These were just a handful of topics debated at the event. Want to know what else was discussed? Special thanks to KETL…
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retail IT support
  • 27 Mar

RBTE 2017: Top tips for technology uptime

IT issues can hit anyone at any time – even the most highly organised businesses. But by adopting a proactive approach to incident reduction, retailers and hospitality providers can prevent simple technical issues, such as till downtime, from damaging their sales potential. Perceived waiting time and inconvenience at the checkout are key predictors of ‘shopping cart abandonment’, and in today’s fast-paced digital world, patience in-store is wearing thin. It has been estimated that losses due to systems downtime work out in the tens of thousands. Would you have the right support in place in this situation, to get your systems back up and running before such cost damage could occur? Consumers have the ability to transact anywhere, at any time, and retailers’ IT support must reflect these expectations. Outside of the weekday nine-to-five remit, turning to outsourced service providers for extra weekend support can bridge the gap between in-house capabilities, which offer more hours of support and a breadth of skills that comes from using a shared service. Our support capacity is 4x higher than industry average. We even saved one of our customers 30% of their IT costs through our outsourcing model.By having the right support in place, it helps to eliminate the risks of till downtime and other technology related problems that negatively impact service. This not only gives businesses reassurance, but also helps to promote calm and confident store staff. Although things can go wrong, it’s how you put them right that matters. Playing a ‘behind the scenes’ role, IT Managed Services help to save time whilst increasing profit by delivering greater systems uptime at the point-of-service. It’s not just retail that we specialise in, having supported leading hospitality brands such as Pizza Hut for 3 years with 24 x 7 IT support. Keith Frimley, IT Director at Pizza Hut Restaurants added: “Retail Assist supports some of the UK’s largest and best-known retailers, which gave us confidence in their capabilities. They understand the importance of keeping systems fully operational and keeping staff at ease, whilst finding resolutions to the challenges they are facing. This is something which is as critical in hospitality as in retail. We’ve found them to be efficient and effective, which has resulted in us reaping the benefits of improved service to our operations and reduced disruption to customer service”. We also understand that your stores aren’t just UK based – supporting global stores is a specialism for our multilingual analysts – we actually speak double the number of languages as average IT Support. By analysing incidents and identifying patterns, simple trend analysis can prevent future issues from recurring. This might also involve identifying where costs are being incurred and reducing the number of chargeable hardware call outs. Our latest benchmarking stats show that Retail Assist performed 10x better than industry average IT Support last year across a range of criteria including SLAs, languages, and support capacity: see the full infographic here. Retail Assist will be on Stand 235 at RBTE. Drop by…
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retail personalisation
  • 20 Mar

Personalisation Guide 2017

We’ve blogged, researched and reported a lot about personalisation, consumer targeting, and how retailers are using these techniques to power customer engagement (and make more sales). Personalisation has become a mainstay technique in modern retail, with three in four consumers expecting web and email content to display targeted products based on their preferences. A recent presentation at Marketing Research Society’s Impact Conference saw ASOS’ Head of Marketing Analytics, Celina Burnett, speak about how the fashion etailer takes on a different approach to personalisation:Citing digital industry stalwarts Amazon and Netflix, as brands heavily invested in personalisation and targeting, Burnett feels that they are sometimes slightly off the mark. “Recommendations on Netflix or Amazon are usually based on things I’ve done in the past but not on what I might do in the future. If all we offer a consumer is based on their past behaviour then how do we make them aware of what the next big trend is?” (Burnett). If this stands as an example of “past-personalisation”, where products suggested already exist, what should brands be focussing their efforts on? Our customer, ASOS, is a great example of a brand that has over 13 million active customers, but the unique strategy and technological infrastructure to get personalisation right. Future personalisation strategyThis isn’t to say that targeting based on purchase history data, for example, isn’t useful. It is, but it should form just part of a wider strategy. If you continue to target a customer who has previously bought a white slogan tee, with alternative slogan tees (like Amazon) or matching jeans (like most fashion retailers), you could run the risk of becoming irrelevant or frustrating to your customer. Burnett advised: “There is a tipping point for personalisation and targeting when it can become creepy or annoying and actually ends up making people distrust a brand.” Striking the balance between creepy and cool is a fine line, but one which brands must get right. Watch our video discussion here. So, looking to the future: what might the customer want to buy next? What trends are they into? Or, connect up the social media profile information, and voila – where are they next going on holiday? When is their birthday? What are they sharing with friends, or liking on your brand page? These are all examples of ways to tap into rich personal data that’s easily accessible. Turning “me” into “we” Personalisation is often a me-centric technique, using a customer’s first name to kick start a ‘we thought you might like this’ campaign of indulgence. Alternatively, as some have suggested, engaging well with a certain brand and the experience it provides places you in a community of brand advocates, potentially with similar interests and behaviours. So, taking the “we” not “me” approach, why not mould approaches to personalisation on an inclusive, community outlook? Retailers could mix in other types of recommendations based on crowdsourced data, for example “people similar to you bought this” from Boohoo.Despite the challenges of getting…
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