Top 4 Options to MailChimp

Alternatives to Mailchimp

In writing, apes seem like an enjoyable experience. They create adorable faces. They delight using their human-like intelligence and mischievousness. Who wouldn&#8217t desire a monkey? Regrettably, lots of people aren&#8217t eliminate for any pet smart and devious enough to wreck your home and blame it around the dog. While popular e-mail marketing service Benchmark seems to become targeting a really similar niche to MailChimp. Supplying a similar degree of complexity and powerful free plans, it&#8217s the competitor that feels probab MailChimp inside the first hour useful.

Began with a trio of medical workers in offices in 2004 and coded in India, Benchmark has stuck to the vision of the simple, versatile e-mail marketing platform. Basically we loved Benchmark, this program isn’t without weaknesses, most of which we&#8217ll be tackling below.

AWeber

It might seem a lot more like a 17th century philosopher than an e-mail program, but AWeber is probably the more venerable ESPs that in the industry. Founded in 1998 by Tom Kulzer, this premium-only service provides a effective group of reporting tools which should please data-focused marketers.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor does what its name implies and offers a completely featured, effective tool for managing (and monitoring) your email strategies. Although it&#8217s a little missing within the integration department, it provides all onpar gps at each cost point, which means you&#8217ll know precisely that which you&#8217re getting.

SendinBlue

Among the newer contenders to emerge to the e-mail marketing scene is SendInBlue. Since 2012, SendInBlue has strongly gone to live in create a distinct segment within the crowded ESP market by providing a effective, core suite of features in a competitive cost.

Cost

A cost is definitely an expense, which means you&#8217ll wish to make certain you&#8217re obtaining a the best value for the dollar. Fortunately, our prime competitors within the ESP market means that you&#8217ve got options.

Benchmark

Certainly one of MailChimp&#8217s finest strengths comes by means of its generous Forever Free plan, which enables frugal marketers with modest must send 12,000 emails per month to as much as 2,000 subscribers. Or no other e-mail marketing service has attempted to steal the chimp&#8217s lunch when it comes to free plans, it&#8217s Benchmark.

Registering for Benchmark will filter you in to the Free List Plan 2,000, a periodOrquantity trial plan that ends after thirty days, 14,000 emails, or delivering emails to 250 clients, whichever comes first. If you are planning to stay around more than that, you may still make use of the Free for Existence plan, that provides 10,000 emails monthly and also the full suite of features. The main one catch is you&#8217ll need to use Benchmark-branded sign-up forms to include clients for your list, that is inconvenient should you&#8217d choose to import your contacts. Like MailChimp, this program may also incorporate a branded emblem in your free emails.

Assuming you&#8217re prepared to spend some money, you&#8217ll locate an ESP having a cost point pretty much using the average. You may choose to pay for by email beginning at $9.95/mo for 600/mo as much as $375/mo for 100,000/mo, or by how big your address book beginning at $11.95/mo for 600 contacts. At 25,000 contacts, you&#8217re searching at $112/mo. Plans greater than 100,000 are negotiated with an individual basis. Their email list plans permit you to send as many as seven emails monthly to every subscriber.

AWeber

On the other hand from the equation, we’ve AWeber, which isn&#8217t serving low-volume marketers. If you wish to do this ESP out, you&#8217ll have to enroll in a real compensated plan, even though you won&#8217t be billed for that first month. Just make certain you cancel your plan should you don&#8217t intend to stick to AWeber.

Ultimately, there&#8217s no free lunch reely plan at AWeber, which ranks one of the more costly ESPs. The least expensive compensated plan begins in a hefty $19 for 500 contacts (all AWebers plans are list-based) and topping out at $149/mo for twenty five,000 subscribers bigger lists will need contacting AWeber. Our prime costs are all-inclusive, however. You won&#8217t have to pay extra to gain access to more complex features. Note, too, that of AWeber&#8217s plans permit limitless emails.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor might have probably the most unorthodox prices plan from the three, however it&#8217s and not the least expensive. Registering for the services are free and can grant you use of all of the features Campaign Monitor provides. However that, if you wish to send any emails past the number of free test messages you are able to send, you&#8217ll need to upgrade to some compensated plan.

This is when things start getting just a little weird. Campaign Monitor&#8217s Fundamental Plan’s a hybrid list/email plan in which the most of emails you are able to send monthly may be the maximum size your list, multiplied by five. In the event that&#8217s an excessive amount of to keep an eye on, you are able to upgrade towards the substantially more costly limitless plan, which functions like a classical list-based plan. This two-tiered approach enables for many pretty affordable prices around the Fundamental Plan, beginning at $9/mo for 500 subscribers and a pair of,500 emails/mo. Regrettably, Campaign Monitor diminishes competitive on cost while you ascend the tiers, costing $199/mo for twenty five,000 subscribers. The Limitless Plan’s much more pricey, beginning at $29/mo and climbing to some steep $399/mo at 25,000.

Oh, there&#8217s even the choice to pay per campaign and email, though this method will get very costly, very rapidly.

SendInBlue

SendInBlue went to pretty great pains to undercut its competition within the cost department. Like Benchmark, SendInBlue provides a totally free plan with a few modest limitations, in addition to a very economical &#8220Micro&#8221 arrange for users with slightly greater marketing needs. Particularly, SendInBlue is unconcerned with the amount of subscribers you’ve, only the amount of emails you&#8217re delivering. This really is great news for marketers who strategically segment their lists.

Greater in the prices chain is how SendInBlue really shines. $334 buys you 750,000 emails per month.

Prices Summary

Probably the most MailChimp-esque of those companies regarding prices are Benchmark and SendInBlue, each of which provide a nice opening curve for small companies still feeling out their demands. Benchmark provides more emails monthly, while SendInBlue offers some simpler managing contacts at lower tiers. AWeber appears like a worse deal before you take into account that all of the plans permit you to send as numerous emails as you would like, excessive-volume marketers take serious notice. Campaign Monitor&#8217s prices will most likely simply be ideal in certain very specific instances (low volume marketing with no burden from the ESP&#8217s emblem, for instance).

Campaign Creation

MailChimp users will discover campaign creation for those three competitors to become familiar. The 3 offer drag editors for email design, along with the choice to import designs produced with HTML or produce a simple, plain text email. Still, there are several minute variations between your three.

Benchmark

Additionally towards the standard ESP email creation options, Benchmark will also support a mature iteration of their email creator. Like a new user, you are able to securely ignore this method, but if you’re a former user considering rejoining the service, it&#8217s best to know that you could get in which you ended.

Benchmark offers users a properly-rounded variety of email features: video emails, surveys, and the opportunity to established to eight autoresponders. Web site selection clocks in in excess of 400, there&#8217s an excellent chance you&#8217ll find something which meets your needs. When you can preview your the perception of desktop recipients, you won&#8217t have the ability to perform the same for mobile, a substantial oversight.

Where Benchmark pops up shortest, however, is by using social networking integration. You won&#8217t have the ability to do too even more than publish to Facebook through Benchmark.

AWeber

AWeber&#8217s email design system is a touch different for the reason that, instead of giving the consumer an array of templates, it encourages these to develop a design by dragging elements in to the editor. A great feature for marketers who would like more precise control of the feel of their emails without getting to explore HTML and CSS. You&#8217ll need to bring all of your images along with you, however, because there&#8217s no stock image library to attract from.

A large advantage provided by AWeber is the opportunity to perform split-tests, which let you swap out aspects of your email (subject, name, or body) to determine what your audience finds more engaging.

Missing from AWeber are a few conveniences like surveys and fully integrated social internet marketing.

Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor&#8217s email design product is streamlined for efficiency, having a template library like Benchmark, but jettisoning the look library ala AWeber. It&#8217s a no frills system, however it&#8217s fast and simple.

If the thought of delivering out a partial or problematic email keeps you up during the night, Campaign Monitor suits the perfectionist by providing split-testing and allowing users to transmit test emails to as much as five recipients before investing in the campaign.

SendInBlue

SendInBlue had designed a puzzling decision in this region by supplying two different campaign creation encounters: one for premium users, and something free of charge and Micro plan users, but because of December 2015 that is not the situation. The premium responsive design creators favors a depth over breadth method of campaign creation. You won&#8217t see as many template options since it’s competitors, however, you&#8217ll have the ability to tweak the particular parameters of the elements and pictures to some much greater degree.

Campaign Creation Summary

The 3 ESPs provide perfectly functional campaign creation tools, however the &#8220best&#8221 is the one which meets your campaign needs. Do you’d rather use stock images and/or uploading your personal in to the cloud? Opt for Benchmark. Desire a hyper-customizable drag experience? AWeber or SendInBlue are the programs. Wish to meticulously make sure tweak your emails? Give Campaign Monitor a glance.

List Management and Reporting

Delivering attractive emails to subscribers is fine and dandy, but if you wish to possess a truly effective advertising campaign, you&#8217ll have to crunch some figures and move certain names around. Observe that the 3 services offer something MailChimp doesn&#8217t: list segmentation, the opportunity to break your subscriber lists right into a smaller sized &#8220segment&#8221 for additional precise campaign targeting.

Benchmark

Unless of course you&#8217re dealing with the disposable plan (see Prices), adding subscribers in Benchmark is dependent on copying and pasting a listing or adding subscribers individually. You won&#8217t have the ability to directly import a listing from, say, Gmail, which means you&#8217ll need to export it into a middleman program that enables you to definitely copy.

Benchmark&#8217s data tools are fundamental, but fast, becoming available quickly following the campaign is distributed. Benchmark provides users with several key bits of data about each campaign. The (perhaps) most significant statistic, open rate, seems both in cake chart and statistical form. Additionally, Benchmark provides users with stats for clicks, forwards, bounces, unsubscribes, and abuse. Each stat further breaks lower towards the exact emails connected having a given action. Users can export this data for more analysis using a .csv or .xls file. There’s additionally a social networking area which reports shares via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, in addition to a map which breaks lower, based on country, who opens your emails. Should you&#8217re searching for additional, you&#8217ll most likely need to depend with an integration like Google Analytics.

AWeber

AWeber offers two means of contact creation: an application that enables you to definitely add 10 subscribers at any given time as well as an import tool that accepts pasted lists, spreadsheets, or text files. Like Benchmark, you&#8217ll have to take medium difficulty key to import lists using their company web services.

With regards to reporting tools, AWeber doesn’t fool around. It is definitely the standard raw figures and percentages (clicks, opens, unsubscribes, and so on). Additionally, it includes more complex data for example opens, clicks, and revenue with time subscriber growth and stats by location, area code, or designated market. Additionally, you are able to compare results across your past 20 emails. You are able to track subscribers according to their sign-up method, and also the list segmentation options provide lots of methods to optimize your e-mail marketing. Reports are very well organized and clear to see a lot of the information is presented both in chart and table format. There&#8217s no choice for integrating Google Analytics, however it&#8217s less critical with AWeber than a number of other ESPs.

Campaign Monitor

While Campaign Monitor also lacks third-party integration for importing contacts, it will permit copy/pasting and direct uploads of spreadsheet files. Among the neat choices for Campaign Monitor is the opportunity to add custom fields to subscribers while you upload them. These details is useful when benefiting from Campaign Monitor&#8217s extensive autoresponder system to transmit specialized messages according to data fields like birthday.

Campaign Monitor&#8217s reporting tools are easy-to-use, with many information color-coded, charted or graphed. They&#8217re not as extensive as AWeber&#8217s reports, which means you&#8217ll most likely wish to supplement with exterior analytics should you&#8217re managing a more complex campaign.

SendInBlue

Like Campaign Monitor, you&#8217ll have to copy your contacts in or import them via a spreadsheet (SendinBlue supplies a downloadable spreadsheet template if you want one). SendInBlue also enables you to definitely define custom fields, even though the function isn’t as immediately apparent. You may also easily &#8220blacklist&#8221 contacts you don&#8217t wish to waste emails on.

SendInBlues reporting tools cover the majority of the bases and supply nearly real-time feedback about that has opened up your emails and which links they&#8217ve visited.

If you must have an e-mail to obtain through, and obtain through safely, SendInBlue offers transactional emails upon request, which feature extra tools to prevent bounces along with other undesirable marketing fates.

List Management and Reporting Summary

Campaign Monitor offers probably the most versatile list segmentation and autoresponders in the industry, enabling you to target subscribers with expert precision. Around the reporting side, AWeber may be the obvious champion, presenting an extensive variety of data without resorting to integrations or exterior programs.

Summary

MailChimp continues to be the&#8211wait for this&#8211gorilla within the room with regards to ESPs, but it might be useful for the company to test out some MailChimp alternatives. It&#8217s fairly simple that you simply&#8217ll look for a service that fits your unique needs much better than the monkey could ever.

The publish Top 4 Options to MailChimp made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Will Nick Cards Kill Mobile Processing?

mobile emv card reader

Since Square launched in 2009, the charge card industry has, in lots of ways, been switched on its mind. Charge card acceptance is much more prevalent and fewer costly than ever before. But with the nationwide change to nick cards arriving October 2015, we may see another major shift in the manner we conceive of in-person payments, as well as in the alternative direction.

Remember whenever you once had to ask in the counter should you could pay having a charge card? Well, lately I opened up in a school fundraising event carwash and considered to myself, &#8220They most likely take charge cards.&#8221 Plus they did. With Square. This is the way much low-cost, phone-based processing has altered the way you purchase things, and just what we predict from sellers. Today, I believe any grade school child having a lemonade stand could be foolish not to take a look at (with parental supervision) an application like Flint. 10 years ago I most likely might have known as law enforcement when the same child requested me in my charge card. However with an upswing of nick cards, are we able to expect exactly the same ubiquity?

The news about how mobile processing required root

Let&#8217s be obvious: most from the democratization of payments introduced about by third-party payment services like PayPal, Stripe, and Square is not going anywhere soon. These types of services introduced charge card acceptance towards the masses by not charging any monthly charges, supplying nearly instant approval, and requiring no setup costs. Which means that literally anybody are able to afford to register to simply accept card payments with hardly any effort and simply no expense aside from charges according to usage. Compare that to old-fashioned traditional credit card merchant account setup that may take days, cost 100’s of dollars in advance, after which include monthly charges of $40 or even more even when no transactions are processed, alongside hefty early termination charges. (Note that lots of the best merchant account providers can hold low-volume users without charging a leg along with a leg.)

But exactly how are the likes of Square in a position to ship out free charge card readers to anybody who requests one? Two reasons: low-cost hardware and the requirement for an enormous users list.

Square along with other mobile processors create a very, very little bit of profit on every account. To create a sustainable quantity of profit, the organization should have a massive quantity of accounts. By looking into making the setup process as frictionless as you possibly can, Square has the capacity to cast the largest internet possible. And because Square has in the past were able to produce this kind of affordable charge card readers, there isn&#8217t much financial risk involved with setting everybody up. The truth that Square&#8217s signup process requires essentially no underwriting or evaluation doesn&#8217t hurt either, a minimum of when it comes to keeping operating costs lower. Although, as we view, this doesn&#8217t always make the best consumer experience.

The price of mobile nick card readers

As I don&#8217t have exact figures, I will tell you with absolute certainty that manufacture of nick card readers is a lot more costly than magnetic stripe card readers, especially thinking about that nick card readers, typically, will still need support mag stripe cards. The development price is elevated a lot, actually, that Square charges about $30 for this&#8217s current nick card readers &#8211 a high rise in the formerly free readers it’ll replace. The organization&#8217s new NFC-capable nick card readers will retail for $50, but certain retailers may be eligible for a a totally free readers (based on processing volume and business type), while some who pre-order may be eligible for a a $50 statement credit.

The reality is, many micro retailers won’t be able to get a totally free EMV nick card readers from Square, or elsewhere, a minimum of not without having to pay a regular monthly fee. It might just be too dangerous and costly of these companies to ship out nick card readers to retailers who might not even process just one transaction.

But retailers who don&#8217t wish to covering out $30 to $60 for any readers aren’t at a complete loss. Of course, users can key-in card information with no readers whatsoever. The down-side for this is the fact that keyed-in transactions tend to be more vulnerable to holds, plus they generally are more expensive to process. I additionally expect that we’ll see more camera checking functionality implemented, like what Flint uses, that will a minimum of result in the keying-in process faster and simpler.

How are mobile processors coping with the requirement for nick card readers?

Here&#8217s what we should know to date regarding mobile processors&#8217 plans for EMV nick cards.

PayPal Here:

PayPal states that it is new readers is originating in &#8220Fall of 2015.&#8221 Since Fall begins on September 23rd this season, and also the official EMV switch date is October first, I suppose don’t be surprised it sometime that week? The organization lately released pictures of the forthcoming nick card readers, but provided no pre-order date.

