The change in trends with the emergence of “Black Friday” to the UK retail market

Black Friday has been an American tradition for many years, the day following Thanksgiving since 1932 is synonymous with sales. The UK in recent years have adopted this day in an effort to boost sales during the recession. 
 
Being very successful but also controversial since it’s launch in the UK, with people fighting to get their discounted HD TVs, people and children getting trampled on and damage to shops with added cost for employing security to ensure order. 
 
Since the vast amount of trouble year on year and bad press from the media customers have turned to technology to solve some of these issues. 
 
Amazon have started a “Deals Week”, hot ticket items have been increased in stock, maximum quantities have been used to limit the amount of items a person can buy in one transaction and an extra day “Cyber Monday” added to give people an extra chance of buying their new TV or Laptop at a discounted price. 
 
All of these solutions are good news to the consumer as it gives more opportunity to buy the items they need online without leaving the house and queuing up outside a supermarket at 4am in the terrible British winter weather. 
 
Selling items online also has it’s pitfalls. For deals sold online that are known to be popular can cause huge surges in traffic and can shut down a website in seconds, frustrating consumers and losing trust in their brand. Look at the recent “Dismaland” debarkle from famous unknown artist “Banksy”, where tickets were only available online, and had lots of interest. So much interest that it cause the website to shut down and annoy all the customers trying to buy tickets… which was quite fitting in this example as that was kind of the point with “Dismaland”.
 
To overcome this consumers have again turned to technology companies for the answer, creating a “queue” system for website, and lets face it in Britain we know how to queue. Only a limited amount of traffic is allowed on a website at anyone time, when they drop out more are let in, giving the consumer a chance to login and get the item they want without damaging the reputation of the business in the process. 
 
It’s these trends, and technology advancements that keep consumers coming back, and by keeping up with technology you as a business can help your clients stay happy and more importantly spending more. 
 
Merlinsoft Ltd are always working with retail and visitor attractions to ensure their needs are met. We work with our clients to ensure they have a system that works for them. We develop all our own software in house, so we take requests from clients very seriously and try our best to implement these requests and pass them on across the board to everyone. The people who use the systems are the ones that know the most about what it is they need in a system, and we try to meet these.
 
For more information on our packages email sales@merlinsoft.co.uk or call us on 01226 294413.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

Portrayed as the technology of the future, the term actually describes a revamped version of a well established 1960s computing model comprised of centralised mainframes, networked to dumb remote terminals and paid for using a ‘time sharing’ method. After all ‘The Cloud’ is merely a mainframe sitting in a Data Centre somewhere on which you buy time. Rather than be connected by wire you are connected by satellite. Nothing much really changes does it?

A good computer system in retail must use an architecture that combines:

• A public network to provide remote customers and suppliers with access to the retailer’s system for on-line transaction processing,
• A private network that provides access for remote employees,
• A private network for handling point of sale transactions, and
• A super-fast local head office hub to handle large scale user access and for batch processing.

The first item in the above list could be called ‘Cloud’, the next two can be best described as ‘Private Cloud’ and the last one as simply a super-fast Local Area Network (LAN), connected to the same server environment which services the external networks (The ‘Cloud’).

Interestingly enough, Merlin® offers all of the above for maximum efficiency and minimum disruption.

NOTE: Using ‘Cloud’ for everything could hurt your retail business, as three out of the four areas listed above would work poorly if they were to rely on a shared public network. So, when people bring up the ‘cloud’ topic, you can safely ignore it and instead demand discussions about system stability, accessibility, speed, functionality, usability and simplicity.

The importance of branding

brandingblog
Whether you’re starting up a new business, music career, festival, online shop or the next Amazon, or even if you’re an already well-established brand building their empire online, branding is everything.

A well branded company is what sets them apart from everyone else online; with more and more businesses selling their products online, in an overcrowded marketplace getting noticed is key.

Ensure your customers know where to find you.

