Shopify Lite Review
Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?
- Date Established
- Suitable for low-volume businesses
- Solid feature set
- Predictable pricing
- Easy to scale
- Account stability issues with Shopify Payments
- No full online store
To be honest, I’ve had my eye on Shopify Lite for a while. It’s an interesting idea — an ecommerce giant like Shopify offering a low-cost plan that includes barebones online sales tools and a mobile-friendly POS app that looks like it has a decent amount of features. But if you probe the surface a little, does that hold up? Is Shopify Lite a good value if you’re not ready for a full online store? Could it even be a viable alternative to PayPal or Square? These are the questions I set out to answer.
So, first things first: This review does not cover the Shopify web storefront at all, because it’s not available in the Shopify Lite plan. Go check out our complete Shopify review for that. Second, we’re not really going to look at Shopify Lite as an option for businesses that need a countertop solution. It’s possible to upgrade to a retail-exclusive package that will give you valuable features for a full-fledged register setup. We’ll talk about that a little but if you’re interested in Shopify as a full-fledged POS option, particularly in tandem with Shopify’s shopping cart software, you should check out our full Shopify POS review. Third, if you want to know more about Shopify’s native payments platform, called (dun dun DUUUN) Shopify Payments, we have a review for that too. We’ll touch a little on it, but for a more detailed look, just check out the complete review.
After testing out all the software, I do actually think Shopify Lite delivers on its promise. You get a very comprehensive platform to manage your business (at least on the sales and inventory side), a solid POS app that walks the line between full-fledged iPad system and mobile, and free online sales tools. The price — $9/month plus transaction fees (2.7% for in-person and 2.9% + $0.30 for online) — is absolutely competitive. And you get Shopify’s round-the-clock support and extensive self-help resources. And for all of those reasons, I’m happy to award Shopify Lite a very solid 4 stars out of 5. Improved stability with Shopify Payments would be a major step toward improving the rating, but so would the inclusion of a few extra features.
A Quick Look at Shopify’s Services
|Mobile App + Free Card Reader||Point of Sale||Online Store||Social Media Selling|
|Get Started||Get Started||Get Started||Get Started|
|Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware||All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels||Build a store or integrate with your current website||Sell on Facebook and other platforms|
|Starts at $9/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $29/month||Starts at $9/month|
|Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial||Free Trial|
Read on for our complete review of Shopify Lite! Got questions? Have you used Shopify Lite yourself? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts. We’re always happy to hear from merchants.
Table of Contents
- Rates & Fees
- Contract Length & Cancellation
- Sales & Advertising Transparency
- Customer Service & Technical Support
- Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Final Verdict
With Shopify Lite, we need to look at several different components: the mPOS app and hardware, the online sales tools, the and payment processing, because each one is a distinct offering. The unifying component is of course the online dashboard, where you can log in and access all the information from the POS app, your online sales channels, and payments.
I really like the Lite plan as a starter option. It’s a great way to test the waters, especially if you are interested in upgrading later on. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look!
The Shopify Dashboard
The dashboard is really what makes Shopify so powerful. I like that Shopify gives you everything you need close at hand, but without bombarding you with complex sales reports right away. Instead you get an activity log with side menus. It’s all fairly intuitive to navigate. And if you sign up for the trial period to test out Shopify before you pick a plan, Shopify will also point you at resources you might find helpful right in the dashboard. That’s a nice touch — and one I haven’t seen replicated elsewhere. You could probably make an argument that Shopify’s Big-Brother-esque monitoring of everything you do and suggesting resources is creepy, but a. it’s automated, and b. I actually like this as a way to point people at resources without being painfully intrusive (looking at you, mandatory tutorials).
