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  • 26 Jan

Retail Assist reflect on NRF 2015: what’s the next BIG thing for retail?

In search of the latest innovations in retail technology, and the bright lights of New York City, Retail Assist’s Executive Chairman Alan Morris, and Head of Sales Borys Krywyj recently attended the NRF 2015 Annual Conference and Expo, Retail’s BIG Show. Held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center over 4 days, there was the fantastic opportunity to network with around 33,000 retail industry professionals from across the globe, but also to find what is likely to change the face of the retail world as the next BIG thing for retail technology.  The plethora of technology seen at NRF generated an interesting question at Retail Assist: how much of it was evolutionary technology, and how much was revolutionary technology? If we take the former, evolutionary points suggest moments when it is necessary to develop certain characteristics in order to survive: in Darwinist terms, adaptation. The same rules apply to technology. For example, in order to adapt to consumers’ changing shopping habits, it became necessary for retailers to operate mobile and tablet technology, as an evolution of their website offering. Or, to enhance the humble mirror, the Magic Mirror brought an interactive element to the changing-room experience. It’s safe to say that we were most impressed by the innovation in Virtual Reality (VR) technology, represented at the show by Samsung’s Oculus Rift, a VR headset designed especially for immersive virtual 3D gaming.Oculus Rift is a truly immersive and responsive piece of kit, with seamless panoramic 360 degree imaging placing you at the beating heart of the virtual world. But is it just gamers who can benefit from the experience behind the goggles? Does VR have a wider practical application? We were inspired by the possibilities VR technology could bring for retail business benefit. VR could be truly revolutionary to the retail world. Hypothetically speaking, if VR develops a 4D sensory experience (which is likely given the outstanding rapidity with which the technology of today is developed) the “you don’t have to be there to go there” concept changes the reality of the store completely. With the age of Internet, online shopping revolutionised the retail world by providing customers with the convenient option to shop from the comfort of their own homes, removing the need to visit traditional brick and mortar shops via home delivery. However, taking this concept and adding VR technology could provide an immersive and sensory experience, replicating the feelings of walking down the high street on a Christmas shopping trip, from the cold breeze on your face, to the “theatre” of the busy store itself. With an interactive option to simply reach out and put the desired items into your virtual shopping basket, VR could in this way be set to replace the web/mobile/tablet site. Of course, this future vision may be a while away, but it stands as a tangible concept. Coming away from our projections, and back to the present, if the twitter conversations surrounding NRF were anything to go by, omnichannel was the…
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  • 19 Jan

Retail Christmas Round-Up

Following on from our Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson’s, feature on BBC Radio Nottingham, we wanted to provide a round-up of shopping habits around the Christmas period. If you would like to hear the full feature with our Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson, who was on BBC Radio Nottingham on Friday 9th January you can catch up here. Her feature begins 52mins and 25secs in to the Mark Dennison show. So after all the presents were opened and crackers had been pulled did people end up hunting out the bargains and shopping on Boxing Day – or did Black Friday dominate the Christmas shopping season?Black Friday is the day that immediately follows the American holiday, Thanks Giving, which falls every 4th Thursday in November. It is also the unofficial kick off of the retail Christmas shopping season. Read more about Black Friday here. Trading during the season was good for most retailers, with retail performance up across the board. Sales growth has also been up with the largest recorded overall trading spend in the past 27 years, with retail sales exceeding £100bn states IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Index reveals. This kicked off with Black Friday which saw an amazing £810m retail spend in just one day. Was it the amazing bargains that drove us to spend on Black Friday? Although there were some great bargains to be had, people’s mentality towards sale shopping seems to have changed. Shoppers are now looking to get pre-Christmas gift deals through Black Friday promotions. Post-Christmas may be the time to then purchase items at lower prices for themselves, and an opportunity for retailers to clear out their Christmas stock for the arrival of their Spring/Summer deliveries. Black Friday sales certainly dominated over Boxing Day this year, with a spike in sales concentrated at the end of November. This saw December sales increase by only 5% year-on-year, which was the lowest recorded growth in the Index for this period. However all was not lost on Boxing Day as the average family still spent £650 in the 12 days after Christmas until January 5th, according to analysis by First Direct. As a whole the increase in retail spend has been bigger and better than ever before throughout the Christmas period. It was surprising to note two especially strong performers from two very different ends of the retail spectrum, including; luxury brand, Fortnum and Mason and discount store, Pound Stretcher – both recording their most successful Christmas’ to date. The most successful retailer over the Christmas period was Ao.com with a 38.0% increase in total sales. John Lewis commented that Black Friday whilst having its obvious advantage also has a down side. With such a high trade volume on one day, ensuring that the correct logistic and supply chain solutions are in place and are working accurately is imperative. With an omnichannel approach retailers can not only take advantage of customers shopping in-store but also online, via whichever channel is most convenient for them; but again if…
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Emmanuel House
  • 12 Jan

