Lightspeed: Top POS Software For Top Businesses

Recently, I looked at Checkout, a straightforward, easy-to-use POS software for small businesses. However, Checkout can have its limitations and if you are a large retail business with several different stores operating, Checkout may not help you entirely. This is where Lightspeed comes in. It is aimed towards much larger businesses who are already well established in the retail sector.

I downloaded the trial (more information below) and had a look at it for myself. Here are my thoughts…

First Thoughts

Before you commit to buying Lightspeed, you can download a 30-day free trial from their website, which is good for up to 5 users. Bear in mind, though, that you also have to install Lightspeed Server (included in the installation file) and, if you are using Lightspeed on more than one Mac, you will have to define a computer as the server.

Once you’ve got everything up and installed, click on the Lightspeed icon in the Finder and log in with the default-provided user name and password (if all your Macs are on the same network then there is often no need to set up your server). You will be prompted to register your copy of Lightspeed (or the demo, if you have signed up for this instead) and then afterwards you are greeted with the Browser, which is reminiscent of iTunes and its Cover Flow feature.

Lightspeed Browser

The browser and home screen of Lightspeed

From the browser you can access your customers, products, suppliers, purchase orders and so on from the side menu. A toolbar also pops up (you can hide this by pressing ⌘T) which gives you quick and easy access to the features of Lightspeed that you will probably use most often, such as your quotes, suppliers and the POS system.

LightSpeed Toolbar

Lightspeed's built-in toolbar

Pricing

Lightspeed is priced towards the higher end of the market and may be too much of an expense for a small businesses. A single user licence costs around $1,098 for the cheapest package (savings are available if you buy more than one license). Lightspeed packages come in three different forms: Good (which includes technical support from the Lightspeed team), Better (which includes the hardware needed for Lightspeed) and Best (which includes technical support, Lightspeed hardware and an eCommerce store).

Lightspeed Pricing

The various pricing plans available for Lightspeed

There are many different add-ons available for Lightspeed (such as integration with an iPhone or iPad) so to make sure you’re getting the best detail for your retail business, get in contact with Lightspeed directly and discuss your needs with them.

Features

There are plenty of features nestled within Lightspeed that make it a POS system well worth considering. Let’s take a look at a few in a bit more detail.

Products

Lightspeed has borrowed a lot of inspiration for its interface from Cover Flow in iTunes and OS X’s Finder, which makes it considerably easier to navigate through the products you offer in your store. With the Products view, a list of your stocked products appears along with a little indicator indicating the product’s current stock count. Clicking on the product gives you a bit more detail about it, including how many are reserved for other customers, how many are on order and the item’s inventory history (when it was last purchased/ordered).

LightSpeed Product View

More detailed information about a particular product stocked in Lightspeed

You can easily change any existing information about the product in question by simply clicking on it (for example, if the item is currently on sale) and Lightspeed can also reorder the product automatically when stock gets low (the reorder quantity is defined by the administrator). If products are sold by size (for example, shoes) then you can define a master product (known as a Matrix Master Product in Lightspeed) and tailor your products from that (meaning you don’t have to create a new product for every single size you stock!).

POS Mode

One of the best features about Lightspeed is its fullscreen POS mode, which allows you to carry out transactions without any distractions or awkward clicking around. The POS mode is available in two formats, the Scan mode (if you’ve got a barcode scanner connected) or the Button mode, which allows you to click on the products sold. Seeing as I haven’t got a barcode scanner, I will demonstrate the Button mode for this review.

LightSpeed POS

Lightspeed in POS mode, with a transaction in progress

In the POS mode you can choose from your range of products (which are arranged by category) or by searching for them either by their item code (which is defined by you) or their name. You can also enter basic information about the customer (such as their name, phone number and zip/postal code) or, if they are an existing one, select their name from your database.

LightSpeed Pay

Settling a transaction (this time with cash)

When it comes to settling a transaction, you can do it either via cash, check, credit or debit card, a loan or a lease. Lightspeed is not (yet, anyway) compatible with card readers so you’ll have to enter the authorization amount from the card manually into the system. In the POS view you can also put transactions on hold and enter more detailed information about the transaction, such as the sales assistant who helped (if your assistants work on a commission basis), any discount to be granted and the tax rate.

