How you can Negotiate the right Charge Card Processing Deal

negotiating credit card processing fees

Negotiating charge card processing charges is intimidating, and even for good reason. You most likely don&#8217t need to negotiate prices greatly inside your everyday existence, and also you just negotiate a charge card processing deal perhaps a couple of occasions inside your entire existence. Sales representatives at a merchant account providers, however, negotiate these contracts each day. Whenever you cope with these representatives, you’re immediately in a disadvantage, which hurts your general confidence.

Confidence is essential to effective settlement. If you’re able to&#8217t with confidence state that an offer sounds bad or good, all sheds. This quick guide provides you with all the necessary tools to stack the negotiating deck to your benefit and provide you with the arrogance to obtain the merchant processing car loan terms you deserve.

1. Have an interchange-plus quote

If you wish to have concrete, significant bargaining power, it&#8217s interchange-plus or bust. With interchange-plus, the sales rep must separate the markup in the wholesale transaction cost, and therefore offer you two simple figures that you could easily match up against quotes using their company vendors.

The 2 figures are:

  • The proportion markup (e.g., .30%)
  • The transaction fee markup (e.g., $.20)

You’ve still got to cover the interchange fee along with other wholesale costs, obviously, but individuals figures are non-negotiable and for that reason don’t offer you any negotiating power. All processors need to pay exactly the same wholesale interchange costs.

Match it up having a standard tiered quote, containing a minimum of six figures, including:

  • Qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 1.75% + $.20)
  • Mid-qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 2.25% + $.25)
  • Non-qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 2.90% + $.30)

Since it&#8217s impossible to be aware what number of your transactions will fall under each tier, and also the markup and wholesale pricing is not separated, making significant comparisons between tiered prices quotes just isn’t possible more often than not.

Some providers designed for lower volume companies (like Flint or PayPal) do not give interchange-plus quotes. But any traditional credit card merchant account provider can provide cost-plus prices. When the representative will not, it&#8217s most likely time for you to hang up the phone the telephone.

2. Examine charges to calculate the effective rate

Which means you&#8217ve got your interchange-plus quote in hands, plus a complete listing of charges. Ok now what?

Well, it will help for those who have some knowledge of payment processing (we are able to help should you&#8217d like), however a careful newcomer can perform a fairly good job of examining and sorting charges, the initial step while calculating the effective markup rate, the number will make apples-to-apples comparisons across multiple processors.

Read this infographic to learn more of processing charges.

Searching at the fee page, highlight all from the charges which are &#8220scheduled,&#8221 meaning they occur at regular times. Such charges include:

  • Fee every month
  • PCI compliance fee
  • Gateway fee
  • Annual fee
  • Equipment warranty fee
  • Monthly minimum surcharge

These charges figure in to the markup cost.

Incidental charges (or one-time charges), however, are excluded in the markup. Such charges include:

  • Chargeback fee
  • Early termination fee
  • Application fee
  • Setup charges
  • PCI non-action fee

It&#8217s important to concentrate on these charges too whenever you make comparisons, but they don’t count included in the effective markup.

NOTE: Should you process lots of card-not-present transactions, consider an AVS (Address Verification Service) fee. Usually this fee is made to the markup quote for card-not-present companies, however, many providers are sneaky and can include it as being another fee. The AVS fee is billed any time you operate a transaction with no card present (for example via a website or over the telephone). The charge is generally small (maybe $.10), however it accumulates rapidly. Multiply this fee by the amount of card-not-present transactions you&#8217ll have inside a month, and include that number along with other scheduled charges.

3. Calculate the effective markup rate

Together with your charges carefully examined and sorted, you&#8217re prepared to calculate the special moment number. The effective markup provides you with just one number that works as a simple metric to check actual costs, not only quoted rates, across numerous processing quotes. It&#8217s the best number to think about when rate shopping, so give consideration!

You’re given an interest rate and fee quote which includes the next:

  • Interchange-plus: .25% + $.20
  • Fee every month: $15
  • Annual PCI compliance fee: $72
  • Monthly gateway fee: $10

You predict that you’ll process $20,000.00 monthly in card payments, with $100.00 being your average card payment transaction size.

Adopt these measures:

  1. Multiply your markup rate from your monthly volume. (20,000 * .0025 = 50)
  2. Divide your monthly volume from your average transaction size to obtain your average quantity of transactions monthly. (20,000 / 100 = 200 transactions)
  3. Multiply your average quantity of transactions monthly from your per transaction fee. (200 * .20 = 40)
  4. Accumulate all scheduled charges. For charges collected yearly, divide by 12 to obtain the monthly figure. (15 + 6 + 10 = 31)
  5. Add totals from lines 1, 3, and 4 to obtain your total price above wholesale. (50 + 40 + 31 = 121)
  6. Divide total price above wholesale from your total monthly card payment volume to obtain the effective markup rate. (121 / 20,000 = .00605)

So within this example, the effective markup rates are .60%, which is $121 in negotiable charges monthly. This is actually the ultimate test to find out if one provider will really be less costly than another, or maybe it just looks less costly. Believe me, sales people are experts at creating a quote look less costly without really helping you save anything.

