Shopify Lite Review
Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?
- Date Established
- No setup or application fees
- Suitable for low-volume businesses
- Solid feature-set
- Predictable pricing
- Easy to scale
- Supports PayPal payments
- Account stability issues with Shopify Payments
- The full online store is not included
I’ve kept an eye on Shopify Lite for some time because it’s an intriguing concept. An eCommerce giant such as Shopify, offering a low-cost plan, including tools to sell on multiple sales channels (e.g., Amazon and Facebook) and a mobile-friendly POS app chock-full of features? Sounds like a great value. However, I approached the review cautiously. After delving below the surface, would all of that value hold up? Is Shopify Lite a good choice 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 with this review.
Before we go any further, know that this review does not cover the Shopify web storefront at all because an online shop isn’t available in the Shopify Lite plan. If you need a full eCommerce presence, go check out our complete Shopify review for that. Second, Shopify Lite isn’t an option for businesses that need a countertop solution. 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, we’ll touch on the payment processing features a bit here, but if you want to know more about Shopify’s native payments platform (appropriately named Shopify Payments), check out the complete review.
After testing out all the software, I can report that Shopify Lite delivers successfully on its promise. You’ll get a 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 you get a wide array of free online sales tools.
What about the cost? The price is $9/month plus transaction fees (2.7% for in-person and 2.9% + $0.30 for online), which is absolutely competitive. What’s more, you get Shopify’s round-the-clock support and extensive self-help resources, too. For all of those reasons, I’m happy to award Shopify Lite an excellent 4.5 stars.
Read on for our complete Shopify Lite review. If you’ve used Shopify Lite yourself and have anything to report, or if you have questions about the product, leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts. We always enjoy hearing from merchants.
Table of Contents
With Shopify Lite, we need to look at each of its components: the mPOS app and hardware, the online sales tools, and the payment processing. Each is a distinct offering. The unifying element is, of course, the online dashboard. You can log in through the POS app and access all the information you need for your products, sync your online sales channels, and accept payments.
I 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. Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look!
The Shopify Dashboard
The dashboard is what makes Shopify so valuable for managing your business. Shopify gives you all the features you need close at hand but without bombarding you with complex sales reports right off the bat. Instead, you get an activity log with side menus. It’s all very intuitive to navigate. If you sign up for the trial period to test out Shopify before choosing a plan, Shopify will also point you to resources you might find helpful to explore in your dashboard. It’s a nice touch — one you won’t necessarily find elsewhere.
Let’s examine the 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
- Organize products by category
- Create collections
- Add vendors to products
Shopify’s inventory management lets you manage everything you need for your sales channels — including Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Pinterest, and in-person sales — all from a single interface on Shopify. Because of the ability to create categories and tag items, the organization is a lot better than some other options available in the mPOS space in particular.
Additional tools in the dashboard include:
- Invoicing: Shopify lets you create an order and save it as a draft within the dashboard. You can send it as an invoice or mark it as paid or pending within the dashboard. You can also hit “Pay with Card” and enter card information right there, which essentially makes it a virtual terminal (though Shopify doesn’t use that term).
- Customer Directory: The Shopify platform tracks whenever someone makes a purchase, so you can view their history and information. You can also make notes in the customer listing and create tags to segment your customer base. You won’t necessarily see this with all mPOS systems, but it is 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 and 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.
- Analytics: Shopify’s product analytics gives you access to daily charts on the dashboard that illustrate your sales over time, average order value, top products by units sold, and more. You’ll also get access to financing reports, including taxes and payments. To see which analytics and reporting tools you’ll have access to versus those that are reserved for higher-tier Shopify subscriptions, visit this Shopify help page.
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
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. It’s important to note that you can expect some variance in features depending on what type of device you have. You can access all features from a browser but also view your store’s recent activity, update your catalog, and manage orders from your iPhone or Android.
