Lightspeed Retail Review
Need Help Choosing?
- Date Established
Note: There are four separate Lightspeed POS products, though the distinction isn’t always clear. Lightspeed OnSite comprises software that is installed onto 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 34,000 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 the 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 that 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. As you’ll see later on, cost-of-service constitutes one of the biggest criticisms of Lightspeed, past and present. 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 are still on the high end when compared with similar POS systems, and there are still a few extra costs that seem difficult to justify when there are so many competitors offering similar products at a slightly lower price.
- $89/mo ($76/mo if billed annually)
- 1 register
- Access for up to 5 employees
- $149/mo ($128/mo if billed annually)
- 2 registers
- Access for up to 10 employees
- $259/mo ($222/mo if billed annually)
- 4 registers
- Access for up to 20 employees
- $59/mo for each additional register (includes 3 employees).
- $10/mo for each additional employee.
- $25/month ($21/month if billed annually) for “Advanced Reporting.”
All plans offer live chat from 11am-8pm EST, 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—I would say the system itself is a hybrid because of the fully-functional iPad POS app. Retail is browser-based so 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 Brooklyn storefronts. One of the standout areas in this software is the amount of register functionality offered, something not readily available in similar POS system providers.
Note: If you’re a food-seller, have a look at our Lightspeed Restaurant review; Retail won’t be suitable for your needs.
Specific Size of Business:
Any size business will 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), which is something to consider when you are making a choice. You should ask yourself whether you need nuanced functionality or if something more generic would work equally well.
Ease of Use:
Both the front and back-end of the software are extremely intuitive. The initial set up, 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 lovely 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—all of which are incredibly easy to access and use—manageable from a single page (so you don’t have to cycle through different screens). Similarly, the management of your customer database is a breeze.
Accessing reporting is a little bit more complicated, with dozens of compiled reports to choose from. Still, it’s nothing that can’t be understood with a little bit of devoted time.
One final point: the iPhone app is very basic so don’t expect too much from it. It is a dashboard application designed to allow you to scan items and view the amount of sales made over a pre-defined period. The iPad app, on the other hand, can perform every function that the web-based solution can (excluding label printing, because the printer requires a USB connection), making it a great option for small storefronts with limited counter space.
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 through the 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.
The main issue I’ve raised so far is Lightspeed Retail’s comparatively higher cost, but even a cursory look at the features will show that there is a justification for the extra $30 or so you’re charged every month.
- 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 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 assembly 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 catalogue 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 time and bill work orders based on time worked. You can schedule appointments for services and turn quotes/orders into invoices/sales too.
- 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 more 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-up 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; any others are third-party integrations that are available as add-ons. The Add-Ons page lists several applications and services, including some of the following:
- Accounting: Lightspeed Retail integrates with Shogo, an online accounting add-on that allows for your daily sales information to be smoothly transferred to QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks for Windows, or 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: Perkville, AppCard, Chronogolf, Tap Mango, ShoutEm, 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, orKosmos eSync, WooCommerce, and BikeExchange.
- Rental: For retailers needing to rent equipment, integrations with Rental Shop Manager and Bike Rental Manager are offered.
- 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. The integration just went through Beta testing in March and was released to the public in late April.
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, iZettle, 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 community forum is also said to be in the works and is hoped to be completed this summer.
- 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, quite a few unsatisfied customers have negative things to say about Lightspeed Retail. Some of the most common complaints are as follows:
- Customer Service – Several customers seem to be displeased with Lightspeed Retail’s customer service, citing long wait times, unprofessional treatment, or not having their inquiries returned for weeks, if at all.
- Errors/Bugs/System Crashes – During a period spanning from February 2015 to December 2015 many customers experienced server and API-related problems. These issues have been resolved, but in the spirit of full transparency, I’ll outline the major problems. For a couple months, Lighspeed experienced major system outages that were caused by overloaded servers. These outages left anywhere from 20% to 50% of Retail customers unable to operate their POS systems for periods of time lasting up to an hour. Lightspeed was able to get these issues under control, but several customers complained of losing thousands of dollars during the downtime. According to several people, customer service seemed to have abandoned its post during this time, basically leaving customers to fend for themselves. Thankfully, Lightspeed seems to have taken these issues in hand, because after scouring the Internet, I was unable to find any recent complaints regarding this matter. A number of customers did report that they have had minor problems with bugs in the system unrelated to the server and API-related issues.
- 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, in several cases, over long periods of time.
- Custom Reporting – Several customers express a desire for there to be more customizable reporting options.
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 seem to be completely satisfied with the level and quality of customer service they have received from Lightspeed Retail. From short wait times to very helpful 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.
- Strong Feature Set – Many like the fact that Lightspeed Retail has a very 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 – The fact that this system is not only cloud-based, but browser-based is something quite a few customers really seem to like. 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 has 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.
Of course, there is always cause to be wary of any system that experienced major system outages, and then takes quite a bit of time to recover (even if it was months ago). However, considering how well the company has done since then and the obvious efforts they have made to remedy technical glitches and customer service, I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss Lightspeed. In light of the company’s recent issues, I am going to give them a rating of 4.5 for the time being, but I have seen other companies survive much worse and go on to cultivate a lasting reputation of reliability, functionality, and usability. Retail is well on its way to doing just that, and is recovering well from this latest hiccup.
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. Or, check out some of our other POS system reviews.