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Lightspeed for Retail is an advanced retail POS system that provides merchants with all the tools they need to effectively run their business. However, given its price tag ($99 per month plus hardware and payment processing costs), we recommend it only to larger retailers who can afford to invest in an advanced POS system. Small businesses don’t necessarily need all the features Lightspeed Retail provides.
Like Square and Stripe, Lightspeed Point of Sale (POS) belongs to a new generation of merchant services providers that offer small business owners high-tech solutions to meet their commerce needs. Lightspeed Retail is a comprehensive retail platform jam-packed with every feature a merchant might need, and then some.
But having a lot of functionality only matters if it is coupled with a sleek design, reasonable price, and if it provides small business owners with simple solutions to their most common problems. So let’s take a closer look at Lightspeed Retail to see if all that technology delivers a useful product.
Lightspeed Retail is a point of sale system for brick-and-mortar retailers, providing both the software and hardware a merchant needs to run transactions. On the website, Lightspeed says their retail POS is suitable for a variety of different business types, including apparel, electronics, home goods, jewelry, and even pet stores.
Lightspeed Retail is cloud-hosted and browser-based—meaning your information is stored on Lightspeed’s servers and transferred to your platform via the cloud—and you can access your platform on a typical internet browser. Although we won’t cover them in this review, it’s also worth mentioning that Lightspeed offers two additional versions of their POS: one for restaurants and one for ecommerce merchants. Outside of POS systems, Lightspeed offers a few additional perks and add-ons that we’ll discuss.
So what does Lightspeed Retail look like in action? Let’s review all the capabilities included in the Lightspeed POS system:
As we already mentioned, Lightspeed Retail offers a laundry list of POS features. When you first sign up you’ll need to sign into the Lightspeed POS app, configure your account (taxes, employees, permissions), upload your inventory, and link your hardware. You’ll also be able to update the interface of your POS to match your business’s branding. The last step is to set up payment processing, which is where we begin our list:
In 2019 Lightspeed began offering in-house payment processing (appropriately called Lightspeed Payments). Using Lightspeed Payments, you can accept all major cards and be treated to credit and debit card processing rates of 2.6%, plus $0.10 for swipe, dip, and contactless payments, and 2.6%, plus $0.30 for “card not present” payments (i.e. keyed-in transactions). For merchants processing over $250,000 annually, Lightspeed also offers cheaper, quote-based pricing.
Lightspeed Payments comes with free PCI compliance and fraud prevention, and funds will arrive in your business bank account in as little as two days (there is a $15 chargeback fee). When you sign up, a Lightspeed representative will work directly with you to set up your new payment processor, and you’ll get 24/7 support thereafter.
If you don’t want to use Lightspeed as your payment processor, your Lightspeed POS also integrates with a variety of other options, including Cayan and Worldpay (formerly Vantiv).
Because Lightspeed Retail only works on iOS devices and desktop computers, they provide you with two different hardware bundle options: an iPad hardware kit or a desktop hardware kit. The iPad hardware kit comes with an iPad stand, cash drawer, Bluetooth barcode scanner, and a receipt printer. Lightspeed recommends this kit for those who want to be able to provide a mobile checkout experience.
The desktop kit comes with a receipt printer, cash drawer, and a USB barcode scanner. In terms of variety, Lightspeed offers a few different options when it comes to receipt printers, and all hardware options can be mixed and matched to create the kit that best fits your needs. As far as pricing, hardware packages are quote-based (you can also buy individual pieces of hardware from Lightspeed).
Interestingly, credit card terminals are not included in Lightspeed’s hardware kits. Instead, you have to purchase a Verifone MX915 terminal separately. Lightspeed will not work with other terminals because, according to the Lightspeed website, they have not been “injected with the certified firmware.” The Verifone MX915 terminal accepts all card types and payment methods. Pricing information is not listed on the website.
Lightspeed POS offers a lot of functionality at checkout. Those who use an iPad can bring their POS to the customer to complete checkout from anywhere in the store. Lightspeed also allows customers to browse products directly in the POS and arrange orders. Refunds can be performed without using the customer’s card, and Lightspeed POS can accept other forms of tender, including checks, gift cards, and store credit. Through the POS users can also apply discounts and place products on layaway. Lightspeed even allows you to suspend transactions or transfer them to another device.
Importing your product catalog into Lightspeed Retail is as simple as uploading a CSV or Excel file. Once your catalogue is uploaded, you can categorize items by style, size, and color, and create as many product variants as you desire. Each item can also receive its own unique serial number for stock keeping purposes. Perhaps most importantly, Lightspeed Retail allows you to upload vendor catalogs and order new stock directly from your POS.
For those with multiple store locations, Lightspeed allows you to transfer stock between stores with a few taps, and new stock orders can be arranged to be delivered to multiple locations.
Lightspeed has a bunch of features that allow you to foster stronger relationships with your customers. New customers are automatically added to the CRM database in your POS, where you can build out their profiles, add notes, and save payment information (with their permission). From the CRM database you can view customer sales history to help determine purchasing habits and assign customer “types” (VIP, employee etc.) to automate special discounts.