In an arena that is becoming over crowded you have to make sure that you stand out and make your customers experience as enjoyable as possible. A poorly performing website is where most businesses lose their customers to rivals; second to that is a poorly designed website.

Email footers are the most effective area to connect with customers you already have, ensuring they know what social networks you’re on and are reminded of your website URLs. Additionally, this can provide a space for any products you want to push or any events you want to sell tickets for. Put all of these links in your footer taking care not to use too many images as this can sometimes lead to emails being automatically placed in spam.

Online directories and Google maps are also key to being found. If possible ensure that any logos or branding is placed upon these sites and is therefore instantly recognisable to your existing and potential customers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, on average, people only start responding to advertising and marketing after seeing your brand 9 times.

Repetition

Brands are built on repetition. Calling out to your clients via blogs, email marketing, YouTube videos, radio spots, TV, banner ads etc. the list goes on and on. Take “Go Compare,” for example: they shot to fame when their adverts featuring an opera singer singing a jingle were shown over and over again, to the point where people loved it or hated it. Either way – they knew it. If that advert had been shown once, people would have forgotten about it, but putting it in front of people time and time again, it became recognisable and trusted as an established brand.

You have to engage with your customers on a regular basis for them to know you are there and ready for them when they are ready to shop with you.

Consistency is key

Once your brand identity is set up, try to maintain it throughout all of your marketing activities. Look at Apple Inc., for example: they have only once changed their brand identity to keep up with current trends. If you look at any of their products, websites, emails, letterheads, stationery and even their hardware, everything is consistent. You know instantly when you see the apple logo, or when you receive marketing emails from Apple: the fonts, the layouts and the colours are always the same, only the message changes. It is this consistency that builds trust in your existing and your potential clients. Trust is essential in an online business and consistency helps to build that.

When you have established your brand, ensure that any websites and marketing material reflects this and only try to update this as technology moves forward. Any websites you create should mirror your brand: if you sell tickets for events, ensure you choose a supplier who will work with you to maintain your brand identity and create bespoke ticket designs and websites based upon this.

Product-only websites are the same: make sure that all confirmation emails look and feel the same as the main website and are consistent with any marketing material you send out.

Data

Some companies survive on solely selling the data collected from people shopping online. It is big business and an area that is currently thriving. More and more people want to sell their products, services or promote their creations.

Collecting data from your customers is essential for the survival of your brand. People buying from you – whether it is in the form of event tickets, products or lifetime memberships – will buy from you again and again if their first shopping experience was a good one. The data that they put into your website should then be yours to keep and do with what you will (if they are willing to give their data up to be marketed to).

Selling through third party websites as opposed to your own could be problematic as you often have to pay for that information or in some cases will not be allowed access to it at all. Make sure that your online provider lets you keep all of your user information. This can then be used for marketing campaigns and to allow you to send out emails to clients letting them know you still exist and that you are still better than everyone else.

Offering discounts to loyal customers in order to ensure their repeat business is a tried and tested method of creating a loyal customer base.

Merlin offer bespoke websites with your own unique URL which is fully branded to your current website, selling tickets, products and memberships (all at the same time if required, which is an excellent way to up-sell). We work with clients to offer a bespoke package tailored to you, ensuring that your brand identity is maintained throughout. All data collected from people who register on the website we create for you is yours to keep, enabling you to interact with your customers and hopefully guarantee repeat business. We do not charge extra for this data, it is yours to keep.

To find out how we can help you increase your online presence, call us on 01226 294413 or email us on lee@merlinsoft.co.uk.

Increase your customers secondary spend

Merlin believe in making the most of what you have, and there are some simple things you can do to increase your customers secondary spend when at your attraction, here’s a couple of points to get you started;

Increasing secondary spend

1. On-Line ticket sales:

The real advantages of on-line tickets sales are two-fold;

a) The visitor pays upfront and you have the money irrespective of whether they attend or not!
b) Psychologically, as they have paid in advance, they still have the entry money in their pockets!