Orders and Invoices

If you are primarily a mail order business, then you can use Lightspeed not only to manage your in-store retail but also your mail-order business. The program will manage any orders you’ve taken and whether or not they have been shipped and invoiced. To create a new order, you simply head over to the Orders section of the program, click on New and enter the customer information and the product information.

LightSpeed Orders

A list of all orders in Lightspeed

Thanks to the built-in inventory feature of Lightspeed, it automatically recognises if an order can be shipped or not. Any order with the status Partially Received means that the customer is still waiting for an item of the order to be shipped (if, for example, you do not have it in stock just yet).

Lightspeed Invoice

Creating an invoice in Lightspeed

Once a customer has received the products then it’s time to invoice! From an order, you can click on the button Invoice which will transfer all information from the order (such as the products ordered, quantities, prices and customer information) onto the invoice, meaning all you have to do tweak a few final details (such as the payment terms and payment method). You can email or print off invoices and once it has been created, it pops up in the invoice list so that it can be tracked.

Purchase Orders

Lightspeed can also handle the purchasing side of your company by managing your suppliers, products and purchase orders. What is clever about Lightspeed is that it tracks your inventory and, depending on the settings you have defined in the product’s options, will alert you to reorder that particular product.

LightSpeed Purchasing Actions

Purchasing Actions in Lightspeed, showing which products need to be reordered

You can automatically create a purchase order from one of these requests and all the necessary information concerning the product is carried over. Once the PO has been carried out then Lightspeed tracks its status (i.e. whether it has been received, processed or invoiced) and automatically books the products into stock on arrival. It can also keep a track on the invoices your suppliers have sent you thereby avoiding any nasty reminder letters!

Final Thoughts

Lightspeed is a fantastic example of a well-thought through POS and retail management program and it has been designed with one thing at heart: simplicity. The whole program is extremely easy to navigate and doesn’t take long to get used to and you’ll soon find that it can really work wonders for your retail business.

However the hefty price tag may put a lot of people off it at first start and seeing as there are cheaper solutions out there on the market, it certainly isn’t a possibility for smaller businesses. If, though, you’ve got a well-established retail business with the need to manage orders, in-store transactions and purchasing, then Lightspeed is the perfect solution for you and can really help your business in the long run.

To see what a mean, head over to their website and try it out before committing to buy. I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the results!


Summary

A fully-featured order management, invoicing and POS system for retail businesses.

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  • http://alexarena.com Alex Arena

    Combined with the cost of a Mac, this could be really cost prohibitive, but if you could afford it, it looks fantastic. Great review.

    • Joe

      Have you seen the cost of register?

      • http://www.booksandthings.com Bryce Mortimer

        Before I purchased LS, I had a lot of support, and help. Now, I have been dropped to the country of third world call center, that I can’t understand. I know POS systems. LS is not a retail POS. It can’t do simple sale prices. It can’t connect customers to back orders or purchase orders. The entire system is heavy, and doesn’t work well. I have 7,000 products, and it takes about 2 hours to import those products.. ??? It’s a simple file of about 5 columns. MySQL will import that in less than 3 seconds..

        LS is NOT for you. I’m looking for a replacement. PS- I purchased two licenses, and support for a year. I bought the full package. Phone support knows nothing about the program. Don’t waste your time or money.

        • http://www.newestech.com Adam

          Hi,

          It sounds like you might benefit from talking with a LS reseller. We provide support and implementation services from professionals that know the software.

  • http://www.lindauermacs.com Charles Lindauer

    I have one client who uses LightSpeed to run his business, and he’s found that unless you pay the (very high) support subscription costs, you won’t have access to major upgrades and can’t get phone support. LS email support is good, however, and their phone support (in my limited experience) is fast and responsive. And both are informative and to the point.

  • Don’t Blame Me

    “Top POS Software for Top Businesses”

    Why would you run an article about Piece O’ Shit software? Is that a viable category I’ve missed?

    ;)

    • Don’t Blame Me

      Why does this website keep sticking somebody else’s photo next to my posts? Unless maybe he has the same username… but that even if he does, it’s unlikely he also uses the same fake email address. :)

      The only reason I mention this is I feel sorry for whomever that guy in the photo is, getting blamed for my worthless posts!

