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Fobi Insider - Episode 8: Pushing the Frontier of Cloud Retail Tech
Find out how this changed everything for Vend’s franchise customers. Vend's Director of Product Partnerships Lowry Gladwell explains on Episode 8 of the Fobi Insider Podcast.
On August 10th, 2020, Fobi (Previously Loop Insights) announced a reseller partnership with Vend, a global Point of Sale (POS) company that has developed the first POS built for iOS, which is now used in over 25,000 stores across 140 countries. The partnership between Vend and Fobi has enabled Fobi to demonstrate the power of its retail Insights platform, which has been integrated with the Vend API to provide Vend clients with enhanced retail analytics capabilities powered by Fobi's Insights dashboard.
During the conversation below, Vend Director of Product Partnerships Lowry Gladwell discusses the many benefits of Fobi’s retail Insights platform, including how the API integration between F and Vend’s Billing API will allow for scalable channel re-seller opportunities to Vend’s customer base of over 20,000 retailers.
In addition to Vend’s existing customers, the API integration with Vend will provide Fobi with improved access to the clients of Lightspeed POS Inc. (NYSE:LSPD)(TSX:LSPD), a leading provider of cloud-based, omnichannel commerce platforms that announced a definitive agreement to acquire Vend on March 11th, 2020. Together with Vend’s customer base of over 20,000 locations, Lightspeed is the technology partner for 135,000 customer locations around the world.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and Vend Director of Product Partnerships Lowry Gladwell.
Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: Can you talk a little bit about what the response has been from some of these customers? How are their experiences using the platform?
Vend Director of Product Partnerships Lowry Gladwell: The feedback that we got prior to partnering with Loop was to run our business, we need to have this aggregated reporting feature. So it was quite obvious that we had to do something to solve this issue, which is where Loop came in, we knew that our retailers needed this. It wasn’t an optional extra. It wasn’t a “nice to have”, it was a “must-have”. We’re really proud and excited about the partnership with Loop because this opens up franchises to cloud point of sale. This is something that hasn’t been done yet. It’s new for everyone. By launching this partnership, by going out with this integrated solution, we really are tapping into franchise retailers that before this didn’t have a cloud point of sale franchise solution, ultimately.
Devon: Welcome back to the Loop Experience podcast. Our guest today is Lowry Gladwell, Director of Product partnership at Vend. Here at Loop, we are very excited about the work we’ve been doing with Lowry and his team Advent. Welcome to the show, Lowry.
Lowry: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Devon: Awesome. Before we dive into the Vend and Loop partnership, I want to get to know a little bit more about you. For the past three years, you’ve worked at vend. But you weren’t always focused on business partnerships and the POS sector, you actually went to school for law, right?
Lowry: Yeah, that’s right. When I went to law school. Leaving high school, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I really didn’t have any understanding of what a tech career would look like. I knew I was good at English and history and social sciences, so I kind of fell into law, which is a fascinating subject to study. I was lucky enough to kind of finish off my studies in Southern California and law school down in San Diego. What I did down there was wrongful conviction, which is very different from retail point of sale. Wrongful conviction is, is effectively studying the different ways that people can be convicted wrongfully effectively, around the world through, you know, wrong DNA practices, or whatever it might be. I was really lucky to be able to get across to San Diego and finish off my law degree. I practiced law for a couple of years and then got to the point where I was working for a big bank in-house in New Zealand and started to work on payment-related projects. I sort of started to learn, you know, how Merchant Services worked, how the credit card payment rails worked, how credit card schemes worked and was fascinated by it, it was really, really interesting.
Working in that bank, at the time, they were kind of pushing into finTech and understanding payment methods, and the open banking movement was sort of just kicking off over in the UK. I was lucky enough to kind of be able to get that little insight into technology and payments technology. And when I did that, I realized that law wasn’t actually the thing that I loved. It was tech. From there really, I worked to move into a tech company and ultimately move out of kind of my, my legal profession and into something else. When a job at Vend kind of popped up, I jumped at the chance to join the team. I joined in a legal capacity, but then kind of saw a role out there for me in the product partnership space.
Devon: That’s such a great transition to be able to say, hey, this is something I’m passionate about. But this is all the stuff that I did work in, and I can mold them together and use that to boost me towards where I kind of want to be.