Here&#8217s what we should can say for certain about PayPal&#8217s US-based nick card readers:

  • It will likely be another Bluetooth connected device, not really a headphone jack readers
  • It’ll have a complete PIN pad
  • It will likely be NFC-capable, meaning it may accept Apple Pay and other alike mobile wallets
  • It will likewise support magnetic stripe cards
  • It won’t be free

The present United kingdom version form of PayPal&#8217s nick card readers costs about $50, however the new US version will probably be more costly because of the NFC readers embedded.

Paypal-emv-chip-card-reader

Spark Pay:

Most mobile processors are keeping things near to the vest regarding the nick card switch. Spark Pay&#8217s official response is:

Yes, Spark Pay will support EMV. The deadline for supporting this latest standard is October 2015. Once we catch up with up to now, we’ll provide additional information around our support and just what actions, or no, you will have to undertake.

In addition to that, there’s been no public comment from Spark Pay about this subject.

Flint:

Flint Mobile has remained quiet regarding its plans for that approaching EMV shift. Because Flint uses the devices camera to scan charge cards rather of the card readers, the transactions are technically processed as card-not-present. The brand new EMV rules won’t impact card-not-present transactions, therefore it appears prone to me the nick card liability shift won’t pressure Flint to create any changes. However the ultimate decision rests at the disposal of Flint&#8217s backend processor. I&#8217d anticipate seeing some type of announcement later this summer time. If Flint could use its application as-is, when i anticipate, the organization is going to be better off because it won’t suffer from the cost and friction of issuing hardware.

flint-card-scan

PayAnywhere:

At the begining of This summer, PayAnywhere published inside a Facebook comment proclaiming that &#8220we are presently evaluating supplying a Mobile EMV capable device, and much more information is going to be available soon.&#8221 Regarding the storefront tablet, the organization had this to state: &#8220We started shipping EMV capable Storefront units recently [June 2015]. Should you purchased just before then, your unit is probably not EMV capable.&#8221

Oddly, however, PayAnywhere isn’t positively advertising its EMV hardware or releasing images and specifications on its website. So right now I do not know what the organization&#8217s nick card system may be like or what features it’ll offer.

QuickBooks Payments (Intuit GoPayment):

Quickbooks lately started accepting pre-orders because of its mobile EMV card readers. It&#8217s a sound jack readers that actually works with magnetic stripe and nick cards, but doesn’t support NFC payments for example Apple Pay. The cost tag is $30, on componen concentrating on the same non-NFC mobile readers. The readers is certainly not to reside in about when it comes to either design or features, however it&#8217s nice to determine the organization is on the top from the EMV transition.

Quickbooks-intuit-gopayment-emv-chip-card-reader

Square Register:

Finally, we’ve Square. This is actually the apparent frontrunner within the EMV race, with among the first mobile nick card readers available on the market (we unboxed and evaluate it), as well as an NFC-capable readers presently readily available for pre-order. The conventional audio jack nick card readers can process EMV cards and magnetic stripes, as the Bluetooth NFC readers cannot run magnetic stripe transactions (Square ships individuals readers having a free audio jack mag stripe readers). In addition, Square has released a nick card readers particularly for that Square Stand. That&#8217s a fairly solid number of products, especially thinking about your competition.

Square EMV reader

It&#8217s lower towards the wire for mobile nick card readers, however they&#8217re not going anywhere soon

I honestly expected a lot more from mobile processors with this point. As recently This summer, this really is all the information we’ve. I&#8217m surprised that each processor hasn&#8217t issued official press announcements with information regarding forthcoming hardware at the minimum. As you can tell, only 1 / 2 of the businesses we checked out here did this, and just one of these includes a nick card readers presently available to buy. With simply about two several weeks left prior to the liability shift, I&#8217m just a little disappointed.

But here&#8217s what’s promising. Nick cards are certainly not likely to kill mobile processing. They might, however, allow it to be more costly &#8211 designed for micro retailers who won&#8217t wish to covering out $30 or even more for that new hardware. These users will either choose to swipe them and risk fraud, to key-within the card data and spend the money for surcharge for doing this, or otherwise to simply accept card payments whatsoever. This might make camera scan mobile processing apps like Flint Mobile more appealing, because no hardware is required to entitled to the standard rates. But time will inform how scalping strategies adapt for nick cards. I’d reckon that a minimum of a couple of mobile processors will fold along the way.

In the meantime, I&#8217m excited to get hold of newer and more effective hardware for testing! Follow us on social networking for additional hardware reviews and also the latest news regarding nick cards and mobile processors.

The publish Will Nick Cards Kill Mobile Processing? made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Surprising Advantages of an iPad POS System

iPad POS system

Traditional point-of-purchase system providers and modern companies alike have acknowledged the benefits of a method that provides both reliability and versatility inside a mobile world. The likes of NCR, that has been supplying POS solutions since 1884, now provide more contemporary, affordable solutions for small companies using iPad-based terminals. Newer companies, like Clover, use alternative hardware that is equally as sleek and effective being an iPad. Because it stands, iPad POS systems offer great possibilities for startups along with a smoother transition from bulky terminals for retailers searching to create a switch. When you think about the options, listed here are ten advantages of an iPad POS system you might find surprising.

Low Learning Curve

The iPad POS system provides a virtually painless consumer experience. Unless of course you’ve never touched a tablet before, the simplicity makes staff training (or customer use if you’re utilizing a kiosk-type model) quick, simple, and simple. John at Toppit Pizza, had this to say of the Amber POS:

“It really didn’t take lengthy for the employees to determine the machine. Training is actually pretty easy using the more youthful, more tech-savvy generation. Most employees learn about ten or fifteen minutes of coaching . . .”

Security

Secured data transferUsing the growing chance of data breaches, device hacks, and charge card fraud, security is really a high priority for just about any business. On POS systems like Bindo, charge card information is encrypted and isn’t stored around the iPad itself. Here’s another little bit of great news. The Apple iOS has a few of the top cybersecurity measures in the class. Their security guidelines really are a bit mind numbing, however, you can skim through their 55 page guide for more information. I’ll provide you with the hyper-condensed version: The Apple iOS uses a mix of hardware and knowledge file encryption techniques to prevent software and firmware from studying certain facets of your device information directly, or perhaps other devices in case your storage device is used in another device. Apple also uses several user-controlled safety measures to avoid direct accessibility device, including passcodes and time delays for incorrect passcode records.

Forward Thinking

The iOS software programs are well known because of its forced upgrades, but keeping pace with safety measures and industry standards could keep your customers’ information safe. This can also make sure that your software programs are running in an optimum level. Another advantage of that’s the freedom from the cloud. You have access to the information you require from almost anywhere, though I wouldn’t recommend doing this over a wireless network.

Faster Checkouts

Because of the speed from the cloud, along with the ever-updating software from the user-friendly iPad, checkout occasions are usually faster. Some POS providers, for example Revel, also provide offline modes where you can still accept payments even when your network connection is lower. Gourmet Services executive VP Alfred Baker had this to say of Revel’s iPad system throughout an ASU game:

Customer Engagement Tools

Among the greatest advantages of an iPad POS product is the elevated use of customer engagement tools. Included in this are paper versus electronic receipts, customer tracking tools, and marketing abilities that will help you integrate the systems that monitor customer transactions and customer relations. Vend POS offers the opportunity to email customer receipts, and Lightspeed Retail offers CRM tools able to supplying specialized reduced prices for customers in a few groups.

Effective Features

Many iPad POS systems include effective features that frequently aren’t on traditional systems. These functions include inventory tracking, direct ordering for restaurants, shipping integrations, loyalty solutions and much more. Becky McCray, a small company owner and blogger, authored this about her experience switching to ShopKeep from the traditional POS System:

“The people working the leading lines love the brand new system. Forget about marking lower every item offered in writing. You don’t need to train any new part of the arcane organization of liquor products by category. (“Is honey whiskey an upright, or perhaps a niche?”) You don’t need to be aware of category system to find information about a cost. You don’t need to write lower your clock-in and clock-out occasions. All that is handled by ShopKeep . . .Inventory control may be the single greatest benefit for all of us . . .ShopKeep has additionally ongoing to include features, like gift certificates, awesome email receipts, integration with MailChimp for e-mail marketing for your customers, a much better reporting dashboard and marketing dashboard, and plenty more.”

(Link)

Reporting Abilities

ipad tablet reports data and chartsWith multiple features built-into a main system, report tracking could be more descriptive than ever before, providing you with reliable, actionable information regarding your customers’ behavior, in addition to supplying information that may help you manage your company more proficiently. Quetzal POS, that is aimed at small retailers, offers numerous sales history filters for reports. Additionally they offer other customizable reports, like the “What to Buy” report which can serve as a listing tool. Read the Quetzal review for more information.

Financial Savings

The price of many traditional POS systems runs from costly to downright prohibitive, particularly if you’re searching for particular features. Having a cloud powered iPad POS system, startup pricing is considerably lower and much more easily available to the business proprietor by having an iPad along with a reliable web connection. Shannon Seip, who owns Bean Sprouts Café &amp Cooking School, saved roughly $10,000 switching from her traditional POS system for an iPad based system. She states:

“For small businesses like us where $10,000 makes a significant difference, which was a vital differentiator.”

(Link)

Bigger Tips

Server picking up tipsFor individuals within the hospitality business, customer-facing iPad POS systems that facilitate customer ordering and payments happen to be recognized to encourage better tipping. Research made by Software Advice concluded three quite interesting points about tipping utilizing an iPad. First, most customers experienced virtually no difficulty while using iPad to tip. Second, 86% of consumers choose to input tips themselves, instead of getting a web server input strategies for them. Third, 29% established that an “opt out” option would boost the likelihood they could leave some advice when the order forced customers to choose from departing some advice or marking “no tip.” See? Guilt journeys work well.

Image Booster

If your company is the area darling, you are able to most likely pull off utilizing an old terminal some time longer, but transitioning for an iPad POS system does create a forward-minded statement. The iPad looks awesome, runs well, is current, and resonates with today’s modern, technology-crazed society. If you’re just beginning your company, new clients expect a “wow” factor of some type. Possibly a sleek bit of technology will have the desired effect, though I wouldn’t expect any people to revisit exclusively to stare at the iPad.

Conclusion: iPad POS System Leads those

Here’s an eleventh benefit, that is good for individuals who don’t make use of an iPad for his or her POS system. The introduction of iPad POS software has opened up the marketplace for several competition, giving older companies a lot more incentive to modernize. I’m wishing to determine more the likes of NCR develop 21st century solutions (like NCR Silver for small companies) and searching toward seeing beginners develop Android and Home windows options (for individuals people who can’t bear the idea of touching an iPad or anything Apple Mac).

Anyway, the iPad POS makes beginning a small company readily available for retailers with less capital and offers a far more centralized means to fix managing a effective business. Before the pool widens to incorporate more diverse alternatives, the iPad POS system takes charge.

The publish 10 Surprising Advantages of an iPad POS System made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best PayPal Alternatives

PayPal alternatives for merchants

Thanks to its long-standing relationship with eBay, PayPal has become one of the most recognizable names in payments. And with over 165 million users, it’s got consumer trust. You don’t have to be an eBay seller to accept payments through PayPal — you can set up your own online store, open up a brick-and-mortar location, and even take payments on the go.

But should you? There are several advantage to PayPal, including the ease of setup and its accessibility. Unfortunately, it’s also known for placing holds on accounts if it gets even the slightest suspicion that not everything is hunky-dory. And its rates, while competitive among similar services, are not the lowest in the industry.

Are you a small merchant looking to get started quickly? Are you tired of your current processor and looking to switch to one that has fewer hoops to jump through?

Whether this is your first foray into merchant payments or you’re shopping around for PayPal alternatives, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at how PayPal stacks up against some of our other top-rated payment options, including other pay-as-you-go processors and some traditional merchant accounts, and see which one is best for you.

Don’t forget to check out the full reviews for each of these PayPal alternatives. Need help choosing a payments provider? We can help! Contact us here.

PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015In our 2015 review of PayPal, we gave it 4 stars. We like PayPal. It’s convenient, trusted, and easy to use. However, we have a hard time endorsing PayPal as anyone’s standalone, sole payment option.

Pricing

There are no monthly charges or hidden fees with PayPal — you pay just 2.9% + $0.30 per swipe. Since there are no contracts, there’s no early termination fees. You also don’t pay any PCI compliance fees. If you use the PayPal Here mobile processor, you pay just 2.7% per swipe (excluding keyed/scanned transactions).

You can get volume discounts, too: At $3,000 per month, rates drop to 2.5% + $0.30; at $10,000 it falls to 2.2% + $0.30. If you process more than $100,000, you get to call 1-855-787-1012 and ask for special pricing.

If you need features beyond credit card processing (such as a virtual terminal to accept mail and fax orders), you can upgrade to a Pro account for $30 a month. However, those orders will process for a higher (and undisclosed) fee.

We like this setup — a lot. However, the flat fee still isn’t as transparent as an interchange-plus setup, nor as low.

Without a doubt, one of the most attractive features of PayPal is how quickly you have access to your money — it’s almost instantaneous. And if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend that money anywhere you can swipe a card.

Customer Support: Fair

When it comes to any sort of payment processing, you need to know that there’s someone standing by who can help you when trouble arises. PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, but overall, we’d rate it fair.

The problem is in PayPal’s phone support. Sometimes your representative is competent, sometimes…not so much. The good news is that in a lot of cases, PayPal’s other resources, including its Quick Questions, Community Help Forum, and @AskPayPal Twitter account, can get you the answers you need, so you may not ever need to pick up the phone.

Reliability: Fair

PayPal lets just about anyone open up a merchant account and get approval very quickly. That makes it great for new businesses. It’s also a great solution when you don’t have the sort of volume that merits a traditional account. However, this “we welcome anyone” approach results in greater risk, and therefore a very active risk department dedicated to finding and stomping out fraud.

Paypal’s tendency to put holds on accounts or even terminate them isn’t as bad as some of the other pay-as-you-go processors (we’re looking at you, Stripe and Square), but it’s enough to earn just a “Fair” rating in the reliability department.

That said, PayPal is a spectacular backup, especially if you want to take payments on the go and your merchant account’s offering is a bit lacking. No monthly fees mean you aren’t losing money on a service you only use sporadically.

Integration & Implementation Options

With the basic PayPal account, you get your standard payment buttons and a variety of shopping cart integrations, including an in-house solution. However, your site will redirect your visitors to PayPal to complete the transaction. You can upgrade to the Pro account to get a hosted payment page on your own site along with PayPal’s virtual terminal for orders by mail, fax, and phone.

PayPal also offers one-touch checkout for in-app and web purchases.

We like that you can set up secondary accounts and set permissions. PayPal also equips you for recurring billing and handles customer information storage for you.

There’s also a substantial list of partners and integrations for you to choose from. You can check out the full list of PayPal partners here.

Other Features

We’ve already mentioned PayPal’s mobile reader, PayPal Here. You pay just 2.7% per swipe (or 3.5% for keyed-in transactions). The reader is free if you order it from PayPal; you can also buy it at a store and PayPal will reimburse you. We’re still waiting on details about PayPal’s EMV reader, but we’ll keep you updated before the big liability shift on October 1, 2015. We do know it’ll accept chip-and-pin cards as well as contactless payments (such as Apple Pay and Android Pay).

You can send invoices from PayPal — and you don’t pay until you get paid. Invoices run you 2.9% + $0.30. You can even send invoices from within the mobile app.

PayPal also offers special nonprofit pricing, at 2.2% + $0.30 per swipe and no monthly fee.

Payline Data

payline-data-logoPayline Data earned a perfect 5-star rating from us for its fair pricing on merchant accounts, and great  customer service — but on top of all that, we love its commitment to charitable giving. Payline donates 10% of its profits from your account to a nonprofit partner of your choosing.

Pricing

Payline Data uses an interchange-plus format on top of monthly fees. For small-volume processors, there’s the Simple plan; for higher volumes, the Pro plan.

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

The nice thing is, the $5,000 mark is the break-even point for both plans, so you’d pay exactly the same. If you come in under that $5k mark more often than not, go with the simple plan. If you go beyond the $5k regularly, go with the Pro plan.

We like that Payline makes your funds accessible within 24 hours. Next-day funding is the fastest you’re going to get apart from PayPal, so you really can’t do better if you need a merchant account.

Customer Support: Excellent

You can reach the Payline team by phone and email, but there’s also a substantial knowledge base if you’re more prone to solving the problem yourself. Overall, the team has really great reviews, as befitting a 5-star processor.