      • http://alexarena.com Alex Arena

        Mac.AppStorm and many other WordPress sites use something called Gravatars. Google them. You need to reconcile your email and the pic.

  • JL

    I don’t usually write on these things, just read, but I’ve gotta write something for this software!

    Where I work we have a client who uses this software, and it has caused nothing but nightmares for us. The support is simply awful.

    Take an example, we needed to use the CSV export to import from lightspeed to a website, easy of pie usually. Lightspeed doesn’t escape its data, so straight out of lightspeed 1/3 of the data is just utter rubbish!

    We asked support about this, apparently they’ve looked in the past and it hasn’t been possible to escape the output. I mean come on…

    We ended up creating a solution which tries its best to correct the data which now only leaves a few lines every import correct, but the client could have saved alot of money if the software did what it was supposed to do.

    Stay away!

  • Anon

    I have Lightspeed in my business. It’s the most full-featured and capable POS / Inventory management system for Mac OSX, outpointing it’s nearest peer, Checkout, quite handily.

    But, but, but. The most illustrative characteristic of the software is the deployment of Cover Flow as a primary database interface. Cover Flow is fine for flipping through album artwork on a lazy afternoon, but scrolling through several hundred SKUs to find the picture of the items a customer is waiting to buy doesn’t stand five seconds of real world use. It’s the platonic ideal of the demo-only feature.

    Demo-only features are the foundational philosphy of Lightspeed. The company is rushing to produce iPhone, iPad, webstore-enabled versions of Lightspeed – anything cool and flashy takes precedence over anything practical or reliable.

    The single worst aspect of Lightspeed is the amateur-hour quality control. Each release is accompanied by a raft of failures that break previously-working functionality. Until they get the basics of Point-of-Sale workflow sorted, until they get the lamentable performance problems solved, and until they get the bugs fixed – fixed so completely they don’t come back a few versions later – Lightspeed remains too flaky, slow, and unreliable to recommend for anything other than a demo.

  • João Jotta

    I used to work at an Apple Premium Reseller with Lightspeed and let me tell you: as a front office app, it ROCKS!
    It works well on stock, sales, discounts, orders, everything!

    We now changed companies and the new software, at front office, SUCKS! We can’t even make a product reservation.
    Any alternatives to Lightspeed, anyone?

  • Pingback: Do You Need To Replace Your Current Pos Equipment?Idea-strings

  • Evan

    Hi, I ran across this and just thought I would chime in. People who are happy with their systems never seem to comment. :-)

    When my wife decided to open up her own store, it fell on my shoulders to find a point of sale for her. She’s not really a “computer person” but had worked for Barnes and Noble and Trader Joe’s and trained new employees on their systems. We looked at 10 or more systems before deciding on LightSpeed. And we are glad we did.

    LightSpeed is really easy to use and the point of sale screen where sales are done is really “best in class”. It takes about 20 minutes to train a new employee on sales tasks and they are good to go. My wife swears it took a day for her to train employees at B&N and TJ’s. Her employees tell her it’s “fun” to use the point of sale. I thought that was strange but she swears it’s true. Administration takes longer to learn, but if you start out with good habits, the system runs well. Much easier than QuickBooks POS, IMHO.

    While no POS is perfect, LightSpeed has been really stable for us. Unlike a lot of companies, LightSpeed updates their software almost once a month. Bugs do happen occasionally but they also seem to get dealt with quickly. And they do tend to add useful features in each update. I have heard horror stories about other companies that charge big fees for updates but then only update once a year, not as cool.

    We now have 2 LightSpeed licenses. The flexibility is a lifesaver. Usually we will run the point of sale and the back room office for administration. When things get busy, we log out of the back office and use the iPad to make sales 2 at a time. Other systems just can’t do that. It’s really helped us get the most value out of our point of sale for the least money.

    The Mac is stable enough that the business can use it for email, browsing, and even runs iTunes streaming in the store. All while running the point of sale. PC systems just can’t do that.

    • Random guy

      Only software that is unstable and not feature rich requires weekly/monthly updates.

