Lightspeed POS Review: is it right for your small business?
Will Lightspeed live up to its name, offering you a fast and effective way to grow your small business?
It takes just a quick peek at Lightspeed’s TrustPilot page to see that this iOS-orientated point of sale (POS) provider is doing things right. Clearly, small businesses value the fact that Lightspeed has been able to balance intuitiveness with sophisticated commerce features – and its customer support isn’t half bad, either.
Here’s what pet shop Two by Two Pets had to say:
However, before you dash off to order yourself a Lightspeed POS system, there are few things you need to know.
- Firstly, Lightspeed for Restaurants is only compatible with Apple’s operating system, whereas Lightspeed for Retail is available as an iOS app and as a web application for desktop users.
- Secondly, Lightspeed for Retail isn’t compatible with businesses that sell items that need to be weighed (e.g delis), nor businesses that don’t sell items as entire units (e.g fabric shops). That means the software is suitable for the likes of clothing shops, gift shops, wine shops – any shop that sells physical products as one whole unit.
- Thirdly, Lightspeed isn’t cheap – you’re paying for a sophisticated product that provides more than just a simple POS system. We’re talking in-depth analytics, invaluable integrations, built-in customer relationship management, and a huge selection of other features to help you manage your business.
This factor makes Lightspeed ideal for small retail and hospitality businesses that are looking to step it up a notch. Previously, you may have been using Square or iZettle – and if you're here looking for a cost-effective way to get your business off the ground, these could be better options.
However, if you are going to make full use of its features, Lightspeed offers pretty good value for money.
In this Lightspeed review, we’ll have a look at what features make this POS system a winner for so many small retail and hospitality businesses. But we’ll be honest, too – if we think another POS system is more suited to what you’re looking for, we’ll most certainly say so. Now let’s get started!
So why is it good for your business? Well, for starters, a Lightspeed iPad point of sale system can be completely wireless. So when your shop is filled with customers and you can see potential sales everywhere, you can literally pick up your POS and take it to the sales floor.
At the very least, you’ll be able to check stock and use the system to recommend items to customers. Add a compatible mobile card reader, and you’ll even be able to take payments on the go.
With a Lightspeed iPad point of sale system, restaurant owners can set up and move payment stations around the dining area.
Most importantly, though, your staff will be able to use the iPad to take orders at the table. This’ll help to maintain the pace of the service, lower the risk of human error with iPad to kitchen printer ordering, and also minimise customer movement around the restaurant.
For retail business owners, Lightspeed’s POS hardware package includes the choice of a USB or Bluetooth receipt printer, a USB or Bluetooth scanner, an iPad stand, and a cash drawer.
For restaurant owners, Lightspeed offers a selection of Bluetooth and LAN (internet connected) hardware, ensuring hospitality businesses benefit from a system that supports a hectic service.
In fact, Lightspeed knows that hospitality businesses can’t afford any network downtime, which is why its restaurant hardware package includes a Lite Server – meaning you can take payments even if your internet is down.
Lightspeed integrates with a specific range of third party printers, scanners, cash drawers, and card machines, which are all listed on its website. However, purchasing this equipment isn’t cheap. For example, the Star Micronics receipt printer alone costs in the region of £200.
The great thing about using third party hardware, though, is that you aren’t just limited to Lightspeed’s software. If you were to grow out of your Lightspeed system, or wanted to give another POS provider a go, it’s likely that you wouldn’t need to invest in new hardware.
If you are looking for a cheap hardware package, some POS providers offer all-in-one card terminal and printer devices. SumUp’s terminal and printer costs just £130, and you can read more about it in our SumUp review.
Just bear in mind that SumUp's accompanying software is nowhere near as sophisticated as Lightspeed’s, which means it’s more suited to retail and restaurant businesses that are just getting started.
Integrating card machines
When it comes to compatible card machines, Lightspeed gives businesses a good amount of options – from traditional chip and pin machines for fixed setups to mobile card machines for flexible setups.
iZettle, Barclaycard, and Tyro are just some of the payment processors Lightspeed’s POS is compatible with, which means businesses have more freedom to choose a merchant account provider that offers them the best rates.
However, each of the card readers has a different setup and configuration process, with some being more complex than others. The card reader from iZettle (now known as Zettle by PayPal) is one of the easiest to integrate with Lightspeed’s iPad POS system – you can find out more about it in our iZettle review.
USB card readers – as supplied by Cayan and Tyro – have a far more complex setup process, although step-by-step instructions are available on the Lightspeed website just in case you get stuck.
It’s also good to know that Lightspeed’s customer service and tech teams are on hand to help, too. Michael Gallagher, a business owner based in the US, writes:
Lightspeed software overview
Lightspeed offers some of the most sophisticated POS software in the industry. It’s not just a tool that enables you to take payments; it’s a tool that you can use to grow your business, grow your customer base, and expand your sales channels.
You can even purchase a software package that’s tailored to your industry – and we’re not just talking about its separate retail and hospitality software products here. Lightspeed tailors its product offerings further, with different software templates for different types of shops and hospitality businesses.
