2023 was a unique year for the retail industry as it presented challenges and opportunities in equal measure with ABS data showing softened spending for much of the year – with the exception of huge surges around sales events such as Click Frenzy, Black Friday and Christmas.

Amid talk of economic pressures, Australians are renowned as strong supporters of local business, and that came to the fore more than anything else in 2023, according to Lightspeed founder and interim CEO, Dax Dasilva.

“We strongly believe there is a lot to be optimistic about in 2024. For all of the challenges, we’re predicting exciting things for our customers,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“In fact, speaking to Lightspeed customers globally and in Australia, they’re treating 2024 as an opportunity to seize, not a challenge to overcome. Every country is contending with economic pressures to varying degrees, but that ‘support local’ sentiment in Australia is hugely important for the local industry.

“After the initial waves of COVID-19, we saw the industry rebound strongly, and based on many conversations we’re having with our merchants, they believe they’re well-positioned to do so again in 2024. That’s not to say it’ll be easy though; they’ll need to build strong relationships with customers, focus on operational efficiencies, understand their inventory and what drives the greatest gains, and more.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the buzzword of 2023 and that’s unlikely to change this year, but Lightspeed is looking forward to seeing it evolve from more superficial use cases to driving tangible benefits for businesses.

“Our products already leverage AI to help businesses create product descriptions. We anticipate a future where AI can be leveraged even further, helping businesses improve inventory management and purchasing decisions, setting dynamic pricing based on supply, demand and competitor pricing, forecasting sales, identifying trends, and anticipating customer preferences,” Dasilva said.

“Last year we heard a lot about how global businesses were tapping into AI, and we saw consumers experimenting with ChatGPT to write resumes and plan holiday itineraries. But we’re excited to see, and help facilitate, all the tangible, revenue-generating, business-building benefits that the local retail industry can generate from it.”

Beyond the buzz of AI, the strength and value of bricks-and-mortar shopping was a key trend and talking point within the retail industry in 2023, according to a recent Lightspeed report. It found that three quarters (76%) of Australians continue to shop in-store at least once a month while more than half (56%) of shoppers visit brick-and-mortar stores to check out products in real life.

“Technology that enables retailers to tie together their ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar strategy in one centralised omnichannel strategy is an essential investment. A unified POS and payments system that enables them to centralise sales, inventory and customer data in one place from both online and in-store purchases is the heartbeat of growing omnichannel businesses.”

Lightspeed is built to help entrepreneurs accelerate growth and one of the features seeing tangible benefits from customers who use it is Lightspeed Capital, a cash advance program designed to enable merchants to access funds they need to invest in their business.

“We believe real-time access to capital is one of the largest challenges facing merchants today. Through Lightspeed Capital we’re providing a simple, streamlined opportunity for our merchants to invest in their business. Whether it’s to fit out a new store or launch a new range of products, helping them accelerate their business is a huge focus and a huge privilege,” Dasilva said.

“While Lightspeed was founded in Canada, we have deep local roots in Australia and New Zealand. Many of the people and technologies from Kounta and Vend, which were born and developed in Australia and New Zealand respectively, are now a core part of our flagship hospitality and retail platforms.

“What’s more, many of the team used to work in kitchens, as baristas, on shop floors, in retail warehouses. We understand our customers because many of our team used to be like them. We think that relatability, connection, and understanding positions us uniquely to help them scale and succeed.

“Through our local initiatives and partnerships, 2024 will be about making Australia one of the best markets in the world to scale a business.”