We gave Emmanuel House a ‘Cup of Kindness’ for Christmas

Founded in 1976 Emmanuel House was established to support homeless, vulnerable and isolated adults in and around Nottingham. They provide services that meet the basic needs of the individuals who visit them, also providing support and advice to help those individuals feel empowered and able to start making positive changes in their lives. Having recently launched their ‘Cup of Kindness’ appeal Emmanuel House aims to raise more than they did last year and still have a way to go before they achieve the £40,000 milestone. As a local Nottingham company we wanted to contribute towards this extremely worthwhile cause. It is more prevalent than ever, especially during the winter months and Christmas period to be able to provide visitors to Emmanuel House with food, drink, shelter and support. This winter Emmanuel House is expecting a higher demand for its services and will need to increase funding to be able to respond to service user’s needs. The charity serves an average of 80 hot meals every day and also manages the emergency accommodation Winter Shelter for rough sleepers between November and February. The winter shelter provides approximately 22 beds per night to rough-sleeping individuals. Individual needs are assessed at Emmanuel House where, if necessary people are referred to temporary accommodation which is often provided in local church halls. We held numerous activities over the Christmas period in a bid to raise as much money as possible. Through the sale of raffle tickets, Christmas jumper days, an office quiz and much more, we are pleased to announce that we raised enough money to contribute half the total cost for Christmas Day at Emmanuel House. This money will pay towards, Christmas food, a small gift for service users and decorations – all in a bid to make the day slightly better for individuals visiting Emmanuel House on Christmas Day. Alan Morris, our Executive Chairman concludes; “With no statutory funding Emmanuel House rely purely on donations to fund them and enable them to continue with the amazing work they are doing. The service they provide is never more important than in the winter, providing much needed services and support to the homeless and vulnerably housed in Nottingham.”…
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  • 5 Jan

Shopping Cart Abandonment

The term shopping cart abandonment describes the process in which online shoppers put items in their online cart, but then fail to finish the transaction – this habit is rapidly becoming the bane of the online retail industry. I was surprised to learn that almost 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned. Every time a shopper leaves a retailers website and abandons their shopping cart retailers lose out on a potential sale. Put this in the context of the UK as a whole, and we are talking a lot of lost sales. After further research we were astounded at the total of potential lost sales. With the total online spend for 2014 as noted by IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index at £107 billion and the average abandonment rate for online shopping carts at 68%, it means that the total lost sales figure is 72.76%. 73% of UK shoppers buy online at least once per month and this total spend could be much higher if shoppers actually completed the checkout process – but what is stopping them?? Today more than ever shoppers want ease and convenience and this is expected at every stage of the omnichannel journey, but especially during the online process. If any unexpected situations arise, shoppers are quick to rethink their purchases and abandon their online shopping cart. If the online shopping journey is interrupted, or shoppers switch from one device, e.g. smartphone, to another, e.g. laptop, will their basket survive? Most shoppers will agree that if their basket has been emptied on their first session they simply won’t bother searching for the items again. Another turn off for consumers is time consuming forms. Customers don’t want to waste time filling in numerous details if they don’t deem them relevant. Transparency is key at every stage of the shopping journey and unexpected delivery costs will be a massive no no for many shoppers. Ensure all costs are calculated upfront to minimise the risk of transaction termination. Platform incompatibility – Many shoppers express an interest in spending online at certain retailers, but if the retailer’s website doesn’t support the device they are using then shoppers are unable to complete the transaction. This will also have long lasting implications, with these shoppers deterred from returning in the future. Retailers can reduce the rate of abandonment and increase customer spend by streamlining the checkout process and also by re-targeting shoppers with emails after they’ve left a website. Approximately £2.57 trillion worth of merchandise will be abandoned in online shopping carts this year, and about 63% of that is potentially recoverable by savvy online retailers, according to BI Intelligence estimates.  Shopping cart abandonment is increasing, and it will continue to do so as online retailing continues to enjoy strong growth; just saving a small percentage of shopping carts from being abandoned could result in a significant increase in sales. However is also important to remember that an abandoned shopping cart could also be seen as part of the increasingly complex series of…
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  • 29 Dec

Whats In-Store for 2015?

