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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 25 Jan

Retail Assist at NRF 2016: Top 5 Technologies

In search of the latest retail tech innovations, and the bright lights of New York City, Retail Assist recently attended the NRF 2016 Expo, Retail’s BIG Show. You might have caught up with our experiences on the Show floor this year, by way of our live vlogs. Our Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson, gave a fantastic insight into some of the technologies the team were impressed by. Click to watch the vlogs from day 1 and day 2. We also wanted to round off our NRF experience in today’s blog. So – what is likely to “change the face of the retail world” as the next BIG thing for retail technology? Nothing too out of the ordinary. The main trend we witnessed was data, or rather, the ways in which data is being analysed, mined and used to understand the customer and provide a more personalised experience. We have all seen futuristic technologies, but they can often be too gimmicky or cost prohibitive, and we were pleased to see more realistic presentation of what retailers could have in their stores today. The most promising aspect of this year’s NRF Expo was that the attention was focussed on making the store an integral part of the supply chain, by way of in-store customer experience as well as supply chain processes, which will equate to greater profitability for omnichannel retailers. Here are our Top 5 Technologies: 1) IBM Watson Watson is a fine example of cognitive computing: a system that learns and builds a high-powered database, enabling it to respond to questions and situations with a learned set of responses. The example we saw, in collaboration with North Face, is featured below from 1 minute 10 seconds onwards. The customer is going on holiday to Jackson Hole in February, and Watson showcases the most appropriate jackets for the conditions, without having been asked to. This is an example of utilising Watson from a customer perspective, but retailers could use Watson to predict sales performance, through integrating customer data, behavioural patterns and social media. Pre-season planning and merchandising would be more efficient using Watson to anticipate trends and respond more effectively for greater profitability. 2) Virtual Reality We were impressed by Oculus Rift at last year’s show, (read our excitable first introduction to VR here), but this year featured a more integrated customer journey from Virgin Atlantic. VR was used to showcase their first class customer experience, from the limousine to the airport, the airport lounge, and in-flight experience. What the hospitality business has latched on to is the use of VR to sell a particular service: holidays in particular benefit from the “you don’t have to be there to go there” concept that VR facilitates. However, retailers are selling a material product, more than an experience or service. In this case, VR needs to be fine-tuned to selling the end product as well as the retail service in-store. We think we’ll see retailers address this throughout 2016. Perhaps the transactional element needs…
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  • 20 Jan

Retail Assist at NRF 16: Round Up Vlog

Here’s the second vlog instalment from NRF Expo 2016, brought to you by our Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson. We’ve seen so much retail tech innovation that we’d love to see integrated into the omni customer experience. So, if you couldn’t make it to the Show this year, and want to get our expert insight into some impressive retail technology, just watch our vlog below. Day 2’s round-up features Virgin Atlantic’s VR tech, smart wearables, smart tables & RFID and handy delay mirrors. You can replay our Day 1 round-up here.  …
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  • 19 Jan

Retail Assist at NRF 16: Day 1 Vlog

Watch our latest vlog from the NRF Expo 2016, brought to you by our Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson. The team are enjoying checking out retail tech innovations on the Show floor, so stay tuned for further insights! Follow our live NRF updates on Twitter, by searching the hashtag #RAnrf16 @RetailAssist.…
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  • 11 Jan

NRF Expo 2016

The Retail Assist team is gearing up for Retail’s biggest show in New York – NRF Expo is now less than a week away. If you’re also heading out to New York and would like to meet up with our team members whilst there – Alan Morris, Borys Krywyj, Roger Bannister, Renato Pastorino and Alex Broxson – please get in touch. Just email info@retail-assist.co.uk to schedule a time to meet, or fill out our contact form here, and we will be in touch to arrange a meet up. We’ll be there surrounding all events beginning on Sunday 17th – Tuesday 19th January 2016. It’s always great to see faces old and new at NRF Expo, so don’t be a stranger! And of course, if you’re a NY-first-timer, here’s a handy set of GIFs to make sure your city etiquette isn’t lost in translation! Don’t confuse your East Side with your West Side…In today’s blog we also wanted to bring you our predictions and expectations for some of the retail technology that might be on offer. VR Last year, we were very impressed by the introduction of virtual reality to retail trade shows, in the form of Oculus Rift.With pre-sales of Oculus Rift headsets to the general public launching just last week, experts are predicting that the VR market sales could break the $1bn barrier in 2016. The VR experience could bring a new angle to online shopping, by connecting it with the physical store in a virtual way. If VR develops a 4D sensory experience, or transactional functionality, 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. If this is then available to the mass market, imagine the impact on omnichannel retailing. CX Becoming a bit of a buzzword in 2015, the customer experience, or CX, is retailers’ top focus area in 2016, along with investing in retail tech infrastructure. However, we don’t expect to see any fancy “tech for tech’s sake” gadgets that don’t really enhance CX in a meaningful way, such as magic mirrors. We’d love to see advances in personalisation, which truly differentiate the customer experience in a credible manner. Using data captured from purchase history, social media, and buying behaviour, retailers can use a consumer’s likes, dislikes and demographic information, to…
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