All of that said, let’s get into what features you can get with Shopify Lite and the dashboard:
Shopify’s dashboard inventory tools include:
- Bulk-Upload Products (CSV)
- Add Item Images
- Add Item Descriptions
- Track Inventory
- Item Variants
- SKUs and Barcodes (Note: You need the Retail plan to activate a barcode scanner)
- Organize Products by Category
- Create Collections
- Add Vendors to Products
Some of Shopify’s inventory management, the like the ability to add tags or create collections, really applies to online only. So you may not get a lot of use out of all the inventory features until you get a Shopify storefront, but you can manage everything you need for Facebook and in-person sales from a single interface on Shopify. I don’t think this quite manages to rival Square (and particularly Square for Retail), but it’s a lot better than some other options available in the mPOS space in particular.
Additional tools in the dashboard include:
- Invoicing: Shopify will let you create an order and save it as a draft within the dashboard. You can send it as an invoice, or mark it paid or pending within the dashboard. You can also hit “Pay with Card” and enter card information right there — which makes it a virtual terminal, though Shopify doesn’t use the term.
- Customer Directory: The Shopify platform will track whenever someone makes a purchase so you can view their history. You can also make notes in the customer listing and create tags to segment your customer base. You won’t see this with mPOS systems, but it is really common in all-in-one platforms.
- Order Fulfillment: Shopify would be pretty pointless if it didn’t offer you a way to manage orders within the dashboard, but it merits mentioning. I like that this ties into the inventory that also feeds into your POS app. You can also create orders in the POS app to be fulfilled or shipped out at a later date.
- Create Discounts: Something relatively new to the Shopify feature set is the ability to create discount codes that can be used online as well as in-person. Previously, discount codes were exclusive to online sales. However, now you can merge the two channels to create better cross-promotions. For example: Send out an email code that people can use when they stop by your store/booth/table.
All of this feeds into the functionality of the POS app, too, though you can expect the Dashboard to be your primary management tool.
The Shopify POS App
First of all, I am happy to say that the Shopify POS, which used to be an iPad exclusive once upon a time, works with Android and iOS phones and tablets. I tested the app out on an iPad as well as a Galaxy S7 phone.
First of all, I want to say that the Shopify POS app is not quite like the mPOS apps I’m used to working with. If you’ve got some familiarity with Square or PayPal Here or anything like that, you might find Shopify has a bit of a learning curve. Second, some features are iPad- or iOS-exclusive. That includes the store credit feature, which is only available on iOS. (You can check out the whole list of iPad and iOS-exclusive features in the Shopify Help Center, by the way.)
Feature-wise, here’s what you can expect for Shopify’s POS.
- Accept Cash and Card
- Accept Store Credit (iOS exclusive)
- Split Tender
- Email and SMS receipts
- Track Item Sales
- Apply Discounts to Item or Total Purchase
- Create Item
- Create Customer
- Quick-Sale Mode
- Collect Shipping Address
- Charge Shipping (iPad exclusive)
Regarding receipts, remember that you need to subscribe to the Retail package to get receipt printing. And while the ability to charge shipping on a transaction completed in Shopify POS is only available on iPads, you can get around this by entering the shipping charge as a quick-sale item.
Other noteworthy features include:
- Auto-Detect Tax Rate: Shopify’s tax settings for items are different than a standard mPOS. I’m used to the ability to go in and manually set a tax rate and if I’m really lucky, mark which items are taxable and which are not. Shopify takes a totally different approach. First, even if you aren’t selling online you have to set “shipping zones” which is basically identifying where you do business. You can choose all of North America, or just the United States (and plenty of other options besides). Once that’s done, you can create different locations — and when you’re logged into the device, set which location to use manually. Then Shopify auto-calculates and collects sales tax based on the location. Shopify says it updates these rates regularly but I don’t know how it goes about that. But I did check my local sales tax rates to see how Shopify compared and it was correct.
- Order Fulfillment: Shopify already has a separate mobile app for managing the webstore. It’s called Shopify Mobile. So I was a little surprised to see that you can handle order fulfillment from within the Shopify POS. But I like this idea. If you’re running most of your business from an iPad, you probably like the idea of one app to handle in-person sales and fulfillment too.