Reliability: Excellent

The complaints against Payline Data are virtually nonexistent, which is great to see. We have full confidence in the company’s ability to handle your business fairly, with minimal risk for a potential hold or freeze. (We hope you understand, no processor is immune to risk — and no merchant immune to a hold. However, traditional merchant accounts are less susceptible to risk than pay-as-you-go providers.)

Integration & Implementation Options

Payline makes it very easy for you to set up recurring billing for your clients. We also really like Payline Shop Professional ($79/month), which includes your merchant account, as well as a shopping cart, gateway, web hosting, a domain name and SSL security. As far as comprehensive eCommerce solutions go, this is spot-on. Comparable services through shopping carts will run you the same, or higher, and may not include everything that Payline does.

On its own, the Payline gateway is $10 per month. It supports a customer information vault as well as invoicing. There’s a virtual terminal, too. The virtual terminal allows you to use a USB swiper, although no USB chip card reader is currently available.

In addition, you’ll find payment buttons, tools for recurring billing, customer info storage, and fairly good support for third-party shopping cards as well as Payline’s in-house option. The one thing that’s lacking is a hosted payment page.

Other Features

If you need mobile processing, Payline again has two solutions. If you process less than $5,000 per month on the app, you get a Flint account. Flint uses your device’s camera to scan credit cards rather than swiping — there’s no reader required. Debit rates are just 1.95%; credit cards 2.95%. Above that $5k threshold, you should use the ROAMpay X Mobile app with Payline, which will support EMV when the switchover happens in October.

For retail shops, there’s an iPad POS through Vantiv Mobile Checkout as well, and that will run you $69 per month. You can accept Apple Pay transactions in store with a future-proof terminal (supporting EMV and NFC) and also integrate Apple Pay for in-app payments.

Payline stands out from the rest of the options in this list in part because it also offers high-risk processing. Merchants who operate in an industry that’s deemed high risk (such as antiques, how-to programs, and even selling on eBay), typically make merchant account providers — and pay-as-you-go solutions — skittish. A high-risk account means you pay more, but you’re far less likely to encounter those dreaded holds and freezes…or worse, an account termination.

In addition to allowing merchants to donate to a charitable partner, nonprofit organizations can set up accounts with Payline and get discounted rates. There’s also a Payline Commercial Co-Venture program: In essence, you refer clients to Payline, Payline will create a solution for them, and you get recurring donations to your organization.

CDGCommerce

cdgcommerce-logoWe like CDGCommerce, a traditional merchant account provider, quite a lot — enough to give it a perfect 5-star rating. However, the service is only available in the U.S., for merchants who sell primarily in the U.S.

Pricing

Head to the CDG site and you’ll find an advertised rate of 1.7% + $0.25 for payment processing (1.95% + $0.30 for online processing). However, if you visit the site through this link, you’ll also find a special rate offer for our readers: interchange plus 0.30% + $0.15. There’s no monthly minimum processing, and no ETF. (If you do ever want to cancel, you’ll have to follow the steps to provide proper notice of cancellation).

Beyond that, the only other fee you must pay is the $10 statement fee. There’s no PCI compliance, and the CDGcommerce gateway is free to use.  You can get volume discounts, but they’re not advertised. You’ll have to negotiate with CDG directly if you think you qualify.

Merchants will typically have funds deposited in their account within two days. That’s not as fast as PayPal, and slower than some other merchant account providers, as well.

Customer Support: Excellent

On top of the spectacular rates, CDGcommerce excels in the customer service department. You can get live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. The volume of BBB complaints against CDG is incredibly low, but what really sets this company apart is the fact that the CEO has actually responded to user complaints found on the Internet. The level of dedication to customers is outstanding.

Reliability: Excellent

As we’ve said, complaints against CDG are incredibly low. Every processor will occasionally face a situation where it must put a hold on a company’s account. However, everything we’ve seen indicates that CDG is careful to minimize these instances.

Integration & Implementation Options

CDG offers its customers a USB-based card reader. That means you don’t need a traditional credit card terminal, which is actually quite convenient. The USB readers do not support EMV, but we were told that the upgrade, when available, will be optional. (Go here to learn about EMV and your liability for processing cards when the new rules take effect October 1, 2015.)

And while we have repeatedly and vocally spoken out against terminal leases, here we have probably the best rental terms you can get: just pay $79 annually for insurance and return the device when you no longer need it. The terminal is EMV-ready and compatible with NFC payments, so unless you have a really good reason for sticking with USB, you should consider upgrading.

You can also have the company reprogram your existing terminals…for free.

CDGcommerce offers extensive reporting options, which we like to see. There’s also an optional  security service for $15 monthly, which includes $100,000 of data breach insurance —  a worthwhile investment.

With this provider you also get a virtual terminal to use with the Quantum gateway. There’s no payment buttons or in-house shopping cart. What’s interesting is that Quantum has a feature that lets it emulate an Authorize.net gateway, which ultimately increases your options for third-party shopping carts.

Other Features

For mobile processing, you get a free reader, which runs on CDG’s ProcessNow mobile app (available for Apple devices running iOS 7.0 and higher and Android devices running OS 4.0 and higher). Swipe rates for mobile are 1.70% + $0.25 per transaction (2.9% + $0.30 for keyed and other nonqualified transactions).

There’s no nonprofit pricing here. If you want to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payment methods, you’ll need the future-proof terminal.

We like that CDGcommerce helps merchant reduce the headaches that  come with dealing with chargebacks thanks to its Chargeback Defender, which lets you know about chargebacks pending — even before the fees are debited from your account. The platform also helps you rebut it and has a built-in tool to detect previously issued refunds, so that the funds aren’t deducted twice. It’s not something we see so openly advertised, and it’s a very useful tool.

PayJunction

PayJunction-logo-squarePayJunction is a 5-star processor for its customer service and reliability, but we also really like that it makes it easy for merchants to go paperless. It’s not just environmentally friendly; it’s easier for merchants to securely manage their records.

Pricing

We really like that PayJunction is another month-to-month service provider with interchange plus. There’s no ETF, no PCI compliance fees, and no charges for the gateway. However, if you process under $10,000 monthly, you can expect a $35 monthly fee. The gateway also includes check (ACH) processing at 0.75%.

For new processors, PayJunction offers interchange plus 0.75% — but established merchants may be able to get lower rates, as the company offers match or beat your existing rates. This isn’t uncommon in the industry, but most processors don’t meet our high standards for quality of service, too.

Admittedly, the 0.75% markup is high — but there’s no per-transaction fee, which could be a major benefit to small-ticket merchants.

Something else we definitely like: next-day deposits.

Customer Support: Excellent

You don’t get to be a 5-star processor without great service. PayJunction’s support options include its knowledge base, phone, and email. Something we haven’t seen here before is the option for remote support. Basically, it means that someone at PayJunction will remotely access your computer to either walk you through a process and show you what to do, or handle it for you. It’s actually a really useful tool.

Reliability: Excellent

Complaints about PayJunction are few and far between — and the ones you will find have been thoroughly addressed by a company representative. We like that. We can’t say that you won’t ever have an issue with PayJunction, but if you do, you can expect it to be handled quickly, fairly, and in-house.

Integration & Implementation Options

Among the many features available, PayJunction provides a hosted shopping cart for free, and it has good third-party integrations as well. We’ve already mentioned the free payment gateway/virtual terminal. You can also expect features for recurring billing info storage. Combined with the paperless feature and you really do have everything you need in a single browser-based interface. All that’s missing are payment buttons and a hosted payment page.

Other Features

A couple of noteworthy additional features: PayJunction’s customer management system, which serves as a directory for your clients and their information. It also lets you create groups of clients and account numbers.

PayJunction will also set you up with digital signature collection — by providing a signature capture device, the company really does allow you to go paperless. No reason to bother with signed receipts, ever again. For eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions, there’s email signature capture, where customers sign using their computer cursors.

PayJunction also lets merchants create teams and set permissions, which is always a handy feature to have.

If you need mobile processing, you can opt for PayJunction’s partner company, iPay. You’ll have to set up your gateway, and the app is only available for iOS devices — but it’s better than nothing. The mobile reader doesn’t support EMV.

You can get free equipment if you provide two months of billing statements — so in other words, this offer applies only to established merchants.

For EMV, you’ll need a traditional credit card terminal, but PayJunction stresses that for low-risk merchants, this upgrade is optional. The site actually has a very detailed explanation of EMV and how it affects merchants, which you can find here.

There’s no additional nonprofit pricing, but there is a feature you can set up on your site to accept donations.

Braintree

Braintree-payments-logoBraintree is actually a wholly owned subsidy of PayPal, picked up in 2013. For that reason, you’ll see a couple of similarities, as well as some noteworthy differences. While PayPal hovers at a 4-star rating, we wholeheartedly endorse Braintree with a perfect 5-star rating. This is another option that’s very developer-friendly, with a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to get started.

Pricing

This should come as no surprise (it’s a PayPal company), but Braintree’s fees are just 2.9% + $0.30. There are no fees, no contracts, nothing. If you process over $80K per month, you will likely qualify for a discounted rate. While not advertised, Braintree also offers interchange-plus pricing for some high-volume merchants.

Interesting to note, Braintree has an offer of $50k in free payment processing. There’s no contract, no deadlines, no monthly minimums. Seriously. Learn more here.

It bears mentioning that Braintree deposits take 2-4 business days (2 days for most cards; 4 days for American Express). That’s a bit longer than most of the other options here..

Customer Support: Great

Whereas PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, especially over the phone, Braintree has an outstanding reputation. The low volume of complaints against Braintree is astounding considering its size and its parent company. There’s a good knowledge base, but also solid phone support — and even a 24/7 emergency line. However, you won’t get as much personalized attention as the merchant account providers in this list.

Reliability: Excellent

The number of incidents we found of Braintree freezing accounts was exactly zero. The company also has a list of noteworthy clients and some pretty amazing customer case studies.

Integration & Implementation Options

Braintree offers an impressive array of features at no extra cost, including a marketplace solution, and a simple checkout option (PayPal actually built its One Touch feature on Braintree’s original offering).

Something else we really like is the fact that you can take your customer data with you if you ever decide to leave Braintree, which means your recurring billing won’t be interrupted.

What you won’t find are a virtual terminal, an in-house shopping cart, a hosted payment page, or payment buttons. However, Braintree does offer an impressive list of integrations for a variety of services, including shopping carts.

Other Features

Braintree’s v.zero SDK (software development kit) has Bitcoin and Apple Pay integration, both of which we like. You can also incorporate native in-app payments as well as a “check out with PayPal” option. However, Braintree doesn’t offer nonprofit pricing right now.

You’ll also have to look elsewhere for mobile processing — if you’d like to keep all the transactions in a single account, Inner Fence is your best option. Just provide a code to Inner Fence to link it with your Braintree account.

We gave Inner Fence 3.5 stars on our last review, mostly because we felt it under-delivered in some areas while over-delivering in others, creating an interesting dichotomy, to say the least. We also took issue with the pricing model. In addition to the fees you pay to Braintree, Inner Fence charges you a percentage of each transaction plus a monthly fee. A “Professional” account will run you $79 a month with a 0.9% transaction fee. That includes support for up to 10 terminals…but you get only one free card reader. With Braintree’s free $50k in processing we can almost say the cost might be worth it for low-volume merchants, but not really.

If you’re willing to forgo the convenience of all your funds going to the same account for the sake of better rates, here’s a great opportunity to try Braintree’s parent company offering, PayPal Here — or our top-rated mobile processor, Flint.

Stripe

Stripe-logoWe had high hopes for Stripe in our 2015 review update. However, what we found was enough to downgrade Stripe’s rating to 3.5 stars, so please bear that in mind. Whereas PayPal is a good option for anyone, Stripe is particularly suited to developers, with easy implementation for all sorts of eCommerce and Internet operations.

Pricing

Stripe’s pricing is on par with PayPal, at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. There’s no monthly fees, there’s no ETF, no PCI compliance. The suite of tools Stripe offers — at no additional charge — is actually a huge value, especially for low-volume merchants.

You can get volume discounts (undisclosed rates) but to do so you need to process at least $80,000 per month.

As far as payment schedules are concerned, Stripe takes two days to deposit your funds in your account for US-based merchants. Canadian and Australian merchants have to wait four to seven days, and all other countries will be on a seven-day delay. Still, this is a major improvement over Stripe’s former deposit schedule, which was seven days across the board.

Customer Support: Poor

One of the sources of Stripe’s review score was its poor customer support. There were numerous complaints on our site and elsewhere from customers about their awful experiences. Stripe doesn’t offer any sort of phone support, just a knowledge base and a Freenode-based chat support (#Stripe).

Reliability: Poor

The other reason we downgraded Stripe’s rating was the reliability factor. The number of complaints about held funds (something we admit is common with this type of payment processor) rose dramatically. Access to your money is critical to a business, and nothing to mess around with.

Integration & Implementation Options

Stripe’s poor support is such a letdown because of how many other great features it offers — which we’ve said before are actually a solid value for the cost. Stripe gives you a hosted payment page through Stripe Checkout, as well as payment buttons, in-app payments, the ability to set teams and permissions, and even marketplace solutions. Checkout, as far as industry offerings go, is actually one of the best payment flow options out there.

There’s no virtual terminal, in-house shopping cart or payment buttons, but the third-party shopping cart integrations are great. Get the full list of integrations here.

Other Features

Stripe supports in-app Apple Pay integration, as well as BitCoin, both of which we like. There’s no nonprofit pricing right now, and no mobile processing.

If you want mobile processing, however, you’ll have to look at Inner Fence, and link your Stripe account. If you want to incorporate mobile payments and don’t want to deal with Inner Fence, allow us to point you at Flint, our 5-star rated option for mobile. You can also consider some of our other mobile options.

Quick Comparison

Paypal PaylineData CDGCommerce PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Monthly Fee $0 $20 $10 $0 $0 $0
Pricing 2.9% + $0.30 0.20% + $0.10 + interchange 0.30% + $0.15 + interchange 0.75% + interchange 2.9% + $0.30 2.9% + $0.30
Customer Service Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Great Poor
Reliability Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor
Gateway Payflow Payline Data Quantum PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Features
Virtual Terminal X X X X
Included Shopping Cart X X X
Hosted Payment Pages X X X X
Payment Buttons X X
Recurring Billing X X X X X X
Info Storage X X X X X X
Shopping Cart Compatibility Excellent Good Good Good Excellent Excellent
Availability
US X X X X X X
Canada X X X X
Mexico X X X
UK X X X
Europe X X X
Other X X X

Want More PayPal Alternatives?

PayPal has such great recognition and a solid suite of tools for newbie merchants that in some cases, it seems the obvious choice. However, if you’re like most merchants, you will eventually reach a point where you experience some major growing pains — or you might encounter the dreaded account hold. At that point, it’s time to start looking for a provider that can deliver what you want, and more importantly, what you need.

The list of PayPal alternatives doesn’t end with those mentioned in this blog post, of course. Even if they aren’t direct PayPal competitors, there are plenty of merchant account providers to choose from when your business is ready to graduate from a third-party payment processor like PayPal. Check out this handy chart of top-rated merchant account providers. Don’t forget to also look at our mobile processing options!

Need help deciding? Want to get the lowest rates? Contact us and we’ll help you sort out your options!

The post Best PayPal Alternatives appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Help guide to Accepting Mobile Payments

This Year, the PewResearch Internet Project discovered that 65 % of respondents in the survey thought that by 2020, mobile payments may have almost entirely replaced the requirement for cash or perhaps charge cards. And if you&#8217re a merchant who&#8217s not accepting mobile payments yet, you&#8217re already behind the bend.

Now is a great time to have a look at why you ought to accept mobile payments, we’ve got the technology in play (and just what&#8217s coming), not to mention, the main players. We&#8217ll also demonstrate how to pull off obtaining the tools you have to accept mobile payments.

Why you ought to Accept Mobile Payments

Accepting mobile payments

Infographic by Jess3. Source: http://visual.ly/global-rise-mobile-payments

The truth is, business proprietors can&#8217t manage to focus on cash-only systems. Even though you&#8217re only a small-time crafts business and attend a couple of shows annually, should you don&#8217t accept card payments, you’re passing up on an enormous quantity of potential earnings.

Based on a 2012 study through the Fed, lots of people carry less than $20 in cash. Even though cash transactions were the most typical kind of transaction, their overall value was under credit, debit, or electronic transactions. By 2017, experts predict cash will take into account just 23 percent of transactions.

In a nutshell: if you would like people a larger investment along with you, you have to accept cards.

Technological progress around the mobile payments front continues to be slow. Square introduced its mobile payment system, enabling smartphone proprietors to show their devices into card readers, in ’09.