In the case of a) it is very easy to add on-line ticket sales to an existing website and be selling tickets 24 hours a day 7- days a week. The cost of this is negligible and can be covered very easy by a small on-line booking fee if required. Many venues make no charge for on-line booking as the cash-flow advantages and the reduction in staffing intervention is worth the small fees charged. In addition, if you link merchandise to ticket sales as part of your on-line offering this will also increase sales of existing products. For example if they are attending a special event there may be specific merchandise linked to that event which can be bought at the same time as the tickets. ‘Dinosaur Live’ attracted 10,000 visitors and parents could buy their children self assembly models of a variety of dinosaurs both before and during their visit. Shop sales rocketed during that exhibition as even if they hadn’t bought on-line they knew these products were available on their visit,

Having paid for tickets on-line the visitor often sees their visit as a ‘freebie’ as they haven’t had to pay out money on the day so still have money in their pockets. Data gleaned from existing users of on-line tickets sales show an increase in secondary spend of up to 24%. Clearly this is a fantastic opportunity for you to increase your revenues in the shop and café. To tap into this lucrative market you need to be creative in your product offerings and ensure they can take something away that links to the visit. Using the example of the dinosaurs I mentioned earlier. How about looking for local products such as paintings, craftwork, ceramics, etc.

Food and drink are very profitable lines and it’s worth ensuring that you have plenty of variety on offer, especially if you can have products not found easily elsewhere – home made pies, buns and cakes for example. ‘Own brand’ biscuits, flap-jack toffee, fudge etc. There are plenty of suppliers that will brand items up for you. However, don’t fall into the trap of being too expensive as this gets more negative reviews on Tripadvsior than almost anything else. The fact that you have a ‘captive market’ doesn’t give you the right to rip them off! Just ask yourself how many times people have visited a venue or event and when asked about their experience have commented along the lines of “great day but the sandwiches were a ridiculous price. I’m not suggesting that you try to compete with Greggs or Subway or the like but do be sensible in your pricing structure.

2. Retail Merchandising:

One area that is sadly neglected in many venues is the retail offering. I’m aware that you’re not all high street retailers but you do need to be aware of the opportunities available from good quality products and merchandising.

Back to that comment of ‘captive audience’ where here it can be a real advantage. They have visited your attraction and many of them want to take away a souvenir of their visit. All too often this means rummaging around the same stuff they can buy on most market stalls. In some cases badly presented and even dusty. In some attractions the dusty environment can be a real problem but this has to be contained so that your product offering is always being displayed in the most attractive and appealing way as possible.

First of all try and see your retail offering as a visitor would see it. This can be difficult as it is often difficult to see faults with what we have created. If necessary get a friend you trust to give you their opinion. Retailers in general use ‘mystery shoppers’ to check out their offering. This will assess both the visual effectiveness and also the staff’s attitude to customers.

When creating displays look at providing the ‘wow’ factor. What is the ‘wow’ factor? It’s that little bit extra we get when we choose something, especially if it makes us remember our purchase in a more positive way. This can be done by the use of clever lighting or décor or even sound. TV screens are very cheap but they can be used to show dynamic displays of products in a particular setting.

Ensure all your staff are also part of the ‘wow’ you have on offer. Are they all familiar with your product lines and the history of your venue. Often when in the shop visitors will ask questions they forgot to ask inside.

Picking up again on the Dinosaur Live exhibition make sure you have enough products which reflect the theme and content of what they have just seen.

Don’t ignore the till point either as this is the place where they will have to stand for a few minutes at least. I don’t mean clutter it all around with those cheap tacky goods from the Far East either. Use the space wisely and effectively either to add value to what they have already bought or as a way of advertising forthcoming events and experiences. Remember the two-third rule – two-third space and one-third products. That way it ensures the eye is drawn to what you actually want them to see.