Lightspeed features a basic time clock for employees, allowing them to punch in and out via a PIN number you assign them. The POS also keeps a log of employee sales and inventory changes. You can also assign custom roles to your staff in the POS, giving them unique back-end permissions. For onboarding new employees, Lightspeed offers a series of webinars to help users get acclimated with the interface and functions of the POS.
There are hundreds of pre-set reports that can be run directly from your POS. Merchants can analyze data on sales, inventory, staff performance, marketing effectiveness, and much more. All data is updated in real time, and reports can be exported via a PDF or Excel file. Plus, Lightspeed integrates with most accounting platforms to help with bookkeeping.
Lightspeed allows you to extend the functionality of your POS via a large variety of applications available in the Lightspeed app marketplace. There are integrations for accounting, payment processing, CRM, reporting, marketing, invoicing, payroll, order fulfillment, and a whole lot more.
Lightspeed helps you drive repeat business with the Lightspeed Loyalty program. Merchants who subscribe to the program can offer customers redeemable points on purchases they make at their business. With Lightspeed Loyalty you can also automate text and email marketing campaigns and auto-segment based on customer habits. The price of Lightspeed Loyalty is $59 per month on top of your Lightspeed Retail subscription, although high-volume merchants may be eligible for a discount.
For those who operate a brick-and-mortar store and an ecommerce website, Lightspeed allows you to manage both from the same POS. When you sign up for Lightspeed’s ecommerce platform, you’ll be able to upload up to 250 products and design your own website using one of Lightspeed’s 50 templates. Once your site is live you’ll be able to streamline sales, customer, and inventory data across all physical and digital locations.
Lightspeed’s ecommerce platform costs an additional $59 per month on top of your Lightspeed Retail subscription (you can also use the ecommerce platform without signing up for Retail for a flat $59 per month). Payment processing rates on ecommerce purchases with Lightspeed Payments are 2.6% + $0.30 per transaction.
Lightspeed offers 24/7 phone support except on holidays as well as email and live chat support during working hours. New customers will also be given a free one-on-one session with a Lightspeed expert to teach them how to use their new system. There are also a series of free interactive webinars and a community forum where you can chat with other Lightspeed users. On top of all that, Lightspeed’s blog is full of useful advice on how to run your POS and your business.
The price of Lightspeed Retail is $99 per month for one register and access for up to five employees. This plan comes with free 24/7 support and personalized onboarding. For those operating more than one store location, Lightspeed recommends reaching out for a personalized quote.
Here is what we see as the benefits of using Lightspeed Retail as your POS:
Lightspeed really does offer an impressive level of functionality—not only in the range of functions they offer, but in the depth of those functions, too. Not all business owners will need a loyalty program or ecommerce integration, but it is nice to know that Lightspeed can deliver that if needed.
It’s a nice touch to provide new customers with one-on-one training on how to use their new POS. You usually only see that kind of service with large and complex restaurant POS systems. On top of that, Lightspeed operates a very useful support center, and representatives are available (almost) around the clock.
Lightspeed’s app marketplace is the biggest we’ve seen this side of Shopify. It’s really quite something for a POS to offer so many different integrations, allowing small business owners to create a service that works perfectly for them.
There are some drawbacks to using Lightspeed Retail. We’ll list them here:
$99 per month is a lot to spend on a POS, and that’s not even counting your hardware and payment processing costs (although Lightspeed Payments’ payment processing fee is decent). For small businesses just starting out, the price may be untenable, especially when you consider Square offers a free version of their POS software.
The price you pay for Lightspeed Retail is tied to the fact that you have a broad range of features at your disposal. However, if your a new small business, having all those extra bells and whistles probably isn’t necessary. You’re better off investing your money in areas that can really move the needle. Medium and large businesses are probably better suited for Lightspeed Retail.
Here is how Lightspeed Retail ranks across the major review websites:
Although the Better Business Bureau rating is eye opening, there have only been seven complaints levied against the company on BBB in the last three years. Most user sentiment toward Lightspeed Retail is positive, with users focusing on the strong customer support, variety of integrations, and high level of functionality. Negative comments focused on general buggies with the system, confusion with the reporting functions, and complaints about the costs associated with adding integrations.
If you’re looking for options to compare to Lightspeed POS, these alternatives make for good comparisons:
A slightly cheaper retail POS that can do most (but not all) of the things Lightspeed can do is Square for Retail. You can use Square for Retail for $60 per month and also get cheaper payment processing than you would with Lightspeed Payments (2.5% + $0.10). However, you won’t get the same level of reporting functionality or integrations, and you’ll also have to pay extra for a loyalty program.
Sign Up for Square for Retail
If you were attracted to Lightspeed Retail because of its integration with your ecommerce store, consider Shopify for Retail instead. For only $29 per month (compared to Lightspeed’s $59 price tag), you’ll get a Shopify ecommerce store—arguably the best ecommerce platform on the market—and a digital POS. High-volume merchants can also get access to lower credit card processing fees with Shopify for Retail.
We see Lightspeed Retail as being a good match for medium and large-sized businesses. Think big box retailers, chain clothing stores, and other businesses with at least a few locations. The reason we say this is that some of Lightspeed’s in-depth features are wasted on small business owners, who shouldn’t be paying such a high price tag for a POS anyway. Although larger businesses can get real value from the features Lightspeed Retail offers, SMBs are better served holding off on a fancy POS until they really need it.