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Delivery 1 resized 1170x658 - Life after lockdown – what does the future of retail look like?
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Life after lockdown – what does the future of retail look like?

We have been reflecting on what life after lockdown now looks like for many businesses, as the gradual lifting of restrictions continues. 

In particular, the way people shop, both now and into the future will have changed dramatically as retail companies have faced huge challenges across the industry to adapt to the country-wide lockdown. It has also seen the demise of some big bricks and mortar stores.

KFA Connect believes that retail businesses will need to sell and increase their range across as many sales channels as possible in order to improve chances of survival.

With the after-effects of the lockdown and phased return to work, many retail stores will remain closed or sadly go out of business altogether. In addition, the average consumer is still unlikely to go to the shops unless they need to. With social distancing remaining in place indefinitely and shoppers not wishing to join long queues for clothing stores, it’s time to consider the long-term effects.

The likelihood is, that people will continue to buy online from the security of their homes for a long time to come.

Online sales are on an upward trajectory with no sign of slowing down and the lockdown has changed the behaviour of the population with little chance of it reversing. It is imperative that businesses look to sell and increase their range online as soon as possible, as a surge in sales post-lockdown is too risky to rely on. The change in behaviour is evident in the noticeable increase in online ordering for our e-commerce customers, with some seeing a 60% increase in online sales during the lockdown.

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Another challenge retailers continue to face is the sudden increase in pressure on deliveries. Additional online ordering means companies must be able to switch between couriers easily and to mitigate this we strongly suggest the use of software systems that integrate with multiple couriers. This will ultimately offer more flexibility to enable a business to run efficiently and eliminate any internal process issues.

There has been a huge variant in the way retail companies have been able to respond to online ordering, from some small businesses opening only 1-2 days per week to large high street chains capping daily order numbers, to the likes of Amazon reportedly reaping an $11,000-a-second during the lockdown. Whichever way you look at it, it is a sink or swim situation and while online order numbers remain high for those with e-commerce options in place, businesses still need to understand the best way to manage them.

KFA Connect is advising these businesses not to lose sight of the long-term, and embrace technology more than ever, as you truly never know what is around the corner.

Need help with eCommerce website development or integration services?

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i-UG’s International i Power 2020 event took on a new virtual format!

The International i Power event took on a whole new virtual format this year due to COVID-19; it’s usually a packed two-day event with workshops, seminars, inspiring news from the IBM team about the future and a great chance to chat with other like-minded IBM i professionals.

For us, the event is a great chance to keep our team up to date with the latest IBM i news, but also an opportunity to chat face-to-face with delegates, other sponsors of the event as well as members and organisers of the event from the i-UG (IBM i User Group).

This June, the event was held as a virtual event, where delegates were able to watch webinars and seminars online and the feedback has been amazing. Delegates were able to attend the workshops and webinars that they were most interested in without having to spend time (and money) travelling to the event.

There was even a virtual EXPO hall, where the event sponsors could showcase their IBM i services to the attendees (I must say it’s much kinder on our feet in this format!)

We were sorry to have missed the opportunity to meet with the delegates and i-UG members face-to-face, but hope to have the chance to do so again very soon!

KFA Connect offers IBM i…

  • Application Development
  • Application Modernisation
  • Systems Integration
  • Enhanced Reporting & Intelligent BI
  • Independent Testing
  • 24/7 Support
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COVID-19 Kick Starts Digital Transformation

It’s staggering, the changes that businesses have had to make over the last month.

So to say it’s given digital transformation a kick start is a bit of an understatement…

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has forced the hand of many business owners who may have previously been reluctant to step into the world of digital transformation.

Businesses who now have many employees working remotely will no doubt be struggling to establish how their employees are really doing emotionally as well as physically.

Some are having to juggle a new experience of not just working from home but while also looking after and home-schooling their children.

We’ve all got very good at multitasking!

World Mental Health Day 2019 - COVID-19 Kick Starts Digital Transformation

Being able to function as a business, in a paperless way, communicate effectively as a team and to continue to offer your customers your services or products with an online presence is now more important than ever.

Not a gentle nudge, but a real shove in the right direction for some companies who have been putting off making changes.

An annual report from the Office of National Statistics which was published in Nov 2019 detailing eCommerce and ICT use by UK businesses in 2018 said that 52% of British businesses did not have a website.

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The same report also said that only 12.9% of British businesses had made sales through a website and that more than half of larger businesses (with 1,000+ employees) did not make sales via their websites.

The Government have been pushing the move to digital following their 2017 UK Digital Strategy, with businesses being asked to make the move to offer a web presence, sell online, use the cloud and digitise back-end systems including payroll and VAT.

Perhaps it will also pave the way for more permanent changes to the way (or location) in which we work and also how we interact with both our customers and colleagues?