If you’re unsure about which software features you need, Lightspeed’s tech and customer service teams are familiar with the demands of each industry, meaning when you do have an initial consultation with them, they’ll be able to recommend the right software package for you.
What’s also important is that Lightspeed’s software offers you all the business tools you need to adapt to changing circumstances – something that has become a necessity since the effects of the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
But you can find out more about how Lightspeed helps retail and restaurant businesses to adapt their sales channels later.
Right now, let’s have a look at what you can expect from its software.
Table management features aren’t exclusive to Lightspeed’s POS software, but the sophistication of Lightspeed’s table management feature does make it stand out from the crowd.
Anyone who works in the hospitality industry should know all about the clunkiness of older electronic point of sale systems, especially when you need to transfer a bill because customers have decided to move to another table after a few drinks.
Lightspeed, however, makes this process intuitive.
Furthermore, staff can filter the floor plan so they can see which tables are free, and which tables are yet to pay. When taking orders, staff can assign orders to seat numbers, making it super-easy to split the bill when guests decide that they want to pay separately.
Lightspeed for Restaurants offers a range of ways for customers to order and pay. For instant ordering and payment, staff can use its Direct Order Mode. For table service establishments, staff can either add items to a customer’s table, or add them to a customer’s account.
Taking a payment is as easy as selecting whether it’s a card or cash transaction, then totalling the payment off once the transaction has been made. All transactions are recorded in the Lightspeed back office, and stored as data that you can see visualised on your analytics dashboard.
Managing stock and menus
The Lightspeed back office makes it really easy for you to manage stock. You can add stock, update pricing, and even set up automatic stock keeping, which means you can say goodbye to time-consuming manual stocktakes.
Due to its sophistication, uploading your menus and stock onto Lightspeed’s system isn’t as intuitive as it would be for the likes of Square and iZettle’s POS. However, there’s lots of help on hand, especially if you have a particularly complicated stock setup.
Daniel Youngren runs a multi-faceted hospitality business, and had this to say about setting up his POS:
If you didn’t think Lightspeed offered quite enough, there are loads of integrations that’ll help you to create a restaurant POS system that works for you. Whether it’s integrating a third party delivery app, a hotel booking system, or a kitchen display unit, Lightspeed offers plenty of scope for personalised optimisation.
Just bear in mind that these integrations will incur their own costs on top of Lightspeed’s monthly fee.
Lightspeed for Retail software review
Whether you own a bike store, an electronics store, or a pet shop, Lightspeed has a software product that can be tailored to the needs of your retail business. Here’s what Becca, a bookshop owner, had to say about Lightspeed’s retail software:
So aside from letting people buy things from your shop, what does Lightspeed for Retail have to offer?
Built-in loyalty features
Lightspeed’s loyalty feature is arguably where it stands out from the crowd. This is because it’s a fully integrated loyalty feature, rather than a third party integration. It means you don’t have to pay anything on top of what you’re already paying!
While you do have to choose Lightspeed's Advanced package to gain access to it, it’s the ideal tool for helping to keep your current customers happy, while drawing new customers in.
By setting up customer accounts and collecting email addresses, you can create marketing emails that are customised to the spending habits of each individual customer – whether that’s sending them specific offers, or using targeted adverts featuring related products.
Creating emails is super-easy thanks to email template drag-and-drop functionality, and you can segment your customers so they only receive a certain type of email – for example, so that male customers aren’t targeted with emails focussing on womenswear.
Whether you own multiple shops or just the one, Lightspeed allows you to consolidate your stock in one location. It’s also well geared up for complex stock arrangements, giving you the ability to distinguish multiple types of the same product.
With your Lightspeed software keeping such a close eye on your stock, you won’t need to worry about carrying out manual stocktakes, or having to place emergency orders because you didn’t realise an item was running so low.
You can even move stock between shops – for example, if an item is still available at another shop, and the customer requests it be delivered to their local shop.
This is what Surrey Clothing Distributors had to say:
Whether you’re after employee scheduling software, upgraded marketing functionality, or equipment rental, there is almost certainly an integration for anything that your Lightspeed software can’t do – or doesn’t quite do to your requirements.
Just bear in mind that each of these third party integrations will incur their own charges on top of the amount you pay for your Lightspeed point of sale system.
Lightspeed’s back office software review
Lightspeed offers both standard and in-depth reporting functionality. It’s standard reporting functionality is offered with all of its software packages, but if you want to delve deeper into your data, you’ll need to invest in a software package that includes its specialist analytics platform.
Because they’re separate cloud-based web applications, Lightspeed’s reporting platforms can be accessed from any device at any time – wherever you are in the world. And thanks to data sharing via the cloud, they’ll always display your most up-to-date figures.
Whether you own a restaurant or a retail business, your Lightspeed reporting dashboard will look a little bit like this:
It’s an intuitive platform that represents data in an easy-to-digest way. From weekly category sales to average purchase trends for each location, you’ll be able to cross-reference your sales data with things like marketing campaigns and loyalty schemes to see what works and what doesn’t.
On a granular level, you’ll even be able to look at individual staff performance. Restaurant owners will be able to see which employees are earning the most tips, while shop owners will be able to see which staff member has earned the most commission.