Google Wallet debuted this year, turning individuals same phones into digital wallets that replaced cards and funds, supplying, obviously, the business had the required equipment.

PayPal, the darling of e-commerce for a long time, didn&#8217t introduce its very own mobile payment solution until 2012.

However in 2014, Apple finally debuted its very own mobile payment solution, Apple Pay, which utilizes biometric authentication and NFC to create payments through the iPhone and Apple Watch. The adoption rate among Apple Pay is promising, with major retailers reporting massive increases in mobile payments.

In a nutshell: Apple joining the mobile payments field, and getting aboard a large number of major companies along the way, would be a big advance.

And also in 2015, Google made the decision to exchange Google Wallet&#8217s mobile payment abilities with a brand new application known as Android Pay. Google Wallet grew to become a peer-to-peer payments tool, allowing users to transmit money to buddies and family.

A 2015 study through the Given discovered that 22 percent of cell phone users and 28 percent of smartphone users had designed a mobile payment in the past year. That&#8217s up from 16 percent of cell phone users in 2014. And mobile transactions increased with a whopping 118 percent over five years, according to Business Insider.

Comprehending the Consumer Mindset

Researching the market may be the cornerstone associated with a effective strategic business plan. Here is exactly the same: Before you begin adding mobile payments for your business, it&#8217s essential that you understand a bit concerning the consumer mindset regarding them. Knowing your consumer can help you choose which option is the best for both you and your business.

Overall, there&#8217s great news. In america, Europe, and lots of japan, the outlook is usually positive and individuals are receptive. And when people begin using mobile payments, they are more inclined to keep doing so. The rate and ease of mobile are generally big factors within their appeal, so you have to remember this.

Plus, smartphones are starting to saturate the marketplace. An astonishing 82 % of 18-to-25-year-olds had smartphones by Q4 2013. About 60 % of the parents have smartphones, too.

That, however, doesn&#8217t mean there aren&#8217t any barriers to resistance or objections. Actually, a couple of pervasive myths might be keeping consumers from going mobile:

Infographic: Mobile Payment Myths

Infographic by Intuit. Source: http://payments.intuit.com/
mobile-payments-myths/

A 2013 survey by Accenture revealed some surprising insights about consumer sentiment toward mobile payments:

  • Many people understand their phones can complete mobile payments, however the adoption minute rates are low. That stated, once individuals have designed a mobile payment, they’re certainly going to keep doing so.
  • People aren&#8217t prepared to switch banks, upgrade phones, or make other changes just to obtain more support for mobile payments. Quite simply, it&#8217s around the merchant to become as flexible as you possibly can where mobile payments are worried.
  • Most importantly, individuals are concerned about privacy, security, and convenience with regards to mobile payments. Additionally they worry about value. Sixty percent of people that make mobile payments will make much more of them if utilizing their smartphone generated instant coupons. Several-third of mobile payment users are prepared to give private information in return for that convenience. They’re also thinking about value-added tools like receipt tracking.
  • Additionally to coupon incentives, consumers want to see other tools to supplement mobile payments. Which means features like receipt tracking or perhaps balance checkers might make an impact in adoption rate, as would having the ability to make use of a cell phone as evidence of ID.
  • Possibly most surprisingly, consumers AREN&#8217T waiting to determine what technology claims dominance. Which means there&#8217s likely room for a lot of types of mobile payments on the market, and it wouldn’t be impractical to think about finding a method to accept variations.

There&#8217s a little bit of push and pull happening here. There&#8217s a proper segment of shoppers who wish to use mobile payments. You may also lure new users to use mobile payments with the proper incentives.

Also important to note: Millennials, undoubtedly the greatest users of technology, are far interested in financial choices from technology, e-commerce and payment giants like PayPal, Amazon . com, Google, and Apple compared to what they have been in services using their own banks. One-third of them feel they won&#8217t want to use a financial institution whatsoever soon.

That stated, over fifty percent from the commercial banks have some type of mobile banking, and 61 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds who own smartphones use mobile banking. They have a tendency to determine their bank as interchangeable along with other banks, that is most likely one of the reasons for curiosity about alternative payments. The 2008 recession most likely didn&#8217t do much to assist Millennial perceptions of banks, either.

Mobile Payment Technology

At this time, you will find three contenders competing for dominance in mobile payments. They all have its very own advantages and disadvantages:

  • NFC
  • QR Codes
  • iBeacon

Let&#8217s take particular notice each and every to actually know how they might dominate mobile payments.

NFC

NFC, or near-field communication, is really a contactless data transfer system similar to RFID. When two NFC-enabled devices enter into range, you are able to transfer data from together (for example getting a telephone in selection of a charge card terminal). It plays well along with other technology for example Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, that is a huge advantage.

NFC isn&#8217t ubiquitous (yet), however it&#8217s found in many phones, particularly the flagship devices from Samsung, LG, and The new sony. Apple finally leaped in to the NFC game in 2014, and Google relaunched its mobile payments service as Android Pay in 2015. Samsung also launched its very own application, aptly named Samsung Pay, in 2015.

NFC is really a safe way of payments. Sensitive information is kept in a safe and secure element, either included in the Sim of the phone or put into another nick. Generally, retailers never really see your card or banking account data.

For any much deeper take a look at NFC, check out our guide, &#8220What is NFC, and Why Would You Care?&#8221

QR Codes

QR codes, or quick-response codes, have the type of ubiquity that NFC lacks. They work similar to your standard barcode symbols, with the exception that rather of counting on one-dimensional analog checking, they’re digital. This means that having a QR code readers application, your smartphone&#8217s camera could be temporarily converted to a scanner. QR codes can embed far more information than your standard barcode symbols, which provides them the ability to complete such things as open mobile sites, lead you to YouTube Videos, you will find, even allow you to complete mobile payments.

iBeacon

iBeacon is definitely an Apple-developed technology that utilizes Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE, or sometimes also known as Bluetooth Smart). Unlike another two kinds of technology, it&#8217s really still within the developmental stages. While you can use it for mobile payments, right now the greatest application for iBeacon is really as closeness alert or geo-fence that may go where Gps navigation doesn&#8217t.

It really works such as this: iBeacon units are positioned up within a building (like a mall). If somebody by having an iBeacon-enabled device makes selection of individuals beacons, they transmit information. A few of the ways fraxel treatments might be used is always to transmit mobile coupons or any other special deals, to steer customers through the store by department, or perhaps to enable them to find specific products on the grocery list.

A primary reason that NFC had an edge over Bluetooth for any lengthy there was a time the huge quantity of energy that Bluetooth needed. However, BLE uses much less energy than its predecessors, and that’s why it&#8217s now becoming more popular for pairing wireless rodents and keyboards (the batteries can last considerably longer). iBeacons with Bluetooth Smart technology won&#8217t be considered a massive power-suck for consumers. Plus, iBeacons have a further range than NFC: NFC devices have to be within 8 inches (though 2 ” is really most effective). iBeacons, however, have a variety of 50 meters, or about 165 ft.

For payments, iBeacons works as being similar to NFC: the telephone would wirelessly transmit payment information towards the terminal or beacon via Bluetooth.

It&#8217s also important to note that although iBeacons are Apple technology, they aren’t only at iOS devices. The telephone just will need Bluetooth Smart and also the appropriate application. In addition, Samsung announced its own form of the iBeacon, known as Closeness, at its 2014 developer conference in November. it really works exactly the same way as iBeacons, but instead of dealing with an application, Closeness works directly using the phone&#8217s hardware.

Even Facebook features its own Beacon service for companies. The beacons prompt people to the place to love the organization&#8217s Facebook page and offers additional information.

Major Players in Mobile Payments

Let&#8217s begin by analyzing a few of the major players in mobile payments, where they stand, and just how they compare when stacked facing one another. Included in this are:

  • Apple Pay
  • Android Pay
  • CurrentC
  • Flint
  • Square
  • LevelUp
  • PayPal Here
Apple Pay
apple-pay-logo

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Also in September 2014, additionally, it introduced Apple Pay, which utilizes a mix of biometrics and NFC to accomplish mobile payments. Furthermore, Apple already had major retailers arranged to begin accepting Apple Pay. With this particular mobile payment method, consumers never need to give their names, charge card figures, or security codes to retailers. Rather, Apple utilizes a unique device ID to process the transaction.

Apple Pay works together with debit and credit cards for major US banks, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express from Chase, US Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC, and much more. You should check out the entire listing of banks and retailers here.

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Android Pay

Before Apple Pay, there is Google Wallet. It never acquired much traction, however in 2015, Google launched Android Pay, the successor to Google Wallet. (GW continues to be available, but because a mobile wallet and peer-to-peer payments application.) Android Pay also uses NFC. To really make it work, you have to let the lock screen in your device. Unlock the telephone together with your preferred method (fingerprint scanner, PIN, or pattern) and tap it towards the terminal to accomplish the transaction.

There&#8217s also the Google Wallet Card. It&#8217s debit cards from MasterCard, that’s linked straight to your Google Wallet balance. You are able to link your GW account to your Android Pay account as well as withdraw cash from ATMs using the card.

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CurrentC
CurrentC_App

Apple Pay encountered some trouble when some major retailers (including CVS and Rite Aid) disabled its NFC terminals to bar Apple Pay. The main reason? Wal-Mart, Best To Buy, Rite Aid, CVS along with other retailers have partnered inside a partnership known as the Merchant Customer Exchange, that is creating a mobile payment option known as CurrentC.

CurrentC uses QR codes instead of NFC. However the CurrentC process is slow, much slower than NFC, and extremely clunky. It&#8217s exactly the same kind of system combined with direct deposits. First, the client must scan the QR code generated by register while using CurrentC application. Then, the cashier scans the QR code generated through the phone.

The main reason people from the MCE are tossing their support behind CurrentC is it could conceivably enable them to sidestep the charges that charge card issuers charge. Most retailers pay between 1 % and three percent from the transaction in charges. CurrentC would sidestep this by utilizing checking accounts, gift certificates, and store-issued an atm card.

Right now, CurrentC hasn’t gone live, however the application will come in iTunes and Google Play. Worth mentioning is the fact that in October 2014, CurrentC was hacked and user emails were stolen. That&#8217s before the woking platform is fully ready to go.

Here&#8217s why that&#8217s so troubling:

CurrentC collects your driver&#8217s license number, your ssn, as well as your birth date to ensure your identity. Additionally, it collects your wellbeing information. Plus, among the key selling options that come with CurrentC may be the coupon-and-rewards feature. While it might be a large draw for purchasers, additionally, it reveals a lot of data about users as well as their shopping habits. Everything information goes directly to retailers, since retailers are the type who developed the platform.

Apple Pay, by comparison, doesn’t collect that data, also it doesn&#8217t share any information with retailers.

Flint
Flint-mobile-logo

Unlike another mobile payment options we&#8217ve discussed to date, Flint doesn&#8217t need any kind of terminal. It&#8217s a really &#8220mobile&#8221 solution because all that you should accept payments is the phone, that makes it well suited for service companies which make house calls along with other vendors who travel. Flint&#8217s mobile application works together with the digital camera to scan cards (note: it never stores the photos it requires of the charge card) and process payments. Which means no fighting with card readers as you’ve to with PayPal and Square. However, you are able to only accept Visa and MasterCard right now, with no pre-compensated cards. (It&#8217s also important to note that in October 2014, Flint guaranteed $9.4 million in funding, with Verizon adding the majority of it).

Flint offers invoicing, support for mobile coupons (via email and Apple Passbook), and digital receipts for money and appearance options. Should you also sell online, you may also setup an e-commerce system for checkout using Flint. For retailers, Flint&#8217s rates rely on regardless if you are charging a debit or credit card: for debit, you have to pay 1.95 % for credit, 2.95 %. Money is deposited straight into your bank account within 2 working days.

Square
Square-POS-Logo

Square really was the very first company to go in the mobile payments space, completely in 2009. Anybody having a cell phone could start swiping cards and accepting payments having a dongle that connects to headphone jack. Square, like other mobile payment services, charges a set rate per transaction.

For card swipes, retailers pay 2.75 %. Should you key the transaction in by hand, that jumps to three.five percent plus $.15. Square&#8217s greatest issue, from the merchant perspective, is its difficulties with holding funds if this suspects fraud. Otherwise, retailers obtain money within 1-2 working days.

Using the EMV liability shift, Square introduced a brand new card readers that is capable of doing studying the nick-and-PIN cards. It provides 2 types of the readers, including one which has NFC support to be able to accept payments via Apple Pay, Android Pay, along with other NFC-based services.

LevelUp
LevelUp-logo

LevelUp is really a mobile payments processor with increased functionality than the other available choices we&#8217ve seen. It really works much like CurrentC for the reason that you scan QR codes. However, instead of linking to some banking account, it enables users to produce a mobile wallet using their debit and credit cards (the website states any U.S. debit or charge card is recognized). Additionally, it integrates with loyalty programs and generates coupons for you personally. LevelUp has greater than 14,000 partners, and you should check out their email list here.

Like Square, LevelUp includes a POS functionality. However, LevelUp also adds its very own terminal devices, that also support NFC and iBeacon. Much more promising, LevelUp&#8217s application for consumers can be obtained not only for Android and iOS, but additionally Home windows Phones.

Another thing that sets LevelUp apart is its open platform, that can be used to integrate to your own systems. You are able to integrate it into greater than 40 other POS systems in addition to e-commerce an internet-based ordering platforms.

Retailers pay just 1.95 % per transaction, without any chargebacks. Money is deposited the following day to your account.

PayPal Here
paypal-here-logo

PayPal is, unquestionably, a huge in e-commerce, as well as in 2012 it finally moved into mobile payments. Like Square, you need to simply swipe the credit card while using free card readers. The funds you collect go straight into your PayPal account are available for you quickly. If you possess the PayPal bank card, the different options are the cash inside your PayPal account when it&#8217s inside at any location that accepts charge cards.

Like Square and LevelUp, retailers are billed flat charges per transaction. There’s additionally a POS system and support for invoicing. You are able to accept checks by snapping photos together with your phone&#8217s camera. PayPal Here charges 2.7 % for card swipes, though manual key-ins are 3.five percent plus $.15.

Something also worth mentioning is PayPal&#8217s One Touch. This mobile solution enables you to definitely stay logged to your PayPal account in your phone and employ that to accomplish any in-application purchases.

Like Square, PayPal also offers an EMV-compliant readers with NFC abilities to be able to accept mobile payments via consumers&#8217 selected apps.

Accepting Mobile Payments with a free account

What must you do in order to start accepting mobile payments? Should you travel for the business, a mobile solution like PayPal Here’s most likely the greater choice for you. However, if you want POS capacity and also have a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll need an NFC-enabled terminal that may accept Android Pay, Apple Pay, yet others.

Credit card merchant account providers can frequently assist you to get yourself a terminal, because of free or at an inexpensive. Let&#8217s check out a few of the top-rated providers, using their charges for their terminal options.

  • Dharma A Merchant Account
  • CDGcommerce
  • Helcim
  • PaylineData
  • PaymentDepot
Dharma A Merchant Account
dharma-merchant-services-logo

Dharma A Merchant Account offers retail and e-commerce solutions alike, if you come with an web store in addition to a physical store you are able to integrate them easily. As opposed to a tiered prices model Dharma charges a $15 fee every month (including PCI compliance) by having an interchange-plus cost model for transactions. Dharma charges .25 % along with an additional $.10 per transaction for in-person transactions, and .35 % plus $.10 for e-commerce.

For small companies (individuals earning under $10,000 per month), Dharma includes a partnership with Flint, so use a smartphone or tablet to process charge cards. However, this doesn&#8217t provide NFC abilities.

Terminals: During the time of penning this, Dharma can re-program your overall equipment to utilize its services for $100. For $299, you can aquire a VeriFone Vx520 terminal, that is NFC enabled in addition to EMV ready.

(EMV is really a global standard that will become a lot more common stateside in 2015 because of the massive liability shift that starts in October 2015. Essentially, this means that debit and credit cards includes a unique nick that gives extra security. Basically we&#8217re more worried about mobile payments here, you need to certainly locate a terminal that’s EMV compatible too.)

Also worth mentioning: Dharma donates 50 % of their profits to charitable organization. It&#8217s additionally a certified eco-friendly business and B-corp. If social or ecological responsibility are part of your company model, this appears such as the apparent fit.

CDGcommerce
cdgcommerce-logo

CDGcommerce also offers retail and e-commerce payment solutions — but additionally, it includes a mobile payment option that Dharma lacks, known as ProcessNow.

