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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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block_7
  • 13 Mar

Ra-X Infographic

More and more retailers are turning to our data exchange solution, Ra-X, to manage the sales polling and data processing elements of their retail business operations, including Mint Velvet, Monsoon Accessorize, Cath Kidston, Debenhams and more. Commonly known as Retail Assist’s middleware solution, or ETL*, Ra-X has been developed to meet the needs of omnichannel retailers operating global store estates with a combination of solus, concession and franchise stores. Check out our Ra-X key stats in the infographic below:How can better connectivity empower your retail business? Connecting every element of your global operations in real time is essential for making critical decisions based on 100% of your sales data. Daily reporting gives our customers the reassurance of sales polling across their entire global store estate, including its concessions and franchises too. And if anything is not as it should be, our customers benefit from a 24 x 7 wraparound support model to notify of and fully resolve issues. Ra-X is also helping retailers to test new markets, with low risk and low cost. Watch the video below to see how Ra-X supported British lifestyle brand, Cath Kidston, to establish a presence in Japan. This is now one of their biggest markets.From considering large franchises in the Middle East, to operating pop-up or concept stores in new UK locations, Ra-X can scale and flex to suit your exact requirements. It’s our 24 x 7 support and reliability that many of our customers cite as one of the main benefits of using Ra-X. If you’d like more information about using Ra-X to support your retail operations, to secure international partners or improve data accuracy, just email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. *(What is ETL? Extract. Transform. Load – 3 database functions that are essential in the processing of data from one place into another). GET IN TOUCH TO LEARN MORE First Name Last Name Company Email Phone How can we help you?:…
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retail IT services
  • 6 Mar

Fashion Retail Forecast 2017

Retail Week research, in partnership with Barclaycard and Rakuten Marketing, examines what fashion retailers should prepare for after a turbulent past 12 months in the sector. Retail Forecast 2017 Infographic via Retail Week.Here are our top takeaways from the infographic.Protecting your marginsAlmost half (48%) of retailers’ stock in the UK clothing market was discounted throughout 2016. Sadly, this is a growing trend that must be addressed. The total market offered at least 44% of its stock at a discount in any given month throughout the year. That’s nearly half of your entire inventory damaging margins. The profitability challenge in fashion retail must be tackled through the effective management, movement and sale of stock. Granted, this is difficult when price is consumers’ main consideration when making a purchase, and the womenswear market is rife for discounting, but steps must be taken to bolster margins and drive full price sales.Given that the fashion market is predicted to grow by 20% over the next four years, there could not be a better time to invest in your core systems to prepare you for increased demand. Retail Assist’s Merret omnichannel supply chain solution is helping retailers to increase their full price sales by making sure stock is in the right place, at the right time to fulfil omnichannel retail practice.Location, location, locationAs the stats show, customers’ willingness to buy differs greatly on location, and all retailers know how important it is to monitor sales from its different channels, as well as optimising in-store stock from flagships to regional towns, analysing where stock performs best.However, in order to achieve better inventory optimisation in this way, some retailers are falling short on two key requirements: the need for 100% stock visibility, and the ability to carry out stock movements in a timely fashion. Merret’s real time stock availability is cited by many retailers as a strong benefit of using the solution. If you’re running below optimum stock in your flagship store, for example, our Merret retail replenishment module will automatically send more stock based on your trigger levels. Ship-from-store is also a key principal in getting the right stock in the right places. For example, your flagship store might sell out of the new range bestseller, whereas a smaller store could end up with a surplus that are difficult to sell. Rather than having to discount this stock, retailers can maximise full-price selling through using the store inventory to fulfil orders, rather than sourcing the same item from the Distribution Centre (DC). Retailers can prevent discounting in this way by selling stock with a holistic view of its inventory: just because an item might not be available in the DC, it might be hanging on a rail in-store, dressing a mannequin, or have been returned to a store.  We’re supporting 20 fashion retail brands with Merret, including ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Morrisons Nutmeg, Karen Millen and more. For more information or to discuss the points raised in this blog, contact…
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Pud Store
  • 27 Feb