4. Measure the overall value

The effective markup is really a effective number, however it&#8217s and not the whole story. Without assessing overall value, you can finish up selecting the least expensive provider although not the cost effective.

For instance, let’s imagine you process $20,000 monthly and also you get three quotes. You need to do the mathematics and obtain the next results:

  • Provider A: .60% effective markup, little else incorporated
  • Provider B: .70% effective markup, includes gateway and virtual terminal
  • Provider C: .90% effective markup, includes gateway, virtual terminal, and shopping cart software integration

Should you don&#8217t require a payment gateway or shopping cart software integration, and all sorts of other activities are equal, then your option is obvious. But let’s imagine you need to do require the gateway and shopping cart software, ok now what?

Well Provider A costs about $120. Provider B costs $20 greater than a. Provider C costs $60 greater than a.

Just how much would be the gateway and shopping cart software integration likely to cost when you get them elsewhere? The gateway could be easily $20 monthly or even more, so option B reaches least just like A. If Provider C is providing a great shopping cart software, that may certainly cost $40 or even more elsewhere. Which means that they all are comparable when it comes to value, despite the effective markup differences. But Provider A provides the best versatility, as you are free to find the gateway and shopping cart software you&#8217d prefer to use.

Other activities that impact value may include quality of customer care, quality of reporting system, deposit occasions, etc. They are harder to evaluate, but should be thought about whenever you make comparisons of worth.

5. Consider contract termination terms

Everybody will explain to see your contract, myself incorporated. But in fact it&#8217s a really lengthy contract, and when you&#8217re unfamiliar with the terminology, standards, and legalese, you likely won&#8217t have the ability to glean much helpful information from nearly all it. And the fact is that most anything is non-negotiable.

I still suggest that you attempt to see it, as it is a legally binding agreement. Should you only read one section, make certain it&#8217s the part that outlines the termination procedures. Ideally your contract may have an earlier termination fee waiver so the contract is evidently month-to-month. (Observe that car loan terms will still outline the termination fee, and that’s why it&#8217s essential to make certain the waiver is incorporated.)

Our featured providers don’t have any early termination charges!

If you’re able to&#8217t obtain the early termination fee waived, a minimum of consider the auto-renewal clause. This clause &#8211 that was contained in literally every contract I&#8217ve ever read &#8211 causes it to be to ensure that after your initial contract term expires (usually 3 years), anything AND early termination fee renew instantly! Which means that even though you fulfill the initial contract, you can still finish up being tied to the first termination fee.

Possibly the most crucial factor to look for within the termination portion of the contract is any language talking about &#8220liquidated damages.&#8221 This kind of early termination fee enables the company to gather 1000s of dollars in &#8220damages&#8221 from forecasted revenue loss according to your early cancellation. Never accept this.

6. Look around

Among the best negotiating tools you are able to gather together is multiple rate and fee quotes. Speaking to a minimum of three different providers prior to making your final decision will not only help you build confidence along the way, it offers a superior real-world specifics of the charges and rates suitable for your company.

Everybody really wants to understand how much she or he should purchase charge card processing. The reply is: The cheapest quote you’ll find. The figures vary too broadly that i can provide a concrete answer, however the simple fact is when one provider can provide you with a minimal quote, every other processor is going to be ready to complement that rate and fee quote to win your company. So even though you have your heart focused on one processor, it doesn&#8217t hurt to obtain another quote or more. If among the other quotes is gloomier, show it towards the provider you&#8217d prefer to utilize and encourage them to match it.

You need to be careful to evaluate the effective rate and overall value here, since one rate and fee quote might look much better than another, although not really be as valuable for you.

7. Never agree immediately

Here&#8217s a guide to reside by: Spend some time. Don&#8217t subscribe to any short time offers or high-pressure sales tactics. Even though you&#8217re confident you need to sign up having a particular provider, have each day to think about it and check out the figures. The salespeople may be inside a hurry to shut the offer, but you shouldn&#8217t be. When the representative is attempting to hurry you into signing, keep in mind that you don&#8217t owe her or him anything. When the pressure escalates, bring your business elsewhere.

Conclusion

By teaching yourself about payment processing, you build the arrogance necessary to cope with professional sales representatives and negotiate the cheapest charge card charges. Leveling the arena in this manner makes sure that both sides get a good deal. But don’t forget that does not every a merchant account provider has gone out to swindle you. Sometimes the outlet offers are really 100% fair and won&#8217t require any settlement. By getting an interchange-plus quote, figuring out your effective markup, assessing overall value, and following a other guidelines in the following paragraphs, you&#8217ll have the ability to determine whether settlement is essential and make sure that you&#8217re obtaining the cost effective feasible for your unique business.

To understand more about just how much you need to purchase charge card processing, read this article. To obtain fair rates and car loan terms when negotiating charge card processing charges with no fretting about getting scammed, check out a lot of our favorite payment processing companies. Tell us the way your negotiations use your comments ought to!

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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.