Several leagues ahead from its reporting platform, Lightspeed Analytics allows you to create custom dashboards, meaning you can manipulate your data to show the answers to unique queries – great news if you’re looking to get ahead of the competition.
To gain access to Lightspeed’s specialist analytics platform, you’ll need to choose its Pro payment plan, which will set you back around £199 per month when paid annually.
However, if you can’t justify that package just for the analytics, you can add Analytics Core – a lite version of Lightspeed’s analytics platform – to a less expensive package for an affordable fee.
One of the bug-bears of point of sale systems is having separate platforms for bricks and mortar sales and online sales. It can make it a hassle to consolidate stock and configure your analytics so you see in-store and online data in one place.
There are plenty of POS providers that allow you to set up an online presence using the same platform as your bricks and mortar shop. However, we’ve learned that Lightspeed ecommerce makes it super-easy for business owners to run their business from one central system, thanks to in-built ecommerce functionality, data analytics, and stock management.
Thanks to its sleek, templated designs, setting up an attractive online store through your Lightspeed POS is incredibly easy. The templates are optimised for user-experience and web navigation, minimising the risk of a customer heading elsewhere.
In addition to its front-end platform, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. For example, you can connect Lightspeed's ecommerce platform to your social media accounts, use built-in tools to boost your website’s visibility to Google, and collect purchasing data.
So what does getting your business online look like for restaurants?
Lightspeed eCom for Restaurants
Restaurant businesses can use Lightspeed’s ecommerce function to create an online hub. Not only is it a location where customers can go to browse your menu, but they’ll also be able to order a takeaway, book a table, and even purchase any merchandise that you may be selling as part of your brand image.
When you build your website, you’ll be able to select whether you offer delivery, click and collect, or both. You can also pair the integrated bookings platform with your employee management software, so the system automatically calculates how many staff members you’ll need on shift.
If you’d like to put your restaurant on an order and pay platform, Lightspeed’s integration with Deliverect allows you to receive orders from Deliveroo and UberEats alongside orders from your restaurant website. You can also consolidate data from all of your sales channels to make informed business decisions.
And what about Lightspeed eCom for retail businesses?
Lightspeed eCom for Retail
The strongest aspect of Lightspeed eCom is that it allows you to consolidate your bricks and mortar shop and your online shop. You can easily swap stock between the two so that you’re never looking for missing products, and you can see all of your sales data in one place for a complete birds-eye view of your business.
Also behind the scenes, eCom gives you all the tools you need to take your business international. 14 languages are available, along with a choice of variable or flat shipping rates, and sophisticated shipping and delivery management features.
On the front end side of things, the purchasing funnel has been designed to ensure shoppers commit to their basket to the very end. The checkout process is smooth, and there’s the option for customers to input promotional codes and even start a wishlist basket for when they’re just browsing.
Lightspeed is also inconsistent with the transparency of its pricing, choosing to disclose software package information for its retail product but not for its restaurant product. But let’s have a look at the cost information that it does make available.
As we’ve already mentioned, Lightspeed doesn’t come cheap – with its recommended retail software package coming in just shy of £100 per month, you need to be sure that you’ll make full use of Lightspeed’s sophisticated software features for it to be worthwhile.
At the lowest end of the scale, Lightspeed’s basic package costs £69 per month billed on an annual basis. For that, you’re still benefiting from Lightspeed’s desirable inventory management system, as well as its reporting functionality.
The great thing is, the more your business grows and your needs change, the more you can include in your Lightspeed package. Unlike cheaper POS systems, Lightspeed has the capacity to grow alongside you, meaning you won’t need to worry about moving to another POS system later on.
What we do know about Lightspeed’s restaurant software pricing is that its most popular package is £59 per month, billed annually. It’ll service your basic restaurant needs, but for more advanced features, Lightspeed requires you to ‘add on’ specific features – which all incur an additional monthly charge.
Lightspeed review summary
So there we have it.
Lightspeed is an incredibly sophisticated POS system for restaurant and retail businesses. Its flexibility with both its base software packages and integration partners make it suitable for even the most niche of enterprises.
Because Lightspeed is so feature-rich, its packages don’t come cheap. If you are in the market for a point of sale system, make sure you’re going to use all of its features before you sign on the dotted line.
Remember that there are cheaper, less sophisticated point of sale systems out there that can offer you all the tools and integrations you need to get your business off the ground. If you’re choosing between them and Lightspeed, make sure to compare base packages and third party software partners before you buy.
While our Lightspeed review has been comprehensive, there’s still so many features and benefits that we haven’t covered. Thankfully, Lightspeed’s website is a goldmine of information, and according to its reviews, its customer service team is always happy to answer any questions.
To end, we’ve come up with some questions that you should ask yourself before you invest in a Lightspeed system.
- Am I going to use all the features to make it worthwhile?
- Will my business work with an iOS operating system?
- Does Lightspeed integrate with my payment processor?
- Does Lightspeed’s integration options meet the needs of my business?
- Does Lightspeed integrate with my existing ecommerce system?
If the answer to these questions is ‘not sure’, then head over to Lightspeed and investigate its POS systems further!