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.

Five Ways to Protect Point of Sale Stations and Networks From Cybercrime

It’s easy to use the latest POS security breach as a reason for business owners to ensure their POS systems are protected from cyber-criminals, but the fact is that these kinds of breaches have been occurring for a long time – even as far back as the incredible T.J. Maxx data theft of 2005.

As these kinds of breaches are still occurring, it’s always a good time to remind merchants who rely on POS systems to conduct business that protecting hardware and software from hackers and other cyber-criminals is vital in the effort to protect their business and customers’ data from falling into the wrong hands.

Two Areas of Vulnerability: Hardware and Software

There are two main ways that criminals steal consumer and business data – one is by affixing a physical device or “skimmer” to POS hardware devices in order to capture card data. The other way is by using malware to gain access to POS networks and get credit and debit card data as it passes through.

Cybercrime Prevention for Your Networks and POS Stations

While there is no “perfect solution” to your POS security, there are plenty of best practices that can be used to increase the security of your networks and the data that flows through them. These best practices include:

Maintaining the Most Up-to-date POS Software:

POS software updates often include important security patches that, if not installed, can leave your POS system vulnerable to malware and other attacks that could put your data at risk. Downloading and installing updates in a timely manner will keep POS networks and hardware far more protected than choosing to do updates quarterly or on some other schedule.

Installing a Firewalls and Anti-virus Software to Protect POS Networks:

POS systems are at constant risk of compromise at the hands of hackers, viruses, spyware and other malware that’s been designed to infiltrate and compromise POS systems. Using a firewall and anti-virus software does not guarantee complete protection, but should nonetheless be used as part of an overall protection system that keeps your POS hardware and network secure.

Creating strong passwords and changing them often:

Unfortunately, POS system installers are prone to using default passwords upon initial setup of online payment processing systems for merchants and not changing the passwords to something more secure. Using the default password makes life easy for the installers, but these passwords are fairly easy for criminals to obtain. Using complex, computer-generated passwords and unique account names are highly recommended. It’s also advisable to change passwords on a regular basis.

Denying Internet Access from POS Stations and Terminals:

When you restrict POS computers and terminals from accessing the Internet, you protect them from exposure and potential security threats such as viruses and other malware. POS systems should be connected only for necessary POS activities and should not be used for any general Internet usage. One click on a malware- infected site by an employee on a POS device could be disastrous for a business.

Disabling all Remote Access:

While it’s convenient to allows users such as IT personnel and administrators to remotely access a system without being physically in front of the terminal, cyber-criminals have ways of exploiting remote-access connections on POS systems to access data on these networks. To prevent access to these networks and data, disable remote access to your POS networks.

Doing these five things doesn’t ensure absolute security. However, these five steps will ensure that you are far less likely to suffer an attack at the hands of a cyber-criminal. Aside from these technical precautions, merchants should also be educating their employees about proper use of POS systems and signs that security has been breached.

POS Peace of Mind? Priceless

Security is a rising concern for the average consumer. While it used to be that you would hand your credit card over at a restaurant without batting an eyelash, nowadays a seed of doubt is germinating in the back of the consumer’s mind; is my credit card information safe? A security breach can be detrimental not only to the card owner, but to the establishment responsible — restaurants are responsible for almost half of all security breaches. Business owners are addressing this issue by beefing up technology at the point of sale.
One such company enhancing security for its patrons is the Copper Cellar Corporation, which owns and operates 19 Copper Cellar, Calhoun’s, Smoky Mountain Brewery, Cherokee Grill and Chesapeake’s restaurants. Soon they will be serving more than quality dining and memorable experiences to guests; it will also provide peace of mind with a robust payment protection solution.The recent installation of TransactionVault, Merchant Link’s tokenization solution, and the Merchant Link Payment Gateway across all of their locations in Knoxville, Nashville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Maryville and Lenoir City provides this peace of mind.

“It’s comforting to not have to worry about the security of our guests’ credit card information,” said Mike Gaston, vice president of information services for Copper Cellar Corporation. “The fact that it is not stored anywhere on our network is a huge relief.”

The company chose to utilize these solutions to safeguard customer’s sensitive payment data and remove it from the premise to ensure that it is transmitted safely and effectively while reducing their PCI DSS compliance footprint.

The Merchant Link Payment Gateway sends payments quickly, simultaneously detecting and correcting errors along the way. It ensures funds are delivered accurately and consistently, prevents expensive charge back fees and reduces clerk or system errors, preventing them from showing up on customer credit statements.

TransactionVault removes customer credit card data at the point of sale where it would be at risk from hackers. The data is instead stored in Merchant Link’s hosted “vault,” effectively securing “data at rest” and reducing the cost and effort of attaining and maintaining PCI compliance. Through TransactionVault, Merchant Link processed 1 billion transactions at more than 15,000 merchant locations in 2010.

The Copper Cellar Corporation utilizes a Squirrel point-of-sale (POS) system for customer payments. Their previous payment processor and data security solution created problems for them by posting batches twice. Merchant Link’s full suite of reporting and error detection tools help to eliminate failed batch attempts, duplicate batches or no settlement attempts.

