Lightspeed Retail Review
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Note: There are four separate Lightspeed POS products, though the distinction isn’t always clear. Lightspeed OnSite comprises software that is installed on your desktop Mac. Lightspeed Restaurant is a cloud-based POS system used by food service businesses. Lightspeed eCommerce is used by online businesses and can be integrated with Lightspeed Retail. Finally Lightspeed Retail is a cloud-based POS system primarily used by those in retail businesses. This review looks at Lightspeed Retail.
Are you in the retail business? Looking for a cloud-based point of sale system that boasts diverse functionality and a plethora of features? If so, Lightspeed Retail is an option worth considering.
Lightspeed Retail is parented by Lightspeed, a software company with POS solutions used by over 40,000 businesses around the world. This includes businesses such as Adidas, Hound About Town, and KCollette. Lightspeed has been around since 2005 and has established a good reputation throughout the years. Developed in 2013, Lightspeed Retail is the cloud-based version of OnSite, Lightspeed’s locally-installed POS system.
Most of the features that made OnSite so well-received have remained intact in the Retail version. This software is characterized by its depth of functionality and ability to tailor its infrastructure to meet specific needs. One of the features that marks an improvement over OnSite is Lightspeed Retail’s well-balanced and beautifully minimal interface—no small feat when viewed in light of the myriad of functions offered. Finally, and most vitally, the software is cloud-based. This is important because it’s the direction in which most retailers are moving.
To learn more, read on.
The good news for prospective users of Retail is that Lightspeed has simplified and reduced its pricing model, though the array of add-ons can still be a tad confusing. The old model was based on a traditional upfront fee for user licenses and included additional costs for optional modules, so the new pricing rollout has been a welcome change. Unfortunately, prices remain on the high end when compared with similar POS systems, and there are still a few extra costs that seem difficult to justify when so many competitors offer similar products at a lower price.
- $99/mo (billed annually)
- 1 register
- Access for up to 5 employees
- $169/mo (billed annually)
- Up to 2 registers
- Access for up to 10 employees
- $289/mo (billed annually)
- Up to 4 registers
- Access for up to 20 employees
- $59/mo for each additional register (includes 3 employees).
- $9/mo for each additional employee.
- $59/mo for Lightspeed eCom (base plan).
- $25/month for “Advanced Reporting” (including the Lightspeed Dashboard app).
All plans offer 24/7 support, secure backups to the cloud, omnichannel capabilities, basic reporting, and free software updates. Retail also has a 14-day trial you can use to check out the software for yourself.
Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed:
Though Lightspeed Retail is technically cloud-based—meaning your information is stored in Lightspeed’s servers and synced over the cloud to your platform—the system itself is a hybrid. Retail is browser-based; you don’t have to install any programs on your computer, but you do have the option to install the Retail POS app on your iOS device. In this case, the system offers most of the benefits of a locally-installed system without the bulky and expensive hardware or on-site software updates.
Lightspeed Retail targets (you’ll be surprised to hear) retail settings. It also offers features for selling services alongside physical products. With the ability to create estimates/quotes, service and repair orders, and define labor costs, the software is useful in a variety of settings, from oil-change shops to clothing stores. One of the standout areas of this software is the amount of register functionality offered, something not readily available in similar POS system providers.
Note: If you’re a foodseller, have a look at our Lightspeed Restaurant review; Retail won’t be suitable for your needs.
Specific Size of Business:
Any size business will likely work happily with Lightspeed Retail, though the target market seems to be medium-sized businesses or those that require custom elements and added flexibility. That said, the software is so feature-rich—with functions to support every part of the retail cycle, from ordering and purchasing to stocking and selling (as well as extensive CRM capabilities and employee management)—that it appeals to even the largest of big box retailers.
As for cost, Lightspeed is pretty pricey compared to other iPad providers with a similar target market. If you’re a small to medium-sized retailer it’s likely that one of these better-priced alternatives will meet your needs adequately. All of the functionality Lightspeed boasts—solid inventory management, deep analytics reporting, and marketing campaign management—is offered to some extent by similar providers. The only difference is that these other POS systems aren’t as flexible (likely why boutiques, who often need custom options, have gravitated towards Lightspeed Retail). You should ask yourself whether you need nuanced functionality or if something more generic would work equally well.
Ease of Use:
Lightspeed does a really good job of making sure customers understand what they are getting and know best how to use it. Before buying Lightspeed Retail, you will be connected with a sales engineer who will help you determine if Lightspeed Retail is a good fit for your business. Once you’ve purchased Lightspeed, a customer success representative will help you set up your store and give you instructions about how to use the system. That being said, both the front and back-end of the software are extremely intuitive. The initial setup, completed in the in-browser software (though you can manage it from your POS), is a step-by-step process including a catalog of items with which you can populate your inventory.