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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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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

stitch-labs-logo

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

tradegecko-logo

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

freshbooks-logo

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

invoiceable-logo

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

zoho-logo

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

bookeo-logo

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

Jimdo-Logo

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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The Very Best EMV Compliant POS Systems

best emv compliant pos

If you’ve been maintaining around the recent EMV liability shift, this really is most likely the 4 hundredth and 70-second article you’ve find out about it. But it’s still October and we’ve still got information to talk about, particularly if you’re believing that now might be time for you to change your POS system. Not every systems are EMV-compatible yet, which could start squandering your soon. No, it’s not time for you to panic and also you don’t absolutely need to be EMV-compliant right this second, however these nick cards aren’t disappearing. Actually, they’re already scheduled to develop more and more advanced within the next couple years. You’re have to a POS system around the innovative of the shift should you hope to maintain your business running easily. That leads me to begin this, the 4-hundredth and 70-second article you’ll discover the EMV liability shift: to talk about the very best EMV compliant POS systems available on the market.

For your benefit and titillation, below is really a break lower of 5 POS solutions that provide great functionality for various differently sized companies and industry types. The factors through which each system was selected include EMV compatibility, overall system functionality, affordability, and offline abilities (the opportunity to accept debit and credit transactions with no Wi-Fi connection).

ShopKeep                                         best emv compliant pos

ShopKeep is our number 1 pick for retail and food service POS systems, and that i really want it to be made to accommodate service industry companies too, because not just is ShopKeep an excellent system with things to look for along with a finely-tuned suit of features, but it’s also creating a surprising offer. Named the ShopKeep EMV Liability Promise, Chief executive officer and President Norm Merritt guarantees that as lengthy as you’ve purchased an EMV device from ShopKeep, the organization covers any EMV-related chargebacks until their software programs are EMV-enabled. Essentially, though ShopKeep is selling nick card readers, their POS product is not EMV-compatible. Rather of creating you have to pay with this, however, they’ve agreed to defend myself against EMV-related chargebacks until they’ve their system so as, because it’s not your fault they aren’t quite compatible yet. This really is something I’ve never witnessed completed in the POS industry before and talks to the lengths that ShopKeep would like to choose its customers.

Obviously, without impressive customer support, ShopKeep is much more than able to standing by itself with features like:

  • An intuitive and easy to use interface
  • An easy prices structure ($49/month/register)
  • Easy set-up
  • Affordable hardware
  • Multiple payment processing options
  • A complete suit of back-office functions
  • Raw component tracking
  • Offline functionality
  • Integrations with MailChimp and QuickBooks

Created for promising small to medium-sized companies, ShopKeep provides a effective cloud-based iPad POS solution in a cost that won’t carve an excessive amount of chunk from your budget. Together with various hardware bundles available on their online shop, they provide two EMV devices:

  • Ingenico iPP320, $299 – a wired, Apple Pay-enabled nick and swipe card readers
  • Ingenico iCMP, $249 – a radio nick and swipe card readers that’s also Apple Pay-enabled

As well as, ShopKeep is presently offering $500 in free hardware for individuals who register soon, however the deal is just good while supplies last. I’d encourage you to look into the complete ShopKeep review for any more in-depth look. This robust, ease to make use of system has enjoyed positive results recently and it has constantly demonstrated itself around the innovative of POS solutions, but when you’re less than convinced, we’ve had a couple more choices for you.

Clover Small  best emv compliant pos

Clover Small is yet another food service favorite, but can also be well outfitted for essentially any company within the service industry. Clover provides a unique undertake POS solutions by basically designing the unit to enhance your charge card processor. Though produced by First Data, Clover Small is offered alongside a free account by a number of banks, business suppliers, and a merchant account providers. This enables retailers to look around to find the best rates and—since each provider sell the unit in a different price—negotiate the very best deals around the actual product.

The machine itself is equally as flexible because the charge card processing options it provides. Having a modular platform created for customizability, Clover Small could be made to suit nearly any quick serve restaurant, dine-in restaurant, or service companies. Some abilities either incorporated and among the service plans or on the Clover application store include:

  • The opportunity to sell fuel in-store or in the pump
  • A pre-ordering application
  • SMS and social internet marketing abilities
  • The opportunity to produce a customer layout of the store
  • A purchase kiosk
  • The opportunity to pre-authorize cards for a specific amount on bar tabs
  • Appointment and reservation schedulers
  • A time verification feature
  • Integration with Constant Contact, MailChimp, QuickBooks, Xero, Magento, and Shopify
  • Phone order manager
  • Offline functionality

Their email list above only includes a few of the basics without mentioning the entire inventory, worker, reporting, and customer management functions offered within this effective little device. Although the interface has already been simple to learn and employ, set-up is even simpler since Clover Small has a built-in scanner, receipt printer, magstripe card swipe, nick card readers, and contactless NFC payment readers. Having a compact, 7-inch screen, Clover is fantastic for the tiniest storefronts, although it should handle mid-sized companies too. Read the entire review if you’d like more information, but it’s hard to fail having a system you are able to so carefully tailor for your business’s unique needs.

