(This post was originally published on December 9th, 2014. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Integrating your webstore like Shopify and Point-of-Sale System (POS) such as Lightspeed is critical for providing a stellar customer experience and streamlining your retail operations. You invest a lot of time and money into your business. You don’t want to prohibit your growth by skipping integration or doing it efficiently.
In this article, learn why you need to integrate Shopify and LightSpeed and how to pick the best integration approach for your business.
Why You Should Integrate Shopify and Lightspeed
Making the investment to integrate these platforms (correctly) can have huge benefits.
A consistent customer experience between your online and brick-and-mortar store is a requirement in modern retail that you can no longer ignore. Online and offline customers are not different segments. Customers interact with you in both places. They view you as one company no matter where they shop, so you should treat the online and offline experience as one in the same.
Integrating Shopify and Lightspeed allows you to do things like:
- Maintain customer data across online and in-store purchases
- Offer buy online/pickup in store or other delivery options
- Synchronize critical retail data, like inventory and item data, in real-time
- Speed up fulfillment and provide transparent order status
- Handle large product catalogs
- Manage both sales channels from central location
In the long run, integration is what helps you gain and keep your customers’ trust. When your backend processes run smoothly, you can ensure inventory levels are accurate, shipments arrive quickly and on-time, and you know your customer buying habits. Customers are looking for this type of experience, both online and offline, and integration will help you get there!
How to Choose a Shopify to Lightspeed Integration Approach
Deciding to integrate is the easy part. From there, it can be tricky to choose the integration approach that best fits the needs of your business. In this article, we’ll compare three different integration approaches:
- Add-on or plug-in app
- Custom integration
- Commerce integration platform
So, when considering which of the three integration approaches are right for you, you’ll want to consider:
- Price: What can you afford relative to what you’ll get from the investment?
- Complexity: What is your business’s tolerance for complexity and risk?
- Support: Who is going to support whatever integration you choose? Will it be an internal IT person, a contractor, or a vendor?
- Growth Potential: How much do you plan to grow your business? Are you satisfied remaining a smaller, lifestyle business or are you planning to take down giants?
Everyone’s business is different, so consider any other specific needs you’ll have. It’s easier to invest the time now to buy the right solution than it is to fix the wrong one, later.
How to Integrate Shopify and Lightspeed
Integration isn’t easy. You’re connecting two systems that weren’t designed to talk to each other. Mishandled projects can quickly turn into disasters, wasting your time and money. While you might fear this type of experience, it shouldn’t hold you back from integrating your systems.
The best way to avoid a nightmare project is to carefully research your options. Pick to work with an integration solution or partner that is experienced with both Lightspeed and Shopify.
To get you started, here’s an overview of different integration approaches.
Add-on or Plug-in App
For small retailers who cannot afford a more complex solution, you might first consider an add-on or plug-in app for integration. You’ll find most of these solutions in Lightspeed or Shopify’s app stores for affordable prices like $200/a month or less. If you’re just starting out, this could be a good fit for you.
Many of these solutions are connecting Lightspeed and Shopify using point-to-point integration, which means there’s no operational hub between your systems. Lightspeed will be “pointed at” Shopify to send data. You will most likely be limited to what data you send, the amount of it, and how often it syncs.
For example, most solutions will only work for order or inventory data and update in batch syncs every 30 minutes or a few times a day. For simple processes, these can get the work done, but will fall short with more complex needs like multi-location fulfillment or buy online, pickup in store.
Also, as your business grows, these apps tend to not be scalable. As you add sales channels or inventory locations, you will have to add multiple new connectors because point-to-point integration only allows for a 1:1 relationship between systems. Adding a new sales channel can mean rebuilding your integration every time.
Overall, add-ons are affordable and can handle simple integration requirements. You might consider using an add-on until you establish high-volume and more demanding operation needs.
Custom Shopify-Lightspeed Integration
This isn’t a technical article, so I’ll spare you technical details. At a high level, a custom integration would work with the application programming interfaces (APIs) available for both Shopify and Lightspeed to synchronize data. If you decide to build a custom integration, you’ll want to focus on these five types of data:
Without synchronizing these five types of data, you aren’t really supporting your entire business operation. Think about it this way…
If you create an item on Lightspeed, you’ll want to automatically add this item to your Shopify store (Item Data). If someone purchases that item in your store, you need to automatically adjust your inventory on Shopify (Inventory Data). To create a more personalized customer experience you want to record customer information across both in-store and online purchases (Customer Data). And, no matter where a customer purchases an item, you need to provide prompt shipping and order information (Shipping and Order Data).
Custom integration will be complex and expensive, but can work for organizations who have the resources and very specific requirements to justify it. It’s likely that your business isn’t unique enough to really need to build this integration from scratch. An off-the-shelf integration solution is probably a better option.
Commerce Integration Platform
The third way to integrate Shopify and Lightspeed is to use a commerce integration platform. Full disclosure, this is the type of platform that nChannel provides. It’s why we care so much about merchants choosing the right integration approach to fuel their growth. We want all merchants to find accessible ways to integrate their platforms and keep their promises to customers.
Platforms like nChannel sit as an operational hub between your POS and webstores to automate data transactions between your endpoint systems. Ideally, the platform should utilize pre-built connectors for Shopify and Lightspeed that you can configure to your business needs.
For example, merchants can define rules of how to fulfill a single order using different fulfillment locations for each line items on the order based on cost or location. This is how you meet more complex needs such as multi-location fulfillment or buy online, pick up in store. Also, these platforms sync data in real-time (no batch syncs) so you can trust that your data is always accurate and up to date.
Using a commerce integration platform can be much more affordable than a fully-custom solution, but it typically affords the ability to customize as necessary. It’s also a more scalable solution than direct integration using add-ons or basic connectors. Best of all, you can add other technologies to the mix, down the road (like an ERP or a marketplace account), without need to re-build all your operations.
Platforms like nChannel come with a higher price tag than add-ons or plug-ins. But, you’re getting rich functionality and the ability to configure your integration to your needs. You’ll sync data in real-time and have a platform that scales as your business grows.
Picking the Best Integration Approach
Without knowing the ins and outs of your business, we can’t make a recommendation for you. It depends on your operations, budget, and tolerance for complexity. We hope this overview of approaches though points you in the right direction.
If you think a commerce integration platform like nChannel might be what you need, learn more about our unique approach to integration between Shopify and Lightspeed.