When laying out your retail space always take a picture of the finished product and then view it the day after. Often a picture will identify issues you missed when you were setting it all up. There are also lost of ways you can spruce up displays very cheaply and effectively – I call it the Blue Peter effect! Think back to that programme and how they made some very magical objects out of fairly ordinary objects with the addition of coloured paper, stars and decals and even sticky back plastic. If creativity is not your speciality I’m sure the local art college would be more than willing to get involved, especially if they get a mention on the displays. If you sell models have one or two already assembled and painted to show what the finished product will look like.

We hope this post has been of some use to you, If you would like to talk through any options you have or what Merlin could offer, call us on 01226 321213 or email us at sales@merlinsoft.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help. feel free to visit our ticketing site at www.merlintickets.co.uk

Online ticketing and e-commerce in one package!

Merlin have been working hard to develop the ultimate in visitor attraction management and now with our added e-commerce and online ticketing module we have achieved this.

Easily set up any ticket or product and publish to the web and to the till at the same time.

Easily set up any ticket or product and publish to the web and to the till at the same time.

Now you can sell ticket and products in the same transaction.

Here at Merlin HQ we have been working tirelessly to create the ultimate tool for our visitor attractions who crave the ability to sell tickets and products at the same time in a single transaction on-line.

The main importance of this feature is to promote events while selling merchandise and vice versa to up sell products while a customer is preparing to purchase tickets to an event.

Tickets are sent out digitally and can be printed at home by the customer or simply scanned and redeemed using their smart phone. Products in the same transaction can be sent out using your preferred method or click and collect when they arrive.

Online ticket sales are becoming more and more popular and with the option to sell merchandise at the same time means that your event or venue will gain more exposure and extra sales.

To take the Merlin online site for a demo and see what your customers would see and how easy it is to use, log on to Merlin Online demo and take it for a test drive.

To have a talk to someone from Merlin about the new system and how we can integrate it to your site, call us on 01226 321213

THE WHITE BEAR IS OFFICIALLY NAMED BARNSLEY’S BEST RETAILER AT THIS YEAR’S SHOP AWARDS

Despite tough competition, The White Bear Pub took the number one spot and was named Barnsley’s number one retailer at this year’s shop awards.

Other winners included: Not Just Coffee; Fusion; Neil’s Sportwear; Old Barnsley; Bite Me; Fat Pig.

The Barnsley Civic Trust Shop Awards took place this week with 19 diverse categories and over 50 local businesses attended.

The event was run by the Civic Trust, and was hosted by Owen Gleadall of Barnsley based software company, “Merlin Software Ltd”.

Jason and Debbie Clarkson of Not Just Coffee commented on their award: “It is fantastic to be recognised for all the hard work we have put in to our small family run coffee shop.

“It has been a tough couple of years but now we have a strong community customer base in Barnsley who keep coming back!”

The Shop Awards, proudly sponsored by the Barnsley Chronicle, was a fantastic event with a real buzz in the venue. The winners all received a voucher for a free copy of Owen Gleadall’s up and coming retail book, “You don’t get many drugs for a cauliflower- the secrets of retail success unpicked.”

An extra community service award was given at the end of the night to Tilly’s Café, based at the Alhambra Centre, for their exceptional customer service.

Tilly’s Café opened on Christmas day for 2 hours so their elderly customers could have their Christmas dinner.

Owen commented: “I was proud to host these awards as it is a subject close to my heart. These awards are about rewarding the businesses that go the extra mile to ensure the people of Barnsley keep returning.

The awards were held at the Holiday Inn and picked out the exceptional retail outlets Barnsley has to offer with a diverse range of categories from Charity shops to Cafes.

Merlin Software Ltd, based at Barnsley Business Innovation Centre, provides point-of-sale software to shops, visitor attractions and charities. The company designs and develops software systems to help businesses save time and make more money.

Merlin’s clients include the Tropical Butterfly House, near Sheffield; Bressingham Steam Museum, in Norfolk; South Bucks Hospice shops; Amps Fine Wines in Cambridgeshire; Nike 1948, and independent bookshops in London.