Companies with no facility in place to allow employees to effectively work from home will have also had to invest and make changes in a very short space of time. Investing further on systems, websites and e-commerce development might not be what you want to do right now, but it might have become an absolute necessity.

The initial panic of getting the infrastructure in place will now have been dealt with, and attention may now be turning to what can be done to ensure the survival of the business in general – if there are gaps in your channels to market and what can be done to stay ahead of the competition?

So, businesses who previously shied away from selling online or enhancing their existing offer should be making changes now.

Big-name retail businesses will have an established online presence already, but with literally everyone now ordering everything they need online, those who have always had a ‘customer-focused’ approach will now be taking an even closer look at making sure that your customer experience is as slick as possible. Websites which make the user journey simple and encourages repeat visits are those who will thrive in this current situation.

However, businesses who sell in a B2B (Business to Business) environment might be keen to offer their customers the facility to log in to their account, browse a catalogue, add products to shopping baskets directly from an online brochure. Giving the customer the freedom to shop with your business at any hour of the day to suit them.

Or what about allowing trade customers to customise or build bespoke products from components with an intuitive search and filter facility – and most importantly allow their customers to view a price list specific to them while managing their account online?

Once your customers, regardless of whether they are making consumer or trade-related transactions have experienced a simple, easy online shopping experience they are going to be less likely to shop around!

KFA can support companies with their eCommerce to help businesses get online quickly and effectively in response to the Coronavirus measures, and to ensure companies are well-placed to continue with eCommerce activities moving forward.

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HMRC Announces Phase 2 of Making Tax Digital for VAT is to be Deferred due to COVID-19 Outbreak

New guidelines have been announced by HMRC – now giving them longer to make the digital transition.

Following the announcement from HMRC last week – offering companies the opportunity to delay making their VAT payments to HMRC, they have now relaxed the Making Tax Digital for VAT legislation dates for phase 2, giving businesses longer to make the change from manual submissions to going fully digital.

Making the digital transition to MTD for VAT

COVID-19 is creating extremely difficult times for all, and HMRC have confirmed that they are “committed to helping in every way possible all those businesses facing unprecedented challenges”.

Therefore, HMRC are providing all MTD businesses with more time to put in place digital links between all parts of their functional compatible software. This means that all businesses now have until their first VAT return period starting on or after 1 April 2021 to put digital links in place.

Delaying VAT payments

If you’re a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to:

  • defer the payment until a later date
  • pay the VAT due as normal

But it’s important to remember that you still need to continue to make your VAT submissions…

HMRC have also said that they will continue to process VAT reclaims and refunds as normal during this time.

One option is to use KFA Connect’s FREE bridging software solution Magic Tax.

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KFA do not profit from the solution at all, we are simply asking businesses who find the solution useful to make a donation to our chosen charity Marie Curie.

Suggested donation, £20.00 per vat submission filed.

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Charities at the moment need as much help as they can get, so now is a great time to use Magic Tax to help your business and helping a very worthy charity in the process!

For full details on any of the above, please visit HMRC website.

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Need to start selling online and fast?

The outbreak of the Coronavirus will totally change the way your customers interact with your business…

You’ll want to ensure that they can continue to buy from you.

We recognise that for us, in the IT industry, it’s absolutely possible for our entire team to continue ‘business as usual’ from the comfort and safety of our offices at home.

But, this is not the case for many businesses and we are all hearing on a daily basis from the news, how companies are turning their entire business models upside down and offering home deliveries and online sales to keep their customers (and maybe even gain new ones in the process).

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has completely shifted the way businesses operate in a very short timeframe. If your company’s turnover relies predominantly on face-to-face transactions, you will need to set up an online presence, and fast!

Many businesses who operate with a physical store or trade counter will want to list their products for sale online, so their business can continue to trade and avoid losing customers to competitors who already have an online presence.

Want to talk to us about getting your online business up and running, including offering your products to trade only customers?

Want to know how quickly this could be achieved and what might be involved?

Find out more about our eCommerce development service.

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Advice and guidance on how to prepare for working from home

Advice and guidance for working from home

In response to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, working from home is becoming an essential choice for many businesses – and an overnight requirement for some. If you are a business that’s facing home working for the first time or an employee that hasn’t worked from home before, to follow are some top tips…

The whole team at Ringwood-based KFA Connect has already embraced working from home since last week.

“Many companies, like us have implemented ‘work from home’ arrangements since the outbreak and this could be the very first time you have done anything like this as a business. This has meant companies have faced ensuring their technology infrastructure is working effectively and that employees are well-equipped to work from home”.