Prices wise, CDG charges 1.95 % plus $.30 for online transactions, 1.7 % plus $.25 for swipes, and 1.7 % plus $.25 for mobile transactions. On the top of this, there&#8217s a $10 monthly support package as well as an optional cdg360 package with value-added security measures for $15 per month.

Terminals: For $79 annually, CDG will give you an EMV-ready and NFC-enabled PerkWave terminal along with a customer-facing readers. It&#8217s suitable for Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard, along with the remaining NFC payment services. CDG also promises to replace it all within 24 hrs. The long run-proofing guarantee helps to ensure that if another bit of technology becomes standard (for example iBeacon), it’ll change your terminal. Plus, you receive free terminal reprogramming for just about any existing equipment, a totally free USB card swiper that&#8217ll use most Home windows and Mac devices for those who have existing software, and much more.

Helcim
helcim-logo

Helcim is yet another processor with multiple solutions: it provides an online terminal for implementing computers or running an e-commerce site, retail solutions with terminals, along with a mobile payment solution, all on the monthly subscription plan plus interchange-plus prices (Helcim calls it cost-plus prices).

The virtual terminal package runs $30 per month, the retail package runs $12 per month, and also the mobile package runs $25 per month. CDG charges just .18 percent per transaction for mobile and retail transactions, and .36 percent for virtual/e-commerce transactions.

Your monthly subscription also covers PCI compliance. The mobile package incorporates a totally free card readers and limitless users — but additional card visitors $45 each.

Terminals: With Helcim, you possess an range of terminal choices to accept mobile payments, beginning at $199. Re-programming of terminals is free of charge, and the organization offers exchanges for $45, where it’ll give back a refurbished pre-programmed model.

Payline Data
payline-data-logo

Payline Data again provides retail, e-commerce, and mobile solutions, also it claims to give the cheapest rates, guaranteed. They&#8217ll even provide you with $500 whether they can&#8217t beat your overall prices.

Payline uses interchange-plus prices on the top of the fee every month. Standard plans start at $5 monthly for any subscription, though you will get the professional take into account $20. Using the standard plan, you have to pay .five percent plus $.10, and pro accounts pay .2 percent plus $.10.

Terminals: Once again you can buy multiple terminals from VeriFone and Ingenico, including EMV and NFC devices. Prices start at $195. There is also a number of other retail supplies, including check readers, card readers, PIN pads, as well as receipt paper.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Payline Data will donate 10 % from the processing revenue from your bank account to some charitable organization of the selecting from Payline&#8217s listing of approved partners.

Payment Depot
payment-depot-logo

Payment Depot operates a little differently compared to other processors we&#8217ve spoken about here. Again you’ve mobile, retail, and e-commerce solutions. You are able to pay a regular monthly fee or perhaps an annual fee that discounts the price by 20 %. But rather of interchange-plus, you have to pay a set rate.

That fee depends upon the package you select, which depends upon your monthly volume.

  • For sales under $10,000: $199 each year ($20 monthly) $.25 per transaction.
  • For sales as much as $40,000: $399 each year (40 monthly) $.15 per transaction.
  • Limitless: $599 each year ($60 monthly) $.10 per transaction.

Using the mid-tier package there is also a totally free virtual terminal so that you can enter payments from the browser or mobile phone. Using the limitless plan, Payment Depot offers an EMV-ready Smart Terminal.

Terminals: Again, you can aquire a free Smart Terminal using the limitless plan. Should you&#8217re not doing quite that volume, Payment Depot can reprogram existing equipment free of charge. Otherwise, you are able to use the organization to obtain a new terminal of the selecting, which will come at wholesale cost (the website states costs start just $49).

Final Ideas

We&#8217re residing in digital age, folks. Consumers have not had a lot of options, approximately much power — and for retailers, that may certainly appear frightening. And when you&#8217re not devotedly following a latest developments in technology, the idea of stepping into the sport can appear overwhelming.

Anything you do, don&#8217t just sit around at nighttime ages.

We&#8217re here to assist. Take a look at our reviews of charge card processors/credit card merchant account providers, in addition to our overview of mobile payment solutions. Need assistance selecting a service provider? Call us for help. We will also help you select a web-based shopping cart software to get involved with e-commerce, and pick a qualified POS software for you personally.

What else would you like to learn about accepting mobile payments? Ask away!

The publish The Best Help guide to Accepting Mobile Payments made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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What’s the main difference Between Nick-and-PIN and Nick-and-Signature Cards?

difference between chip and pin and chip and signature

The EMV liability shift is well going ahead and customers have began dipping individuals cards. At this time, most small company proprietors are most likely wondering why the heck everyone is speaking about nick-and-PIN cards when everyone appears to become using nick-and-signature. What’s the main difference between nick-and-PIN and nick-and-signature cards? We’ve briefly pointed out this before, however if you simply want all of the exciting details&#8211how it really works, what it really method for you, etc.&#8211we’ve got your back the following.

Support one minute.

Let’s review the way the whole magstripe/nick factor works again. Magstripes have secret figures baked into the small black box in your card. Whenever you swipe it, the device reads the figures and transmits on them the internet or phone lines to ensure the figures are correct. Charge card companies have made the decision to update prepaid credit cards since with magstripe, it’s simple for less-than-honest individuals to carry the secret information once the card is scanned or as the figures have been in transmission. Since magstripe figures never change, fraudsters can wreak lots of havoc with this particular information.

However, nick cards essentially possess a small embedded computer. Whenever you dip the nick, it interacts using the terminal&#8217s computer. First the credit card will be sending a secret, encrypted, at random generated message, towards the terminal that is construed through the terminal having a secret key, then the other way around. By doing this the credit card and also the terminal make certain that things are authentic.

To ensure the person while using card isn&#8217t a crook, the credit card user has to set up a PIN (that ought to match the PIN kept in the credit card or around the banks servers). Or, when the card is nick-and-signature, the individual merely has to sign their name and also the cashier may-or-may-not verify it matches the main one on the rear of the credit card. It&#8217s no question one expert stated that nick-and-signature cards are the same as “locking the leading door and departing the rear one open.”

That Seems Like an issue.

Okay&#8211that last sentiment is too dramatic in my opinion, however it got your attention, right? Here’s the factor: nick cards allow it to be incredibly hard for fraudsters to create a fake card because things are encrypted. The verification method (PINing or signing) determines how difficult it’s for any crook to utilize a legitimate, but stolen, card. For any nick-and-PIN card, the crook has to understand the PIN. For any nick-and-signature card, the crook just needs to be half-way decent at forging a signature (when the cashier even checks whatsoever). Since fake cards are an even bigger issue in the US than stolen cards, it truly isn’t a large problem.

Why Don’t We Simply Use Nick-and-PIN?

Short answer: it&#8217s a piece happening. There’s two big reasons we aren’t going right to nick-and-PIN. The very first reason is, the charge card companies don’t believe that consumers are designed for much change. They’re accustomed to swiping and signing, now they have to get accustomed to dipping and signing.

Prior to going off on the tirade about how exactly humans aren’t that stupid (I needed to after i learned this), there’s proof: when card companies in Canada folded out nick cards, individuals who sent nick-and-PIN cards recognized that individuals stored failing to remember their PINs. You’d think this is entirely the consumer’s problem, before you keep in mind that almost everyone has multiple cards, and also the card that’s an enormous discomfort will probably be the main one that’s used minimal. Bad deal for card provider.

Another reason happens because ATMs aren’t nick-compatible yet (plus they won’t be until October 2016 or 2017). Since magstripes continue to be a computerized fallback on ATMs, if your fraudster will get your hands on the magstripe data and PIN for any chipped card and uses the data at an ATM, they’re will make served by a great deal of money. Because the bank needs to cover the lost money, it&#8217s bad deal for that bank.

So How Exactly Does This Affect Me, the company Owner?

Glad you requested! The good thing is, you can’t take place liable if somebody utilizes a stolen nick-and-signature card together with your fancy EMV terminal. Hooray!

Unhealthy news is, you may be liable if somebody utilizes a stolen nick-and-PIN card at the terminal and you’ve got to fallback to processing it as being nick-and-signature. The reasoning is equivalent to it’s for just about any other EMV-related change: should you have had the best technology, theoretically the fraud wouldn’t have happened. Since most cards will be nick-and-signature at this time, I wouldn’t be worried about that as well much. However when the PIN cards start getting more widespread (which I’m guessing may happen inside a couple of years when ATMs get caught up), you might like to consider upgrading your terminal to 1 that does PINs.

Yet Another Thing…

There’s a repayment process increasing that bypasses the credit card altogether, and that’s NFC (near field communication). To obtain all of the juicy information regarding how it operates, take a look at our articles here and here, but let’s review the fundamentals. Customers can connect their cards to virtual wallets like Apple Pay or Android Pay, or connect their banking account straight to applications like CurrentC.

The verification process works similar to it will for chipped cards: the telephone and terminal send encrypted messages backwards and forwards over short range electromagnetic waves to make certain that things are legitimate. Within the payment application, you will see a verification method just like a PIN to guarantee the user is true. The entire factor is all very secure, theoretically. It’s additionally a couple of years lower the street from being broadly used.

We&#8217re tied to regular-old signatures for some time longer, but safer choices are coming. For now, verify individuals signatures!

The publish What&#8217s the main difference Between Nick-and-PIN and Nick-and-Signature Cards? made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Understanding and Staying away from CNP Fraud

Credit card online shopping

Once we trundle ever-nearer to total nick-card domination, professionals are predicting that &#8211 as happened far away who adopted EMV technology &#8211 nearly all fraud will migrate from counterfeit and stolen cards, and for the simpler target: card-not-present (CNP) fraud.

As always, for business proprietors, this is an excellent news/not so good news kind of factor. Unhealthy news? Unlike card-present fraud, where the issuer generally accumulates the liability for fraudulent costs, retailers are often accountable for any CNP fraud. Since this kind of fraud has already been the biggest way retailers generate losses, the concept that CNP fraud will become a level bigger problem is daunting.

But here&#8217s what’s promising: there are several relatively simple things you can do to prevent nearly all CNP fraud.

Internet Fraud 101

Everyone knows the internet is rife with methods and scams, but minus the coupon-clipping all of them. Let’s review the fundamentals, after which discuss what your company can to complete do not be responsible for their fraud.

Phishing Attempts: The fraudsters will be sending out fake emails or setup fake websites that appear to be legitimate so that they can get individuals to enter sensitive information for example charge card figures. These emails may also contain adware and spyware&#8230

Adware and spyware: Software made to work without anyone’s knowledge and monitor the consumer to be able to collect sensitive information, or simply really ruin their computer.

Account Takeover: A kind of id theft where the fraudster gathers details about their victim, then use that information to consider within the victim’s charge card/merchant services, change their passwords and billing address, etc.

Application Fraud: Similar to in account takeover, the fraudster uses information collected regarding their victim to spread out accounts within the victim’s name.

Charge Card Generators: This is exactly what it may sound like: a fraudster uses a generator to create fake charge card figures. That one is simple to combat should you employ a minimum of a few ways of verification.

Friendly Fraud: This type of fraud (also referred to as chargeback fraud) continues to be increasing lately. After ordering and finding the goods, a fraudster will request reimbursement claiming they never got their order, it had been broken, or even the order was said to be canceled. These claims are tough to combat because frequently retailers don’t have the documentation to demonstrate the fraudster wrong.

How you can Safeguard Your Company

Maintain PCI standards (even though you aren’t being attributed): PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Standards) is some standards made to reduce card fraud. These standards largely include common-sense ideas: conserve a firewall, set all passwords to something unique, regularly update and run anti-virus software, secure or tokenize all sensitive stored and transmitted data, restrict access of customer data to simply individuals who need to visit it, etc. Browse the PCI Standards Council website and this reference guide for more details regarding their standards. That one may not assist you to avoid CNP fraud around it can help you avoid data breaches. My own mail data breaches.

Make use of an Address Verification Service (AVS): This particular service blogs about the billing address joined through the customer towards the address on record using their charge card issuer. The service will flag any orders in which the addresses don’t match or only partly match, and it’s your decision to determine if you wish to risk accepting an order. AVS is nice protection against card information acquired though means like phishing and adware and spyware since the fraudster may not be aware of billing address. The down-side: AVS only works within the U . s . States.

Look into the Issuer Identification Number (IIN): The very first six figures from the charge card number is known as the IIN (formerly referred to as BIN&#8211Bank Identification Number). The dpi is much like the worldwide AVS&#8211you can be sure that the info on the IIN (like the country) matches the data presented to yourself on an order.

The Three Verification: By requesting the 3 or 4 digit the three on the rear of a charge card, you set another bit of information which fraudsters need to collect to be able to pass off like a legitimate customer.

Email Verification: Should you send a note towards the current email address supplied by the client requesting the customer verify the e-mail address is true, you are able to be sure that the email is connected using the additional information provided.

Make use of a 3D Secure Service: These types of services, for example MasterCard SecureCode and Verified by Visa use plugins in your web site to verify the identity from the cardholder. Customers who’ve cards held by participating banks is going to be requested to go in your password verifying their identity before they create their purchase. Bonus: the liability associated with a fraudulent charges that will get with the 3D services are selected up through the issuer, and not the merchant.

Check out Suspicious Orders: Somebody silently place in a purchase for a lot of costly goods? Plus they want priority shipping? Plus they would like them shipped to overseas? Sounds suspicious in my experience! Perhaps you should consider that the bit further. Read this link to find out more about what suspicious orders seem like and you skill about the subject.

Maintain Extensive Records of the Transactions: The greater information you’ve, the greater difficult it’s for purchasers to assert fraudulent refunds. Just make certain you simply keep sensitive information that’s essential. Also&#8230

Distribute Confirmation Emails: This task also causes it to be harder for fraudsters to weep chargeback. They can’t claim they weren’t informed, and email leaves a paper trail.

Practice Good Customer Support: Frustrated customers who can’t make contact with your company are more inclined to request refunds on their own products instead of trying to solve the issue in a manner that&#8217s more agreeable for you.

Don’t assume CNP fraud is somebody else’s problem. In all probability, you&#8217ll lose probably the most if your company is hit with fraudulent purchases. But here&#8217s more great news: because we know CNP fraud is rising, people happen to be developing new methods to combat this issue. It&#8217s only getting simpler from now on.

The publish Understanding and Staying away from CNP Fraud made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Improving Customer Engagement with Loyalty Cards


Highway Signpost with Customer Engagement wording on Sky Background.

Engaging your clients inside a positive, distinctive, and relevant strategy is essential for any company. The various tools you utilize to interact your clients need so that you can do three things:

  • Leave an optimistic impression
  • Separate your company from others
  • Illustrate the advantages of selecting you

Loyalty cards are an easy way to complete all of these things. They will use effective digital tools behind the curtain and also have advantages like a physical indication of the business. If you’re searching for methods to enhance customer engagement for the business, keep studying.

Influencing Customer Engagement

Why it’s important

While getting a dependable, foreseeable loyalty program can take part in your customer engagement strategy, it can’t function as the entire it. Finding creative methods to interact with your clients is definitely an organic, complex process, and loyalty programs are a good start to obtain there. All you do, from how you recognition rewards for the loyalty program, to how you manage customer complaints and suggestions, impacts the way in which customers view your company. These apparently small, mundane interactions will build with time and make lasting impressions in your customers. Research has shown that weekly interactions between customers and companies build loyalty, and 78% of loyal customers had experienced delight or surprise from that business. Showing courtesy and supplying good service are anticipated. Whenever your business exceeds the expectations of the customers, you’re growing the chances that they’ll spend more money, and/or even more frequently, at the business.

Talking about spending, one method to encourage a rise in customer expenses are to provide a number of incentives. Research conducted recently by LoyaltyOne regarding grocery retailers implies that roughly 8 from 10 shoppers would like grocery discounts to gas savings as incentives. Gas incentives were, but still are, a terrific way to reward customers, however they aren’t highly relevant to everybody. Similarly, inside your business, the rewards you are offering today might not be relevant tomorrow. Understanding what your clients want, and recognizing when individuals wants change, is essential to maintaining the amount of engagement that drives your company forward. How do we evaluate which your clients want, or when individuals wants change? I’m glad you requested.