BARNSLEY’S BEST RETAILERS AWAIT SUCCESS AT THIS YEAR’S SHOP AWARDS

Retailers across Barnsley await in excitement to find out if they have hit the number one spot to be named retail business of the year.

The Barnsley Civic Trust Shop Awards are taking place this week with 19 diverse categories and over 50 local businesses set to attend.

The event on October 8th, which is run by the Civic Trust, will be hosted by Owen Gleadall of Barnsley based software company, “Merlin Software Ltd”.

The Shop Awards, proudly sponsored by the Barnsley Chronicle, will be held at the Holiday Inn and aim to pick out the exceptional retail outlets Barnsley has to offer with a diverse range of categories from Charity shops to Cafes. There will be one overall winner and one winner per category.

Barnsley's fountains at night


Author and business owner, Owen Gleadall, has put his 30 years of retail experience to good use and written his first book, “You don’t get many drugs for a cauliflower- the secrets of retail success unpicked.” The books will be available to order on the night, ahead of the official launch, and all the winners receive a free copy.

Owen commented: “I am proud to be hosting these awards as it is a subject close to my heart. These awards are about rewarding the businesses that go the extra mile to ensure the people of Barnsley keep returning.
“The regeneration of Barnsley town hall with the addition of the new Experience Barnsley Museum means more and more people are flooding back into Barnsley centre, and recognising the achievements and the part retail plays in this is very important.”

Merlin Software Ltd, based at Barnsley Business Innovation Centre, provides point-of-sale software to shops, visitor attractions and charities. The company designs and develops software systems to help businesses save time and make more money.

Merlin’s clients include the Tropical Butterfly House, near Sheffield; Bressingham Steam Museum, in Norfolk; South Bucks Hospice shops; Amps Fine Wines in Cambridgeshire; Nike 1948, and independent bookshops in London.

Who would win in a fight between…

Here’s a little bit of fun, let’s see who can guess correctly. One of these photos was taken using a Samsung galaxy S3 at around 8 mega pixels. The other was taken using a digital Camera at this years LIW 2013. Can you tell which one is the Phone or which is the digital cannon EOS 600D camera?? Left or right… Comment below.

Just in case no one can figure it out…. the answer is….

Merlin features at LIW 2013

Merlin will once again be exhibiting at this year’s Leisure Industry Week exhibition on stand A130, this time with some very exciting developments.

LIW is synonymous for detailing the latest developments and industry experts for the Leisure industry sector. Latest technologies, greatest gadgets and expertise in each leisure sector and this year is set to be greater than ever.

LIW is more than just an exhibition, with over 100 seminars taking place at LIW 2013 in the Education village on the show floor. Whether you’re seeking CPD accreditation, inspiration or simply want to keep up with industry trends, the LIW education programme contains practical advice and expert-led sessions giving you the vital knowledge you need to stay ahead of the game.

On the show floor there will be live demonstrations on body fitness, swimming clubs and the latest technology in business software and hardware to enable you to take full control and management over your business, all with the help of Merlin Software.

This year we will be exhibiting on stand A130 with the launch of some brand new features, we’re remaining tight lipped for the moment, but rest assured it is not something you want to miss!

To keep updated with developments and information, follow us on twitter @merlinsoft and all will be revealed! We hope to see you there.

Emirates Aviation Experience

Emirates Airline’s Aviation Experience is the latest venue to adopt Yorkshire-based Merlin Software’s attraction management solution to provide on-site facilities for visitor management, box office, shop and cafe.

London’s newest attraction is the first of its kind in the world, offering visitors the opportunity to man the flight deck of one of the most technologically advanced airliners in production today.

In addition to climbing aboard the cockpit of an Airbus 380 or Boeing 777 in the four state-of-the-art flight simulators, visitors can also expect to see a life sized replica of a jet engine rendered entirely in LEGO and experience the journey of a suitcase as it passes through airport baggage control in Dubai.