Following on from our Twitter series #RATechXmas where we have been looking in to statistics around retail shopping habits and the growing dependency on technology for both consumers and retailers – we wanted to further explore the impact of technology in-store and how this looks set to grow in 2015. Changing customer shopping habits will certainly be the driver in direction for in-store innovation in 2015. Customers want user experience, convenience and personalisation and retailers are striving to achieve this. Technology will play a huge part in in the direction of the omnichannel journey, even highlighting the importance of side-line tech such as iBeacons. iBeacons are promoted as a way to push out messages to people and track shoppers movements in-store providing an interesting angle from which to monitor shopping habits. The changing nature of technology will be reflected in in-store design, and this is also driven by how comfortable and familiar shoppers have become with using technology in-store and the overall omnichannel journey. Peter Cross, Communications Director at John Lewis comments; “They move effortlessly between channels, yet 85% of shopping experience still involves the shop in the same way. And so it’s really retailers looking forensically at what this means for each channel in the future.” Retailers need to really analyse the purpose of the bricks-and-mortar shop and what role it will play in the shopping journey. In 2015 customer facing technology will become the norm. for many retailers and if it isn’t in your 2015 plans it really should be as it will grow to be an expected requirement for many shoppers. In 2014 there was much questioning of the physical store and its future. However instead of dying out, the physical store seems to have become very much a part of the omnichannel journey. The advances in technology and indeed delivery options such as click-and-collect have actually had an extremely positive effect and have helped to revive the store experience. As long as retailers remember that the store is part of the overall shopping journey and embrace in-store technology they will definitely not be facing extinction in 2015 – but continue to move from strength to strength. The way in which stores evolve is very much becoming part of the social fabric of consumer lives.  No longer content with a simple shopping trip, consumers want a social experience and again this is a factor for retailers to bear in mind in 2015. By providing engaging spaces that really stand out from the crowd retailers will still attract consumers, providing connections with their audience at every stage of their shopping journey. Live demos, interactive displays and the creation of social hubs will give shoppers more reason to not only visit your store but also remain in their for longer periods of time.Aesthetics will be vital – having engaging shop windows, the correct lighting/music and creative store layouts will further develop you customer offering, creating the experience you customers expect and demand; making the whole shopping process a…
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  • 22 Dec

Black Friday vs Boxing Day

In the UK Boxing Day is a well-established tradition in the retail calendar. However over the past couple of years, the American import that is Black Friday is proving to be tough competition. While the event has been an important part of the US shopping calendar since the 1960s, Black Friday has only been running in the UK for four years and already looks set to overtake Boxing Day. Retailers are jumping on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday trends by kicking off the festive sales nice and early, and helping to boost not only footfall but also customer engagement. The extraordinary success of this event has got many experts thinking about whether Black Friday could fundamentally change the UK shopping calendar. Online Director at John Lewis, Mark Lewis, commented; “Black Friday has definitely become one of the key dates in the UK’s shopping calendar. Following steady growth over the last few years, Black Friday really emerged in the UK in 2013, when we saw the day break our previous records for a single day’s online trade.” Lewis added; “Black Friday is changing the way our customers plan their Christmas shopping.” Some experts have warned that with this growth in popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday it could mean the death of Boxing Day sales. From a consumer’s point of view, why would they want to rummage through all of the left over stock when you could pick up cheap Christmas presents a month before the big day? But with price drops in the lead up to Christmas, it doesn’t leave retailers much scope to further reduce prices on 26th December. Tesco says it expects Black Friday to beat Boxing Day sales in 2014 as it reported discounts of as much as 70%. According to Visa on Black Friday, consumers spent £1m on its cards every 3minutes throughout the day. Both IBM and Adobe highlighted the impressive impact of mobile devices over the long weekend that included both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Adobe commented; “Smartphones nearly doubled their share of total online sales on both days.” IBM added; “Thanksgiving Day mobile traffic accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic – the first time mobile devices has outpaced their PC counterparts for online browsing.” An estimated £810m was spent online by British shoppers on Black Friday, according to internet retail experts IMRG – this was an increase of 74% on 2013 figures. Cyber Monday also showed an increase on last year’s figures of 44%. Even if the sales season continues on through to Boxing Day, it’s unlikely we will see the same success that was had on Black Friday. Needless to say how retailers perform on 26th December this year will be a key indicator of things to come in the future of retail sales.…
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  • 15 Dec

