The reality of today's retail sales landscape is that it's hybrid, often split between a combination of traditional walk-in store traffic and several different e-commerce sites. Keeping inventory, pricing and sell-through data synchronized among these different channel is a major headache, one that point-of-sale (POS) technology vendor LightSpeed has made its cause celebre.
The company's cloud-delivered POS application, LightSpeed for Cloud, creates a single dashboard that unifies online and offline inventory information and sales reporting in one place, in the moment rather as part of some batch process that might only happen once per day. The platform is used by more than 17,000 retailers: last year, LightSpeed processed $6 billion in transactions, up more than 102 percent from the volume it handled in 2012. The company bills itself as a provider of "retail tools for the iGeneration," so mobile commerce is also a priority.
Mount Everest, a family-owned ski and snowboard shop with a physical presence in Westwood, N.J., as well as e-commerce activities on its own Web site, eBay and Amazon began using LightSpeed's POS technology several years to help automate inventory processes after moving away from paper-dominant methods, said Ryan McGarry, manager of e-commerce operations for the retailer.
After getting a better handle on how LightSpeed could help keep inventory sychronized, McGarry began to think about ways to prioritize certain orders. For example, by fulfilling orders from Amazon.com more quickly, the Mount Everest operation can improve its overall rankings on the marketplace, which helps it compete more effectively against bigger rivals. But how to keep track of that? To help, McGarry turned to LightSpeed's application programming interfaces to create a mobile application that automatically alerts salespeople when certain types of online orders are initiated. The app automatically creates relevant shipping labels in the warehouse, helping the team get shipments out more quickly.
"As orders come in from each channel, we have built apps to create pick tickets. ... We are able to group them, and categorize them. Amazon, for example, might be considered a higher order," McGarry said.
The creation of this app wasn't an insignificant investment. Although he wouldn't discuss the amount, Mount Everest hired a developer to handle the project, an expense McGarry considers well worth it. "This was essentially the only way to play. We wouldn't be able to do what we are doing without it," he said.
Mount Everest carries more than 100 brands, some extremely niche-oriented, and automating its processes has helped it keep inventories across this broad range of partners better rationalized in the multichannel world where it competes. Back in the store, salespeople can tell quickly whether certain inventory has been dedicated to online transactions or whether it's available for in-store customers in New Jersey.