Richard Austin – New Business Director, KFA.
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Large companies were some of the first to make the switch, building on pre-existing infrastructure and many companies of all sizes will have Office 365 and will be utilising VPN access and the Internet. There may be a lot of companies that are not aware of other solutions such as Microsoft Teams, which creates a group hub and gives team members an excellent platform to group chat, securely edit files and work effectively together from multiple locations. It’s also an effective way to communicate with wider colleagues and clients in an easy and personal way.

Since the changes, Microsoft, Google, Zoom and many others have already made cloud-based subscriptions free or widened their offering to help companies embrace working from home in case it becomes a UK-wide requirement.

It’s important companies are set up to deliver their business from home but it’s also about getting the balance right and supporting team members to deliver what they can effectively from home and keeping them informed.

Working from home alone can be quite isolating so it’s key for us that we have daily team catch-ups on video and voice chats to keep everyone involved in what’s going on within the business.

Richard Austin – New Business Director, KFA

It’s no doubt that working from home will be a cultural shift for many team members and KFA Connect has prepared some top tips for how to manage your working life from home too:

  • Prepare the working day as if you are getting ready for work – resist the need to stay in your PJ’s all day as this could set you up for an unproductive day.
  • Set a schedule for your day and stick to it.
  • Try and set up a dedicated workspace with good connectivity, light and a comfortable position that aids good posture.
  • Communicate with your colleagues – let them know what you are working on or when you’ve reached the end of a project or if you are on conference calls or virtual meetings.
  • Take breaks away from your screen – make yourself a cup of coffee or get some fresh air just like you would during your office working day.
  • Avoid distractions like housework or preparing dinner and make clear rules with anyone at home that you are not to be disturbed outside of breaks.
  • Try and avoid the biscuit tin and opt for healthy food in the fridge instead of convenience.
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Are Your Business Systems all set for Brexit?

The UK has left the European Union and the transition process has begun for a full departure from the EU over the coming months.

But what does this mean for business infrastructure and what do you need to know?

The KFA team have set out some advice for businesses and eCommerce operations: Now that the withdrawal from the EU is underway, there’s several considerations that businesses need to be aware of, specifically around IT systems and the buying and selling of products.

Firstly, if you are a UK-based business buying or selling into Europe you will need to plan for potential changes to VAT.  The reverse charge of VAT may no longer be applicable, so you may need to start paying or charging VAT from businesses that you deal with in Europe.

If you haven’t already got one, you will need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number, which starts with a GB if you want to continue to import or export goods into or out of the UK – without one you risk increased costs and delays with HMRC.

With the details of any post-Brexit trade deal yet to be agreed, it is still unclear what changes are likely to be introduced.  However, we recommend allowing more time for delivery and receipt of goods, as changes to systems at customs will require additional time to clear and be prepared for delays, at least initially.

Different types of goods have different import requirements, so check these carefully.  Things to look out for are; do you need a duty deferment account, who will make the import declarations and is a proof of origin required?

If you’re relying on procuring products from the EU, then ensure that your forecasting is as accurate as possible, allow for more time to make sure that you can continue to meet production demands. The same applies to selling goods into the EU, delivery charges may increase as clearance through customs will take longer.

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com

If you have an eCommerce arm to your business, you may need to review your pricing, allowing for additional charges from suppliers, customs and logistics providers.  

Companies that decide to relocate offices or accounts from the UK to EU countries will need to make system changes to add additional locations and integrate with other systems. The physical location of a business or where an eCommerce website is actually hosted will become more important to your business…

Companies with websites currently hosted in EU member states may decide to move these back to the UK. It might also be worth considering new language translations, new delivery methods, customs charges, new product pricing in foreign currency or new VAT charging functionality if new trade deals are struck with different countries.

New systems and processes may increase the requirement for purchase orders and invoices to be processed using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), ensuring that data is transferred securely and within stringent regulations.

Equally, if you are a UK citizen running a business in an EU country, then you need to be aware of different regulatory requirements you may need to comply with.

The security and protection of data will continue to be of paramount importance, once the UK leaves the EU.  The government plans to incorporate the current GDPR legislation, which was introduced in 2018, into UK law after Brexit – with the same restrictions applying.

If you are a UK business or organisation that receives or holds personal data from contacts in the EU, then you will need to take extra steps to ensure that the data continues to flow after Brexit, whilst adhering to GDPR regulations.

As UK businesses head into the transition period for the remainder of 2020, business leaders should focus on planning, to ensure all opportunities are considered and advice sought. A series of sector-based planning notices have been issued by the UK Government and European Commission, to help plan during the transition phase.

Although the government has committed to a ‘business as usual’ phase until the end of this year, now is the time to start thinking about 2021 and beyond and planning for a no-deal. Make sure you seek advice to check that your IT systems are ready for the challenges and opportunities.