Shopping in a Social Hub

Retailers work hard to ensure their customers can enjoy a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience, but with the added complexities of personalisation and brand loyalty to contend with customers expect more than just a new item of clothing from their shopping experience. Customers want ‘shoppertainment’. They expect the in-store experience to provide this, not only delivering the product they want, but also want excellent customer service and a visually stimulating and engaging environment. They want to be able to socialise whilst doing their shopping and make more of an event out of the process. High-street retailers have had to work hard drawing shoppers back in to the city centres, and with the lure of the internet this has been an even harder challenge. Research consultancy Allegra Strategies had revealed that coffee shops on the high street help to boost footfall by almost 30% and local economies. Over 50% of consumers questioned stated that they would be more likely to stay and shop in a city centre destination if there was a coffee shop nearby. Retailers are therefore submerging themselves in these ‘social hubs’ but that is not all they are doing. They are also developing in-store experiences to not only drive customers in store, but also to keep them in there for as long as possible. Creating digital content displays in stores is one way in which retailers are working to keep customers engaged in the physical store. Burberry for example presents their runway collection on large screens and provides the ability for customers to order items seen in the collection from iPads. Magic Mirrors and other emerging in-store technology helps to elevate the in-store experience allowing customers to virtually try on one garment and see how it would look on them in differing colours and styles. This is also developing in regards to social media with customers now able to share the outfits they are trying on via multiple social networks for instant feedback from family and friends. Drawing on the coffee shop theme, stores such as White Stuff regularly advertise tea mornings where they draw customers in with the lure of tea and cake. It is through ‘social hubs’ and use of current and emerging technologies that increases footfall in stores but also delivers endless ways in which to combat the engagement and brand loyalty aspect of consumer expectations. Just remember that all this needs to be linked seamlessly and consistently with your overall omnichannel offering. If you are interested in Retail Assist and would like to see how we could help improve you in-store experience by helping you to deliver an omnichannel experience then please take a look at our website: www.retail-assist.co.uk. Or you can get in touch with us via email: info@retail-assist.co.uk or call us on: 0115 853 3910.…
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  • 8 Dec

Retail Assist Dictionary Week 3: IT Solutions

Retail Technology is ever growing and changing and it’s with these changes that new terminology is evolving. We thought we would provide you with a useful Retail Assist dictionary so you can keep up to date with some of the most prevalent retail technology buzz words. This week we will be exploring terminology that surrounds IT solutions, and this is the 3rd and final Retail Assist dictionary blog. You can see week 1 ‘International’ here and week 2 ‘On the Go Technology’ here. Supply Chain: This is a network of businesses and contractors that work and coordinate closely together to manufacture, transport, distribute, and sell retail goods. Unlike a regular supply chain which is more of a linear process that follows a product from one phase to the next, an integrated supply chain is more collaborative and can entail joint product development, shared information, and common systems. Merret is our supply chain solution that has been designed and constructed for today’s omnichannel age. Merret provides a complete end-to-end solution, with a single stock pool, allowing retailers to maximise trade across numerous customer facing systems. Merret also provides a seamless shopping experience across all available channels whilst utilising a single stock pool, enabling customers to shop the brand, not just the channel. Central Stock Pool: Merret stock management enables sophisticated, in-season management of product ranges. Merchandisers are able to effectively manage complex assortments, allocating and replenishing stock, by channel. Merret significantly reduces the complexity inherent in the omnichannel grading, initial allocation and replenishment processes. Merret’s Weekly Sales Stock and Intake (WSSI), is a vital tool for in-season planning within stock management. The WSSI tool within Merret provides an accurate weekly position of sales, stock and planned intake, ensuring that crucial allocation, replenishment and pricing decisions are made, from up to date and correct information. From the single stock pool vision, stock can be managed efficiently and effectively across multiple global retail channels. Omnichannel: The next generation of cross-channel and multi-channel retail. Omnichannel means establishing a presence on several channels and platforms (i.e. brick-and-mortar, mobile, online, catalogue etc) and enabling customers to transact, interact, and engage across these channels simultaneously or even interchangeably, whilst receiving a consistent brand experience. Omnichannel, for example, gives customers the convenience and flexibility to purchase an item using your shopping app, and then letting them pick up the merchandise in your store, plus allowing them to process a return via the website. It’s important to note that omnichannel goes beyond simply being on multiple channels or platforms. Just because you have a website, a mobile app, and a physical store doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an omnichannel retailer. In order to truly be one, you must fuse all those channels together so they give customers a seamless and consistent experience. Multichannel: This term refers to companies using multiple channels (e.g. social media, web and stores) to transact with their customers. Companies with this approach are adopting two or more channels to engage their customers; however, they are…
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  • 1 Dec