Revel Systems

best emv compliant posRevel is yet another POS solution with sufficient features and add-ons to match different types of businesses. Unlike Clover Small and ShopKeep though, Revel could be customized for everyone just about any business size in essentially any industry it’s a favorite for managing liquor stores and wineries, particularly. Revel is multi-locational, can manage as much as 500,000 SKUs, and hosts some good features like:

  • Offline capacity
  • Matrix inventory management
  • Extensive and intelligent reporting
  • Loyalty and CRM programs
  • Appointment scheduling
  • DTT security integration
  • Custom menu building
  • Cinema distribution compliance
  • Shipping compliance and delivery keeper
  • Bar tab management
  • Worker scheduling and management programs
  • PayPal, Shopify, Magento, QuickBooks, Xero, and social networking integrations
  • Catering management

Obviously, there are lots of more available functions, and Revel enables you to choose which features your company needs with industry-specific feature packages and additional add-ons. Because Revel is really feature wealthy, its beginning pricing is just a little greater than ShopKeep and Clover Small at $119 per month for that first terminal’s software license, 24/7 live support, limitless data storage, limitless software updates, as well as an integration with QuickBooks. Next, the cost only goes lower though, using the second terminal visiting $70 monthly and $40 for every additional terminal. In almost any situation, Revel’s prices continues to be comparable with lots of POS systems, even individuals with less features, less functionality, and fewer usability.

Revel integrates with a few payment processers including Mercury Payment Systems, LevelUP, and First Data (though there are other). For your EMV options, Revel Systems presently offers two devices:

  • Ingenico iPP350, $300 – EMV and PCI PTS certified, also accepts NFC payments
  • Verifone VX805, $180 – nick and magstripe card readers, also accepts NFC payments

Like a bonus, Revel offers additional hardware integration, and therefore if you’re not deeply in love with either from the certified EMV options, they are able to use you to definitely add any standard card readers for your system. Overall, Revel has got the options, customizability, featuring you have to keep almost any business running easily. Browse the complete break lower if you’d like, but when you’re searching for something a bit more specialized and industry-specific, we’ve still had a couple POS solutions which are worth exploring.

ERPLY

erply-logo

ERPLY is really a system which i personally reviewed a few several weeks ago and required a specific shine to due to its specialization in retail ERP functions—hence the name ERPLY. ERP is short for for enterprise sources planning, and is a brand-encompassing expression used to explain the entire process of managing all of the different aspects of a company, in the front-finish reason for purchase to back-office functions. Essentially, ERPLY’s goal would be to provide promising small to mid-sized companies using the tools to handle every facet of their companies without getting to purchase pricey third-party ERP software. I’d argue they exceed this goal though, since the amount of features and integrations they provide helps make the system attractive to large companies plus the smaller sized ones.

A few of the features which make ERPLY stand out from other POS systems include:

  • A simple shipping management module
  • Automated reordering and tracking of purchase orders
  • Advanced worker and customer management
  • Easy sales promotions and coupon features
  • Customizable sales reports
  • Customizable dashboard feature
  • QuickBooks, PrestaShop, Magento, and Shopify integrations
  • Offline functionality
  • A warehouse web application accustomed to manage and ship products, receive inventory, and configure shipping/receive rules everywhere

ERPLY also provides its very own accounting and eCommerce platforms, that is nice if you’re searching to side-step integration problems that can occasionally include third-party providers. The selection can be you.

Another option that’s your decision is the charge card processor. ERPLY has partnered having a pretty lengthy listing of them:

  • Bank of the usa
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • Wells Fargo
  • US Bank
  • HSBC
  • Mercury Payment Systems
  • Element Payment Services
  • PayPal
  • Cayan

Apple Pay can also be not far off, however if you simply don’t visit your preferred processor out there, contact ERPLY plus they might be able to add some integration for you personally. ERPLY has additionally taken a positive method of EMV compliance with three devices to select from along with a 4th scheduled to get available early 2016.

  • Verifone MX915, $480 – NFC and EMV-enabled video display readers
  • Verifone MX925, $570 – another NFC and EMV-enabled video display readers
  • Verifone VX520, $175 – a smaller sized, more rugged EMV and NFC readers
  • Verifone VX805, $270 – scheduled to be shown Q1 2016

You standard countertop EMV readers will probably be about $200 to $400, putting the 2 Verifone MX models over the average cost you’d normally purchase a nick card readers. As these devices have video displays, though, they are a good spot to put targeted advertisements and marketing information. Ultimately, you’ll need to determine if that sort of feature could be well worth the extra $100 or $200. In almost any situation, if you’re an entrepreneur within the retail industry, I’d recommend taking ERPLY’s free trial offer for any spin or at best exploring just a little further using the full review.

Quetzal

best emv compliant pos

Quetzal, created for promising small to mid-sized shoe and apparel retailers, is among my personal favorite POS systems simply because they have several the friendliest staff I’ve ever labored with. Customer support is definitely an essential facet of any POS solution, because every software will have the periodic glitch and you will find certain to be questions throughout the first couple days of operation (otherwise longer). A great tech support team team ensures that you will get the most from neglect the and Quetzal (together with ShopKeep) takes the prize for the reason that category. Although, I shouldn’t be amazed thinking about Quetzal is really a Canadian company.