Lowry: Totally. I’m a massive believer in having a good range of skills that you build through a career and being able to apply them in different roles. It effectively goes against the Malcolm Gladwell concept of 10,000 hours and says that to be successful, you know, there are lots of people out there that are successful that that, that haven’t studied something or done something for 10,000 hours, like Tiger Woods has. Instead, you go and do a bunch of different stuff. As you further your career, you’re able to use the skills that you’ve developed through all of the different roles that you’ve done in your life and be successful that way. So I definitely subscribe to that school of thought.
Devon: That’s great. You’re living it. So I want to touch on Vend. Some of our listeners may not know, but Vend is actually one of our major POS integrations. Vend actually started in New Zealand, and what an exciting company to work for. Vend had the first point of sale to be hosted in the cloud and the first point of sale actually on an iPad as well. And that was just your start. Tell me a little bit more about what Vend is, and how you guys stand out amongst all the other point of sale companies out there.
Lowry: As you mentioned, Vend was started in Auckland, New Zealand by a guy called Vaughan Fergusson. He is still part of Vend, we work closely together. He started Vend in a garage out of his house in Auckland, and it’s sort of grown from there. But really what he saw is a gap in the market.
He went for it, he could see that cloud computing was the way that things were going and could see that PoS was ripe for a cloud offering to get away from old legacy systems and old cash registers. So yeah, we were the first to build a cloud point of sale. And we stand out because we’ve got this amazing depth of product, we’re an incredibly comprehensive product. We’ve been working on it for 10 years, we’ve been iterating and really digging into the problems that our retailers face and building a product that solves that problem. When we look at how we stand out amongst our competitors, it’s the fact that we’ve got that really comprehensive, but still very simple, intuitive point of sale. And the reason why is because we’ve been doing it for a long time, it takes a lot of time to build systems, this complex, and we had that head start. So we’re super proud of the product. But you know, being the first to market, we had that head start in terms of development, which is cool.
The other thing that I love talking about is the fact that Vend is partner-focused. We have this really deep product, and that’s what we do, we don’t necessarily want to take over the entire retail landscape. Like others out there, we don’t necessarily see that as being the strategy or the focus for us, what we want to do is build the best point of sale, the best cloud point of sale. Then we want to partner with those other products that can do the best reporting, like in Loop’s, case, or e-commerce, or accounting, or payments, or any of the other things that a retailer uses in the day-to-day kind of business. So we’re super partner-focused, we’ve got an amazing API, we really look at how we can work with partners better, bringing the best partner products to our retailers. It’s not about building everything under the sun and doing a really mediocre job at that. It’s about building the best point of sale and working with the best in the business to bring other amazing products to our retailers that help them optimize their business and grow the business.
Devon: I think something you said there is actually really important. You’re just not a company that’s looking at POS system offerings or asking yourself, what does this customer want? I think the exciting part is looking at who’s doing something really cool in the industry, and how we make that work when we come together and create a partnership to provide those specific tools to our customers who then provide their specific tools to that customer, which can be a lot more productive, instead of totally trying to have those long development times.
Lowry: Yeah, totally. It’s the classic sort of open ecosystem versus a closed, walled garden approach. We look at ourselves and say it’s ultimately good for the retailer, it’s best for the retailer to get the best of what’s out there, right? And not to try and build something but that that works, but is not the best. So even that means that we’re not necessarily owning all of the market and all of the different functionality that a retailer needs. You know, it’s still going to be great for us. Business-wise for retailers to have the best product it means that they’ll be happy with our product. It means that they’ll stay longer, it means that they’ll be, you know, that will be more satisfied with the way that Vend works. It’s a different strategy, but it’s one that we really believe in.
Devon: And with you being the Director of Product partnerships, what is your kind of job look like? What is your day-to-day look like partnering with all these great companies?
Lowry: Yeah, it’s a fantastic job that is a lot of fun. You get to talk to amazing companies, you know. We get to work with Loop Insights on a weekly basis, we get to work with Google and Facebook, e-commerce providers like big commerce, it’s a huge amount of fun doing this role. Really, what my job is, is to find the product that our retailers are looking for, and to work with those product partners to be able to deliver them to our retailers. So that’s kind of everything from going to market, marketing to our retailers with products like Loop’s, understanding how an integration works, really understanding what the problem is that we’re solving for our retailers. Is there a problem there? Is there actually something that our retailers are struggling with during the operation of the business? Is it going to help our retailers grow? Is it going to help our retailers optimize the business and these product partners? Is it going to help our retailers move forward? So we take a very retailer-centric approach. Sometimes it’s really difficult because you come across really amazing products, and very innovative, interesting products. But not all of them are going to be the right fit for our retail and not all of them solve problems for our verticals. So a big part of the job is to work and to understand what’s out there, and then filter out the different solutions that we might not think are going to be a great fit, but really boost the ones that we think are going to be a great fit. So it’s a lot of talking. It’s a lot of working with different tech companies, from a technical perspective, from a marketing perspective, from a commercial perspective, and then also listening to our retailers and getting an understanding of what they are struggling with. What are the things that they’re having trouble doing? Where are the pain points, where is the friction in the day-to-day operations that we can work with a product partner to solve?