Engaging Customers Through Loyalty Cards

Benefits

The potency of a loyalty card depends positioned on how it’s used. Research has shown there are over two billion loyalty program memberships within the U.S., with customers averaging around seven memberships each, but under one fourth of individuals are positively engaged customers. If your loyalty card for your company is only a gimmick, yet another factor to temporarily boost traffic, a loyalty card is going to do hardly any for you personally. Utilized as an item of connection, a loyalty card becomes a lot more effective. Consider a loyalty card like a middleman presenting two potential buddies, or perhaps a door giving use of . . . well, whatever’s on the other hand. A loyalty card introduces your company for your customers, promising something useful if they’re prepared to cultivate rapport. Obviously, loyalty cards don’t promise monogamy, your clients aren’t married for your business in the end, however they offer possibility of a far more significant relationship between both you and your customers. Whenever you provide a loyalty card, you’re telling your customer, “Hey, there’s more to my company. Do you want to discover?” Whenever a customer accepts your loyalty card, they’re suggesting, “I’m willing to hear what you are offering.” That connection may go absolutely nowhere. Or, it could cause a committed customer who brings you their business along with the business of the buddies. Or, and I’ll talk much more about this later, it might are a complete disaster and really hurt your company. There’s a hazard involved with beginning a loyalty program, and I’ve seen a couple of fails firsthand. The conclusion? Loyalty cards really are a gateway by which relationships between both you and your customers can grow. Here are a few advantages to presenting a loyalty card together with your loyalty program:

  • Identifies most loyal customers. This is correct for many loyalty cards, although not all. Loyalty cards with tiered structures be capable to differentiate between periodic customers and much more frequent ones, in addition to low spenders and greater spenders. The way in which tiered systems are structured can vary from course to course, but they’re among the best ways to pay attention to cultivating better relationships using the customers who really assistance to increase your business.
  • Enticing to prospective customers. For the way you plan the launch of the loyalty program, a loyalty card may be used to lure prospective customers through person to person. One factor you could do this is provide a secondary group of cards to new newbies (or old newbies, too) to provide for their buddies to allow them to test out your business. At the minimum, basically just like a place, I tell my buddies about this. Put an additional card within my hands, and that’s double points for the business. The additional card will help remind prospective customers that you simply exist and therefore are waiting prepared for everyone them.
  • Free advertising. Should you provide a physical card for the customers, they’ll make it around together everywhere. Whether it’s within their purse, wallet, or on their own keychain, anywhere they’re going there’s an opportunity someone around them might find your card.
  • Brand builder. Coinciding with free advertising may be the brand building potential. Loyalty cards aren’t viewed as frequently among small companies (unless of course you’re a series), so getting one boosts confidence that you’re legit, promotes recognition of the brand for individuals who’re less acquainted with you, and improves your general appeal.
  • Digital Loyalty Software. There are several benefits that include digital loyalty programs, even when they don’t make use of a physical card. These digital tools offer everything from tracking individual customer spending to outlining your best selling products or perhaps calculating your best promotions. It’s these back finish tools that enable you to evaluate customer behavior and switch it into something actionable. Customer profiles help you produce customer transactions more intimate. Customer tracking tools help you produce interactions more relevant. Customer comments options enable you to help make your program as well as your business better. Marketing and marketing tools result in the whole process a great deal simpler once you’re prepared to engage customers.

Pitfalls

And today comes unhealthy news. The greatest obstacle to some effective loyalty program, and often business generally, is managing customer expectations. You aren’t likely to satisfy every customer. Many will complain about all you do. Many will be perfectly happy (before you ruin, that’s: then, be careful Yelp, your company sucks). Complaints is often as simple as serving lukewarm fries, or as serious as not delivering the wedding cake on their own big day. Whenever you provide a loyalty program, you’re basically promising a mutually advantageous relationship. If customers don’t seem like you’re keeping the finish, one, or perhaps all, of those three things will probably happen:

  1. They create a large fuss, or, to become fair, possess a completely appropriate reaction in your direction, the server, or cashier, or someone at the business, possibly creating a scene.
  2. They patronize your company less frequently or stop coming altogether.
  3. They provide you with an adverse review. This may be a profoundly written “this place sucks,” a treadmill of individuals rare gems that really help you stay awake during the night.

Statistically speaking, people are more inclined to remember an adverse knowledge about your company compared to what they really are a positive one. Based on an SDL survey, 76% from the nearly 3000 people they surveyed stated they appreciated a significant negative experience of the this past year. For just one quarter of this number, the main negative experience cost them $20 or fewer as well as an hour to repair. Only 55% appreciated an optimistic experience. These negative encounters, trivial as they might be, are very highly relevant to your company. Actually, they may be pricey.

Improving Customer Relations

The very best technique for fostering positive customer relations is really a preemptive one. Know ahead of time that your company is likely to neglect to meet expectations for somebody, somewhere. Roughly 59% of customer support failures are related to an individual, instead of a failure of technology, or perhaps a joint failure of both. Should people provide you with a break once the internet is lower and absolutely nothing is working? In one human to a different, yes. But may they won’t. Because sometimes customers forget that they’re coping with people. And, around the switch side of this, sometimes employees forget that buyers are people, too. Sometimes Personally i think similar to a herded sheep when I’m waiting in the road at Starbucks. Particularly when I don’t understand what I would like (yikes!). At times it just takes a muttered comment or sideways glance from your worker to ruin my whole experience. Other days, I walk to the counter, just like a boss, and let them know things i want in a short time span, but for whatever reason the individual alternatively finish misses things i stated, or will get everything wrong. And, for any couple of seconds, I forget the cashier is an individual who, like me, makes mistakes. For the reason that moment, all I understand is the fact that my expectations weren’t met. Every customer’s reaction to that moment differs, but every customer may have individuals moments. Being ready for individuals moments is essential to improving customer relations for the business.

Customer comments. Some loyalty programs provide you with the choice to make notations on the customer’s profile. If your customer comes with an issue, make sure to notate it and react to it, even when it’s trivial. Getting a person prepared to complain is really a great sign. This means they trust that you simply care enough to listen to

their complaint and find a solution. It might also mean they’re manipulative rather than let anything go, but that’s splitting hairs. Complainers provide you with valuable feedback, even when their complaint is groundless. Fostering trust is essential, sometimes customers would like to be heard. Using complaints to enhance your company and just how both you and your employees connect with customers can also be important.

The price of a poor experience. There’s a genuine risk involved with not implementing customer complaints seriously. LoyaltyOne and Verde Group did some pot study just how much an adverse experience costs a company. The outcomes varied with respect to the industry, but losses were believed at between an 11%-25% decrease in revenue because of negative customer encounters. Silent customers, or customers who don’t complain straight to a company, constitute an enormous most of these encounters. Based on the SDL study, eight in ten customers don’t give companies an opportunity to make things right. These customers frequently reduce their spending or stop spending their cash at this business altogether. Additionally those that storm social networking, Yelp, or tell all of their buddies to not patronize your company. Negative comments are probably the most damaging. Even understanding what I understand about negative reviews, I’m reluctant to provide a company my patronage if they’re not well rated by their clients. Prospective customers are frequently switched off by scathing negative reviews. Exactly what do you need to do?

Rapidly resolving issues. You won’t have the ability to win every argument having a disgruntled customer. Actually, winning the argument could cost you more over time. Rather, try to resolve matters rapidly. The more an issue drags out, the much more likely it’ll escalate into something uncomfortable. Resolving issues doesn’t mean giving your clients something free of charge (although I really like freebies). Many issues could be resolved by simply apologizing and accepting blame. Based on the SDL survey, the best way to regain disgruntled customers involved the company owning their failures and acknowledging their mistakes (In the event that doesn’t work, try providing them with something free of charge!). Apart from individual customer complaints, you will find problems that affect all your customers, like a power outage or perhaps a stocking problem with a well known item. When unexpected things happen you know will inconvenience your clients, don’t wait to allow them to complain. Most of them won’t a minimum of, to not the face. Among the advantages of loyalty cards is they will help you become more positive together with your customers. Knowing your clients were inconvenienced throughout a certain period of time, you should use your loyalty program, whether it looks after a transaction history, to provide a coupon or special offering to customers who made purchases in that period of time. Should you don’t wish to offer any discounts, an apology for that inconvenience could work wonders too. Simply acknowledging the inconvenience goes a lengthy way with many different people, although it won’t work with everybody. You may also offer additional points, or punches if you are using a paper or digital punch card system, for that inconvenience.

Loyalty programs with Loyalty Cards

Fivestars

fivestars-rewards-logo

Fivestars provides a loyalty program with optional loyalty cards. It’s a great fit for small companies with a small amount of employees. Fivestars offers tiered programs, email promotions, and social networking choices for getting together with your clients, in addition to additional SMS text marketing plans.

Belly

belly-logo

Belly is really a Chicago based company that provides both plastic loyalty cards along with a mobile scanner to award customers for frequent visits. It’s an excellent fit for cafes, bars, small grocers and native niche shops. Features include e-mail marketing tools and social networking integrations, including Yelp review abilities.

Perka

perka-rewards-logo

Perka provides a digital punch card for rewarding customers. It’s a great fit for cafes, coffee and pizza shops, boutiques and companies that offer exactly the same product repetitiously. This program offers additional in-store ads, register bonuses, analytics on customer transactions, and push notifications for purchasers using the downloaded application.

Loyalty Gator

loyalty-gator-rewards-logo

Loyalty Gator provides a loyalty program with several options, including plastic loyalty cards, punch cards, along with other material. It’s a great fit for small storefronts, bars, spas, and boutiques. Customer engagement tools include targeted and transaction based emails, online enrollment, and extra customized marketing material.

Conclusion

Loyalty cards are an easy way to enhance customer engagement in your business. They provide effective tools to trace and evaluate your customers’ spending habits, requirements, and overall effect on your company. These power tools can assist you to personalize interactions for every customer to supply enjoyable, unique, and relevant encounters which strengthen the look of the business. Accustomed to achieve to your clients as well as their potential buddies, loyalty cards really are a physical representation of the business along with a indication for your customers that the services are prepared. While you continue to look for methods to improve relations between both you and your customers, consider the advantages of a loyalty card for the business. In the centre from it, customer engagement is exactly what drives your ability to succeed. Loyalty cards are merely a different way to make it happen.

The publish Improving Customer Engagement with Loyalty Cards made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Google’s New Formula Helps Local Companies

How Google&#039s New Algorithm Helps New Businesses

3 days ago Google did a normal update for their formula. No news there.

However hidden deep within the update list, Google pointed out the Venice Update.

In the last 3 days &#8211 it&#8217s been all of the news in local internet search engine optimization circles.

Here&#8217s the way it&#8217s likely to help local companies and what will change&#8230

The update simply reads&#8230

Enhancements to ranking for local internet search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement increases the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more about the ranking in our primary search engine results like a signal.

The Great

For some time now, directory sites have crowded out many legitimately good local companies in the search engine results.

For instance, should you looked for &#8220plumbers&#8221 and Google detected you had been in Atlanta, GA &#8211 you’d mainly see either &#8211

  • Prospecting &#8220Plumbers&#8221 &#8211 essentially companies who got phone figures from customers, then offered these to a genuine plumber
  • Internet Directory sites &#8211 for example SuperPages, Internet  Yellow Pages, YP, etc. &#8211 which needed the client to create an additional click to locate a plumber

Using the Venice update &#8211 everything is finished.

Whenever you look for a plumber in, say, Atlanta &#8211 you receive a list of the very most relevant Atlanta plumbers (as well as the AdWords ads, Google Places, and YouTube videos).

This can be a huge chance for local companies &#8211 since it provides a third (and free) method to stand before consumers (who’re overwhelmingly using Search to locate them).

Unhealthy

First, Google (and Bing, Ask, Yahoo) is sensible &#8211 although not yet brilliant at teasing your exact place.

Which means that customers might come across the incorrect group of results, and never give companies (particularly in bigger metropolitan areas) a good shake in the results.

Second, companies who’ve a variety of service (or national companies having a local presence) is going to be include a rock along with a hard place.

Staying with the Atlanta example, if Plumber A serves Norcross (Northeast Atlanta) and Sandy Springs (North Atlanta) &#8211 Google apparently will opt for the Plumber B who transpires with list Norcross more conspicuously than Sandy Springs even when Plumber B is really a more relevant plumber to Norcross, but shows up mainly in Sandy Springs.

And don&#8217t even get began on national the likes of Roto-Rooter.

So, while Google might have pressed away the junk e-mail of Internet Directories and Lead Generators &#8211 they’ve produced a motivation for businesses to produce hyper-local junk e-mail pages &#8211 for example http://world wide web.example.com/Norcross-GA then&#8230 /Sandy-Springs-GA then&#8230 /Atlanta-GA &#8230 and so on.

Buuuut&#8230. that practice can get your website suspended having a duplicate content penalty once the Panda filter appears.

Conclusion

Overall, the brand new formula update will reward small local companies who

  • Abide By The Guidelines
  • Provide Good Service
  • Update The Website Regularly
  • Get Great Reviews

And&#8230give local companies another lever to drag from the Big Corporations.

The publish How Google&#8217s New Formula Helps Local Companies made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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Merchant Maverick’s Awards for Best Small Business Software

Best small business software

For most small business owners, it’s a jungle out there. Danger lurks around every corner, predators seem to be silently stalking your every movement, and – in the immortal words of Jethro Tull – the rivers are full of crocodile nasties. Let’s face it, when it comes to start-ups and small businesses the statistics are grim. According to one recent study, the failure rate of retail establishments after four years is over 50%, and businesses in the service industry usually meet the same fate. Sadly, restaurants tend to do even worse, and the majority are forced to close their doors before a decade has passed.

There are many reasons why businesses eventually fail – bad locations, limited staff, a poor economic climate, etc. But experts are beginning to agree that most failed businesses (no matter what industry they belong to) have one, very important factor in common: inexperience on the part of the owners/managers. It’s all very well to follow your dreams, but man does not live on dreams alone. For most of us, a little thing called money is required if we want to eat, access our electricity, wash our clothes, keep our children shod, etc. That’s right, money. It’s what you get when you run a business that brings in more revenue than it puts out. That sounds so simple: spend less than you make. But the reality is that pulling in a profit takes knowledge, skill, and access to the proper tools. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve opened up a cat-grooming boutique or finally launched that grilled-cheese food truck you’ve always wanted – if you don’t know what you’re doing when you set out, and/or don’t bother to learn as you go, you might as well throw your seed money down the storm drain.

Fortunately, at Merchant Maverick (MM), we understand how hard it can be to start a business – let alone to keep one going for more than a year or two. You shouldn’t have to do everything by yourself – keeping up with inventory, payment processing, invoicing, shipping, point of sale, website design and the like is nearly impossible without the right equipment (good ol’ pen and paper just doesn’t cut it anymore). The good news? Advances in software and cloud technology have resulted in some pretty impressive small business tools. Even better news? The writers and reviewers at MM have invested thousands of hours researching, testing, and rating small business services/software. In other words, we know our stuff. Running a business is a tremendous burden, but the heavy lifting has already been done – we’ve done if for you – and all you need do is benefit from our years of experience.

Each company below has undergone a rigorous evaluation by an experienced MM reviewer. We scoured websites, read help articles, and browsed through user forums. We talked to customer service and saw for ourselves how responsive they were. And most importantly, we tested the actual software or service ourselves. The following are our reviewers’ top small business software picks for merchant services/payment processing as well as for mobile payments, shopping carts, point of sale, accounting, inventory management, invoicing, booking, email marketing, CRM, project management, loyalty rewards, and website building.

So, without further ado, let the awards ceremony for the best small business software begin!

Merchant Account Providers

Winner: Dharma Merchant Services

dharma-merchant-services-logo

Dharma Merchant Services is one of our all-time favorite companies, period, here at Merchant Maverick. Defined by exceptional customer support, low-cost hardware, excellent industry connection, and reasonable negotiation-free rates and fees, Dharma is an ideal option for small businesses with in-person sales. It distinguishes itself from the competition by using only interchange-plus pricing and charging no early termination fees or monthly minimums. There are no annual fees, no application fees, and no pesky PCI compliance fees to deal with either. In addition, this company dedicates 50% of its net profits to charity. Dharma is basically a paragon of integrity, honesty, and respect, and it’s worth its weight in gold in this sometimes unscrupulous industry,

There is one small catch: businesses must process at least $10K per month to use Dharma Merchant Services. Businesses with smaller revenue streams are directed instead to Flint Mobile (see review below).

Dharma offers amazing in-house customer support during business hours (8:00am – 5:00pm Pacific Time). If you need support outside this time frame, you will be directed elsewhere, depending on the severity of your issue and what processor you’re using.

To read more about Dharma Merchant Services, see our full review here.

Runner-Up: CDGcommerce

cdgcommerce-logo

Boasting a great reputation and a low monthly base fee (which includes access to Quantum gateway), CDG Commerce is a budget friendly alternative to Dharma Merchant Services, especially for low-volume merchants or web-based businesses. CDG was established in 1998, and has had plenty of time to cultivate a reputation for honesty and excellence. In fact, customer complaints are nearly non-existent, which is a miracle in itself after nearly 20 years in business. Like Dharma, CDG offers interchange-plus pricing, does not charge an early termination fee, and has no gateway setup fees or PCI compliance fees.

