LightSpeed Reports 398 Percent year-over-year growth in cloud business and $7.3 billion in transaction volume

LightSpeed Launches Advanced Cloud Analytics for Retailers of Any Size. Company reports 398 percent year-over-year growth in cloud business and $7.3 billion in transaction volume; brings new levels of sales and customer insights to merchants.

MONTREAL, June 18, 2014 – LightSpeed, the commerce platform for serious retailers, today launched Advanced Reporting for LightSpeed Cloud, as well as increased momentum for its cloud business line and transaction volume. As a follow-up to the launch of its brandable iPad POS application, today’s announcement adds big data analytics to LightSpeed’s cloud-based POS system, giving retailers real-time insight into sales, inventory trends and customer preferences so they can make better decisions about their business.

As evidence of the increased demand for cloud-based POS tools that go beyond the transaction, LightSpeed is seeing 70 percent of new customers opting for cloud. In addition, revenue from its cloud line of business has increased 398 percent in the last 12 months. The company is also revealing that its 19,000 stores are processing $7.3 billion in annual transaction volume, up from $6 billion earlier this year.

Brick and Mortar moves to the Cloud

Increasingly, independent brick-and-mortar retailers are turning to cloud-based technologies that can help create the highly personalized customer experience once only possible online or to larger retailers with deeper pockets. According to Accenture, the retail cloud market is expected to reach more than $15.1 billion in 2015. When LightSpeed introduced its cloud POS in 2013, it enabled independent retailers to manage their business, engage customers, and check them out, all from a web browser or an iPad. In addition to the ease, agility and cost savings inherent to the cloud, LightSpeed now provides retailers of any size with actionable data analytics — including insight and predictive visibility into sales, inventory levels, employee performance and customer preferences –to help them grow their business and better serve their customers.

“We implemented LightSpeed because we absolutely needed a cloud solution that could fit the needs of our growing brand. With our rapid expansion — adding five stores in four years — we knew we would need one holistic view of all of our inventory, sales and employees,” said Wesley Uthus, co-owner of Minnesota-based fashion boutique PRIMP. “Now, with LightSpeed, my partner and I know what’s going on across all our stores at all times down to very specific detail. We can make informed decisions about which store needs our attention most on any day of the week. It helps us determine where we need to focus our resources to keep business running smoothly and profitably.”

Big Data for Small Retail

Most point of sale systems for small and mid-sized retailers offer rudimentary reporting, such as sales totals or number of transactions. LightSpeed’s new Advanced Reporting for Cloud includes more than 40 reports that give detailed information on product sales, profits and margins; customer preferences; employee performance; payment methods; and vendor-by-vendor analytics; across all stores and channels. A highly visual, real-time “Dashboard,” accessible via a web browser or through a mobile app, gives a quick look at performance across all stores, and the new “Stats” panel shows best and worst performers across locations. In addition to giving a complete, real-time perspective of your business, LightSpeed’s new advanced analytics allow retailers to predict sales, inventory needs, and revenue based on historical trends and external factors like weather and holidays. It also captures customer preferences across online and offline channels, indicating purchase history, favorite items, and other customer insights that fuel successful loyalty programs.

“Customer engagement, forecasting and inventory management technologies are only as good as the data that fuels them. This, coupled with more traditional retailers expanding online and bringing retail technologies into their stores, has made demand for cloud-based POS tools and data analytics soar,” said Dax Dasilva, CEO of LightSpeed. “As a result, we’ve seen a 150 percent increase in our cloud customer base in the past twelve months. With Advanced Analytics, we’re delivering to retailers the kind of data analysis normally associated with large-scale ERP or business intelligence solutions, but in an easy-to-use format and at a cloud price.”

Examples of the insights retailers can glean from LightSpeed’s new Advanced Analytics include:

  • A holistic view of your customers: how they engage with your brand online, in-store, and through email

  • Which vendors, products, and stores are the most profitable

  • Who your most loyal customers are, and how you can reward them

  • How to better prepare for seasonal holidays or weather shifts

  • The strengths and weaknesses of your sales team so that you can reward star performers and augment training resources

About LightSpeed

LightSpeed provides serious retailers the simplest way to build, manage and grow their business and create a better shopping experience. More than 19,000 stores processing over $7.3 billion in transactions annually use LightSpeed’s retail commerce platform to unify inventory, customer preferences, sales and analytics, in-store and online. Founded in 2005 with offices in Montreal, New York City, Olympia, WA, Ottawa, Santa Cruz and Sydney, LightSpeed is backed by Accel Partners and iNovia Capital.

How Retailers Should Use QR Codes To Engage Catalog Shoppers

The ink needed to print a QR code on a major retailer’s catalog might weigh only a fraction of an ounce, but when used right, it’s worth its weight in gold. Too bad the majority of catalogs seem to be squandering the opportunity by under utilizing the code or worse, not including any at all. In a world where an integrated multi-channel approach is a must-have for any retailer to survive, the stakes of leveraging every opportunity for interaction are higher than ever.

