By Samantha Ashenhurst
What are the most significant challenges faced by independent jewellery retailers today? Such a question can usher a myriad of responses, but one thing is for sure: the industry is changing, and the majority of small business owners are working overtime to land new customers, maintain relationships with existing clients, and distinguish themselves from the competition.
For many retailers, finding a way to harmonize their inventory, customer database, and sales statistics might be just what the doctor ordered.
This is the driving force behind Lightspeed, a cloud-based commerce platform that powers small- and mid-sized businesses in approximately 100 countries worldwide. The company aims to provide independent retailers with smart, scalable, point-of-sale (POS) systems and solutions, allowing them to sell across channels, manage operations, engage with customers, and expand.
We spoke with Lory Ajamian, Lightspeed’s vice-president of marketing, to learn a bit more about how the company’s technology and POS systems are helping retailers grow their businesses, as well as the ripple effect this could have on the industry as a whole.
Jewellery Business (JB): What can you tell me about Lightspeed’s history and business model?
Lory Ajamian (LA): Lightspeed was founded more than 15 years ago by our chief executive officer (CEO), Dax Dasilva. Since then, the company has expanded all around the world. We have offices in Europe, Australia, the United States—and, of course, our headquarters in Montréal.
We offer business owners a variety of key retail solutions, from expected POS functions, such as loyalty programs, to e-commerce platforms, analytic systems, and accounting integrations. We aim to be the ultimate all-in-one package for retailers, whether they’re launching a new company or running an established business and looking to take the steps needed to grow.
JB: What would you say are Lightspeed’s core values and principles?
LA: Our philosophy has always been that independent retailers make up the fabric of their communities. Our goal is to work with these individuals and offer the kinds of business tools that have traditionally only been available to national chains. By arming independent retailers with these resources, we help them see their vision come to life, allowing them to expand their business model to offer something truly unique to shoppers—both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. From what I’ve seen, the retailers we work with are business-savvy professionals who use these technology platforms to disrupt their industries and make intelligent, forward-thinking decisions.
JB: What are three things that differentiate Lightspeed from similar businesses?
LA: We are continuously exploring new ways to make our product suite better for users, which, in turn, allows them to be more efficient and successful. We offer retailers a comprehensive business package—one that we’re constantly developing. Our platforms are an investment into a company’s future growth, as well as its present-day operations.
In short, our suite ensures jewellery retailers are able to run any aspect of their business, no matter what the size. The tech can simplify a range of day-to-day tasks, including printing labels, running loyalty programs, setting re-order points for frequently purchased items, managing work orders, tagging customer purchase histories, adding serialized inventory, setting price rules, and even building matrixes for products. Additionally, the suite helps retailers set long-term goals and expectations through features that offer deeper insights into their business. The analytics tool, for example, breaks down information about daily operations, and helps retailers plan for the upcoming season and year. They can better understand the performance of their staff and inventory, while also learning more about the buying habits of their customers.
Finally, we offer 24-hour technical support. If a retailer is having any technical difficulties or needs clarification on how to use any of the system’s features, he or she can reach out to our support team and get assistance immediately.
JB: How has the jewellery industry changed since you first joined it?
LA: One of the things we’ve seen evolve over the years has been shopper expectations. Customers across all industries used to expect less of a relationship with the stores and retailers they frequented, and often felt powerless when it came to guiding their own shopping experience. Today, that dynamic has shifted, with consumers looking for a completely different kind of shopping experience. They want to be able to shop wherever they can, whenever they want. They want to browse social media channels for inspiration. They want to be remembered by the owners of the stores they frequent—and they want to be rewarded for being repeat shoppers. Essentially, today’s customers want a connection to their favourite stores and brands, and they’re integrating shopping into their lives in ways that have never been done before.
JB: What would you say is the biggest obstacle facing the jewellery retail sector? How is Lightspeed working to overcome it?
LA: Finding a way to create a seamless shopping experience with digital sales and in-store purchases is something retailers are struggling with across all sectors. For example, when shoppers go online, do they recognize the brand they visited in-store? In most cases, the answer is they probably don’t—but the reality is they should and they’re definitely expecting as such.
That’s the gap we’re trying to close with our e-commerce and omnichannel products. We want to help retailers bring their in-store brand and experience online and create a smooth transition between the two.
JB: What trends are you excited for this year?
LA: We’re anticipating increased sophistication in the industry. Independent retailers are the backbone of their respective communities, and these professionals are doing some incredibly innovative things with technology that truly brings retail to the next level. We’re excited to help facilitate these innovations—the more we can take off the plates of small business owners, the easier it’ll be for them to run their complex operations.
The increasing popularity of independent retailers as compared to ‘big box’ operations means shoppers are able to get to know jewellers and store owners better. We’re seeing a return of consumers knowing the retailers they shop with and the enjoyment that comes with being a part of an online and neighbourhood community. They aren’t simply faceless consumers.
For our company, we’re seeing how technology is helping the retailer-customer relationship thrive. For example, when a piece of jewellery is brought in to a shop for repair, a customer wants to stay informed with what’s happening with it. Jewellery is personal, and handing over an expensive item that’s rich with sentimental value to another person can be stressful. Now, with the help of tech and automation, jewellers can easily maintain regular communication with their clients throughout the entire repair. What’s more, they can do it quickly, without stepping out of their workflow. That makes a pretty big difference for the customer.
JB: What’s next for Lightspeed?
LA: We’re going to keep doing what we do best: making the lives of retailers easier by developing tools to simplify the running of an otherwise complex operation. These tools help businesses become competitive, and this helps our cities thrive.