Retail Assist Dictionary Week 2: On the Go Technology

Every year brings its own set of retail buzz words, and the last few years have been no different, awash with terms that describe these fast changing retail trends. That is why over the next couple of weeks we will be exploring this new and expanding terminology, with our Retail Assist dictionary of key terms. Last week we looked at ‘International’ retail terminology which can be viewed here. This week we are focussing on ‘On the go Technology’ and next week we explore ‘Omnichannel Retailing’.Mobile Device: A mobile device is a small, handheld computing device, typically having a touch screen display. It’s a computing device that has an operating system (OS), and can run various types of apps. Most handheld devices are also often equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities and also have access to the internet. Smartphones are popular mobile devices, they are easily carried on your person and are amongst some of the most powerful and practical mobile devices. Smartphones can be a valuable asset for both customers and retail workers alike. It gives customers the ability to access knowledge about an item prior to purchase, and it allows retail employees to provide a more personalised service. Tablet devices are a form of mobile device and with low cost tablet based computing, retailers can now bring technology onto the sales floor at an acceptable cost. Employing mobile technology enables retailers to tap into smarter ways of keeping check on stock. Unlike the previous generation of Hand Held Terminals, today’s Tablets are multifunctional devices, enabling your store teams to manage inventory, to browse the catalogue and process their emails and store instructions. For more information on mobile devices please click here.Mobile Payments: This pertains to the services and technology that enables consumers to pay using their mobile phones, instead of traditional forms of payment like cash or credit cards. Mobile payment solutions come in many forms, including; Near Field Communication (NFC)-based solutions such as ISIS or Google Wallet, and app-based solutions like PayPal.Relationship Retailing: This is a strategy that businesses implement to build loyalty and forge long-term relationships with customers. Relationship retailing can come in the form of loyalty programs, personalised experiences, or tailored customer service.eCommerce: Electronic commerce, is trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the internet. It draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic transfer of funds, supply chain management, internet marketing, online process of transactions, data collection and inventory management systems.Etailing: Short for “Electronic Retailing”, this is the practice of selling goods over the Internet. Etailers come in all shapes and sizes, and can be as big as giants like Amazon and as small as stay-at-home mums selling crafts online. Etailing has seen tremendous growth over the years, thanks to the emergence of platforms that make it easy for just about anyone to buy and sell online. In 2012, comScore reported that retail e-commerce spending amounted to over $44 billion in the US alone, which was…
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  • 28 Nov

Black Friday 2014

Black Friday has a massive impact on the retail sector and as an IT company that works largely with retailers we wanted to explore exactly what Black Friday means and find out where the term came from. History Black Friday is the day that immediately follows the American holiday, Thanks Giving, which falls on every 4th Thursday in November. It is also the unofficial kick off of the retail Christmas shopping season, but it hasn’t always been this way. The term ‘Black Friday’ was first established by traffic police in Philadelphia in 1924, long before traffic lights. Although not an official holiday day many employers used to give their employees the day off so that they could take advantage of the discounts that were on offer. However this was not the case for the Philadelphia traffic police who weren’t permitted to have the day off to enjoy some retail therapy, instead they had to man the streets and try and contain the madness. They were rotated on 12 hour duty and even the police band had to lend a hand controlling the traffic in the city centre. So it was not uncommon to see the police band’s trumpet player waving traffic through. Not only did these police officers have to manage the high volumes of car and foot traffic during the day, but also when night-time fell they had to then deal with the crowds that descended on the streets to watch the Army/Navy football game. The Philadelphia Police Department starting using the term “Black Friday” as a negative term surrounding the hassle they would face in policing the day, to try and deter people from venturing out on the streets. The term then got adopted by retailers to signifythe transition of retailer’s financial records moving from the ‘red’ in to the ‘black’ i.e. back into profit. Now the term is becoming widely accepted in the UK, since Amazon first started launching Black Friday deals in 2010, and Asda with their buying power of Walmart behind them in 2013. Today Depending on your perspective Black Friday could be seen as a frantic shopping experience that makes you just want to crawl back under your duvet, or it could be a great opportunity to pick up a bargain just in time for the expensive Christmas period. Black Friday has clearly changed over the years, something that started as an America traffic issue has transgressed in to a shopping bonanza that each year keeps exceeding the targets reached in previous years. The internet has fundamentally changed the concept of Black Friday forever. There is no longer the need to start queuing outside stores from the early hours of the morning in the cold, or even the night before. Last year Amazon’s busiest trading time was at 1pm on Black Friday. This year’s projection for online sales shows that in the UK alone shoppers will spend £1m every 3 minutes which is £6k every second. In the US total sales have been estimated…
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