Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

There used to be a time when the board would set out its aims and objectives for a retailer and IT would then try and make sure the technology in place was, at best, an enabler. IT was a challenge to overcome. That’s no longer the case. Technology decisions are driving change; and with the new norm of omni-channel and consumer tech penetration driving the majority of retail growth, companies who can bring IT into the business at a strategic level are pulling away from those with a more traditional outlook.

Technology has become more than an enabler. It is shaping everything from business processes to in-store experiences. In other words, technology is finally driving and delivering the promise of brands. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the technology you choose will dictate how you operate, how your people work and how your customers will view you.

Just before Christmas BT Expedite completed a project with Fat Face which highlights just how important IT is in delivering on brand expectations – and how beneficial it can be to have technology driving change.

The Fat Face initiative was focused on a complete replacement of the EPoS system. As a project, it’s impressive enough in its own right; it was delivered in half the usual time (just nine months), and withstood the rigours of a record-breaking peak trading period in its first few weeks of operation.

The solution – what we call our Connected Hosted Retailer suite – covers a whole range of things including: EPoS (Store 6.3), Sales Audit, and Customer Relationship Management; a managed payment service, specifically designed to meet the PCI DSS standards; and an e-learning solution – BT View – an intuitive online training and messaging platform delivered through the EPoS.

Fat Face crew member tries out the new EPoS

Fat Face crew member tries out the new EPoS

All that is worth shouting about on its own… but the fact that all of this is hosted on a cloud-based platform represents something bigger; a step-change in technology’s place within the business. Fat Face now has a centrally managed IT infrastructure that’s fully in line with its needs as a business and its ambition as a brand.

Fat Face has bags of personality and a sense of adventure that runs right through everything, from its history (set up by two friends supporting their skiing adventures in the Alps) and marketing campaigns to its products and people (or ‘crew’ as they’re known in the business).

It’s the kind of business that wants and needs real flexibility and agility. It has to grasp opportunities as they become available and deliver the experience customers expect. That was impossible within the limitations of the legacy EPoS system. Change was a slow, costly exercise – and the company’s ambitions were being stunted by its technology. Multichannel retailing was a patchwork of different systems that ended up forcing store staff to jot down orders details on bits of paper before phoning the call centre to check for stock, or even using their own smartphones to place online orders for customers!

That’s definitely not the case now – and the benefits are being felt throughout the organisation.

So why exactly is this so aligned with delivering on the brand promise?

Firstly, people. Fat Face crew tend to be young and tech-savvy. So when it comes to using systems, they naturally expect the same level of user experience they get from consumer technology, in terms of accessibility and usability. The new EPoS is intuitive by design, with context sensitive onscreen help buttons to bring up instant step-by-step ‘how to’ guides. This helps get new crew members up to speed quickly, while simpler processes free them to spend more time with customers. The business has saved hugely in annual training costs as till training has been cut from 1 week to just a matter hours for each sales assistant. This also drives staff satisfaction as new people very quickly become effective members of the team.

Secondly, for a brand like Fat Face, moving quickly and grabbing opportunities is in its DNA. The new system means opening new stores is a much easier, quicker and more cost-effective process. IT resources and processing power can grow and shrink as needed. With less CAPEX required, there’s less risk and with no servers to support, lower planning overheads for new stores. As a result Fat Face is much more responsive – for each new store, everything can be deployed, or decommissioned, remotely. Having no need for on-site hardware also means that stores can be located in smaller sites such as stores in seaside resorts (there’s even one on Aviemore) or in temporary locations as pop-ups.

This ease of expansion breaks down borders as well. Crabtree & Evelyn, the first UK retailer to make the move to BT’s cloud-based system, has recently expanded operations in Germany and the timescales and processes involved were not that much more complicated than opening a new UK store.

These on-demand POS pioneers, like Fat Face and Crabtree & Evelyn, are likely to be followed by something of a landslide in the next few years as attitudes towards technology within retail organisations change and businesses seek ways to invest less while remaining at the forefront in terms of business capabilities. As a result, we’ll see IT being brought right into the heart of the organisation, with technology initiatives that push the business – and the brand – forward.

Useful links

Video: Watch Crabtree & Evelyn cloud-based EPoS case study

Posted by Josh Pert, CEO, BT Expedite & Fresca

Posted by: BT Expedite  |   Comments  No Response

We’re about a third of the way through a nine-month project to install a new integrated multichannel solution for footwear specialist Charles Clinkard, including a merchandising system, point of sale, and CRM.

After three months of hard work on both sides, we’re bang on track to have the new system up and running in all 34 branches before the next big trading period for footwear retailers at Easter (yes, that’s right, Easter. Apparently people don’t ask Santa for shoes).

With the software now in place and the design phase drawing to a close, we’ve been working together to figure out how to set things up so that Charles Clinkard gets the most out of the functionality that comes with the Mercatus merchandising system. The company’s current system has served it well for the past 10 years, but it just can’t cope with the demands of a more integrated, multichannel world.

Right now that’s a nuisance – soon, it’ll be a disaster. Customers are getting used to seamless, multichannel shopping and increasingly expect things like click and collect.