Devon: That’s great. Like you said, here at Loop, we’ve been working with Vend for some time now on creating that end-to-end solution for your customers to access Loop’s insights and advanced portal. I think it’s important for our listeners also to know that this is a complete API integration. Like you said, you guys are partnering to create, you have your API that’s able to push and pull and we have our API, there’s no actual Fobi device needed, which makes our partnership infinitely scalable. So at Loop, we have our hardware device, which is a Fobi that can sit on top of legacy systems. But this integration that we’re doing with you guys at vend is strictly API, which is such an exciting piece to launch for us. So with that launch, how has it been working with the Loop team? I know that we’ve partnered a lot on development. But like you said, we’re having meetings back and forth on the marketing side creating great go-to-market and sales strategies for the end customers.
Lowry: From the work that we’ve done to date, we are really, really excited about the product and the team behind Loop. It’s a Canadian company and we love working with Canadians. It’s always fun. And I think that if you’re having fun, things are going to be successful. I’m a big believer in the huge amount of energy behind what Loop is doing. So that’s really exciting. Ultimately, that solution is very compelling, we’ve got a really compelling joint solution, it clearly solves the customer problem, it makes it easy. So when you look at our verticals, we’ve got franchises, which are a big part of Vend’s customer base, and we’re looking at how we can better serve those franchises. Loop comes in there and essentially solves the franchise reporting problem.
So that is such a critical problem for our franchises. Head office is looking for critical data to be able to see how products are selling to see the number of sales and all of that information that goes into creating a functional and successful franchise. We’ve got that data, what loop helps us with is surfacing that to our retailers to our franchise head office to be able to solve that problem of understanding what’s happening in the business with a really easy dashboard. What we’re looking at doing is doing a great bit of marketing with Loop. We want to talk to our retailers. We want to tell them about what we’ve been working on how the integration works and how this joint solution will solve a franchise retailer’s problem. Yeah.
Devon: I want to dive a little bit deeper into what you said about the franchise application there for your franchise customers. Can you explain a little bit more about what that system currently looks like? Would each franchisee have a Vend portal? What’s the benefit that loop is providing to those individual retailers?
Lowry: Typically, if you’re not a franchise retailer, you could have multiple outlets or multiple Vend locations. Then you would have registers in each of those locations. If you’re a franchise, because of the ownership structure, you may have 100 different stores and each of those is owned by a different franchisee. In that sense, each of those different stores with different owners would have a different Vend account. So what that means is that all of those franchisees who work in those different locations would have access to the Vend data and point of sale data.
But the difference between a franchise structure compared to a typical retailer structure is that there’s a head franchisee or head office that effectively makes decisions in relation to the franchise, right? They look at the stock that might be going to a store, what is selling, and different marketing obligations. A head franchisor might have all of these different things that are controlled by that head office.
To be able to do that, to be able to be successful and understand what’s going on in the franchise, you need to have the critical data that sits in each of these outlets in each of these different Vend accounts. So what Loop does is it pulls that data from the different accounts and aggregates it, bringing it up to a dashboard level where their head office can effectively sit there and see the different franchisees the different locations and what is happening there. Now, typically, with Vend, and with other point of sales, you wouldn’t be able to do that because they operate as separate Vend accounts that don’t necessarily have an aggregated platform.
So what Loop does is solve this problem by bringing all of that information into that platform or into that dashboard so that a hit franchisor can look at what’s going on, can see sales data from franchisee x, and see sales data from franchisee y and be able to make an informed decision as to how they’re performing.
Devon: And on top of that, different AI-driven forecasting and segmentation, right down to that detailed transactional data, which we know is so important for those franchisors to be able to see individually. Like you said, what’s selling in different areas? Do they have different territories that they need to focus on and push different products to? So I think it’s great that we’re able to provide to Vend customers that tool that they might have been looking for before, and now have access to that through Vend.
Lowry: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.
Devon: Can you talk a little bit about kind of what your response has been from some of these customers? How have their experiences been using the platform?