Some of the…let’s call them quirks? of the Shopify POS include limited ability to manage or edit items in the app. Creating an item in Shopify POS looks very different on my Galaxy S7 versus my iPad and that’s partly because some of the inventory features aren’t available on Android. I’m very used to Square and PayPal where you can create an item and fill in the details right in the app, so this is a departure.
You’ll also see that while you can add discounts in Shopify POS, there’s no tipping function. Shopify actually says this is due out sometime in the summer of 2018, so we’ll see. There are other features also in the works. Whether Shopify rolls them all out at once or slowly remains to be seen. We’ll also have to see how stable and functional these new features are.
Shopify Card Readers
Shopify offers merchants a choice of two card readers: a free Chip & Swipe Reader, and the Tap, Chip, and Swipe Reader. It’ll take a few days for the free reader to arrive, so you should definitely plan to order one at least a full week before you need it. (Though the same goes with any sort of hardware that you need, regardless of who’s selling it.)
The Chip & Swipe Reader normally retails for $29, which is still a good price for a Bluetooth-enabled EMV/magstripe reader. I like the design, too. It’s different than many other devices I’ve seen, but it looks stylish and functional, which is the most you can hope for out of any sort of card reader. The dock holds the reader securely despite the 90-degree angle, and it doesn’t look clunky.
Apart from the very good design, I was really happy to find out that the process of pairing your Shopify reader with a tablet is super easy. As in, the least-frustrating experience I’ve had yet with pairing a card reader to a device.
The other reader, the Tap, Chip, and Swipe reader, is another reader I am fond of — a skinned Miura M010, which has also been used by Square and PayPal. At $89, it’s got a larger price tag, but it supports NFC and fits well in the hand for mobile setups. You can also purchase a charging dock for stationary/countertop use.
Those are your only hardware options with the Shopify Lite plan — and actually, those are your only hardware options with the POS app on any plan. To get access to other hardware, you’ll need to upgrade to the Retail package — for $49/month. Essentially, it transforms Shopify from an mPOS app to a full-fledged iPad POS (yep, that’s another iOS exclusive). In addition to support for cash drawers, receipt printers, and barcode scanners, the Retail subscription allows you to print gift receipts, to scan and create barcodes, and create PIN codes for staff, as well as logging register shifts. You can also save carts, which other systems usually refer to as suspending tickets or running tabs. And you have to have the Retail package if you want to connect an external terminal to process payments. (We’ll get into that more in the “Rates & Fees” section.)
I don’t think you need the retail plan unless you’re in the market for a full-fledged POS. (If you are, why are you reading this?) If you want something nimbler, meant for mobile businesses, the Lite plan should suffice. However, keep in mind that it does have some limitations. For example, you’ll only have two logins: yours and your additional “staff” login, so you may need to restrict access or change your password regularly to keep up with staff turnover if you actually have multiple staff working events. However, you can log into Shopify POS on as many devices as you need without needing to pay additional subscription fees.
Shopify Lite Online Sales Tools
The Lite plan does not include a full Shopify storefront, but it does give you tools to sell online combined with the Shopify backend management:
- Facebook Store: Sell on social media with a Facebook store. Shopify will create a “Shop” tab on your Facebook business page. This feature also includes support for Facebook messenger, allowing you to provide customer support right within the chat. That includes updates when a product is shipped out, the tracking information, and even “order status” updates. Shopify includes a checkout module within Facebook, so there aren’t any redirects to worry about, either.
- Buy Buttons: Much like PayPal, Shopify lets you incorporate “Buy” buttons onto an existing website (such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace). If you only have a few items to sell or you’re just testing the waters, this is a great way to go about it.
The best part is all of this is consolidated in the Shopify dashboard. when you log in you’ll be able to get updates on all of your pending orders and mark them as fulfilled, as well as manage your mPOS app. Any updates to products made within Shopify are pushed to your Facebook store and buy buttons, too.