Feature-wise, here’s what you can expect for Shopify’s POS:
- Accept cash and card
- Accept store credit
- Split tender
- Email and SMS receipts
- Track item sales
- Apply discounts to items or a total purchase
- Create item
- Create customer
- Quick-sale mode
- Collect shipping address
- Charge shipping
Other noteworthy features include:
- Auto-Detect Tax Rate: Shopify’s tax settings for items are different from 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 different approach. First, even if you aren’t selling online, you have to set “shipping zones,” which identifies 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. I did check my local sales tax rates to see how Shopify compared, and it was correct.
- Order Fulfillment: I was 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.
- Collecting Tips: You can now enable tips in Shopify POS by creating three preset tip percentages, or you can enable custom tips. You can also enable minimum tip amounts.
Shopify Card Readers
Shopify offers merchants a choice of two card readers: a Chip & Swipe Reader and a Tap & Chip reader. It’ll take a few days for your reader to arrive, so you should plan to order one at least a full week before you need it. (Though the same goes with any hardware that you need, regardless of who’s selling it.)
Shopify’s Chip & Swipe Reader retails for $29, a reasonable price for a Bluetooth-enabled EMV/magstripe reader. I like the design, too. It’s different from many other devices I’ve seen, but it looks stylish and functional, which is the most you can hope for out of any 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 thrilled 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. Read our Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader review to learn more.
Let’s now take a closer look at the Tap & Chip Reader.
Shopify’s Tap & Chip Reader sells for $49. It felt pretty secure in my hand but know that it doesn’t come with any clip or holder to secure it. That’s why you’ll probably want to pair it with the dock Shopify offers for the device, which is sold separately for $39. The dock holds the reader securely in place while keeping it charged. It also comes with a bolt and nut so that you can mount it to a countertop. Read our Shopify Tap & Chip Reader review for the full scoop.
Those are your only hardware options with the Shopify Lite plan. To get access to other hardware, you’ll need to upgrade to the Shopify Plan or higher, starting at $79/month. Essentially, the Retail Kit ($229) transforms Shopify from an mPOS app to a full-fledged iPad POS. (Yep, that’s another iOS exclusive, and you’ll have to supply the iPad yourself.) With the Retail Kit, you’ll get support for cash drawers, receipt printers, and barcode scanners. You can also print gift receipts, scan and create barcodes, create PIN codes for staff as well as log register shifts. You can also save carts, which other systems usually refer to as suspending tickets or running tabs.
If you want something nimbler than a full POS system and you don’t need all the bells and whistles, then the Shopify 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 have multiple staff working events. However, you can log into Shopify POS on as many devices as you need without paying additional subscription fees.
How To Sell Online With Shopify Lite
While the Shopify Lite plan does not include a full website storefront, it does give you some great tools to sell online and keep organized in the process via sales channels.
- Facebook Selling: With a Facebook sales channel, you’ve got everything you need to organize your inventory and make sales. You’ll need to set up a business Facebook page, of course, but it only takes a moment to sync your Facebook shop to Shopify. You can also add a sales channel 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 consists of a checkout module within Facebook, so there aren’t any redirects to worry about, either. Get step-by-step instructions and more by visiting our post, Shopify Facebook Stores: The Cheap & Easy Way To Sell Online.
- Sync More Sales Channels: Whether you want to experiment and set up shop on Instagram or Amazon, or you already have a flourishing Etsy shop, you can add and sync these sales channels at no extra charge. Shopify automatically syncs sales in all of your channels so that you never have to worry about disjointed inventory numbers.
- 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 gets consolidated in the Shopify dashboard. Upon logging 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 automatically pushed to any of your sales channels and buy buttons, too.
Easy Shopify Sales Channel Setup
It’s fast and straightforward to get started within Shopify’s dashboard. On the left-hand side, 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. As you can see below, connecting an account is as simple as pressing a button.
Setting Up Shopify Buy Buttons
Adding buy buttons is a similar process. Select the “Buy Buttons” sales channel and then select which items you want to create a button and description for. I like that it provides automated tools to customize the look of the buttons too, which is great if you’re not particularly skilled at coding.
