NEW YORK — Retail management software company LightSpeed wants to capitalize on the Apple effect.
The Montreal-based firm’s platform is looking to improve the in-store shopping experience by combining the ease of shopping online with the human element of brick and mortar. And it has some heavy backers that believe in the vision: venture capital firm Accel Partners, which also invested in Facebook and Groupon, has just pumped $30 million into LightSpeed and is now its minority owner.
This story first appeared in the June 12, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Advancements in technology designed to facilitate getting shoppers into physical stores and transacting are a priority among retailers now, and this series A funding will help the software solution grow its presence in the retail space.
“It [LightSpeed] allows users to compete with neighbors online or offline. It gives e-commerce a ‘human element’ and retailers will have a ‘leg up’ with these cross-selling tools,” said the Montreal-based technology platform’s chief executive officer Dax Dasilva. The firm has seen 2,000 percent growth in the past five years and was named Quebec’s fastest-growing company in 2011. LightSpeed, which now employs 53 people, has been self-funded since its inception in 2005.
Founded for today’s “iGeneration,” a coin termed by Dasilva for those who grew up using iMacs, iPods, iPod Touches and iPads, he told WWD he’s intent on bringing the ease and efficiency of online shopping to the store environment. Touted as the “first truly interactive point-of-sale system” for the iPad, LightSpeed works to better the customer’s experience, the retailer’s performance and help with inventory management and other back-office efficiency. LightSpeed is already used by more than 10,000 retailers in 28 countries, and users include larger brands such as Nike and Adidas, as well as smaller boutiques in SoHo here, like Treasure & Bond, a division of Nordstrom, and Saturdays Surf.
The personalized tool, which scans inventory and details items not currently on the selling floor (via a “show and tell” functionality), also eliminates checkout lines. Much like at the Apple store, customer transactions can be made from a mobile device anywhere in the store.
“We asked ourselves, ‘Why would you want to go to the store?’ We want to offer brick-and-mortar retail the concert experience, because wouldn’t you rather go to the concert than listen to the store online?” Dasilva said of the unified system.
According to Dasilva, the key is not just a “front-end” sales associate and user experience — it’s interactive selling that changes the way product is sold in-store because it helps manage inventory across multiple locations and manage e-commerce functionalities. “It’s better than e-commerce. It’s human,” he contended.
LightSpeed is a universal platform for all the ways retailers wish to sell, one of the most important elements being building loyalty between sales representatives and customers, the former now armed with all the information they need to create brand enthusiasts and make a sale. Dasilva said he plans to build the system to better service larger chains, as well as expand globally.
Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, who will join the LightSpeed board, added: “Over the last 18 months, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the ‘Apple effect’ on the enterprise — [which we call] the ‘post-PC’ revolution. But for now, Apple is having a tremendous impact on consumers, and it’s a trend that’s too hard to ignore.”
He contends that people still buy more Apple products in-store because the experience is so great. Consumers get to touch and feel, play with the products, work with very knowledgeable sales representatives, there’s no waiting in lines and customers are e-mailed the receipt.
“It’s almost like an online shopping experience happening in a physical retail setting. For other retailers to survive — the battle between e-tail and retail — you have to emulate that experience. There has to be a reason why people want to go to your store,” Sweeney said.