CDG Commerce charges only $10 per month in base fees; beyond that, you can pick and choose which additional services you want to pay for. This is a great system, as it ensures that you won’t be stuck buying things you neither want, nor need.

CDG offers live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. In our experience, support staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and scrupulously honest.

Click here to read our full review of CDGcommerce.

Mobile Payments

Winner: Flint Mobile

Flint-mobile-logo

Flint Mobile is our overall top pick for mobile, based primarily on its speed, ease of use, reliability, and price point. To start off, it doesn’t offer a swiper – not a free one, not a paid one, just no reader whatsoever. You can either key in card numbers or simply use your phone’s camera to scan numbers instead. That in and of itself significantly reduces the cost for setting up your account. Flint therefore has the ability to offer lower rates, which is exactly what they do. And with a ridiculously low rate for processing debit alongside a very fair credit rate, they’re nearly impossible to beat.

Flint has only two rates:

  • Debit transactions: 1.95%
  • Credit transactions: 2.95%

Yep, that’s it. It doesn’t get more complicated than that at any point: there are no per transaction fees, no non-qualified fees, and no surcharges of any kind. Flint Mobile runs transactions at a much faster speed than other similar apps, and while it might take a couple tries to get your scanning settings set up the way you like, Flint makes customization an easy and intuitive process. Our one complaint is that they do not provide any means for printing a paper receipt.

One very important thing to mention about Flint Mobile is that, even with the EMV liability shift (effective October 1st, 2015), users have no need to upgrade hardware. The camera scan will continue to work as it always has, with no change to liability. Currently it’s the only mobile processor we’re aware of that will securely process chip cards with no hardware upgrade.

This app can’t replace a full-feature tablet POS, but it comes with a number of amazing features (integrated QR coupons, invoicing, customizable receipts, etc.) and executes service flawlessly. If you’re looking for a sensible, surefire way to accept payments and grow your clientele, you can’t go wrong with Flint Mobile.

If you’d like more information about Flint Mobile, check out our full review.

Runner-Up: Payline Data

payline-data-logo

Payline Data is mostly a standard merchant account provider, but it has a good mobile solution and low-volume fee structure. Extra services are offered as-needed, so you only have to pay for what you need. There are two pricing models (to accommodate both low and high volume merchants):

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

We really appreciate the number of customer service and support outlets Payline provides, and it has an extensive knowledge base and FAQ for self-service support, which is quite nice.

Payline Data delivers on any businesses essential needs, and has managed to maintain positive reviews and a spotless reputation since 2009 – which is no small task in the credit card processing industry. In general, it’s a great pick for mobile processing for small businesses everywhere.

Find out more about Payline Data by reading our full review here.

Shopping Carts

Winner: Shopify

shopify-banner

Shopify is unique in that it can be used as a physical POS or an online shopping cart or both at once. This inherent flexibility gives it a clear edge over other shopping carts, and its low price point make it well within the reach for small businesses, even those with strained budgets. Shopify is the industry standard for shopping cart software, and for good reason. There are never any limits to the number of products you can sell, which is nice, though there aren’t many limits to the software in general.

All Shopify plans come with a full 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees. Plans range from $14/month to $179/month with rates ranging from 2.9% + 30¢ to 2.4% + 30¢. You can pay on a month-to-month basis, but you’ll receive a 10% discount if you choose to pay for one year up front (a 20% discount is offered for those who sign a two-year contract). We’re not terribly fond of Shopify’s transaction fees, unfortunately, although they do get waived if you use Shopify as your credit card processor.

Shopify is eminently user friendly, and the cart is easy to set up and easy to manage. In our experience, the software works flawlessly from the point of view of both the customer and the merchant, and it is one of the most feature-rich carts available. It is accessible for online mavens, but it is also well within the reach of newcomers and amateurs. Shopify offers a number of apps, some of which are free and some of which may cost a small fee. You can check out Shopify’s App Store to browse offerings.

Customer support is available via phone, email, and live chat, but there are other great self-help resources as well, including a support center, Knowledge Base, a discussion forum, and a Shopify “Experts” page where you can find experienced professionals in design, marketing, development, and photography.

For more information, click here to read our full review of Shopify.

Runner-Up: Ecwid

ecwid-logo

Ecwid, the “go anywhere, sell anything, no manual required” shopping cart, is designed for small eCommerce businesses, as well as for individual sellers and start-ups. We’re big fans of Ecwid, and there are two main reasons why. Firstly, it is extremely ubiquitous, and capable of integrating with nearly every existing website, from social media platforms to blogs. Secondly, it is so reasonably priced, compared to its competitors, that you would be foolish not to take it out for spin. Unlike most shopping carts, there is no typical “free trial period” for Ecwid. Instead, you can simply try out the Free Plan (the obvious advantage to doing this is that your services won’t be cancelled after your trial period ends).

Ecwid offers unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and no transaction fees on every subscription level, even the free plan. Paid plans range from $15/month to $99/month. Personal support by email and online chat are only available at higher subscription levels.

Like Shopify, Ecwid gives you the option to use the software as a physical POS. However, this function is really best suited for online-only business owners who want the option of having a mobile or “pop up shop” operation, but aren’t trying to maintain a physical storefront at all times.

In general, Ecwid is a solid product with great, user-friendly elements. It’s not the best solution for high-volume sales, but most companies out there (especially startups and very small businesses) will be fully satisfied with its features and ease of use.

Read our full review of Ecwid to learn more.

POS Software

Winner: ShopKeep

shopkeep-logo

ShopKeep is one of the best software solutions we’ve ever encountered at Merchant Maverick. This simple, elegant, and visually-appealing cloud-based POS has carved out a solid niche catering to small-business food and beverage sellers. For a very low monthly cost, ShopKeep can help you manage your inventory, customers, employees, as well as record transactions and offer a variety of reporting options (for analyzing all this data).

ShopKeep does not require you to sign a contract. It is a pay-as-you-go, monthly subscription service. There are no extra maintenance fees, and what’s more impressive, tech support is 100% included in the monthly charge. The actual pricing system is beautifully simple as well: $49/month/register.

Other than it’s extremely reasonable price point, ShopKeep’s biggest selling point is its ease-of-use. There is very little learning curve involved, and even the most technologically deficient should have no problem learning the ins and outs of this software in a matter of days (or hours, more likely).

Customer support is fantastic, and unlimited email, live chat, or phone is included in the monthly price. The support page on the company website is also fantastic, and offers comprehensive articles and video tutorials on every aspect of the software.

Read our full review of ShopKeep if you’d like more details.

Runner-Up: SalesVu

salesvu-logo

SalesVu is a perfect POS for the average small business, offering a robust feature set at a competitive price. eCommerce options are built right into the software, so you can design your own site from the back office without ever having to pay for (and integrate) Shopify or hire an expensive third party designer. Integrated eCommerce also ensures that communications between the web store and the brick and mortar store are smooth and seamless.

Prices range from $25/month to $150/month, depending on how many features you need (things like time tracking, accounting, etc. are a bit extra). Basically, SalesVu can be as affordable as you need it to be. Additionally, when you open an account with SalesVu you get a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit (for some small business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need).

Customer service is good, but the primary strengths of this software are found in its intuitive interface and broad flexibility. It is so much more than just a mobile cash register. With SalesVu, you can monitor inventory, create detailed reports, design custom discounts and promotions, maintain an active customer database, and manage employees – and you can do all these things anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. Opening an account with SalesVu gets you a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit. For some business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need.

SalesVu integrates with SalesVu Easy Accounting, Quickbooks, Facebook, and Zapper.

You can check out our full review of SalesVu for more information.

Accounting Software

Winner: Xero

best small business accounting software

It’s not hard to see why Xero takes the prize for best small business accounting software. It is mobile, cloud-based, easy-to-use, and extremely comprehensible for the small business owner who is handling finances on his/her own (click here for a full list of features). While it can be more expensive long-term than something like QuickBooks Pro, small business owners – especially those who aren’t accountants by nature or profession – are more likely to enjoy using a simple, intuitive program like Xero.

There are multiple pricing plans available, ranging from $9/month to $70/month (these prices include updates as they are released, usually every 3-6 weeks). Small companies with limited invoicing needs would have to look far and wide for a similarly robust accounting/payroll package that trumps Xero’s $9/month price tag. And happily, you don’t have to sign a contract with Xero; plans are paid by the month and you can basically cancel the service at any time. Xero offers a 25% discount for non-profits and a 15% discount on your total bill if you subscribe for multiple businesses. If you do feel comfortable making a commitment and signing up for a 6 month subscription, you’ll get a 30% discount.

There are only a few minor problems with Xero, one of which is slow customer support response times. Customer service is offered 24/7, year-round, but some customers have complained of long response times, cut-and-paste answers to questions, and reps who don’t seem to actually know how to use the software. This would be a much bigger deal if Xero was complex or had a steep learning, curve, but it’s not as alarming considering the software’s general simplicity and ease of use. Furthermore, many customers praise Xero’s level of customer service, and the wait times are comparable to those of other accounting software programs.

One real perk of using Xero is that it integrates with over 400 other applications which can facilitate nearly every aspect of business operation, including inventory management, CRM, and POS (some of these are only available to certain countries; in the U.S., there are about 350 Xero integrations available). 

Read our full review of Xero here.

Runner-Up: QuickBooks Pro

Best small business accounting software

Intuit’s QuickBooks Pro is a robust, feature-rich accounting solution, perfect in many ways for small business (to see a full list of features, click here). It is locally installed software, which results in lower per-year costs and more features than your typical cloud-based software, so if you’re willing to deal with a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning (especially difficult for people who have no previous accounting background), then QB Pro can be an excellent way to save money in your accounting budget. Though it lacks the convenience of a cloud based solution – you don’t get automatic, routine updates or instant access to new features – it is a very viable accounting solution for companies with complex bookkeeping needs.

QuickBooks Pro’s list price is $299.95. This might seem a bit high compared to something like Xero, but keep in mind that QB Pro requires a one-time purchase and does not use a subscription model — and it is nearly always available at a discount. While there’s no free trial available, Intuit does back QB Pro with a 60-day guarantee; if you return the program for any reason within 60 days, you can get a full refund. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the purchase price does not include updates, nor do you get full tech support or bank feeds. It’s also worth noting that customer service tends to be slow.

One comment we’ve noticed often on user reviews is that, while people aren’t particularly enthusiastic about QB Pro, it works and does what it’s supposed to do; many claim that it’s the best accounting program available. While that’s far from a resounding recommendation, it’s also true that despite its drawbacks, for many businesses, QB Pro is more than adequate. And whether you love it or hate it, QuickBooks Pro is often the best option for the money.

Read our full review of QB Pro here.

Inventory Management Software

Winner: Stitch Labs

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Stitch, the flagship product of Stitch Labs, is a cloud-based inventory management solution with tons of functionality, myriad useful integrations, and fantastic customer service. Designed to combine inventory, billing, accounting, shipping, and eCommerce features with your choice of 3rd party integrations, Stitch is the do-it-all, full service inventory solution. As the name would suggest, it is intended to be the thread that holds the backend of your company firmly together. Really, its only flaw is that is designed exclusively for American companies. International businesses will have to look elsewhere. 

Price plans range from $29/month to $449/month, not bad considering how many features this software brings to the table. What’s more, Stitch is easy to use, even for the uninitiated. The UI is clean, understated, and intuitive. Within a few minutes of signing up, you should feel like a pro, able to create products and customer contacts and generate sales orders with ease. It’s easy to pick up on your own just by experimentation, but if you’re queasy about finding your own way around, you can reference one of the many tutorials on each page that take you step-by-step through all the basic tasks.

In general, the customer service department is responsive and helpful. Our questions were promptly answered (never longer than 24 hours, even on the weekend), and ticket creation happened immediately, so we always had a case number to reference and never felt lost in the shuffle. Not surprisingly, the Stitch Labs support team is highly praised all over the web.

Stitch integrates with a large number of other programs and applications, including Amazon, eBay, BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and Square, to name just a few. And when you combine an excellent selection of integrations with powerful suite of tools,you’ve got inventory management software that is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.

You can read more about Stitch Labs in our full review.

Runner-Up: TradeGecko

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TradeGecko, a cloud-based inventory application for small to medium sized businesses, is comparable to Stitch Labs in functionality and number of integrations, but is more geared toward international companies (it still works well for American companies, if you don’t mind a time difference with the support staff).

The design of this software emphasizes collaboration, group workflows, and activity feeds. This means that you can reference sales information, purchase orders, and stock levels at once, and they will all update in real time. TradeGecko is intuitive and easy to use, and has a clean – if spartan – UI which is perfect for a bookkeeping system.

TradeGecko offers a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Plans range from $49/month to $399/month, though you can get a monthly discount if you commit to paying for a year up-front. The company provides a detailed knowledge base, with step-by-step instructions for performing many tasks, and it also offers 24 hour customer support. On the whole, our support experience was positive, though a few of our tickets took longer than we would have liked to resolve.

Integrations include Shopify, Salesforce, Xero, Magento, Quickbooks Online, Amazon, and WooCommerce (to name a few). All in all, TradeGecko isn’t the cheapest product on the market (which is why it’s the runner up for this category) but it is so intuitive and feature rich that small to medium-sized businesses with a budget to kick around should give it a look.

For more information about TradeGecko, read our full review here.

Invoicing Software

Winner: Freshbooks

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Officially, Freshbooks is a web-based accounting solution, though it is fair to say that it’s best utilized for its incredible invoicing features. This software is tailor made for independent contractors and small, service-based businesses; it is easy to use, has lots of interesting features (including time tracking, reporting, and expenses), and integrates with a huge variety of 3rd party applications.

Pricing, unfortunately, is a bit steep for the target market (small businesses), though there is a free plan which allows you to manage a single client. Paid plan range from $19.95/month to $39.95/month. Customer support is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm EST. In our experience, representatives are remarkably quick to respond to emails (usually within 20 minutes during business hours) and are courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable.

As mentioned above, FreshBooks offers more than 60 integrations and add-ons including  PayPal, Shopify, Basecamp, and Stripe. It is as comprehensive an invoicing solution as you could hope for, especially since it does offer other perks, like reporting.

You can read our full review of FreshBooks here.

Runner-Up: Invoiceable

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Invoiceable is simple, easy to use software that allows you to create professional looking invoices. It’s actually free to all, with no feature limits, though you can opt to pay a one-time fee to remove the company’s branding from your invoices: this is a perk that no other free invoicing program offers. Additionally, unlike many of the other major free invoicing programs, Invoiceable isn’t just a wimpy, scaled-back version of a paid service. You can have as many clients and send as many invoices as you like.

Of course, with a completely free service you’re going to miss certain features that come with a paid subscription. Support, for example, is unreliable and sporadic. Response times can vary between 1-12 days, and sometimes you may not get any response at all. There is also limited sales tax functionality, which means that the software really only works for businesses that charge a single, across the board tax rate, or don’t charge tax at all.

That said, if you are a freelancer or own a very small business with relatively low sales volume, this may be all you need for now. It’s leaps and bounds better than simply typing out your invoices into MS Word or Excel, and it is one of the best free options out there that both allow you to have unlimited clients and actually works in the United States! The interface is basic and intuitive, and while customer service is slow, you probably won’t need it most of the time. If this sounds like a good match for you, we suggest you try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose – after all, it’s free.

Read our full review of Invoiceable here.

CRM Software

Winner: Zoho CRM

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User-friendly, reasonably-priced, and full of useful features, Zoho CRM is our favorite customer relations management software, hands down. It’s not hard to see why we’re such big fans. The “building blocks” which make up the Zoho CRM logo are not there for design purposes alone; these blocks allude to the fact that the Zoho team has developed many other business applications, all capable of working together seamlessly (much like Google Apps). In addition, Zoho has an well-deserved reputation for integrating nicely with a number of 3rd party add-ons, including MailChimp, Unbounce, Google Apps, MS Office, and Quickbooks (see a full list of add-ons and integrations here). In short, Zoho CRM software can adjust to any size business, be whatever you need it to be, and grow with you as your business expands.

You can try Zoho CRM for free with a 15-day trial of their Professional package. After that, pricing breaks down as follows:

  • Entrepreneur: Free, up to 3 users
  • Standard: $12/user/month
  • Professional: $20/user/month
  • Enterprise: $35/user/month

24-hour Mon-Fri telephone support is available to paying customers, though those using their free edition are limited to email support. However, your email questions can be flagged according to urgency, so that important queries do not fall to the wayside.

