LightSpeed CEO: iPads Are Not Just Cash Registers

Why do you leave your home to shop at some stores yet opt to order online from others?

There are likely many answers to that question – location, convenience, and the item you want to purchase all come to mind – but experience is a big part of the equation as well. If the in-store experience you anticipate does not somehow surpass the simplicity and ease of online shopping, there’s nothing to incentivize you to shop in person.

It’s a simple concept but one many retailers seem to have forgotten. Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of LightSpeed, is trying to change that, infusing the more attractive elements of eCommerce with a positive in-store experience.

“In order to get people off the couch and into your store, you’ve got to find ways to delight them,” Dasilva said. “It can’t be a lesser experience than shopping online.” spoke with Dasilva at NRF 2013’s Retail’s BIG Show, and learned how LightSpeed aims to enhance in-store shopping, why they’ve adopted Apple’s philosophy and why customer engagement still matters.

According to Dasilva, LightSpeed got its start in 2005 as a retail system for Macs, but has expanded its operation over the past two years to create an omnichannel “retail business interface” that offers an interesting look as to where in-store shopping experiences could – and perhaps should — be headed.

“What we’re trying to do is equip sales people with the best of eCommerce in the store, and then when you’re shopping online we’re trying to bring that experience to as much of the in-store stuff as we can,” Dasilva explained.

And how does LightSpeed do that? By offering a platform that works on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets and across multiple stores, and that can help store employees interact with consumers at any time.

The idea, Dasilva said, is to make shopping seamless for consumers while providing retailers with the ability to upsell. Does a customer have a question? An employee can walk over to her with an iPad and look up inventory, make suggestions, answer price queries and even complete the transaction right away. Don’t want your employees who are working the floor to handle transactions? Simply send an order along to a corresponding desktop and keep on your way.

Dasilva emphasized that LightSpeed’s system uses the tablet to its full retail potential as more of a selling tool and less as a glorified POS system.

“One of our big messages, and it’s really resonant with retailers of all sizes, is that the opportunity that retailers have in front of them is to engage with customers interactively in stores. It’s not to turn iPads into cash registers or just to have these devices be payment-taking devices,” he said. 

Instead, a tablet should be able to monitor inventory, offer suggestions, and provide employees with an abundance of innovation, turning them into a “genius” instantly and combining the “suggested items” aspect of online shopping with a human element.

Sound familiar? It should, because Dasilva said his company’s entire philosophy is really based off of Apple.

“I think that retailers are looking to Apple and the Apple stores as one of the greatest successes in retail in the past 10 years. And they’re trying to reach out for that Apple store experience,” he said. “We’ve kind of taken what the Apple Store does and taken it a few levels further.”

And Dasilva’s Apple-love doesn’t end with his philosophy. LightSpeed is currently only available through iOS Mac OS devices, and while he says his company could produce an Android or Microsoft version “within a matter of months,” they have no plans to do so right now.

“We’re a big believer that the iOS and Mac OS are really great platforms to build from,” Dasilva said. “You kind of have to go with sort of philosophy in order for our system to be powerful, but not so complex that nobody can use it.”

That blend of power and simplicity is another reason Dasilva believes LightSpeed has been successful to this point. He said his system is of equal use for retailers with a single store or for chains of up to around 20 stores, or can be used by enterprise customers who like LightSpeed’s in-store functionality, and then link back to a company like Oracle to handle back-end management.

Dasilva shared more interesting thoughts, such as how quickly the industry has grown compared to where it was five or seven years ago and how Apple has changed the retail model. But he saved perhaps his most interesting analogy for last.

In continuing to discuss his strategy of bringing eCommerce functionality to the in-store world, Dasilva used a musical comparison to get his point across.

“It’s like comparing downloading an .mp3 to going to a concert,” he said. “We say that going to the store can be the like full concert … and that’s the story we’re telling retailers.”

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