That’s not saying that you’re going to need to use Quetzal’s support everything frequently, since the interface carries the Apple aesthetic and general simplicity of use. The rear-office and front-finish functions are without effort made to minimize user error and streamline the setup and checkout processes. You can handle as much as 10 locations with Quetzal, that is a pretty reasonable cap for many mid-sized companies. When you get bigger than that, you’re gonna need to transfer to a POS system made to handle large inventories and much more locations. However, even when you’re striking the maximum with 10 locations and a pair of,000,000 SKUs, Quetzal it’s still equipped to handle your operational needs. Some highlighted features include:

  • Simple, easy to use checkout functions
  • Decently priced hardware (especially because the built-in iPad camera can be the scanner)
  • Extensive reporting functions and options
  • Simple to use color and size inventory matrix
  • Customer account management (includes Tag Cloud feature which makes for simple upselling)
  • Offline operation functionality
  • 9 fully integrated language options
  • Integration with Apple’s Figures

Such as the other POS systems, Quetzal offers several charge card processing options. Quetzal integrates with payment partners National Discount A Merchant Account, Mercury, Velocity, Moneris, CardSmith, and SumUp. These payment gateways provide use of acquirers like Bank of the usa, Chase Paymentech, First Data, Global Payments, Heartland Payment Systems, TSYS, and Vantiv. The EMV options Quetzal offers include:

  • Ingenico iPP320, $299 – a wired, NFC-enabled nick and swipe card readers
  • SumUp Pin+ – SumUP isn’t available in america yet (it’s mostly the UK—where in EMV standards will be in place for some time), but it’ll be soon and Quetzal has intends to utilize their EMV abilities

With reasonable hardware costs and competitive licensing charges (as little as $890 per place for a 1-year license), Quetzal is really a robust POS solution that won’t blow a significant hole inside your budget. It won’t even blow a medium-sized hole, but you’ll have virtually all you need to cultivate a effective business. If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to definitely have a gander in the full review.

Final Ideas

I understand, I understand. I simply put a lot of information to you, but stay. I’ve got a bit more for you personally.

Like a general tip for anybody buying a new EMV device—or really any charge card reader—don’t ever lease it. Should you can’t covering the $200 to $400 for every new terminal, place the purchase on the business charge card. The eye minute rates are far better and also the purchase is tax deductible. Read this article if you’re thinking about a rent-to-own deal for your nick and pin readers.

Another good point is if the readers you’re purchasing can also be in a position to accept near field communication (NFC) or contactless payments. Though these aren’t as prevalent as traditional card transactions yet, they’re certainly growing in recognition, and it’s most likely smarter to possess that option now rather of getting to exchange your hardware again inside a couple years.

Finally, all of this talk of EMV liability and nick card readers ultimately leads us to your a merchant account provider. If you’ve observed bad rates, hefty charges, or simply poor service, now may be time for you to consider altering processors. I’d research just how much you ought to be having to pay for charge card processing and explore a few of the options available. If you’re ending up just a little overwhelmed on the bottom, though, you can call us. We’ve got the sources to assist you.

The publish The Very Best EMV Compliant POS Systems made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods

Alternative Payment MethodsBeing able to accept credit and debit cards is the lifeblood of any business. For brick-and-mortar locations, it’s worth knowing this: About half of all Americans carry just $20 in cash with them on a daily basis, and about 80% of Americans carry less than $50 daily. This means if you don’t accept credit cards, you could be missing out on sales.

If you sell online, you have to have a way to accept credit and debit cards, period. And it’s crucial that you have a professional system that shoppers will trust with their payment details. For most people that means a merchant account with an established payment gateway.

But are cards and cash — and all the traditional ways of doing business — the only options?

Of course not. There’s no shortage of companies devoted to changing the way we think about paying for things. New technology is bringing concepts like using phones to make payments into the mainstream. Having multiple ways for customers to pay is a good thing, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of convenience to you — or higher fees!

Let’s take a look at some alternative payment methods that you can integrate into your business now, what it’ll take to do so, how secure they are, and how popular they are.

1. Apple Pay

apple-pay-logoApple Pay was not the first company to offer contactless mobile payments, but it was the first to make them popular. Apple Pay uses NFC (learn more about this technology here) and the TouchID fingerprint reader to enable contactless in-store payments, as well as in-app purchases. With iOS 9, it also supports loyalty cards and rewards programs.

Compatible devices:

  • iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and later models
  • Apple Watch (with iPhone 5 and later models)
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3

Apple claims to support credit and debit cards from most major banks in the U.S. and the U.K. (A press release from Apple says that with support for Discover added this fall, the app supports 98% of credit card purchase volume.) That’s good news. The launch of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is also good, because it means consumers with older iPhones will likely start upgrading their older devices, expanding the potential user base.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t actually publish usage statistics. A survey done in June 2015 found that 13 percent of users with an Apple Pay-capable phone had used the feature; another 11 percent had plans to do so. We know that Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year (the first quarter Apple Pay was available) — but not all of those were necessarily the 6 or 6 Plus. Still, it’s safe to say there are likely several million Apple Pay users across the country, even if some studies suggest that Apple Pay adoption rates are decreasing.

You’re still going to have to have a way to process credit cards to accept Apple Pay, so you’ll need a merchant account, a functioning POS, and an NFC-enabled terminal. The good news is Apple doesn’t charge any fees for Apple Pay transactions, so you only pay the standard credit and debit card processing fees.