      When these POS companies are releasing updates occasionly, it’s should be a major red flag.

      All software have bugs, Apple, Microsoft or any other software product.

      When a company spends time reasearching, developing and most importantly testing the update prior to release, that is what matters.

      As mentioned above. multiple updates a year only means an unstable, untested, under developed, immature system.

  • Will Hutchinson

    I would follow some of the other advice above and stay far away from this product. Besides the above mentioned reasons, the sales reports are truly horrific. My two cents, after demoing it and thinking it was robust and awesome, then buying it and fully implementing it, is that they spent way too much time on the front end trying to make it look sharp and not enough time on the back end making it actually work well.

    The beauty of apple products, which this is clearly modeled after, is that they usually focus on both ends, so that it looks and feels slick but it also works very well. Lightspeed however is all front end, very light on the back end. Detailed sales reports, importing large amounts of data, exporting data, searching for products quickly, and other key functions are way behind the curve for this industry. Brightpearl is what we switched too, and I know a few other people that have switched as well. It doesnt look as slick on the front, but its a way more solid product.

  • Bob Moyer

    Started using lightspeed a few years a go. Felt back then they were trying hard
    to make a solid program and were good with support. I have recently upgraded
    with support and it been a huge disappointment. I had intentions of having a remote client and I’m now finding out i need to use one of there resellers to set it up. The quote for that was between $300 to $500. After spending $1200 for the upgrade/support they wouldn’t even give the first clue about setting it up.I agree with others that the company’s main interest is the front end. Looks cool but I’d rather have something solid. Lightspeed has a lot of information on line how to do the basics and support expects you to use that. To me there is nothing worse than spending hours reading over and over with no success, then making that support call and get some cocky kid telling me to go to the website, its all right there. How nice it could be if the tech guy just spent 2 sec. and solve a problem. I keep hoping that lightspeed will come thru one day.

    • Joseph

      I’ve been disappointed with LS support in the past as well, but I’m more of an internet guy, so that works for me.

      Software companies can’t configure your networks (thank Visa and MasterCard) network technicians can, but they charge.

      I’ve used LightSpeed for 9 months, trust me it isn’t perfect, and after running QuickBooks for 5 years it’s been a hell of a lot better experience.

  • Jizzle

    hello, I am starting my own business and I am looking for a solid software for POS, Inventory and CRM all in one for either Mac or PC. If there is one that is supported by both will be great. If anyone has any ideas I would be grateful…

    • http://www.cartguy.ca Chris Bean

      I have been looking for 2 years myself. I currently do in the 600k range in sales and I am using Qbooks Pro and Salesforce for CRM. I wanted to start an ecommerce software, but didn’t want to enter the data more than once as we have 14k in products. I have narrowed my search done to few systems.

      CRM – Dynamics CRM Microsoft with Office365 Outlook Web APp and using PowerObjects are your CRM Partner with their Addons

      I am using Salesforce.com right now, but the cost doesnt warrant the features that I am getting compared to Dynamics CRM.

      Accounting – I have looked at MS Great Plains, Netsuite, Quickbooks Enterprise. The problem with Qbooks pro is the limitations of customers. vendors etc at 14k before you have to upgrade to the enterprise version which is $3k just for the software Netsuite is 10k, but then you have all the addons and yearly support. So plan on 15k.

      Ecommerce – I have looked at tons of ecommerce, Bigcommerce, Shopping Cart Elite, Volusion, Netsuite and anything you can find. What I found when going through the features is you have to check the suppliers definition of certainl features. What you may think is “black” they will have shade of “grey” My main concern was simplicity so I could edit and design, one hub for all data on inventory, customers, leads, communication, analytics etc, Very hard to find POS that works directly with Ecommerce so you only have to do data once. Oh ya and keep your system below 10k is insane. I looked at software that was $80k per year, i was like, thought ecommerce didn’t buy any buildings. Anyways,

      POS – Quickbooks Pro, VendHQ with Shopify, Bigcommerce, Accupos, couple of others and LIght Speed Retail. Software for QB 2013 is $1500 plus hardware. Oh ya, found what I thought was cool POS called POSteria, but after 3 chats with support with chat and 2 webform submissions, I still haven’t gotten a response back. They also take % of sales which I never found out what it is as they never got back to me. You will find that for small business doing 500k to 2m, there is very little support or good solid systems out there.