I like how easy it is to manage everything with Shopify. It rivals Square for ease of use, which is about the highest praise I can give.
Shopify has a native payment 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 a white-label version of Stripe powers Shopify Payments. This setup isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it does come with some limitations. As a third-party processor, there’s some account instability. The same risk applies to Square, PayPal, and most other mPOS systems, and that risk is the potential for account holds or sudden terminations. The good news is that the majority of business owners won’t need to worry too much about holds, terminations, and freezes, but we strongly recommend that you learn how to protect yourself from some of the main issues that cause these dreaded issues in the first place. Check out our post on how to avoid merchant account holds, freezes, and terminations for some important information and tips. I also 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.
Keep in mind that Shopify Payments is distinct from Shopify Lite in that you can technically still utilize Shopify Lite without going through Shopify Payments for payment processing. However, you’ll pay an extra 2% per transaction to do so. That’s a bit of a hefty charge and one that is entirely unnecessary to pay when the appeal of Shopify Lite is the low monthly fee and its suitability for starter businesses.
Because we’re talking about two different features, you’ll need to complete a separate signup process for Shopify Payments. Fortunately, you can do this directly within the Shopify dashboard, and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes. However, be aware that this is an extra step before you can fully launch your store.
As far as getting paid, US merchants can generally expect payouts in two business days, which is standard for the entire Stripe platform. Overall, you can expect a seamless experience and stable service but keep in mind everything we noted above. Shopify’s feature-set deserves an excellent rating because it’s quite expansive and easy to use.
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)
We generally prefer not to see monthly fees for mPOS offerings. In this case, we need to consider that Shopify started primarily as an eCommerce provider, and the POS is meant to be an add-on for Shopify merchants. With that in mind, charging $9/month for the mPOS, buy buttons, invoicing, and a Facebook shop (among other sales channels) is a great deal.
As far as the processing charges, 2.7% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions are 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 slightly 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/month in sales to break even. That’s not bad at all, considering all the online sales tools you get. 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 deserves a good rating. 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, but it won’t be as easy to recoup that if you leave before your pre-paid subscription ends.
That’s because 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. Don’t expect a refund 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 with a monthly subscription 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 automatically deducts 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. Because Shopify Lite is flexible and merchants don’t need to worry about expensive fees or additional surprise charges if they decide to leave, I’m happy to say that Shopify earns an excellent rating in this category.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
One of the reasons I enjoy getting a chance to write about Shopify is because the company is incredibly transparent, with clearly disclosed pricing. I was able to find the contract easily and read the terms. The Shopify website and community forum are chock-full of information about how different products work, 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 details on the Lite plan are not 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. If you don’t know that Shopify Lite exists, you could easily miss the smaller text further down the page. I’m here to tell you that it’s an excellent option if you want simple online selling and a good solid mPOS.
On the plus side, the landing page is full of useful information, including pricing and available customer support channels. I understand that Shopify wants people to sign up for the more expensive plans. It makes more money that way.
Because merchants don’t need to be concerned about any bait and switch, fuzzy math, or unpleasant surprises on their monthly statement, I can confidently give Shopify Lite an excellent rating in the sales and transparency category.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Overall, Shopify has somewhat of a muddied reputation for customer service. Some merchants say it’s great; others complain about it.
What I can say with confidence is that Shopify offers 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. And that’s tremendous. However, if you’re on the Lite plan, you’ll only be able to access email and live chat. Considering that 24/7 support in the mPOS field is exceedingly rare, as is a live chat, this is a step up from what you’ll get with most other providers.
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, opinions, and suggestions for how to structure things.
- Help Center: Shopify’s self-service knowledgebase is very extensive and easily rivals Square’s.
- Videos: Shopify has an entire YouTube channel dedicated to video tutorials. This video series is a significant improvement over most companies, which sprinkle a few generic tutorials in with marketing videos on their primary YouTube channels.
- Free Tools: Shopify offers business tools to help with your launch and more, including a logo maker, a business name and slogan generator, a QR code generator, and a paystub generator.
- Shopify Experts: While I don’t foresee anyone hiring a Shopify expert for the Lite plan, it’s there if you need it. Keep in mind that you can also go through Shopify’s directory to find assistance with getting set up, designing your site, and marketing and SEO, for starters.
I appreciate that Shopify is so comprehensive and offers so much information without feeling like you’re trying to pull your teeth out. While user reports disagree about how helpful Shopify’s representatives are, you probably won’t need to talk to them unless you’re really, really lost, or you have an account-related issue. I’m very comfortable giving Spotify a good rating for customer service and support because it is such a multifaceted platform.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
You won’t find a whole lot of reviews specifically about Lite out there, but you can find reviews about the POS and the online sales options, with the occasional references to the Lite plan. 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. That leads to merchants who find themselves unable to process through Shopify Payments unexpectedly. These difficulties happen for many reasons, including adding a prohibited product to your store, lots of chargebacks, sudden large (and suspicious) transactions, or a sudden and substantial uptick in sales, to name a few. While this is true, having a traditional merchant account doesn’t completely immunize you from these risks, either. 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 are there nonetheless.
- Customer Support: These complaints don’t appear to be common, but we have noted it in our other reviews of Shopify products, too. While some merchants rave about customer support, others are less than enthused. Your experience 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).
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 store with Shopify’s software, but those issues don’t apply to Shopify Lite. All in all, there’s nothing overly concerning or overwhelming as far as negative reviews are concerned. I like that Shopify addresses complaints directly with a thoughtful response.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Again, there aren’t a whole lot of Shopify Lite-focused discussions, but there are a few. Between those and broader comments about the POS app and online sales channels, here’s a quick rundown of what merchants seem to enjoy the most:
- Good POS App: Many business owners seem to just like the fact that Shopify offers a POS. Once they get over the initial excitement of an integrated POS app, merchants 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 payment 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.
The primary theme to take away here is 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, and everything syncs and updates automatically. Shopify is a fantastic solution that will grow with your business no matter how (or where) you want to sell, and overall, you can trust this solution. Shopify Lite earns a good rating for user reviews, as the positive outweighs the negative overall.
Shopify Lite isn’t a perfect standalone mPOS solution, but it’s recent improvements make it nearly so. It has everything you need and plenty of features that other entry-level mobile POS apps don’t offer at all, such as discounts and tipping.
If you 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 test the waters and see if you like it. I love that you can set up a Facebook shop, sync Etsy or other sales channels, and easily add buy buttons to any existing site. Don’t forget about the mPOS app itself that enables you to sell at pop-up events, conventions, festivals, or wherever else you find yourself. When you’re ready to upgrade, the process will be relatively quick and painless, with great resources to help you along the way.
However, if you don’t ever plan to sell online, Shopify Lite is not the best solution for you. That’s because Shopify was, first and foremost, built with eCommerce businesses in mind. However, plenty of merchants who have had bad experiences with Square or PayPal end up landing on Shopify and love it. In those cases, Shopify Lite may appeal to you for a mobile or even as a retail option. Just be aware that Shopify Payments has the same limitations and account instability issues as any third-party processor. While it’s fast and easy to sign up, you also have less leeway if you raise any red flags along the way, such as an uptick in chargebacks.
Altogether, I’m ending this Shopify Lite review by giving the product an excellent 4.5 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 be on your shortlist. However, keep in mind that Shopify primarily targets online retail and service businesses.
If you’ve used the Shopify Lite plan before, let us know about your experience. We always love to hear from merchants. And if you still have a question, leave us a comment, and we’ll help you to the best of our ability! As always, thanks for reading!
To learn more about how we score our reviews, see our Mobile Credit Card Processing Rating Criteria.