Lowry: Yeah, look, we’ve had had a great response from our retailers in relation to the platform, it’s really exciting. And it doesn’t surprise us. When we looked at this, when we started talking to Loop, we knew that there was a problem to be solved, we knew that our retailers needed this, it wasn’t an optional extra, it was an essential part of of their point of sale experience, it wasn’t a “nice to have,” it was a “must-have.”
So in that respect, the feedback that we got prior to partnering with Loop was that to run our business, we need to have this aggregated reporting feature. It was quite obvious that we had to do something, that we had to solve this issue, which is where Loop came in. The feedback has been fantastic. You know, it really is a great solution, but it is a necessary solution. It’s something that franchises need. Without this reporting functionality, really, a franchise would have to look at alternative or more traditional point of sale setups. We’re really proud and excited about the partnership with Loop because this opens up franchises to cloud point of sale which is something that, you know, hasn’t been done yet. It’s new for everyone. So by launching this partnership and by going out with this integrated solution, we really are tapping into retailers, franchise retailers that before this didn’t have a cloud point of sale franchise solution ultimately.
Devon: Yeah, that’s great. We talked a lot about the franchise model because I think initially that’s what we saw, that major gap or that customer need right away. What we are looking at for the future, with additional customers that may be just looking at certain reporting that Loop can provide on top of Vend’s initial reporting insights?
Lowry: There’s a lot more that Loop can do. Franchise reporting is a key thing. But we know that it’s a huge product that Loop has and we’ve got franchise retailers, we’ve got small business retailers, we’ve got single stores, we’ve got multies. So really what we want to do is continue driving the partnership reaching out to all of these retailers that we’ve got, and sharing that different functionality.
Devon: I want to bring up something that we were talking about before, the Loop and Vend partnership offering an end-to-end solution. This includes something that we’ve been developing as well, too, which is the completely automated onboarding and billing processing that just makes this plugin so simple for your customers is able to instantly just access Loop right away. Can you talk a little bit more about the development of the billing process and the onboarding process?
Lowry: So we’re really excited about our billing API. We call it third-party billing. What we realized was that with partner solutions like Loop and Vend it could be that there are five other solutions or things in the retail or tech stack that they’re looking for. Billing and onboarding can be a really laborious and complicated task for our retailers. You know, if you’re signing up to Vend, and you need Loop Insights, you might also want big commerce as an eCommerce platform. You might also look at other solutions that make your business easier to run or grow or optimize.
We want to reduce the friction in terms of the signup experience we want. We want to help our retailers get up and trading as fast as they can, and we recognize that billing was complicated for our retailers. If you’ve got five different solutions, you can get five different bills, you’re going to have to have five different ways to or five different kinds of logins to be able to amend those bills or change them or, or upgrade or downgrade or cancel or whatever it might be. So we built the billing API to effectively enable retailers to be able to sign up for partner products like Loop Insights through Vend. So we really make it easy for retailers to go into Vend and simply click a logo, which might be Loop Insights, and before you know it, get billing set up. Without having to enter new credit card details, they simply have to be authenticated with Vend or be logged in with Vend. So it really solves the onboarding process. It’s digital onboarding, it’s fast and the retailer effectively has one bill to manage at the end of each month and if they want to change bits of the product or upgrade or downgrade we can help them with that through Vend. So although partnerships are the way forward with Vend, we know that there is friction that comes with that. So the billing API really looks at solving that friction. Loop Insights is one of the first partners that have worked with us on this billing API, so we’re super excited to look at how we reduce that friction and solve a pain point for our retailers.
Devon: That was a super exciting part for us. To be able to look at the solution, look at that great partnership between Vend and Loop and say “hey, this is a great system.” Loop’s sole purpose is to try and bring ease and simplicity to users and now we’re just bringing that right through the Vend platform as well through a click of the button. You can have access to Loop’s insight platform, which I know we’re very excited about. With the future of Vend…we’ve gone through the pandemic and we’re still in it a little bit, and retail is obviously a big part of events and attracting customers. How is the company setting itself up for success and remaining competitive in the market moving forward?
Lowry: This is a really, really great question. Ultimately, if you look at what’s happened with COVID-19, we get the feeling that it’s moved things forward by 10 years. And when I say move things forward, it’s moved the kind of natural way the retailer would adopt new technology, it has ultimately sped that up.