You would be hard pressed to find a CRM that provides more functionality at a lower cost. Zoho CRM is, without a doubt, the most bang for your buck.

Read our full review of Zoho CRM here.

Runner-Up: CleverTim

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Clevertim is a cloud-based CRM system with a firm mission: to cater specifically to small businesses. With a surprisingly reasonable price point, a clean, user-friendly UI, and the ability to integrate with 3rd party developers (via an open API), Clevertim may just be as clever as its name suggests. The only chink in Clevertim’s armor is the lack of a mobile app. As it is now, the app functions smoothly on a desktop, but is only so-so on a tablet and virtually nonexistent on a phone.

Clevertim offers a 30 day free trial. After that, plans range from absolutely free to $99/month. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel your subscription at any time. Unlike most other CRM systems, Clevertim does not charge on a per-user basis. Instead, each plan has a user limit. There is also  customized pricing available, which allows you to upgrade the number of users allowed in your plan.

Clevertim is relatively new and does not yet have its own dedicated Technical Support team. However, queries can be sent to the company either via web tickets or through the sales email address.

Read our review of Clevertim here.

Booking Software

Winner: BookingBug

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BookingBug can do just about anything you would expect from scheduling software, but still manages to be accessible and intuitive. Many companies claim to be versatile, but this software actually is designed for a wide variety of industries, making it one of the only options out there for B&Bs or bike rental shops, and a better option than most for medium-sized spas and salons. It is a perfect tool for businesses that want to offer combination services while managing limited resources and limited staff (see a full list of features here). It is distinct from other appointment booking software other ways as well: first, it’s designed for serious scalability – which again validates its claim to be “the only real-time distributed booking and reservation system that works for all business types” –  and second, it integrates with a vast number of 3rd-party apps all over the world. This is a company that prides itself on innovation and flexibility.

Plans run from $19.95/month to $69.95/month, or you can scale up to an Enterprise plan, which are priced on an individual basis. Customer service comes free with your account. Like most companies, BookingBug relies heavily on email support, but phone support is available for some of the more expensive plans. We received helpful responses to our email inquiries within hours – always a great sign.

One terrific thing about BookingBug is that it offers your customers the option to make online payments (full or partial, including pre-payment and bulk payments); you can also issue full or partial refunds directly through the site via one of the software’s numerous payment integrations. BookingBug integrates with programs like MailChimp, WordPress, Facebook, and Dropbox as well.

There isn’t much negative feedback about the company online or in user reviews. Granted, some people have complained about issues with their mobile apps, but BookingBug’s receptivity and responsiveness to these issues speaks well about the company’s commitment to customer service.

To read our full review of BookingBug, click here.

Runner Up: Bookeo

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Bookeo is cloud-based booking software with a lot to offer. Not only does it include important booking features, but it provides a surprising variety of marketing solutions, integrates with many payment platforms and third party applications, and boasts excellent security features. This is innovative software as it is, and Bookeo continues to improve with age; significant new feature releases occur every few months, and updates are frequent. The only consistent complaint disappointed reviewers have is with its lack of phone support. (Bookeo relies on email and a store of 300 tutorials for its customer support.)

Bookeo’s pricing differs by product (in other words, by whether you want to book appointments, classes, or tours), but each version offers a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee on the first paid month of subscription. Bookeo accounts do not require set-up or processing fees and you don’t have to sign a contract – always a good sign.

One of the best things about Bookeo is that it is user-friendly. Action items and information are intuitive and clearly distinguishable, and the software in general is organized neatly, in a very manageable way. There isn’t much setup support, unfortunately, but the self-help tutorials available are precise, and sufficient enough to help you circumvent most major problems.

Customer service centers on the Bookeo Help Portal, which consists of 300 tutorials and an email support form. There is no phone support, however, and this is the only consistent complaint from disappointed reviewers. You can receive some support via a live chat option on Bookeo’s promotional website.

Read more about Bookeo here, in our full review.

Email Marketing Software

Winner: MailChimp

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At Merchant Maverick, we’re all in agreement that MailChimp is the boss when it comes to email marketing. It’s a mature, time-tested software with reasonable pricing plans, a great selection of features, and tons of integration, and it scales well to just about any size campaign. Better yet, for users with modest needs, MailChimp offers a robust, flat-out generous free plan which lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. There’s only one real catch: if you do your email marketing with the free plan, there will be a small MailChimp badge at the bottom of every email you send out. 

Paid plans come in two basic varieties: send-based (pay as you go) and list-based (monthly). These plans are fairly specific and complex, so if you’d like more details about pricing you should navigate here.

MailChimp is generally very easy to use, and signing up for a MailChimp account is simple; enter a name and email address and you’re on your way. The customer support system is pretty extensive as well, though it lacks telephone support, which is slightly disappointing. However, our experience with them has been good; representatives were courteous and well-informed, and inquiries were answered in anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on urgency. MailChimp’s biggest selling point, however, is that it offers over 500 integrations and add-ons. (These include Google Analytics, Zendesk, SHopify, Magento, and Salesforce).

Check out our full review of MailChimp here.

Runner-Up: AWeber

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AWeber appeals to a smaller niche than MailChimp, but it’s still incredibly easy to use and quite affordable. It comes with some very nice features, especially for businesses which want to send all new subscribers the same series of messages: the autoresponder setup in particular is easy, intuitive, and well explained within the program, and users have a lot of options. 

AWeber offers a free 30-day trial for lists of up to 500 subscribers. After that first month, there is a single list-based pricing plan available. It’s reasonably priced for the most part, but so robust that very small companies may find they are paying for lots of extra features they may not even require. If you don’t need much from your email marketing tool, you might be better off with MailChimp’s generous free plan.

In general, AWeber finds a healthy balance between ease of use and high functionality. Navigation is remarkably intuitive, considering the number of features available. The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor has some quite impressive characteristics, and recent updates to the software have have managed to significantly improve the email design experience. Additionally, the analytics and reporting capabilities are well above par for an email marketing tool of this type, as are AWeber’s investment in numerous 3rd-party integrations.

Our experiences with customer support have been positive overall. As a rule, we’ve found AWeber’s representatives to be friendly, helpful, and prompt in responding to queries. Response times to our inquiries varied in time between 20 minutes and 6 business hours.

Read our full review of AWeber here.

Project Management Software

Winner: Trello

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Trello is a visually-oriented, Kanban-based project management tool that works by allowing users to see and manage their tasks and projects via detailed ‘cards’ which are then pinned onto ‘boards.’ At its most basic level, Trello is an ingenious way to create and organize a set of virtual 3×5 cards without the risk of misplacing them, but it also can also work as a simple task management tool, offering features like file storage and automatic email notifications.

The standard, free version of Trello allows for unlimited boards, users, and attachments (with a 10 MB max per file upload). However, for a fee, Trello also offers two upgraded versions of the software: $3.75/user or $5/user

Trello’s simple, visually-appealing UI makes it incredibly easy to use; there is almost no learning curve involved. A mere five minutes after I signed up I was able to navigate the software quickly, creating cards and boards like a pro. It may be integrated with several 3rd party apps, including Zapier, Google Drive, Box. Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Trello provides email support (via support@trello.com) to all users during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST).

Not only is this software reasonably priced, but it is characterized by elegance, simplicity, and user-friendliness. It would be difficult to find a basic project management solution with a more intuitive, visually-appealing design. And in terms of sheer adoptability – of getting your employees to actually use a software-based task management tool – Trello scores extremely high.

You can check out our full review of Trello if you’d like more information.

Runner Up: Basecamp

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With over 9,000,000 current users, Basecamp is considered the most popular cloud-based project management software system of all time. It is, without doubt, one of the most user-friendly project management programs out there. When it comes down to brass tacks, simplicity is an enormously valuable characteristic, and Basecamp is just that – simple. This is project management software at its most basic and effortless level.

This software is celebrated for its no-frills, no-fuss pricing system. There are no hidden fees and no per-user costs. Plans range from $20/month to $150/month. Features include task tracking, a calendar, email notifications and a daily recap of activities, text documents (basically giant legal pads), and very simple reporting.

Basecamp is known for fast, reliable service. While they don’t provide the level of immediate personal support that you can get from other software companies (read: no phone or live chat support), the folks at Basecamp respond quickly to email requests and offer a large variety of ready-made aids and live training tools.

Basecamp itself is a pretty basic program, but there are a huge number of optional 3rd party applications available if you want or need to increase software’s functionality. You can see a complete list of Basecamp integrations on the official product website

If you have plain, bread-and-butter management requirements, we think you’ll find that Basecamp is a suitable, extremely affordable way to go. One of the best things about Basecamp is the fact that it is designed, updated, and supported by an established parent company. It is a sure bet, in other words.

Read more about Basecamp in our full review.

Shipping Software

Winner: ShipStation

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ShipStation is a reasonably-priced, web-based shipping solution for eCommerce retailers. Designed to streamline the fulfillment process as much as possible, this software has invested in a huge number of integrations that make it possible for you to sync up your business with the most popular sales channels, shopping carts, payment gateways, and mail carriers.

Pricing plans range from $25/month to $145/month. There’s a free 30-day trial that includes access to all features, with no credit card required. If you’re not satisfied with the product within 90 days, ShipStation offers a full refund, no questions asked.

The user interface can be a bit overwhelming at first, as there multiple options, menus, and sub-menus displayed on most pages. A bit of patience is definitely required when you start out, though you can take advantage of a number of video tutorials, a large knowledge base, and a pretty robust community forum if you run into trouble. Actually, you can have your own personal account manager if you want, and this person will help guide you through the setup phase of your account. Some of the higher paid plans can receive chat support as well. In general, customer support is slightly disappointing, and the responses we received to queries were somewhat boilerplate and indifferent.

One of ShipStation’s biggest selling points is that it integrates with an enormous number of carriers, marketplaces and shopping carts, especially when compared to the competition, including FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as Shopify, Etsy, Magento, Square, eBay, etc. The list goes on.

Check out our full review of ShipStation for more information.

Runner-Up: ShipWorks

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ShipWorks is probably the best shipping software available, though unfortunately it’s a PC-only app (which removes about half of the world’s users) and the learning curve is extremely high. The good news is that this software, which is designed to streamline the order fulfillment process for small to large businesses, has many amazing features you can’t find in other shipping applications. With a few clicks, ShipWorks can download shipping information from an online sales channel, calculate and print postage, generate labels, packing slips, and more. Combine this functionality with integrations for over 40 different mail carriers and eCommerce platforms, and you’ve got a shipping solution that really packs a wallop. Additionally, ShipWorks scales well, in a way that its SaaS competitors don’t.

Cost per month is determined by two different factors: shipment volume and number of licenses. Shipment volume is divided into three tiers:

  • $14.95/month for 0-99 shipments/month
  • $29.95/month for 100-999 shipments/month
  • $49.95/month for 1,000+ shipments/month

The price for shipment volume is then added to your licensing fee to determine the monthly bill. How much you pay for licensing is based on the number of online sales channels you use with ShipWorks.

Our own experiences with ShipWorks support have been positive. Turnaround times on support tickets were 24 hours or less, and we never had trouble reaching anybody on the phone. The Knowledge Base is extensive, and covers everything from setup and configuration to online marketplaces and shipping providers. What’s more, the articles are clearly written and provide plenty of screenshots.

As I mentioned above, ShipWorks integrates with a huge variety of shipping carriers and online marketplaces (including USPS, FedEx, UPS, Magento, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion), but if you happen to use a store that isn’t directly supported by ShipWorks, you can always work with a developer and use the ShipWorks Generic API to create your own integrations.

Click here to read our full review of ShipWorks.

Loyalty Rewards Software

Winner: Sweet Tooth

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Sweet Tooth is a prolific loyalty rewards software that currently works with over 3500 merchants worldwide, including Delta, Universal, and Olympus. Sweet Tooth is dedicated to increasing customer engagement, and case studies from many of the clients mentioned above have demonstrated nearly 20% increases in customer lifetime values, sales and repeat purchases. It is complex software with a high learning curve, but in general, the benefits of using a robust loyalty rewards software outweigh the inconvenience of having to learn how to use it! Sweet Tooth is an ideal solution for both eCommerce merchants and merchants who use combined methods of commerce.

Sweet Tooth works best – and is most full featured – when it’s used through Magento, though you can use a lighter, simpler version of Sweet Tooth on BigCommerce or Shopify (this is free for up to 500 customers). Sweet Tooth subscription plans are offered monthly and automatically renew unless cancelled. Plans begin at $49/month, and are broken down by loyalty point transactions and annual revenue generated on Magento. If your activity exceeds the limitations of your plan you will be required to upgrade to the next available plan. You can view the full pricing details for Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento on the Sweet Tooth website.

Customer service is available Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST. Overall, our experience with Sweet Tooth has been positive. Everyone we’ve spoken to at the company has been knowledgeable and friendly, and most reviewers on Magento cite the technical support as an essential part of their loyalty program.

Read our full review of Sweet Tooth if you’re interested in learning more.

Runner-Up: Belly

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Belly provides a more hassle-free loyalty rewards program than Sweet Tooth, and is ideal for smaller businesses with brick and mortar store fronts (such as bakeries, cafes, grocers, bars, spas, fitness clubs and boutiques). What’s really unique about Belly, though, are its customizeable rewards offerings and “all in one box” setup, which includes an iPad (with stand and combination lock), data reports, a personal support representative, social media integrations, and email marketing tools. Even more significantly, Belly customers get a mobile page for their business on the Belly app, where potential customers can look to find Belly-compatible businesses.

Monthly subscription costs range from $99 – $199, and all contracts run for 12 months. The cost of the iPad, iPad stand, application software, and unlimited rewards cards are included in the subscription costs for the highest plan, but an additional $150 installation fee is charged for lower plans.

Right now there are only a few drawbacks to Belly, most important of which is its steep price. Customer service can be a bit spotty as well, and unfortunately, not enough other businesses currently use it, which doesn’t provide much incentive to customers to get in the Belly network. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an easy, no-worries loyalty program, you can’t go far wrong with Belly.

Read our full review of Belly for more details and information.

Website Building Software

Winner: Wix

 

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Wix is our number one choice for web building software, and it’s not difficult to understand why. With its sleek editing interface and multiple selection of apps and integrations, it is an extremely effective do-it-yourself website designer. In addition to being easy to use, Wix provides a great selection of unique and visually appealing templates (there are hundreds to choose from).

The free version of Wix is provided to anyone who signs up, though any website you create under the free plan will be branded with the Wix logo. Paid plans range from $4.08/month to $24.90/month. Wix’s store offers payment processing through a handful of vendors, including PayPal, WebMoney, Skrill, and PayU.

All in all, Wix is intuitive and user-friendly. Within a few hours, you should be able to take a template, mess around for a bit with the editing tools, and build yourself an incredibly fine looking website.

Because Wix allows developers to create and share their own add-ons, other users are given the opportunity to expand and diversify their websites as well. Some of the most popular integrations available include online shop expansions (like the Etsy app), the Wix Hotels premium booking system, live Instagram feeds, website profile systems, and a variety of other site boosting applications

There is one downside to the software: unlike most other website-building services, Wix does not offer 24/7 live-chat or provide an email response system. There is a toll-free number you can call for help with technical issues, but be aware that you could possibly be put on hold for an unspecified amount of time.

Click here to read our full review of Wix.

Runner-Up: Jimdo

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With its reasonable price points and clever, yet simplistic editor, Jimdo has made a mark on the website building industry. Managing to be both straightforward and comprehensive, Jimdo allows users to make custom, professional looking websites. Templates are provided, of course, but you’re not bound to the confines of the template you choose; you have total freedom to edit and can essentially be as hands-on about the design process as you want.

Jimdo plans range from free to $20/month, and all plans come with an HTML5 WYSIWYG web editor, usage of professional-grade templates, social media tools, a mobile device editing view, blogging tools, photo galleries, Google Maps, contact forms, direct video embedding, widget integration, optimized mobile websites, and unlimited bandwidth.

While the only online payment processor currently supported by Jimdo is PayPal, a selection of various real-world payment methods can be activated in a website’s store, including invoicing, payment-in-advance, collection-upon-delivery, local pickup, and local delivery.

This is an easy-to-use service that somehow still manages to astound with the depth of its overall functionality. Some things may be a bit too simple, and Jimdo isn’t sophisticated enough to work as a tool for a professional web designer, but it is perfectly suited – price-wise and in ease-of-use – for small businesses who would otherwise have to hire out their web design services.

Read our full review of Jimdo here.

The post Merchant Maverick’s Awards for Best Small Business Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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