“Our old processor had double posted batches before,” said Gaston. “Despite not being directly responsible for the error, it made us look bad in the eyes of our guests. Merchant Link monitors for potential batch issues and ensures that problems such as these are a thing of the past for Copper Cellar, its restaurants and its customers.”

The wide-scale implementation was completed shortly after a pilot site went live successfully with Merchant Link’s solutions.

While there may be cost involved in the implementation of a more secure system, business owners and consumers will agree that peace of mind is priceless.

Facebook Tests New Mobile Payments System

Facebook is in the early stages of testing a new payment system that would store users’ credit card information for use in mobile transactions, but would not complete any transactions directly. Instead, the system would complete payments through third parties such as PayPal.

Why does Facebook want to store a user’s credit card information if it is not conducting any actual transactions? According to a statement from the company, this process “gives people the option to use their payment information already stored on Facebook in a mobile app.” Their goal is “to make it easier and faster for people to make a purchase…by simply pre-populating your payment information.”

This payment system is in the very early testing stages, but remains a significant move because it takes Facebook yet another step closer to being an all inclusive site, one that hordes an individual’s every data point and effectively connects all people to everything all the time. Have you noticed how you can often choose to “log in through Facebook” when logging into a third party site? Even if you don’t want to have your Facebook account linked to the other site, it’s tempting because to select that option is so much easier than creating yet another online account. This mobile payment thing is just like that—but with credit card data.

Facebook frames the move as a way to “help apps provide a simpler commerce experience.” But it’s obviously about more than just alleviating the annoyance of having to enter one’s payment data on a mobile device. It’s also about collecting user data and about attracting advertisers. The more Facebook knows about each user, the more the company can tailor individual experience, including—and especially—advertisements.

What does this mean for business owners? If the payment system expands and becomes a regular Facebook feature, it could mean that your customers will have a simpler path to completing mobile payments—because have you ever met anyone with a smartphone who isn’t constantly logged into Facebook?

Currently, Facebook is testing this new payment system with a single flash-sale shopping site called JackThreads. Will the test be a success? That obviously depends on many factors, including users’ willingness to trust Facebook with their credit card information. Personally, the thought makes me uneasy—but as addicted as I am to Facebook, I’m still something of a holdout when it comes to the social network; I don’t even list my hometown or the kind of music I like in my profile. But that’s beside the point. The point is that Facebook is making a push into mobile payments, leaving the rest of us to wait and see how this test goes and what move the company decides to make next.

Should You Add Old Data to a New POS System?

Should you start your new point of sale system/barcode application by entering your existing customers? This question gets asked all the time. The answer is definitely… maybe. Let’s take a look at what kinds of businesses really need customer data and just how much it costs (in time and money) to enter data into a POS system.

Customer data is dynamic, fluid and changing. Every day, every minute, your customers are moving to new homes, getting new phone numbers, buying new cars and leaving town. New customers are showing up all the time. Should a business owner even bother to put in old data?

Over the course of several decades in point of sale, and thousands of installations, I have observed businesses taking six or even twelve months to put in their old customers and a bit of information about them. That is before they even start using the system – in other words, they delay starting to use their new point of sale system to add old data. We know, from the national home ownership statistics, that people move every 4.5 years. If a retailer spends a year putting in customer data, then by the end of 12 months, at least 22.5% of that information is inaccurate. I’d bet the number to be even higher because customers change phone numbers, email addresses and  other parts of their persona even more frequently. That’s a lot of useless data that someone got paid to enter into the system.

Now – what about the type of business you are in? Do you even need or want to track your customers purchases? Do your customers even want you keeping track of what they buy? I belong to a frequent buyer club at my local liquor store. They give me a discount key tag with a bar code that they scan when I come in. Occasionally they email me a list of specials. I am not sure I like them keeping track of what I purchase. It’s a little personal.

On the other hand – when I take my car in for an oil change or other service, I love the fact that they have my complete service records in their point of sale system in case I need them for something. So: the answer to the question at the top of the page in part depends on the type of business you are in.

Recently I needed to get a warranty repair on an expensive road bike I had purchased a few years before. The frame had cracked and the manufacturer was going to replace it, but they wanted a receipt.  Unfortunately I could not find the receipt and had to go back to the store to get a copy. Luckily that store owner could produce it readily.  And in doing so, he certainly endeared himself to the customer!

POS System Value

One of the incredible values associated with keeping a list of customers with a POS system is the ability to email them, direct mail them or call them – if you get their permission to do so. In the world of opportunities for generating business, there is no lower hanging fruit than your existing customer base. Reasons to reach out to them occur regularly – new products arriving at the store, products being discontinued and are now on closeout. Changing your business location is a reason to contact your customers. And (one of my favorites) reaching out to your customers to ask how you can improve your service.