      So at this point i am leaning towards doing the trial with Light Speed as they integrate with magento and their own webstore. The 30m investment from accel partners is huge as they where one of the founding Facebook investors. They wouldnt invest without research. Also opening up the api allows apps to be created extra. Plus what I have seen on the site so far looks promising. I have read both good & bad reviews, but alot has happened in the past 8 months for this company.

      So i am thinking that the LSR POS is my main customer hub with the sync to webstore and using dynamics crm as my main communication center other than transactions. i am about to talk to Kristin Green and couple other LSR Resellers to see what pieces I need to put system together that will work.

      In answering your questions, I am closer to the final answer than I was 2 years ago. I have watch more CRM demos than one person should watch in a lifetime. The options are endless out there, and be careful about the “Total Cost of Systems” and what trully is a feature. Some people pretty up what their features are until its time to use them yourselves.

      I made huge progress once I had 2 sheets of paper. One of my top picks for company selections and one with all the features I need for my business for now and in the future. You will find alot of features as you browse all the google searches. Also becareful as if you invest tons of money into system, you have to ensure that your business will support it and “will the company be around in 5 years” Way too many “fly by nights” systems. Thus why I was leaning towards a Microsoft Great Plains, CRM, POS, Office365 system. but the cost was going to be 10k to 15k.

      Even if I did in stages with the correct system, I had to ensure that the starting system is the system I would be staying with.

      Hopefully this gives you a better understanding. If you find any other info that i will help my research and info that would be great., as in the future once I have launch my system and helped my own business go from 600K to 2m, I am starting another business in which I am going to help small businesses with the same issues that you and I are having right now.

      If you have read this entire comment, thanks for your time

      chris

      • Tom

        Hi Chris. If your considering lightspeed, I’d make sure you can get a merchant account through merchant warehouse or Axia first or you will have to use external method and put credit card authorization code in manually each time, and staple receipt from LS to payment terminal receipt like you were at a smoke shop or gun store. Are you in the USA? If not then external method is only way. Hope this helps.

  • Hector L. Santiago

    How can I install on a pc?

  • Ferox

    Bought Lightspeed for my store. Got screwed 3 months later when snow leopard released and I couldn’t get a compatible upgrade unless I paid for an expensive yearly subscription.

  • Lanny W.

    I have to admit, I love LightSpeed. I was incredibly frustrated with it at first due to the work you have to put in to get set up. I gave up paid a consultant for two hours of time and my store is running incredibly smoothly.

    The mobile application just let us run a sidewalk sale where I sold a bunch of old stock.

    The accounting integration is decent and so is the support. Nothing amazing, but it works.

    I’ve used LightSpeed for 2 years and it’s definitely saved our business.

  • Nicholas Juntilla

    They make upgrades that are not backwards compatible then charge you hundreds of dollars to upgrade. They have multiple products and in order for you to keep using their service they are going to charge you to upgrade each one so you have to keep paying them $400 dollars a year minimum. There is little to no online or community support and it has been a frustrating experience. If you don’t already have a database full of light speed products I would AVOID THIS PRODUCT!

    • Brandon

      Nicholas, can you please share whether you have found a suitable alternative to Lightspeed? I am looking into possibly going with Lightspeed and integrating with magento, but feel slightly cornered at the moment as alternatives that handle syncing a simple, decent POS inventory are hard to find.

  • Harry

    We tried LS, had a major hassle with being forced to pay someone to set it up and then opted for Checkout. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles, but gives us what we need.

  • Tom

    Lightspeed is awesome but kinda clique-ish with their bank partners. What Lightspeed doesn’t tell you is they only have 2 merchant service partner banks that work with their software, a major limitation. Make sure you can get approved by one of those two merchant service providers first- then consider Lightspeed. You could go third party external processor not through the pos software- but then you don’t get the super cool features like using mobile devises and emailing receipts.

  • http://www.rustafer.com Rustafer

    Light Speed is a great POS system. We decided to have a custom pos system made by a third party company to our specifications but I could see LightSpeed as a good solution for a small business.

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