It is super-easy to get started with the online tools. On the left-hand side of your dashboard, you’ll see a list of your sales channels. Click the + icon to browse available sales channels, and then select the one you want. Shopify will take you to a dashboard page where you can set everything up. With Facebook, obviously, you need to connect an account.
Adding buy buttons is a similar process. Select the “Buy Buttons” sales channel and the select which items you’d like to create the buttons for. I like that it provides automated tools to customize the look of the buttons too — which is great if you’re not particularly great with code.
I really like how easy it is to manage everything with Shopify. It absolutely rivals Square for ease of use, which is about the highest praise I can give.
Shopify has a native payments system built into its setup, called (unsurprisingly) Shopify Payments. We’ll talk more about rates and fees in the next section, but you should know that Shopify Payments is actually just a white-label version of Stripe. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it does come with some limitations: First, as a third-party processor, there’s some account instability. This is the same sort of risk that merchants using Square, PayPal, and most other mPOS systems face on a regular basis, including the potential for account holds or sudden terminations.
This extends only to your ability to process payments through Shopify, not your ability to use Shopify itself, because you can technically connect another payment gateway to Shopify (the platform supports over 100 payment integrations, which is awesome). With the Lite plan, you must also have the Retail package enabled. And you’ll pay a 2% transaction charge to Shopify for every purchase, on top of whatever rates you pay to your credit card processor. That’s a hefty charge, and one I don’t think you need to pay when the appeal of Shopify Lite is the low monthly fee and its suitability for starter businesses.
You’ll also need activate Shopify Payments in a separate signup process. Fortunately, you can do this from directly within the Shopify dashboard. But be aware that this is an extra step before you can fully launch your store. I recommend you check out our Shopify Payments review and look over the list of prohibited businesses under Shopify Payments’ terms of service for more information.
Generally speaking, US merchants can expect 2-business-day payouts, which is standard for the entire Stripe platform.
Rates & Fees
Shopify Lite’s pricing is fairly simple and straightforward:
- 2.7% per swiped/dipped/tapped transaction (with Shopify Payments)
- 2.9% + $0.30 for keyed entry, eCommerce transactions, and invoices (with Shopify Payments)
I’m generally not a fan of monthly fees for mPOS offerings, but in this case, when you consider that Shopify started primarily as an eCommerce provider and the POS is meant to be an add-on for Shopify merchants, charging a very reasonable $9/month for the mPOS, buy buttons, invoicing and a Facebook shop. Don’t forget the POS app is actually free if you have the Basic plan or higher — though you can upgrade to additional features with the Retail plan for less than many tablet POS subscription fees and get seamless syncing between online and in-person sales.
Otherwise, the 2.7% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions is absolutely standard and competitive with other offerings. I have no complaints there. Manually entered transactions process at the online rate of 2.9% + $0.30, which is a bit different from the usual 3.5% + $0.15. This rate may or may not save you money, depending on the transaction size.
Also, keep in mind that these rates only apply if you use Shopify Payments. If you connect another gateway/payment processor, you’ll pay the $9/month plus a 2% transaction fee, plus whatever fees you owe to your payment processor.
If you’re curious, the $9 monthly subscription fee (at 2.7% per transaction) is equal to $334 in sales. That’s not bad at all, considering all the online sales tools you get as well.
You can certainly get an mPOS option with no monthly fee (and get eCommerce options to boot) — but I am happy to say that Shopify’s is actually quite well featured and combined with the online selling tools, it makes sense. When you’re ready to upgrade to a bigger online store, it’ll be completely painless with Shopify, and that’s really cool, too.
Contract Length & Cancellation
Shopify works on a month-to-month agreement, and you can cancel any time. If you opt to pay for a full year’s subscription in advance, you’ll get a slight discount over a month-to-month agreement.
However, Shopify does not offer refunds. So if you are on a month-to-month agreement and you opt to cancel your account three days after your billing cycle starts, you won’t get a pro-rated refund for the rest of the month.