Mobile payments like this have several measures for security. First, merchants never actually handle buyers’ credit card numbers. Instead, Apple Pay generates a single-use code (this is called tokenization). Even if a hacker gets the information, it’s useless because the number is good for one time only. Second, when consumers tap their phones to the terminal, they have to confirm the purchase with the TouchID fingerprint sensor.

Finally, the phone itself provides some security. The card numbers aren’t stored on the device — they’re kept in the cloud and the device can be locked remotely if it’s ever stolen. The CPU never handles the processing of the NFC transaction, either. A secure element or a separate chip bypass the rest of the system to communicate directly with the NFC-capable unit.

2. Samsung Pay

samsung-pay-logo-2015Samsung Pay is (you guessed it!) the Korean company’s response to Apply Pay. It is also an NFC-powered contactless payments app. It works on a handful of Samsung Galaxy devices:

  • Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and later models.
  • Galaxy Note 5 and later models.

Samsung Pay just launched in September of 2015, which means it’s quite new. We’ll update you with usage numbers when we have something reliable and representative to report. But we do know that Samsung had sold an estimated 45 million Galaxy S6 phones (including the Edge and Edge+ variants), plus the Note 5 (for which sales numbers aren’t available right now). The potential user base is very large, but we’ll see how it pans out.

At this point it’s worth noting that the app requires consumers to be on one of five networks (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular) and have a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card issued by Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or Citi. The app also accepts merchant credit cards issued by Synchrony Financial. You still earn any rewards or points linked to those cards, but specific loyalty cards and coupons aren’t supported. There’s no in-app payments feature either, though Samsung hasn’t ruled it out.

Again, you need an established way to process credit cards and a compatible POS, and you won’t pay any additional fees for Samsung Pay transactions. But your existing credit card terminal might already accept this particular type of payment. That’s because Samsung Pay uses both NFC and something called magnetic secure transmission (MST). Basically, it allows the phone to emulate a traditional card with a magnetic stripe. That means you don’t need an NFC-capable terminal — but if you don’t have NFC, you can’t accept Apple Pay or Android Pay (next on this list), which limits your options.

Most EMV terminals are also equipped for NFC, so the machine you just got as a result of the liability shift most likely supports these contactless payments. But if your terminal isn’t EMV capable, that’s another issue entirely.

Samsung Pay relies on a fingerprint scanner as well. Users need to launch the app, swipe their fingerprint, and then pass their devices close to the terminal. That’s not quite as intuitive as Apple Pay from a user-friendliness standpoint, but apps evolve and change. At this point it’s just too early to say anything definitively.

3. Android Pay / Google Wallet

android-pay-logoAndroid Pay, like Samsung Pay, is very new, launching in September 2015. At the same time, it’s much older than that: Android Pay is the successor to Google Wallet, Google’s contactless payment solution/mobile wallet, which launched in 2011.

Android Pay works on any Android smartphone (Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola, just to name a few) running the KitKat OS (Android 4.4) or higher. It’s NFC-powered, with support for debit and credit cards as well as loyalty/rewards programs. An in-app payments feature is set to launch later.

These days, Google Wallet has become a P2P payments app — an easy way to send money to friends and family for free.

The wallet supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards from a handful of banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Citi, PNC, Wells Fargo, and USAA (check out the full list here; more banks will be added as time goes on).

By now, you should have a good idea of what to expect as a merchant: You need a way to process credit cards, a compatible POS, and of course, an NFC-capable terminal. Payments are kept secure with tokenization. Users also need to enable the lock screens on their phones — which can then be unlocked using fingerprint readers, PINs, swipe patterns, and more.

4. LevelUp

LevelUp-logoThe alternative mobile payments technique to NFC is the QR code. QR codes work a lot like traditional barcodes, but they can hold a lot more information — like payment data. The biggest difference is that instead of an NFC-enabled terminal, you need a barcode reader.

LevelUp is the leader in QR code-based mobile payments with its app, but it also builds custom white-label apps for businesses. In addition to the QR codes, LevelUp works with NFC and iBeacon. The LevelUp app works for both iOS and Android. In addition to phone-based payments, LevelUp also supports loyalty programs. You can even link any loyalty programs you have set up through Apple Pay into LevelUp (there’s also support for one-touch signups using TouchID).

Despite having been around for a while (it launched in 2011), LevelUp is admittedly a small player. It has some 14,000 partner businesses, including some major names. The app has over 100,000 downloads in Google Play, which isn’t much compared to a lot of other apps. But the company does have white-label solutions, so it’s difficult to accurately gauge numbers.

LevelUp is a little bit vague on pricing, but if you dig around, you’ll find that payments are processed for a flat 2% fee. That’s good, considering Square charges 2.75% and PayPal 2.7% per swipe. It’s not necessarily as low as you’ll get with merchant accounts, but rates vary a lot based on the type of business you run and what kind of cards you process. A flat 2% should be convenient for most people. LevelUp will also charge a 25% cut of any incentives you offer through its campaigns feature.

To accept payments, you need a compatible POS and LevelUp’s proprietary scanner ($50 each). If your POS isn’t compatible, you can get the LevelUp tablet for $100 according to the pricing page on the website.

As far as security goes, LevelUp offers PCI compliance and encryption, as well as tokenization. In fact, LevelUp uses a triple token system: the token your phone generates goes to a token on the LevelUp servers, which in turn routes to a token on the Braintree servers, which is the payments service LevelUp uses to store credit card data.