Our top planning tips

  1. Forecasting – allow longer time for procuring products from EU to ensure you can continue to meet production demand.
  2. Pricing – review selling pricing on eCommerce websites, changes may need to be made to place UK transactions into the same category as ROW.
  3. VAT – check if your business will need an EORI number.
  4. Suppliers and customers – take time to map out your supplier and customer base, so you can consider how changes in the UK-EU trade relationship could affect them.
  5. IT systems – get ready for a no-deal, are your IT systems ready for potential changes?

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New Year, Time for a Software Systems Review?

Review more than just your eating habits in 2020.

The New Year is an ideal time to reflect on the previous year, and the shift from 2019 into a new decade has inevitably left people reviewing, not just the last year, but the last 10 years. Many will go on a diet, try and eat more healthy or start a new exercise regime. Lots of these will succeed, but for many, it’s a short term change.

What about taking the New Year to review your business? Companies are often very good at reviewing staff and products/services they offer – but what about business processes and the IT software systems used to manage them?

So, what does the last year, and the last decade look like for your business? As well as celebrating the successes you’ve had – a New Year is also a great time to take a closer look at what you can do better, slicker even!

eCommerce & Retail Businesses

Many eCommerce and retail businesses experience a rush during the November/December Black Friday and Christmas period. This can cause stock issues (or lack of) and customer complaints if you are not ready for this increased trade. It also puts pressure on your staff if you are handling processes manually. Why not review how this went for you now, while it is fresh in your mind…

  • Do you have the tools to accurately forecast stock?
  • Is your business (eCommerce website) open for business 24/7?
  • Did you have a real-time accurate view on what stock you are holding?
  • What about logistics? Whether you use a 3rd party logistics provider or manage your logistics in-house – do your systems integrate fully, giving your customer the best experience?
  • Does your website integrate with all your sales channels? (e.g. Amazon/eBay)?
  • Is your current website on a supported version and receiving security patches and updates?
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Trade Sales

Many trade counters are closed during seasonal holidays and weekends. If your eCommerce trade website isn’t ready for orders to be placed 24/7 you could be missing out if your competitors are!

We live in a fast-paced world, where same-day and next-day delivery is the norm and expected. Many companies selling to the trade tell us that their customers like the personal touch of calling with their orders – but what about the ones who prefer to place orders once they have put the kids to bed?

Don’t get left behind…

  • Would you like your trade customers to be able to place orders 24/7?
  • Looking to offer bulk discounts, cross-selling and up-selling to your customers online? Good eCommerce websites will do the job of a call-centre agent – 24/7!
  • Want to reward your best customers with increased functionality online such as building bespoke products and saving/retrieving quotes?
  • Would you like your trade customers to be able to log in and see their account and order history detail? Also to have access to a price list tailored to their account?
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Considering a new ERP Solution?

Are you currently managing your business without a central system? Perhaps you are managing your business using spreadsheets and looking to move to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution to manage your entire operation?

  • Does the system you are using manage your entire business operation?
  • Would you like to be able to have one central repository for your business data?
  • Still looking for a single solution to comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) for vat?
  • Want to reduce the duplication of effort? Are you manually keying information or using spreadsheets to upload information from one system to another?
  • Need real-time reporting functionality – fully integrated with your website?

Many companies carry on doing what they have always done. We believe that customer experience is the key to a successful business, going above and beyond to make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you.

Take a look at our Business One Associates website for more information on our ERP implementation and support services.

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The competitive edge…

Whether you are buying a service or a product you expect to be able to communicate and order with companies in the way most convenient for you. This may be at 2 am, on your mobile device, or 6 am on a tablet. Are you giving them the best experience possible?

There are other important factors to look at such as making sure that the systems you are running your business on are supported.

An example of this is Magento Commerce 1 reaches it’s “End of life” in June 2020 and there are many businesses who will need to move to Magento 2 to ensure that they continue to receive security patches and updates to keep their website safe from a cyber attack. It’s another really important step to keeping your customer’s data secure.

KFA Connect have been looking after software systems for our customers for 30 years and our UK based teams Design, Develop, Test and implement software solutions that really help grow your business. We offer ongoing support with a really personal touch to our customers…. often becoming an extension of your own teams in the process.

Why not make another New Year resolution – to review your software systems – what could we help you do better?

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It’s About Growth

What’s the point of IT? Apart from the obvious in enabling a company to actually function on a day-to-day basis?

Shouldn’t we be defining IT in terms of being able to develop the business and creating the platform which means that everything, from e-commerce to ERP,  order processing to logistics, can cope with a world of constant change?

So how can that be achieved?

In a book commissioned by KFA Connect, business owners share their thoughts.

You can read the book here…

Its About Growth. KFA Connect Front Cover - It's About Growth

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