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 more than 50,000 businesses around the world, including 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.
Lightspeed has rapidly updated in the past few years and now offers its own eCommerce platform, giving you the ability to set up and run your own store online. Its interface is highly intuitive and modern and customers will appreciate the level of customization that is available. Surprisingly, given the company’s attention to staying on the cutting edge of trends in the POS world, a few complaints have been lobbed LIghtspeed’s way about its refusal to correct minor bugs in its software. Lightspeed is not the most cost-effective system on the market but it does offer pretty much any feature you could dream up and, for those looking for a one-stop-shopping system with strong customer service, Lightspeed is worth looking into.
Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated Point of Sale solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, detailed user interfaces, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.
Table of Contents
- Cloud-Based or Locally-Installed
- Specific Industry
- Specific Size of Business
- Ease of Use
- Hardware & Operating System Requirements
- Integrations & Add-Ons
- Compatible Credit Card Processors
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Final Verdict
Lightspeed has a relatively simple pricing model, although it’s not exactly a bargain. Customers can get what they want from the system with multiple options for add-ons that will drive the cost higher. To be fair, those add-ons feature some pretty cool and unique options. If you can afford it, Lightspeed can give you virtually anything you would need from a retail POS (though things like the additional charge to access Advanced Reporting capabilities are a bit of a bummer).
- $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 on 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 having to use bulky and expensive hardware or deal with on-site software updates.
Lightspeed Retail is one of the most complete POS systems available for virtually any type of retail industry. 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. The POS really shines in the apparel industry but, especially if you have opted for one of the more advanced packages, can fill the needs of virtually any type of service. One of the standout areas of this software is the amount of register functionality offered, something not readily available with 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.
Larger industries where cost may be less of an issue might gravitate to Lightspeed for its wide array of integrations and add-ons. Lightspeed also has a sleek design and regular updates, making it a relatively unique POS compared to some other options. If you’re looking for all of the standard features in a highly-rated POS —solid inventory management, deep analytics reporting, and marketing campaign management— along with the ability to highly customize the software and give customers a somewhat more intimate experience this POS should be near the top of your list. 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. After signing up, an associate will contact you almost immediately to answer questions and help you hit the ground running. 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 which includes a catalog of items you can use to 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.
There are very few areas where you could conceivably get tripped up when initially tooling around the interface. Everything is where you would expect to find it and navigating through screens is simple and easy to master with limited training. 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. However, most POS backends are naturally a bit complicated and anyone with a modicum of managerial experience should be able to figure out the system quickly.
Hardware & 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 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. Customer service representatives are trained to help you if a hardware catastrophe or minor glitch hits your store. Lightspeed sells Zebra label printers through its site along with APG cash drawers and barcode scanners that can be connected by Bluetooth or through a USB connection. Lightspeed also offers card-swipers for purchase through its website.
- 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.
- eCommerce: Lightspeed has added an impressive eCommerce platform with plans starting at $59 a month, adding another level of convenience for users. At the entry level price, users get 250 products, omnichannel capabilities, 24/7 support, personalized onboarding, and access to the app store. The service comes with SEO tools to help boost your store’s visibility online. There are also some nice marketing features, including the ability to integrate with Facebook and give customers the opportunity to leave product reviews on the site. Running custom marketing and promotional campaigns can be done directly through Lightspeed. The customization is, again, a big selling point as Lightspeed offers 60 themes and allows you to be creative with your design. It is an extra cost, but having this level of synchronization with your POS system is convenient.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Integration with MailChimp is included with any subscription to Lightspeed Retail; other third-party integrations are available as add-ons. Lightspeed integrates with a huge slate of companies and the chances are, if you’re interested in or have heard about a particular feature, Lightspeed will have it. 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 & 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 available through the website and articles like “9 things to know before you buy a POS system” can be accessed on the main page.
- 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 & 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:
- Ignored Customer Requests: Various complaints cite that user feature requests and 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 are 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.)
- Limited Services: More than one customer complained about the limits of some of the products, including issues with customizing receipts and labels. Another was unhappy with the hardware choices the company offered.
Positive Reviews & 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 on.
- Strong Feature Set: Many appreciate 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 dig 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, make this system very advantageous.
- Integrations: A few customers, particularly ones who operate smaller businesses, loved the choices and the variety of integrations that were available to them.
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 also appreciate the company’s commitment to offering customers the latest in POS advances.
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.