Technology is levelling the playing field for independent businesses in the UK, enabling them to compete better than ever with larger competitors.
Dax Dasilva founded Lightspeed in 2005, a powerful cloud-based POS system and ecommerce platform for independent retailers and restaurateurs. The company’s software helps independents manage all aspects of their business, seamlessly blending the in-store and online experiences. Now more than 45,000 businesses across 101 countries use Lightspeed - processing more than USD $15 billion of transactions each year.
Dax sheds light on the opportunities he sees for independent UK businesses, and how a better use of technology can help drive their business to success.
1. How does the way independent businesses operate differ across international markets?
While business differs across borders, the fact that independents are the heartbeat of communities always remains the same. There are challenges that affect all independent business owners no matter where they are based, from building a loyal customer base to expanding their presence on the high street and recruiting great staff to drive their business forward. Across the world, business owners always have to take calculated risks, but the good news is as technology improves for independents, there are a lot more tools at their disposal to help make those decisions.
2. What do you think is the biggest opportunity for SMEs in the UK at the moment?
The business landscape is always changing but independents are nimble and adaptable. As technology gets smarter, customers expect more. Personalised service and experience is hugely important, and it is something we believe independents are better at. With more services offering in-depth analytics and omnichannel support, retailers know more about their customers than ever and can now offer a seamless service both online and instore, making sure that the customer’s experience is the best it can be no matter how they interact with them.
3. What is the most important piece of technology to independent businesses?
There is so much great technology out there to help independent businesses, from free to paid platforms. Seeing how businesses have evolved, and how people live, work and shop, I think it’s most important to have a business platform that is cloud-based. If you have multiple stores, and products or services available online and offline, you need to be able to access information anywhere at anytime. It sounds obvious, but you also need to be able to use the technology and understand the data. At Lightspeed, our dashboard is easy to use and gives business owners what they need, even at a glance.
4. How are independent businesses using technology to innovate?
We are always talking to our customers to find out how they are using technology to grow and adapt their business. Even in this digital age, the physical experience is still important to customers and we’re seeing independent ecommerce retailers using technology to open physical stores. Retailers are noticing that customers still want to experience products in person, so some of our online only retail customers have set up pop ups to get the best of both worlds. Omnichannel enables them to easily integrate online and offline so they can manage stock and their customer base. Our customers have told us that doing this helps them build long-term relationships with their customers, especially for higher end products.
5. How is the availability of analytics affecting the ways independent retailers and hospitality businesses operate?
A recent survey revealed that 97 per cent of businesses use data and analytics in their company and that is certainly reflected in what we’re seeing at Lightspeed. Powerful analytics are not out of reach for independents and there are a lot of benefits to harnessing them, especially when it comes to targeting customers and ordering new stock. The use of data means a company can reduce wasted time and stay focused on the products, services or food they know are in highest demand thus saving money.
6. Can you share specific examples of where independents have used analytics to change their business?
We work with more than 45,000 independents around the world and the great thing about analytics is that they can offer value for any business. One of our customers, independent bike repair shop the London Cycle Workshop discovered that offering a range of different payment methods, including American Express, encouraged their customers to spend more and resulted in increased loyalty. Although being flexible with payment and offering services like American Express does come as a cost, this company found out that it was worth it.
7. What are your best tips for keeping a business running smoothly as it grows?
With every business there are going to be things that don’t go as planned, it’s simply how the world works. As a company grows it is important to invest time and money on good staff who are enthusiastic and invested in taking your business forward. Staff still have an incredibly important part to play in independents to offer better, more personalised customer service. It’s hard to trust staff and let go of the reins, but if you have a good business platform in place you can not only ensure your staff are equipped but also have easy visibility to ensure things are running smoothly, or spot and problem areas quickly.
8. What was your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started Lightspeed as a programmer, it was a huge passion, but as the business started to grow I realised it’s not a role I could continue if we wanted to scale. Despite still having a huge interest in the programming side of the business, I looked at other companies where the founder also held this role and realised that it can quickly become a bottleneck situation and I needed to hand over some of the reins on this. In the beginning you do everything yourself, but you have to learn to trust others if you want to move forward.
Dax Dasilva, CEO, Lightspeed
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa