Shopify Lite Review
Looking for a free POS with a free card reader?
- Date Established
- No setup or application fees
- Free chip card reader
- 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 had my eye on Shopify Lite for a while because it’s an intriguing concept. Namely that an ecommerce giant such as Shopify offers a low-cost plan that includes tools to sell on multiple sales channels (e.g., Amazon and Facebook) and a mobile-friendly POS app with a healthy amount of features. However, I approached the review cautiously. After I probed the surface a bit, 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 in my review.
Before we dig in, I want to make sure that you understand 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. Secondly, 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, if you want to know more about Shopify’s native payments platform (aptly named Shopify Payments), we have a review for that, too. We’ll touch a little on the payment processing features, but for a more detailed look at 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 plethora of free online sales tools.
And the cost? The price is $9/month plus transaction fees (2.7% for in-person and 2.9% + $0.30 for online), and that is absolutely competitive. Additionally, 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.
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
With Shopify Lite, we need to look at several different components: the mPOS app and hardware, the online sales tools, and the payment processing because each one is a distinct offering. The unifying component is, of course, the online dashboard. You can log in through the POS app and access all the information you’ll 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 on. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look!
The Shopify Dashboard
The dashboard is what makes Shopify so valuable to manage your business. 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. If you sign up for the trial period to test out Shopify before you pick a plan, Shopify will also point you to resources you might find helpful to explore in your dashboard. That’s a nice touch and one you don’t always find elsewhere.
All of that said, let’s look at 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
- 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 as well as 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 the 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 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. 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 can 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 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.
- Collecting Tips: You can now enable tips on 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 free chip and swipe reader and a tap and chip reader. It’ll take a few days for the free 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.)
While it is free when you sign up, the Chip & Swipe Reader normally retails for $29, which is still 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.
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 needing to pay 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 take a sale. 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 And 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. 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 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 great with code.
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 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 a white-label version of Stripe powers Shopify Payments. This set up 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 face 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 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 extra to do so — 2% per transaction. That’s a bit of 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.
Because we’re talking about two separate features, you’ll need to complete a separate signup process for Shopify Payments. Fortunately, you can do this from 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)
I’m generally not a fan of monthly fees for mPOS offerings, but 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 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/month in sales to break even. 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 so it 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 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 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. So 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 from 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 and opinions and suggestions for how to structure things.
- Help Center: Shopify’s self-service knowledgebase is very extensive and easily a rival for 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 channel.
- 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 like that Shopify is so comprehensive and offers so much information without feeling like you’re trying to pull your 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. I’m very comfortable giving Spotify a good rating for customer service and support because it is such a multi-faceted 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 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. 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 on 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 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 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 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, 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.
As a standalone mPOS solution, Shopify Lite isn’t quite perfect, but it’s recent improvements make it nearly so. 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 (and now 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 — and you get a free chip reader, too! 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, I don’t think Shopify Lite is 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 luck with Square or PayPal end up landing on Shopify and love it. In those cases, Shopify Lite might appeal to you for a mobile or even as a retail option. Just be aware of the fact 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 content to award Shopify Lite an excellent 4.5 stars and our general recommendation. That’s an increase from our last 4-star review due to improved features. 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’re always happy to hear from merchants. Still have a question? Drop us a line, and we’ll help you as best we can! As always, thanks for reading!