The Proof is in the Pud: A Day with Fran Bishop

Such a brilliant day with @RetailAssist & my team! Thank you so much @rhiannejpoole & @KtBoo_ for helping us in getting the site ready! pic.twitter.com/F5iA1WNttc — Frances Bishop (@franbishop_) February 20, 2017A Day in the Life: Our Marketing team spend a day as store assistants with an independent childrenswear retailer. The Pud Store first caught our eye back in 2014, and from then on we’ve been strong supporters of its growth. From regional town stores to social media dominance, and a hotly anticipated ecommerce launch, the independent childrenswear retailer is going from strength to strength. The brand was founded by Fran Bishop, finalist on The Apprentice 2016, and if her dynamic and resilient personality was anything to go by, her ambitions for Pud are in very capable hands. Retail Assist’s Marketing team spent a day at The Pud Store in Newark, getting to grips with the workings of independent retail with Fran and her team.Customer Experience is keyIt’s an over-used phrase, but couldn’t be more appropriate for The Pud Store. Fran knows her customers inside and out – from the names of the people coming into her store, to their likes and dislikes – from using both her physical and social media presence. Arriving for our first morning at Pud, we find Fran speaking to her smartphone, videoing the “Deals of the Day” to be broadcast straight to her Facebook group of nearly 9000 customers. For the shoppers who prefer to buy from their mobile, Fran understands that having a store presence is not the be all and end all:  Pud makes approximately £1,200 every day just from its Facebook page. And it’s this that allows her to uphold a high street presence in Newark and Doncaster. The popularity of Fran’s daily videos, featuring her latest lines, competitions, offers, even just daily Mum observations, is something that all retailers can learn from. The videos generate interest not just in the products, but in the Pud brand itself and the fun, inclusive culture that Fran leads. It’s almost like an interactive click and collect – there’s even plans to integrate a packing area within the Newark store just to service the overwhelming demand of online orders – and it’s only set to get bigger with Pud’s ecommerce launch. Product lines are being added as we speak.However, adopting a multichannel approach to retailing, the Pud Store also prides itself on its child friendly store environments. We really enjoyed visual merchandising the store whilst the Pud team worked on fulfilling their Facebook orders and kickstarting the website. It showed that with a growing brand, the more hands on deck to focus on each element, the better the customer experience. The day is perhaps best summed up by Fran on Twitter. Thank you for having us!Things I’ve learnt today: 1) Big businesses can learn off small ones and visa versa 2) A little bit of help goes a very, very long way — Frances Bishop (@franbishop_) February 20, 2017…
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retail IT solutions
  • 20 Feb

What’s the benefit of upselling?

Upselling in retail is not a new thing: it’s been around for years as an in-store technique employed by sales assistants to boost sales and increase basket value. As footfall continues to represent a challenge for retailers, they must increase average basket size (upselling) and conversion rate, otherwise shops become an unviable asset. However, with the advent of omnichannel retailing came new ways to upsell – that perhaps aren’t as direct as face to face selling – but are now a standard part of any purchase, whether in store or online. We spoke about this on BBC Radio Nottingham last Friday, in a short interview that you can listen again to here. Interview starts at 2:54:40.Click and collectThe benefits to retailers of click and collect are not only improving footfall to stores, but the ability to make even more sales when the customer comes to collect their parcel. Thanks to technological advances in customer profiling, the store assistant could pre-identify the product purchased by the customer, and upsell by recommending complementary items. For example, if they know that the customer has bought a dress, why not recommend matching shoes upon collection, or accessories to “complete the look”? New Look reported that over the festive period, 25% of its click and collect customers made extra purchases in store, increasing the basket value by an average of £27. (There’s a reason most click and collect desks are the back of a store, requiring the customer to walk past all items in the store first before picking up their parcel…) The retailer benefits through increased basket value, and the customer receives a personalised experience that’s likely to impress them. Check out other click and collect benefits in our infographic.Online deliveryUpselling online is a standard function, unlike in a store where it’s motivated by a sales assistant (who may or may not have the confidence to try). This might come in the form of “complete the look” options and additional suggestions that complement the current basket, like ASOS.Another key example of customers being upsold to online comes in the form of delivery options. For example, if the threshold for free delivery is £30, and the customer’s current basket value stands at £25, they could be persuaded with a pop-up to spend just £5 more in order to receive free delivery. As long as retailers remain transparent about their delivery costs, it’s the consumer choice to buy more in order to benefit from incentives such as free delivery, or even discounts such as 10% off. Conclusion? Customers of today have a strong discount mentality, and therefore retailers must build their profit margin in. Upselling is one of the most popular techniques for retailers to achieve larger baskets and more full-price sales.…
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