The organization of the management area is basic in the best possible way. All of the functions are grouped into categories on the left-hand side, and the most commonly used options are the most prominently displayed. This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but you’d be surprised how many POS dashboards hide away the most vital functions. You can start, continue, or refund a sale with reasonable ease, create special orders, and even set a customer display for when you’re away from the register.
All of the functions are accessed through simple, large buttons and once you’ve got the hang of Lightspeed Retail, you’re not going to forget how to use it (bar an interface re-design of course). There’s a high degree of inventory customization, reporting options, and customer tracking, which inevitably lends a certain level of complexity to the software. Processing reporting, for example, is fairly complicated, with dozens of compiled reports to choose from. Still, it’s nothing that can’t be understood with a bit of devoted time and attention.
Hardware and Operating System Requirements:
The Retail App and associated hardware will work with any 3rd generation (or above) iPad or iPhone, though bear in mind that you can’t make sales via iPhone; you must have an iPad. The in-browser option will obviously run on any computer with an Internet connection.
Lightspeed sells all peripheral hardware themselves and offers three bundles:
- iPad POS Hardware Kit – Includes an APG cash drawer, a Vault Simplicity Base iPad stand, a Bluetooth socket scanner, a LAN receipt printer, and receipt paper. The actual iPad is not included.
- Desktop POS Hardware Kit – Includes an APG cash drawer, a Lightspeed scanner, a USB receipt printer, and receipt paper. The computer itself is not included.
- The SilverEdge Preferred Bundle – Includes an iPad Pro, iPad stand, a cash drawer, Star TSP Lan 100 receipt printer, a Socket barcode scanner, a Zebra label printer, and a Dejavoo Z9 credit card terminal. (Only offered to US customers.)
Any of these peripherals can be purchased separately if you don’t need a whole bundle. For models and pricing, check out Lightspeed’s hardware page. Lightspeed’s customer service representatives are also trained how to help you if a hardware catastrophe or minor glitch hits your store.
- Multi-Tender Options: All payment types are accepted: cash, credit, debit, check, gift card, and store credit (either from exchanges or established house credit accounts). You can print and/or email receipts (and gift receipts) with product descriptions and notes. Gift certificates/cards also have a barcode for ease of use and can be reused (their balances can be changed). The option to apply discounts is readily available through the register, and you can hold and suspend sales and return to them later, or transfer them to another device. You can also place items on hold/layaway for customers to pick up at a later date. Adding new/existing customers to a sale directly through the POS interface is seamless. Performing returns and exchanges is equally easy.
- Inventory Management: The options for inventory management can go fairly deep depending on your particular needs. The basic process—adding descriptions, category management, and reorder points—is relatively simple. Amongst the more advanced features are customizable tags (so that you can essentially create your own inventory taxonomy for searching for items), multiple attribute matrices (large, black, leather, etc.), and the ability to assemble items into bundles, including serialized items. You can also manage items that are typically bought in bulk but sold individually (i.e. a 12-pack of soda that is sold by the can).
- Purchase Order Management: You can track vendors, complete PO’s across multiple vendors and items, and receive or return orders. Return to Vendor (RTV) is a new feature that allows you to manage merchandise returns due to damaged products, incorrect shipments, customer warranty returns, etc. Retail also allows you to track unit costs and shipping fees to accurately calculate your profits and margins. For selected vendors, there are more advanced options, such as direct catalog ordering from within Lightspeed.
- Employee Management: There is a basic time clock for employees, operated through an easy-to-set-up pin, as well as a log of employee sales and inventory changes. You can set up customizable roles from within the management area.
- Work Order Management: You can create work/repair orders, track repair progress, and print claim checks and service labels. The labor option also allows you to bill work orders based on time worked. You can schedule appointments for services and turn quotes/orders into invoices/sales too. Lightspeed recently added a feature that allows merchants to add up to 12 photos to a work order. This can be really helpful for jewelry or tattoo shops and especially for high-end repair shops that require before and after photos.
- Customer Relationship Management: The ability to add customers to your database is available on both desktop and iPad. You can track contact information, credit limits, and transactions. Other great features include the ability to set up different customer categories to offer specialized discounts, track outstanding balances and past-due accounts, track all your print statements, apply payments to invoices and balances, or use credits against future sales. Integrations with MailChimp and MailSync are now available for email marketing management.
- Reporting: There are hundreds of pre-set printable reports. Customized reports may be filtered by day, week, month, or year. View your profits by total revenue or margin to understand what your inventory is costing you and which items are most profitable. You can also use reports to track the effectiveness of promotions, strategically schedule and task your employees, and track end of day accounts, among other things. Advanced reporting includes responsive widgets that provide you with a visual dashboard of the most important elements in your store. There’s also a desktop browser export feature—any report lists can be exported to Excel in spreadsheet format.
