July 24, 2019      < 1 min read

Selling to businesses at the very top of their industry requires a customer-first approach, complete clarity over your products and mastery over pricing. For Ambersphere — who supply the lighting geniuses behind Stormzy’s Glastonbury set, Rolling Stones concerts, Eurovision, blockbuster movies and more — outdated systems made achieving all three difficult.

So they looked for a solution in the cloud. Here’s Lee House, Ambersphere’s Marketing Manager, with their story.

Ambersphere Solutions

Ambersphere logoAmbersphere is a wholesale distributor for the UK lighting business. We set ourselves apart with our industry expertise and attention to our customers’ needs — our staff have hands-on experience making or working with high-end lighting technology.

We’re the exclusive reseller for five of the very best European lighting brands. We choose our products very carefully, making sure that none of our brands compete. It means we can offer a complete, tailored solution: control desks, lights, LED static lights, traditional theatre lights and more.

Everything we do needs to give the right value and service to our customers. We see ourselves as the UK office for our five partners — so we also do repairs, warranty repairs and other servicing of legacy products from our brands.

Missing clarity

One side effect of growth is that you outgrow ineffective systems. Back when it was just three people and two brands, keeping track of our business was easy. But as we grew, the need to streamline and get better transparency became clear.

Before Unleashed, we used a custom system made using the ageing Lotus Notes.

It would let us buy and sell stuff, and everything would come out more or less correct in the annual stocktake, but it wasn’t enough. We wanted to drill down deeper. To find out what’s outstanding, what’s on backorder and what our costs are, taking exchange rates into account. We needed something much more grown up.

Plus, we were missing serial number tracking.

We used to manually write serial numbers down on each invoice. But with high-value products this was definitely not the best approach. Any stock discrepancies can have a big impact, so we need to know where all our receipted stock is. Everything needs to be serialised.

Our supply chain could sometimes make things even trickier. Our suppliers all do paperwork a little bit differently, each with their quirks. We knew we had the stock on hand, but reconciling was taking too long.

Perhaps worst of all, we only had one person who could maintain or amend the system. As our company grew, we needed something everyone could use.

CRM vs inventory

At first, we looked at replacing Lotus Notes with a CRM system. But finding a CRM that could handle quotes and pricing was not straightforward.

Around that time, we moved to Xero, and suddenly Unleashed was everywhere as an integration. On investigating further, we realised didn’t need a CRM that could handle quotes and pricing. We needed inventory software.

Unleashed’s sales staff were clear and honest. When the software couldn’t cater to our needs in a certain area, Kyle, our consultant, would let us know.

Pricing problems

We wanted a system that could stand on its own — but also integrate natively into Xero. We looked at Dear, but their system wasn’t flexible enough for us. Our business is complex, and we needed software that could work with that complexity.

Lighting desk

Take our pricing structure as an example. Each supplier we work with has a different discount structure. Then, our customers all have different discount structures that apply to each supplier.

When we first looked at Unleashed, we didn’t see how the software could help us manage pricing. But Kyle put us in touch with one of Unleashed’s engineers, and I sent over a load of information on how we’d want the pricing functionality to work ideally. They were able to tweak the pricing module, and suddenly it worked perfectly for our needs.

At that point, we said that if the team in New Zealand can be that reactive then Unleashed is a no-brainer. They were willing to tweak their system to match our process instead of forcing us to overhaul our business to match their system. It made such a difference to our decisionmakers.

Avoiding bloat

Unleashed has given us the clarity and control that we were missing from our previous system. Our products are tracked, and we can drill down to see precisely what’s on backorder or allocated to upcoming sales.

And the system is a joy to use. It’s not often that you say that about business software — but it really is.

Unlike other software, Unleashed focuses on what we want it to do, without adding too much bloat. The modules cater to the different roles within our business, and permissions functionality means we can restrict access to sections they don’t need to see. The sales staff, for example, just see the sales module — nothing else.

Ambersphere showfloor 2

It’s taken us three years to find the right CRM to sit alongside Unleashed and Xero, because most of them offer up an overwhelming amount of functionality and data that we’d have to wade through to get to what we need to see. Unleashed allows me to work in the way that we want to — not how a software developer who’s never worked for a product business thinks we should.

Sometimes it feels like Unleashed is a small company, it has such a close relationship with customers. We were surprised at how big the customer base actually is.

Finding ROI

The value has been strong, especially when compared to other systems. We wasted a significant amount of money on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and a consultant to try and fit the software to our needs. After months of trying, we had to walk away because it just didn’t work.

With Unleashed, it took me a day and a half to import all the data on my own. Then the system was set up. There was a process to follow, and it takes a little while to clean the data, but overall it was very straightforward.

That ease-of-use has continued with the system in place. Time has been the biggest benefit we’ve got from the software. Things that used to take a day, such as writing down obsolete stock at the end of the year, now take ten minutes.

Looking ahead

Unleashed is developing in the way that we’d like it to. We found out about the BI module, for example, the day after we’d been discussing how much benefit we’d get from one. We quickly saw how much more we can do with our data now.

My manager asked me to look into setting up a B2B Store, and I was able to create a prototype in minutes. It just works — we can create logins quickly, customers will have their discounts in there already, we can see stock, the pictures we’ve uploaded are all there. Moments like that are when you know you’ve chosen the right software.

Next up for Ambersphere is probably to get our web store up and running. We’re a B2B business and offering this to our customers is something we would like to be able to do. Other than that, we’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into the new BI module, especially when we can use it to examine our purchasing data.

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