The same goes if you are on an annual plan — there’s no refunds if you cancel before your subscription is up to renew. So if you’re not sure how you’re going to do overall, I recommend starting on a monthly basis and checking your billing information regularly so you know when the billing cycle resets.
As far as Shopify Payments is concerned, everything is pay-as-you-go. Shopify Payments will automatically deduct the credit card processing fees before releasing funds to you. However, you’ll still get a monthly invoice with your subscription charges, any taxes, and any other applicable fees.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
One of the reasons I enjoy getting a chance to write about Shopify is because the company is incredibly transparent. Pricing is clearly disclosed. Contract terms are ready and out there. The Shopify website and community forum are chock-full of information about how different products work and how merchants are billed and pretty much anything else you might want to know about Shopify.
If I had to complain about something, it’s that the Lite plan is not obviously advertised on the pricing page. Instead, if you scroll down to the bottom after the plan comparisons, you’ll see a small link that takes you to a page all about Shopify Lite. On the plus side, the landing page is full of good information, including pricing and available customer support channels. And I totally understand that Shopify wants people to sign up for the more expensive plans. It makes more money that way.
So if you don’t know that Shopify Lite exists, you could easily miss it. But I’m here to tell you that it’s an option if you want simple online selling and a good solid mPOS — and more than that, it’s a good option.
The only other possible source of trouble is Shopify Payments. Now the point of white label is supposed to be it’s not immediately and clearly obvious that the service is provided by a third party. I get that. But given a quick Google search can tell you that Shopify Payments is powered with Stripe, it might behoove Shopify to let its merchants know that there are risks with this kind of third-party processing model. That includes sudden account holds or terminations, which can be triggered by anything from a suspicious transaction to exceeding your processing limits.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Overall, Shopify has somewhat of a muddied reputation for customer service. Some merchants say its great; others complain about it.
What I can say with confidence is that Shopify offers 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. However, if you’re on the Lite plan ,you’ll only be able to access email and live chat. But considering that 24/7 support in the mPOS field is exceedingly rare, as is live chat, this is actually a step up from what you’ll get from most other providers.
And round-the-clock email/live chat aren’t the only ways to get your questions answered, either. Shopify offers lots of other options:
- Shopify Community: Shopify has an active community of sellers and the forum is a great way to get answers and opinions and suggestions for how to structure things.
- Help center: Shopify’s self-service knowledge base is very extensive — easily a rival for Square’s.
- Videos: Shopify has an entire YouTube channel dedicated to video tutorials. This is a major improvement over most companies, which sprinkle a few generic tutorials in with marketing videos on their primary YouTube channel.
- Free Tools: The Free Tools page on Shopify will give you resources to do everything from create a logo to generate a barcode.
- Shopify Experts: While I don’t recommend hiring a Shopify expert for the Lite plan, when you upgrade to one of the more expensive plans, you can go through Shopify’s directory to find assistance with getting set up, designing your site, and marketing and SEO, for starters.
I really like that Shopify is so comprehensive and offers so much information without feeling like you’re trying to pull your own teeth out. While the reports disagree about how helpful Shopify’s representatives are, you probably don’t need to talk to them unless you’re really, really lost or have an account-related issue.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
There aren’t a whole lot of reviews specifically about Lite out there — but you can find reviews about the POS and about the online sales options, with the occasional references to the Lite plan specifically. Overall, the chatter is positive, but here are the few complaints that come up over and over:
- Trouble with Shopify Payments: Third-party processors such as Stripe can’t offer the same kind of account stability you get with a merchant account, unfortunately. And that leads to merchants who find themselves unable to process through Shopify Payments unexpectedly. This happens for a lot of reasons — adding a prohibited product to your store, lots of chargebacks sudden large (and suspicious transactions), or a sudden and very large uptick in sales, just to name a few. Check out my article to learn the triggers that can lead to holds or account terminations and how to reduce your risk.
