Lightspeed Retail is a point-of-sale system for brick-and-mortar retailers, providing both the software and hardware a business owner needs to run transactions. The system is cloud-hosted and browser-based, meaning your information is stored on Lightspeed’s servers and transferred to your platform via the cloud.
Lightspeed Retail is 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. Although larger businesses can get real value from the features Lightspeed Retail offers, small businesses could be better served holding off on a fancy POS until they really need it.
Employees with iPads can bring the POS to the customer to complete checkout from anywhere in the store. Lightspeed Retail 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 Retail 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 Retail allows you to suspend transactions or transfer them to another device too.
Importing your product catalog into Lightspeed Retail is as simple as uploading a CSV or Excel file. Once your catalog 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 Retail lets you transfer stock between stores with a few taps, and new stock orders can be arranged to be delivered to multiple locations.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
Lightspeed Retail has a bunch of features that help you 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 Retail 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. Additionally, you can assign custom roles to your staff, giving them unique back-end permissions. For onboarding new employees, Lightspeed Retail 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 Retail integrates with most accounting platforms to help with bookkeeping.
Lightspeed Retail 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 e-commerce website, Lightspeed allows you to manage both from the same POS. When you sign up for Lightspeed’s e-commerce 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 can streamline sales, customer and inventory data across all physical and digital locations.
Lightspeed’s e-commerce platform comes with every plan aside from the Basic one. Payment processing rates on e-commerce purchases with Lightspeed Payments are 2.6% plus $0.30 per transaction.
The price of Lightspeed Retail starts at $99 per month for one register, and that price drops to $69 per month if you use Lightspeed Payments. Plans come with free 24/7 support and personalized onboarding. For those operating more than one store location, Lightspeed recommends reaching out for a personalized quote. Regardless of which plan you choose, each additional register costs $59 per month without Lightspeed Payments or $29 per month with Lightspeed Payments.
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 10 cents for swipe, dip and contactless payments, and 2.6%, plus 30 cents for “card not present” payments (i.e. keyed-in transactions). For merchants processing over $250,000 annually, Lightspeed 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).
Lightspeed's hardware pricing is quote-based, so you'll have to request pricing information. Because Lightspeed Retail only works on iOS devices and desktop computers, it provides 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 receipt printer options, 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).
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 its website, they have not been “injected with the certified firmware.” The Verifone MX915 terminal accepts all card types and payment methods.
Lightspeed Retail really does offer an impressive level of functionality in both range and depth. Not all business owners will need a loyalty program or e-commerce integration, but it is nice to know that Lightspeed Retail can deliver that if needed.
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.
It’s a nice touch to provide new customers 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 Retail 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’s app marketplace one of the biggest we’ve seen. 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.
A monthly charge of $99 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 its POS software.
Not ideal for very small businesses
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 you own 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.
G2 Crowd: 4 stars out of 5.
TrustRadius: 8.6 stars out of 10.
TrustPilot: 4 stars out of 5.
Capterra: 4 stars out of 5.
Better Business Bureau: B+ (not accredited).
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.
Lightspeed Retail alternatives
Square for Retail
A retail POS that can do most (but not all) of the things Lightspeed can do is Square for Retail. It charges similar processing fees as Lightspeed Retail and offers both a Free and Plus plan. The Plus plan costs $60 per month per location, and includes over a dozen features you won't find in the Free plan. 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.
Shopify for Retail
If you were attracted to Lightspeed Retail because of its integration with your e-commerce store, consider Shopify for Retail. Starting at $29 per month, you’ll get a Shopify e-commerce store — arguably the best e-commerce 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.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.