QR:  The Bridge to the Modern World

Involvement devices have come a long way from the time of Ed McMahon’s Publisher’s Clearinghouse mailings, where you would peel off a label and stick it onto another page before dropping it back in the mail with visions of Ed showing up at your doorstep some day soon.

Today, print’s best involvement device is the QR code. It works as a portal or bridge into the mobile online world where the cataloger’s brand lives and breathes in real time. Even better, it can lead the customer from the catalog page to the checkout button on their smartphone within minutes.

The printed catalog delivers rich colors and a personal, tactile experience still not attainable through any mobile device. In many ways, though, it is a vestige of a bygone era. And an expensive one at that. Catalogers know this. Even the U.S. Postal Service (also a vestige of a bygone era) knows this. That’s why the USPS is running a postage discount promotion for the second year in a row this summer to encourage the use of QR codes by direct mailers.

So, let’s take a quick look at the way a few catalogers are using QR codes. With hundreds of catalogers mailing version after version to their lists, this is a very small, somewhat random sample, indeed. However, the three we’re looking at already show how varied the use of QR codes can be—and what that might imply for their results.

Delia’s

By appealing to fashion-hungry American teens via retail stores, web, and catalog, Delia’s sold over $220 million in 2011. In the single catalog we looked at, Delia’s had a QR code on its back cover. When scanned, the code points to Delia’s Facebook page. That’s certainly one way to build involvement with the Delia’s brand, but it may not be the best. Delia’s has an Apple app with full e-commerce capabilities, so Delia’s could be missing out on the opportunity to help the customer cut to the chase and get straight to their virtual shopping bag. Still, at least they’re using the code.

Anthropologie

Some say that Anthropologie’s marketing strategy is more about selling a lifestyle than selling products. Perhaps that explains why making it easy for customers to move toward actually buying something doesn’t seem like such a big priority in their catalog. They did not include a QR code anywhere. The closest they came was one line next to the address:  “For store information, go to www.anthropologie.com.” Their 800 number—they do take phone orders—is printed only once, in tiny type, so having no QR code seems to fit in with their attempts to play hard to get. Marketing critique aside, by not using a QR code on their catalog, they are missing the opportunity to draw customers into closer involvement with their brand, whether or not they intend to make an immediate sale.

King Schools

Unless you’re a pilot in training or know one fairly well, you have probably never heard of King Schools. They offer more than 90 flight training courses, plus all sorts of accessories for pilots-in-training. They have no retail stores, but that’s all the more reason to mention them here–retailers can learn a lot from King Schools about how to use QR codes in their catalogs.

In the one catalog we reviewed, King used a QR code on the front cover and the back cover. Now, the iPad shows enormous potential for use in general and commercial aviation, so King is smart to use their QR codes to point customers directly toward their mobile apps and offerings. In fact, King Schools uses QR codes on the “Take Courses on Your iPad” landing page itself.

In most cases it seems counterintuitive to display a QR code on a website for people to scan. After all, they’re already there. It’s a smart use of codes in this case, for two reasons. First, the codes lead the customer directly to the Apple app store, so it actually makes sense to scan the codes even though the customer is already on their website. The customer is now just a few clicks away from buying and installing the app. Second, there is one QR code for their app store in general, and then there are unique codes for individual apps.

Best Practices

With these few examples in mind, it’s time to look at best practices for using QR codes in catalogs, which can be a two-sided equation. There is the technical aspect and the branding/selling aspect. As far as the technical side goes, customers need to use their smartphone to scan the code successfully, and the destination on the other end must be optimized for mobile access. Sometimes the hardest part is organizing the resources required to execute the back end side of things, especially if the goal is to make an immediate sale.

The main thing to consider is that QR codes work as a bridge, and that bridge is a smartphone, iPad, or some other tablet with all their usual constraints (screen size, internet connection, quality of camera, QR reader app, user proficiency, etc.). Also, don’t assume that everyone has a QR reader or even knows what a QR code is. Especially in catalogs, where customers have been seeing postal service bar codes for years, people may assume that the pixelated square thing is just something else for the USPS to lose money on. Instead, including a brief call to action to scan the QR code should do the trick.

Technicalities

The content in a QR code tops out at 4,296 alphanumeric characters, but catalogers only need a fraction of that to get the customer to where they want them. However, even when the character count is down to a few dozen, size does matter, because QR codes with more data embedded in them are more complex visually. This means that even smartphones with the latest and greatest optics will have trouble reading densely populated codes.

Make sure the QR code is big enough. Even the simplest codes will frustrate the scanning process if they are too small or if there isn’t enough white space around them. Maybe a QR code isn’t the most photogenic thing in the world, so it’s a good challenge for catalog art directors to incorporate it into the design without shrinking it into oblivion.

Crossing the Bridge

Getting customers to scan the QR code is only half the battle. Now you need to make sure they feel it was worth their while to scan. It’s all about the next steps in your customer relationship. If you have an Apple or Android app, then that’s where to send people if you know that you can convert sales successfully on mobile devices. Sending them to your Facebook fan page is an option, too, but not a big win if a majority of your customers are already fans.