- Multi-Store: Lightspeed allows you to transfer inventory between locations and provides full visibility of all inventory from stores and warehouses (you can look to see if another store has the product a customer wants). Another cool feature is the ability to set different prices for the same SKU on a store-by-store basis. You can also take your show on the road with the Retail iPad app, capable of handling temporary storefronts like pop-up stands or trade shows.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Integration with MailChimp is included with any subscription to Lightspeed Retail; other third-party integrations are available as add-ons. The Add-Ons page lists several applications and services, including some of the following:
- Accounting: Lightspeed Retail offers a program called Lightspeed Accounting that is able to integrate with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks for Windows, and Xero.
- Loyalty Rewards: Retail integrates with a couple different CRM-related programs and services that allow you to create and track customer rewards programs, along with contact and sales data for email and online marketing purposes. These integrations include Loyal2, City Hive, Perkville, AppCard, Chronogolf, Tap Mango, PetStoreMarketer, and Thirdshelf.
- Scheduling: Use NimbleSchedule, Agendrix, Booxi, Chronogolf, or Homebase to schedule and track employee hours over the Internet, allowing employees to request time off, trade shifts, and clock in or out from anywhere.
- eCommerce: If you are currently using your own web store you can sync the data between Retail and your eCommerce platform using SkuIQ, Kosmos eSync, WooCommerce, Maurisource, Hyperspace, Accumula, and BikeExchange.
- Rental: For retailers needing to rent equipment, integrations with Rental Shop Manager and Bike Rental Manager are offered.
- Email Marketing: If you would like to take advantage of email marketing, Lightspeed Retail has you covered with Mailsync.
- Inventory Management: Your inventory management needs can be handled with any of the following integrations: Stitch Labs, iMerchandise, Nobal Technologies, and SkuVault.
- Lightspeed eCom: This eCommerce platform is an impressive addition to Lightspeed’s belt of POS systems. You can find out more information about this system by watching a demo or requesting a free trial. Not only is Lightspeed eCom a stand-alone, fully functional, exclusively online POS system, but it now offers integrations with Lightspeed Retail.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
As far as EMV compliance goes, Lightspeed was actually ahead of the curve as one of the few companies who integrated an EMV-certified terminal by the October 1st, 2015 deadline. You really can’t go wrong with Vantiv or Cayan, which makes it easier for merchants to shop around for the best rates.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Since Retail is priced with a subscription model, premium technical support is part of the service. Various kinds of support are available as follows:
- Phone support is available 24/7 (excluding holidays).
- There is a support page with links to resources, the status of the system, release notes, and training videos.
- You can also chat with a representative from virtually any page on the Lightspeed site from 11am-8pm EST or leave a message with your email address if no one is available.
- A new community forum is in the works and will be released sometime next month.
- Lightspeed also has several social media pages including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
For users who have a valid subscription, Lightspeed customer support works to respond to service requests within one business day.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
When it comes to reviews, Lightspeed customers seem to be split down the middle. Though there are many positive reviews, several unsatisfied customers have negative things to say about Lightspeed Retail. Some of the most common complaints are as follows:
- Ignoring Customer Requests – Various complaints have also been made by customers stating that their feature requests or reports regarding system glitches have been largely ignored (over long periods of time, in several cases). Some customers state that they would like to see Lightspeed get better at maintaining and fixing its system before working on new functionality and advancement.
- Glitches – Several complaints have been made about bugs in the system. Those customers report being satisfied with responses from Lightspeed’s customer service regarding their complaints, but frustrated when no action seems to come from the developers.
- Feeling Stuck – A few customers have complained about being stuck in a contract they’re not happy with. (As with any system that requires you to sign a contract, you really want to make sure Lightspeed works for you and your business before signing your name on the line.)
Note: In 2015, Lightspeed experienced major system outages and took quite a bit of time to recover. Although they happened a few years ago, the fact that these outages occurred at all may still give you cause to be a bit wary. However, Lightspeed has made obvious efforts to remedy technical glitches and customer service problems since that time, and the wide array of positive customer feedback shows that they seem to be accomplishing this goal.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Retail also has a loyal following of satisfied customers who have noted the following benefits:
- Customer Service – A large number of customers are completely satisfied with the level and quality of customer service they receive from Lightspeed Retail. From short wait times to very helpful and friendly representatives, many patrons are very content with the service.
- Ease of Use – A common thread found throughout most positive comments involves how easy Lightspeed Retail is to use and train staff with.
- Strong Feature Set – Many like the fact that Lightspeed Retail has a large and diverse set of features. Customers really like the unlimited and highly customizable inventory feature, as well as the matrix feature that allows you to organize items with multiple variations.
- Cloud/Browser Based – Customers seem to really like the fact that this system is cloud-based and browser-based. Not having to buy expensive iPads (unless they want to), and having the ability to use the POS system on basically any computer from anywhere makes this system very advantageous.
Lightspeed is one of the most robust and easy to use solutions in today’s POS market. For small to medium-sized businesses that want to balance a simple, intuitive interface with strong functionality and a data-driven approach, it’s a definite contender.
I recommend that you take Retail for a trial run and see what you think. There are more than enough satisfied Lightspeed Retail customers who would encourage you to do the same.