What about the 80/20 rule? Remember this rule?  It says that 80% of your business comes from just 20% of your customers. Hmmm. If we entered just 20% of the existing customers into the point of sale system, we will speed up our transaction time at the counter and overall, not annoy anyone by making them wait while we enter their data  at the point of sale. That’s sounds like a more user friendly, less stressful, less costly approach.

If we kept a little notebook at the counter, and wrote down the names of those customers who are not in the POS system when we go to ring them out – then we will keep things speeded up and STILL get the value of ringing out those items and keeping our inventory accurate. I suggest adding those customer names during slow hours so that you don’t annoy them when they are just trying to complete their business.

To summarize – it’s probably best to start ringing items as quickly as you can into your new point of sale system, and add your more frequent customers as you go along – although not necessarily at the time of sale.

QR Codes Best Business Practices

Mobile barcodes, also known as 2D barcodes or Quick-Response (QR) codes, are fast becoming a foundational element of digital marketing.  They allow brands an instantaneous connection to their target audience.  Businesses have the opportunity to provide an engaging and interactive experience, all at the scan of a consumer’s cell phone.

While they are fun and cool in and of themselves, almost like a new toy for businesses and consumers alike, the need for businesses to use them effectively and wisely in order to achieve marketing success, as well as to promote the overall acceptance and success of mobile barcodes, is a serious matter.

Below are some best practices intended to help businesses, brand owners, and agencies achieve maximum success from their mobile barcode campaign.

1. Plan ahead.  These days, any mobile marketing campaign, whether through digital or traditional media, these days should be centered around mobile barcodes.  If the 2D barcodes are added as an afterthought, the campaign will probably not succeed.  Consider the mobile barcode as a key element of the campaign from its earliest planning stages.

2. Design with your consumer in mind. Don’t disappoint your customers by offering them a cool QR code to scan without any value or relevance attached.  Coupons, discounts, information, entertainment, and utility, are all possible ways to make the campaign a rewarding experience for consumers.  Keep your target audience in mind, and give them what they want in a way that suits your business.

3. Design and placement. Consider the placement and design of thee mobile barcode as important as any other aspect of your advertisement.  Thoughtfully consider where the 2D barcode will be placed.  Make sure it is easy for the customer to scan.

  • For outdoor ads, make it at eye or arm level.
  • For print ads, make sure placed prominently on a flat surface, unhampered by folds or other obstructions, and surrounded by enough white space to be easily scanned.  A minimum resolution of 1×1 is suggested to comply with most mobile cameras.
  • For a screen environment, prominently display the QR code for at least 15 seconds to give viewers enough time to scan the code.  Also make sure the size is appropriate to the type of environment.  For example, will it be displayed on TV, in a movie theatre, or at a pro sporting event?

4. Color. Print mobile barcodes in black and white to ensure successful scanning by the most mobile devices.  There are some proprietary mobile barcodes that use color, and these would be an exception to the rule.

5. Branding. Again, to facilitate scanning success by most mobile devices, print your mobile barcodes without branding or images included or overlaid on the code.  Added graphics can damage the code’s integrity and make it difficult to scan.

6. Open standards. Follow open standards (such as QR, Datamatrix) to ensure an optimal consumer experience.  Proprietary solutions may interfere with universal customer access, impacting market penetration and global reach.

7. Education. Nearly half of the US population has seen and scanned a mobile barcode.  But it is still a new technology, and there is a need for an easily understandable, informative display of mobile barcodes.  Placing an explanation of what the code is, how it works, and what it offers the customer, will help promote consumer education and continued acceptance of the technology.

8. Optimize for mobile. Make sure you’ve considered what consumers will get after the scan.  Consumers may quickly get frustrated trying to navigate a PC-designed web site on their mobile device.  The screen size of a mobile phone is obviously much smaller, those using their mobile devices are often ‘on the go,’ and they want quick access to information so they can get back to what they were doing.  To reach this audience, it is necessary for brands to offer a customized mobile experience that is cohesive, fun, and convenient, and rewarding to use.

9. Test and test again. “Dead links,” or codes that lead to the wrong URL, the wrong information, or no information, will give customers a bad impression of your brand as well as mobile barcodes in general.  Be sure to test for the correct resolution address.  Also test the mobile barcode with a variety of mobile devices and applications to ensure success for your audience.

10. Define Your Objectives. In order to know how successful and effective your mobile barcode campaign is, you need to have clearly defined goals and objectives.  Barcode management platforms help you track analytics, time and location usage, in order to make smart purchase decisions, improve your message, increase the success and ROI of future campaigns, and continue to engage your customers with rewarding experiences.

11. Plan for consumer engagement. A customer’s first scan of your mobile barcode is only the beginning of the relationship, like the initial handshake.  Continue the dialogue and maintain the relationship by planning early and often how to engage them effectively, adding value with each interaction.

Social Media & Business Strategy

Saw this article in the Straits Times newspaper so thought of sharing with you all. Social media was the hype years back and people were generally skeptical if it would work for businesses. After a couple of years, we can see more and more companies embracing it. However, it’s not about jumping in and be all over the place. One must still define the objective(s) of engaging social media and there must be plans lay out and executed step by step. Happy reading!