- Complicated Features: A few complaints focus on the poor design of the store credit feature. Others mention that getting inventory set up or managing returns can be more complicated. These complaints are hardly in the majority opinion, but they do stand out as common issues.
- Customer Support: These complaints don’t appear to be common, but we have noted it on our other reviews of Shopify products, too. While some merchants rave about customer support, others are….less than enthused. Your mileage may vary in this regard, but at least you know you can take to the other support channels (such as the forum or the self-help center) if you don’t want to deal with Shopify representatives.
That’s really about it for complaints that are relevant to the Shopify Lite plan. If you upgrade to the Basic plan or higher, you might encounter a different set of challenges related to building your own store with Shopify’s software, but those issues don’t apply to Shopify Lite.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Again, there isn’t a whole lot of Shopify Lite-focused discussions, but there are a few. Between those comments and broader comments about the POS app and online sales channels, here’s a quick run-down of what merchants seem to enjoy the most:
- Good POS App: Lots of businesses seem to like just the fact that Shopify offers a POS. Once they get over the initial excitement of an integrated POS app, they often say they like how functional it is, even if it doesn’t offer all of the features they want.
- Integrated Dashboard & Tools: The ability to see and manage online and in-person sales in a single dashboard is a big draw — the consolidated inventory management is also very much appreciated. Plus, all your payments information is available in Shopify, too.
- Invoicing Support: I see lots of comments from merchants who appreciate the ability to create invoices for custom and wholesale orders. They also say the invoicing feature is easy to use, which is always nice to see.
- Customer Support: A fair number of business owners sing the praises of Shopify’s agents, both for their helpfulness and quick responses. Yes, there are complaints too, but definitely plenty of happy merchants.
I think there’s one big theme to take away here: convenience. Like Square, Shopify’s big draw is the all-in-one platform with a powerful dashboard that can manage all the different elements of your business. Everything is condensed into the dashboard, everything syncs and updates automatically. When you upgrade to the higher plan tiers, you can sell through Amazon, eBay, social media, and your webstore and manage everything through a single dashboard. Shopify is a fantastic solution that will grow with your business no matter how (or where) you want to sell.
As a standalone mPOS solution, Shopify Lite isn’t quite perfect, but it’s really close. It has everything you need, and plenty of features that other entry-level mobile point of sale apps don’t offer at all, such as discounts. Plus, we know that Shopify is committed to making the app even more powerful with features like tipping on the way, and you do get a certain amount of flexibility if you’re willing to pay more for it (such as with the Retail package)
If plan to sell in person and online but aren’t sure whether you want to build an entirely new web store, Shopify Lite is a great way to ease yourself into things. You can sell on Facebook and add buy buttons to an existing site — plus you get an mPOS app that you can use to sell at pop-up events, conventions, festivals, or wherever else you find an opportunity. And when you’re ready to upgrade, the process will be relatively quick and painless, with great resources to help you along the way.
If you don’t ever plan to sell online, I don’t think Shopify Lite is the best solution for you. Shopify is first and foremost meant for eCommerce businesses. However, I know there are plenty of merchants who have had bad luck with Square or PayPal. In those cases, Shopify Lite might actually appeal to you. Just be aware of the fact that Shopify Payments has the same limitations and account instability issues.
All things considered, I’m content to award Shopify Lite a very solid 4 stars and our general recommendation. If you’re looking for an mPOS that can do a bit more than just the basics, this plan should absolutely be on your short list. However, keep in mind that Shopify primarily targets retail and service businesses. Quick-serve restaurants and cafes probably won’t find everything they want as far as features, but it could work if you’re willing to get creative. We’ll have to check back after Shopify implements its new wave of features and see what becomes of this very, very promising software.
If you’ve used the Shopify Lite plan before, please leave us a comment about your experiences! We’re always happy to hear from merchants. Have questions? Drop us a line and we’ll help you as best we can!
As always, thanks for reading!