Special promotions, optimized for mobile access, will certainly earn your QR its keep. If your goal is to inspire a trip to one of your stores, then do what Brookstone does and send customers to a Google map with all store locations within a hundred miles. It’s also possible to send scanners to a dedicated page—again, optimized for mobile—where you give them a number of options:  Facebook, shop, app, etc.

More sophisticated catalogers will want to use personalized QR codes. Today, even local printers are likely to have the means to print unique QR codes for each recipient in a mailing. This creates the ability to track scans back to the individual, a marketer’s dream when it comes to one-to-one marketing relationships.

Innovation can get you traction within the social media realm, and that’s money in the bank. Whether you’re a major catalog player or using QR for something completely different, always consider getting the marketing and PR people involved to leverage any novelty aspects of the application.

The benefits pile up quickly to those catalogers who take the time to get smart about QR codes. For example, online fulfillment costs much less than traditional phone orders. Thick catalog “books” can be thinned down a bit if QR codes succeed in pulling customers from the page and onto their site or apps, cutting postal costs for the millions of mailings every year. And, even if the cataloger doesn’t go to the extreme of printing unique QR codes, the branding value of offering that connection from the old-style printed piece to the dynamic world of interactive mobile technology makes it well worth the effort.

A Tablet-Based POS App for Restaurants: Ambur

In 2009, a team of former restaurant owners and workers set out to create a point of sale system for the hospitality industry that would be easier and more cost effective than any other available. Two years later, the Ambur point of sale iPad app was introduced to the market.  It can be used with any Apple touch device, which increases flexibility and availability in a busy restaurant setting. It’s customizable—from creating a menu to meet your unique needs, to customizing receipts and payment options. The following features could make a nice solution for your mobile hospitality needs:

– Set up the customizable point of sale system according to your needs.

– Receive free updates and free support.

– Customize your reports with important details.

– Save and store your sales data on your mobile device, with free backup on Dropbox.

– View, print, email, or export reports.

– Organize your menu to meet your specific requirements.

– Set permissions for individual users.

– Store customer contact information.

– Keep reservation data in one place with the easy reservation system.

– Accept cards on any device with compatible card readers.

The team continues to adapt and update the POS app to meet the growing challenges of an increasingly mobile hospitality industry. Here is their story:

“Before the iPad was released in April 2010, few people realized all the different applications it would serve in just a few short years. iPads are currently being used in hospitals, restaurants, air travel, retail, and various other industries. In 2010, the point of sale (POS) market was still dominated by a handful of large companies, some worth billions of dollars. These companies had a stronghold on the market and yet were unable to solve many pain points for restaurateurs. The systems provided by these companies did not adapt to the needs of specific restaraunts, remained hard to use, and were expensive.

The iPad was the perfect tool to disrupt the market. Going into the iPad POS market, we knew what we were up against. The incumbents had a twenty-five year head start, strong reseller networks, and recognizable brands. We knew competition would be tough, but we also understood that restaurant owners needed an easy-to-use mobile POS system at an affordable price. That’s exactly what we set out to create!

Having years of experience in the restaurant industry, we realized that a large number of features do not necessarily make a better product. A POS system may be packed with dozens of features, butthey don’t provide much benefit to the user if they are difficult to access. Every feature built into our app serves a specific purpose and is easily accessible. As we grow and add more features, we make great efforts to make sure that we keep Ambur easy to use, so we don’t end up like the systems we want to replace. Another great advantage of an iPad point of sale system is the mobility. Wait staff can carry around iPads, iPad minis, iPods, or iPhones and access the POS system no matter where they are in the restaurant.

From the start, we knew we had a great product and getting it into the hands of restaurateurs would allow us to prove it. We decided to base our sales on a completely transparent model. Restaurateurs can download a limited version for free from the App Store and evaluate it at their own pace. In the evaluation stage, our sales agents can answer any questions the customer may have. We work closely with the customer to make sure that this is a good fit for their business. This model has served us well; since our customers are already familiar with Ambur before they purchase, they know it is the right solution for them. Newer POS companies have similar models, and we think it is a great trend. With the point of sale being the heart of a restaurant, the staff need to be fully comfortable with it.

Apple’s App Store has allowed us to reach customers in thirty countries! Such a big reach does have it’s own challenges. One challenge that we encounter every day is to make sure that we are able to support not only the software but all the corresponding hardware remotely. Extensive documentation, understanding customer’s needs, and great customer service allow us to be one of the most highly rated POS systems in the App Store.

From talking with thousands of restaurateurs, we came to understand that the most important aspect when choosing a POS system is the owner understanding the needs of their business. There are a lot of POS solutions on the market, and not all of them are a good fit for every business. Once a restaurant owner has outlined their needs, they should ask specific questions and make sure that the POS system can perform as needed. Restaurateurs should be wary of companies that don’t offer free trials or a 100 percent money back guarantee on their solution.”