As the teams have kicked around different ways of overcoming the more fiddly aspects of footwear merchandising (such as every size of every style in five different widths!) we’ve been regular visitors to the Charles Clinkard head office – as much as 2-3 times a week over the summer.

Fortunately everyone seems to be getting on and that familiarity has bred a great working relationship that’s really helping us create a solution that should support Charles Clinkard for many years to come.

Watch the video and read the full story, including the views of  Tim Payne, Charles Clinkard’s merchandise director

About Charles Clinkard

The business began in 1924 with the opening of a shoe shop in Stockton. From small beginnings The Clinkard Group has now grown to be the leading Independent Footwear Retailer in the North East and one of the largest Independents in the UK. The current Managing Director – Charles Clinkard – is the grandson of the founders and continues the values that have established the business. The group consists of two key components: Charles Clinkard, which is the retail arm, and Intershoe the wholesale operation.

Further reading: Retail Week on the Road: North East and Yorkshire

Posted by: Justine Arthur  |   Comments  No Response

We came out on top in two categories at this year’s prestigious Retail Week Technology Awards, scooping the prizes for EPoS Initiative of the Year and Multichannel Integration of the Year.

In what has become a must-attend event in the retail calendar, the Lancaster London  was packed with retailers and suppliers. With some of the biggest names in retail amongst the finalists, we had everything crossed as the results were read out and were delighted to win two major categories:

1.       EPOS  initiative of the year category

Our collaboration with Aurora Fashions has seen us implement a mobile POS solution on in-store iPads. The technology was trialled at the flagship Oasis store in London, before being rolled out across more stores and other brands.

Liz Evans, managing director of Oasis, explains: “Using iPads is a fun and more practical way of shopping. People don’t have to queue and can buy anywhere on the shop floor. They can also look things up online and take pictures of themselves when trying on clothes. We are making shopping more fun, intuitive and innovative. In our first week of operation, iPad transactions accounted for 20 per cent of sales.”

2.       Multichannel Integration Project of the Year

Late last year, the Aurora brands launched a new approach to stock management and order fulfilment in partnership with BT Expedite & Fresca (BT Expedite) and Retail Assist. Anywhere, Everywhere is a strategy in which all selling channels– both on and offline – are integrated such that order fulfilment across all channels can be realised from one stock pool through industry leading systems capability.

Retail Week editor Joanna Perry said on the night: ”The structural changes taking place in our industry at the moment are giving technology a new higher-profile. In the past few years I’ve seen IT go from being thought of as a necessary cost to an enabler of change and a creator of new business opportunities. Everyone in the room – retailers and suppliers – is playing their part in this transformation. Whether you are a winner tonight or not, you should be proud of what you are achieving. Now really is your time to shine.”

Posted by: Justine Arthur  |   Comments  No Response

…at the new store opening at Westfield Stratford City…oh and our EPOS in the foreground ;-)

Posted by: Geoffrey Barraclough  |   Comments  1 Response

We’ve always been a fan of tablet computers and have long thought they could add fantastic value to in-store operations. But when iPads first appeared, we were very sceptical about whether Apple technology was right for our customers.

We have to admit we were wrong. We’ve spent many hours evaluating a range of alternative devices, from HP to Acer. We’re running a pilot at Aurora Fashions and have our clienteling application running on iPads in another major fashion brand. We declare ourselves converted.

Here’s eight reasons why iPads rock in fashion retail!

They help staff serve customers better – staff can photograph customers trying on garments, front and back, so that shoppers can easily see which dress and which colour suits them best, they can look at their own (or a competitor) website and place orders from the fitting room.

They’re great for clienteling – we’ve got a fab iPad clientling application especially designed for fashion but, at a more basic level, we’ve found staff keen to digitise their own “black books.

They help staff and head office communicate better – retailers often email store staff with important information, such as visual merchandising plans. These emails are accessible on the back office PC or at the till. With an iPad, staff can have the right information in their hand, wherever they are in the store. And in colour. We can’t tell you how surprised we are at how many of our customers only have black and white printers in their shops.

Everyone knows how to use one – we don’t underestimate this. People pick up iPads and use them. They don’t ask for the instruction manual or a training course or call the help desk. They just pick them up, turn them on and off they go.

They can double as an EPOS – Store 6, our EPOS software, works great on an iPad and, when the tablet’s not in use, it can dock on top of a cash drawer and double as a fixed till.

They are always on brand – change the wallpaper, add a sleeve and your iPad is immediately reflects your business’s personality.

They don’t run Windows – okay, we all know that there is no Windows device that comes close to the iPad’s usability but we think there’s more than this. Windows = work. Our experience is that people generally only use Windows devices for the purposes they are given them for. In contrast, with iPads people don’t feel constrained by the technology. They experiment, play and come up with use cases nobody had thought of.

They don’t go wrong – it’s early days but we’ve iPad apps deployed at a few retailers and in a number of countries and we’re not getting many service calls. Fingers crossed.

Charleen Benson

Director of Store Consulting

You can find out more about our mobile POS products at: http://www.btexpedite.com/mobilepos

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