So it might take 10 years for a retailer to decide to move off their legacy platform and onto a point of sale, for example. The transition to the cloud has ultimately sped up because of COVID, because people need to be able to log in from home because people need to be able to see everything on one dashboard without having to be in their retail store or in their office so we know COVID has dramatically sped up the transition to cloud software. That’s one of the things that we’re really excited about, because we see our retailers, our new retailers, realizing that having cloud software like Vend will make their lives easier. So that’s the first thing, we see a really bright future. Retail is being hit, we know that but we think there’s going to be a big bounce-back and we’re looking forward to that. Plus, we can see that retailers are really getting those tools that are going to set them up for success. What we want to do is we want to really capture those new retailers by bringing them an amazing product. This is this kind of comes back to my previous point, the way that we remain competitive and the way that we stand out in the market is by having those great products and by helping retailers to work with the best partners out there. We really want to drive strategic partnerships at Vend.
What we mean by strategic is, we want to service the best partners for our retailers. We know that retailers don’t necessarily want to go into a marketplace and scroll through 35 apps that do the same thing and then take a punt on which one’s going to work best. Retailers want to know, they want a recommendation and they want to be guided by a trusted advisor.
Ultimately, that’s where Vend sits. We talk to our retailers every day and we help them get set up. They turn to us for advice around solutions that are going to help their businesses. So we think that the way that we’re going to be competitive is to work with the best product partners out there to help our retailers solve problems. And then to work with retailers to get them to understand which are the best product partners ultimately. So if you look at Loop, if we’re talking to a franchise retailer, we will talk to them about Loop and how Loop will make their lives easier.
Ultimately that’s good for us, it’s good for Loop and it’s good for the retailer, too. We don’t necessarily want to direct them to a marketplace that has 100 solutions and let them choose which one is right for them. We’d love to help them throughout the process and get them set up the first time.
Devon: That customer journey is so important. You want to make sure that if you’re having all of these third party partnerships coming, you want to make sure that they match what Vend is offering so that when a customer starts using that third-party integration, they do feel they’re getting the same relationship and connection that Vend is supplying.
Lowry: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The time has passed where we will have huge numbers of apps to choose from. That isn’t necessarily seen as a good thing. I think we need to be more curated in the way that we work with partners. And when I say we, I mean, technology generally.
We know that retailers don’t necessarily want to spend huge amounts of time procuring 10 different solutions for their tech stack, that’s not something that they want to do. They’re not necessarily IT experts, right? They don’t necessarily have big procurement teams to be able to do that. They want to be guided, they want to have advisors that are going to help them get the right tools for the job. So I think there’s a little bit of a difference in how we’ve been doing things or how the industry has been doing things, which is to have these enormous marketplaces. We’re really looking at how we can bring the best of breed to our retailers.
Devon: So my final question for today, what’s one thing that you learned during the pandemic? I know in New Zealand, you guys have done a great job of containing the spread of the virus, but maybe it’s a hobby that you were able to pick up or a new skill that you learned when you were in lockdown.
Lowry: The one thing that I have learned through lockdown, and I will go back and talk a little bit more about how New Zealand has managed the pandemic, is stand-up paddleboarding. I know that you’re in Vancouver, Dev, so I’m not sure if you get out on the water much, but stand-up paddleboarding in New Zealand is big and we’re in the middle of summer at the moment and it’s been a great summer. We’ve had the virus under control here which means that we have been able to go out and go to the beach and go swimming and do lots of watersports and that sort of thing.
I’ve got two small kids. I’ve got a four-year-old and a six-year-old and we’ve got a stand-up paddleboard that we bought and It’s a lot of fun at the beach, we can jump on there and paddle around and get a bit of exercise and get the kids outside and enjoying life. So that’s the skill that we picked up.
New Zealand has done well in terms of controlling the spread of COVID-19, we had a very strict kind of lockdown back in April 2020, which is when this all kicked off. You know, we’ve had the benefit of being an island nation, which means that it’s very easy to close our borders, it’s easy to control our borders relative to the likes of Canada that has one of the biggest borders in the world with the US. So that island nation element of it has played in our favour for COVID.
We still get outbreaks, at the moment I’m talking to you we’re in a lockdown for seven days and that’s because there have been outbreaks, we still do have our border open to residents or citizens who are coming back from various other countries. There is a quarantine in place but the virus finds ways to find gaps in a lot of things, so we’re back in a lockdown.
We have short, sharp lockdowns when there are outbreaks and we’re still working towards an elimination strategy, but it’s a constant battle. It’s not something that you win until we’re fully vaccinated, which we all understand.
Devon: Yeah. 100%. Well, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I know you have a very busy schedule. But here at Loop, we’re very excited about this partnership, and potentially more integrations to come in the future. So thank you again for taking the time.
Lowry: Thank you very much, Dev. Great to talk to you.
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