5. CurrentC

CurrentCCurrentC_App is another QR code-based payments method. It’s developed by the Consumer Merchant Exchange, led by Walmart and some other heavy-hitters in the retail business. Unlike LevelUp, users can pay using either their bank accounts, store cards, or gift cards. For merchants, that means significantly lower fees. (It’s not well advertised, but you can also add merchant credit and debit cards.) CurrentC also links up with loyalty cards and lets you redeem coupons and discounts in the app.

CurrentC is still in test mode, but the website promises it’ll be ready to roll out across the country soon. One advantage for CurrentC is that it’s widely available for consumers — whereas Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are only available for the most recent smartphone models, and Android Pay requires a recent version of Android (which not all smartphones get), CurrentC should be available for download even on budget smartphones.

In terms of user experience, CurrentC is a bit clunky. Depending on the location, users have to scan a QR code generated by the register, or the cashier has to scan one generated by the user’s phone. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to enter a code. With some retailers, you can use Bluetooth Beacons instead of QR codes.

As far as security goes, CurrentC requires you to put in a PIN every time you open the app or switch between apps. You can also lock the device remotely if it ever goes missing. Like the other services we’ve discussed here, the app uses tokenization — it generates a random one-time use transaction ID and doesn’t pass personal data onto the merchants.

CurrentC is odd in that it also collects some personal health information — it’s disclosed in the privacy policy, which you can read here. While it seems fairly innocuous, I highly recommend that you understand what data is collected and how it’s used.

As far as requirements to accept CurrentC go, you’re really just going to need a POS and barcode scanner capable of reading QR codes. CurrentC also has a way to allow gas stations to accept payments at the pump by inputting a code. Restaurants can use the app too, with a feature that enables consumers to leave a tip.

I’m hoping when CurrentC gets a broader release that the MCX will be a bit more forthcoming about information. There’s no disclosure of processing fees, for example. The support website, which is hidden from the main site, has much more information about how the app works, which I find a bit frustrating because it took some digging to uncover it.

6. PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015As a retailer, accepting PayPal has a huge advantage for you. It’s widely recognized by consumers, so they feel secure paying with it. In fact, PayPal has more than 170 million users worldwide, and it’s the payment method of choice on eBay. PayPal lets users link credit cards, debit cards, or bank accounts to make their payments. There’s also a free P2P payments tool, so consumers can send money to friends and family for free.

Merchants can use PayPal to accept payments on a website and through a smartphone or tablet when they’re on the go or in stores.

For retailers, PayPal doesn’t offer a full POS in its own right — it has a decent set of features, but if you need more capabilities, you can always turn to one of PayPal’s partner POS systems, which you can learn more about here. You can build a register out of a tablet, a cash drawer, and a receipt printer, if you want one. You’ll pay just 2.7% per swipe.

For online retail, PayPal integrates with a lot of shopping carts. For most online transactions, the company charges 2.9% + $0.30. That’s higher than you’ll pay with a solid deal from a merchant account provider in most circumstances, but it comes with a super easy setup. (Just beware that you’re at a higher risk of potential holds or freezes on your account given the nature of PayPal’s business — no contracts, available to everyone, pay as you go.

You can also build a “Pay with PayPal” feature into apps, with PayPal’s One Touch Feature included so that users don’t have to re-enter their usernames and passwords, which adds to the convenience of using PayPal.

However, if you want a hosted payment page, you’re going to have to shell out $30 a month for the PayPal Payments Pro plan. You’ll also get a virtual terminal for that cost. If you have the standard PayPal plan (which has no monthly fees), your customers will be directed to the PayPal page to complete the payment, then back to your site.

If you’re using PayPal Here, the company’s mobile solution, you should know that PayPal does offer an EMV reader that also supports NFC payments. It’s $150, but you can get $100 in rebates when you process $3,000 in 3 months. That’s not the best deal — Square is able to offer an EMV capable reader for $30, or an EMV/NFC-capable reader for $49, with a rebate available for select retailers. Even if you don’t qualify for Square’s rebates, Square’s EMV/NFC reader at full price is the same as PayPal’s reader when it’s discounted.

Like PayPal, Square lets merchants accept credit card payments on the go and in stores. You can also accept Square online, provided you use either the Square marketplace or build a site using one of Square’s 2 (yup, that’s right, 2) partners. Square’s rates are comparable to PayPal — just a flat 2.75%, no per-transaction fees.

7. Pay with Amazon

Pay with AmazonLike PayPal, Pay with Amazon (also known as the bulkier “Login and Pay with Amazon”) lets users pay on your site using their login credentials for another site — in this case, Amazon. They can use whatever payment methods they have stored on their Amazon accounts.

While PayPal is universally known, Pay with Amazon seems to be less common — but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. Amazon had 244 million active users in 2014. That’s roughly 70 million MORE users than PayPal. You won’t be limiting your audience if you choose Pay with Amazon over PayPal.

Pay with Amazon charges you 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction. That’s identical to PayPal’s rates for online transactions. You can even do recurring billing for subscription packages. Plus, Pay with Amazon is entirely pay-as-you-go: no contract, no early termination fee, no monthly fees.

However, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no mobile support, so if you also sell in person, either at events or in a store, you’re going to have to look elsewhere for a solution. To accept Login and Pay with Amazon, you just need a compatible shopping cart. Fortunately, you have several great options: You can choose from Xcart, Magento, and Shopify, among others. Check out the full list here.

There are some other advantages here. First, Amazon offers a growth guarantee: If you sign up for the service, and you don’t see an increase in sales over the course of 30 days, the company will refund your processing fees up to $100,000. That’s a nice option if you’re really not sure about switching.

Plus, the Login and Pay with Amazon feature gives you a hosted payment page for free. More good news: You get the same fraud protection used by the Amazon.com site, so you’re not liable for any fraud-related chargebacks. (However, that’s not to say you’re protected against everything; you can still expect a $20 fee for any service-related chargebacks.)

One downside is the time it takes to get your money, which has been a pain point for a long time for sellers on the Amazon marketplace. First, there’s an initial 2-week holding period. After that, Amazon will settle your account daily — but it still takes 3-5 days to transfer funds from your account to your bank. With PayPal, your money is available pretty much immediately…and if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend it anywhere at any time, not just online.

8. Bitcoin

bitcoinOut of all the alternative payments here, Bitcoin is most definitely the most “alternative” option. Unlike cash or credit, Bitcoins don’t have any physical form. No coins, no paper money. Bitcoin exists solely on the web. Unlike other currencies,which are centralized and controlled by governments, it is entirely self regulated. A network of computers handles the processing and records the transactions in a public register (more on that in a moment).

There’s a lot of info available about what Bitcoin is and how it works. You can start here to learn more. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know to accept Bitcoin.

First, not accepting Bitcoin certainly won’t cost you any business. The estimated userbase is 5-10 million people worldwide, with an estimated 110,000 daily Bitcoin transactions as of June 2015 (nearly double the approximate 60,600 daily transactions in June of 2014). However, if your target demographic is young and hip to the digital scene, that’s certainly a reason for you to consider accepting Bitcoin.

One nice advantage to accepting Bitcoin is that generally speaking, the fees are incredibly low, especially compared to PayPal or credit card processing rates. Some processors can even take Bitcoin and convert it into US dollars and deposit it in your bank account. However, the fees also vary, and the value of Bitcoin fluctuates. From October 2014 to October 2015, the value of 1 Bitcoin has hit as low as $177.28 USD and spiked as high as $427.24.

Security works much differently with Bitcoin, too. Every transaction is kept as part of a public ledger, but the users’ personal details are anonymous, which makes it harder to steal someone’s identity. No PCI compliance is required. There’s no opportunity for chargebacks, but at the same time merchants can’t alter charges, either. And you can encrypt and secure your Bitcoin wallet in other ways as well.

To accept Bitcoin, you just need to find a processor. Good news is, there are a lot of them. Even PayPal has a way to accept Bitcoin, through the PayPal Payments Hub. Braintree, a PayPal-owned company, also accepts Bitcoin via a partnership with Coinbase.

9. E-Check/ACH

Cash, debit, and credit are the most popular kids on the block when it comes to payments. Checks lag far behind other options — an April 2014 report by the Fed found that just 3% of people prefer to pay primarily with check, compared to 43% of people who favor debit cards.

That’s not to say checks are totally irrelevant. Some people don’t have debit cards. Or sometimes your debit card gets cancelled and you’re stuck waiting for the new one to arrive, but you need to make a purchase. And you can (sort of) use checks to pay online, thanks to e-checks. Those type of transactions are also called ACH transactions because they’re routed through the Automated Clearing House, which is an electronic network of banks that also handles direct deposit and electronic bill payments. You don’t have an explicit check number with e-checks, but you still have to provide your routing and account numbers, much like the old-fashioned bit of paper.

The numbers on the popularity of ACH are a bit sketchy. In 2014, the ACH handled more than 23 billion electronic payments totaling more than $40 trillion. The problem with that number is that it includes all those direct deposits and bill payments — mortgages and utilities, especially. It’s not a completely accurate depiction of the eCommerce scene.

One of the big advantages to this payment method is how much more affordable it is compared to standard credit card processing rates. ACH fees, depending on who processes them, might be a percentage of 0.5% or 1%, or a flat fee, which is typically in the range of $0.25 to $0.75. That’s not bad at all, especially if you get the flat fee. Assuming a 1.85% rate on credit card processing fees for a $250 transaction, that’s $4.63 in fees compared to a maximum of $2.50 with a 1% rate for ACH.

There are a lot of ways to accept ACH. For one, both Amazon and PayPal allow customers to link and pay with their bank accounts, though you, as the merchant, will end up paying the standard 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (for a $250 transaction, that means $7.55).

If you have a virtual terminal, you should be able to enable this feature, but fees will vary based on your provider. Some of the services that we’ve reviewed that support ACH/e-checks include:

  • PayJunction
  • PaySimple
  • Forte Payment Systems

Another merchant account provider that supports e-checks is PayStand. We haven’t reviewed PayStand in depth (partly because it just launched publicly in 2014), but right off the bat we’re impressed by the level of transparency on the site and the depth of information available. We’re less impressed by the claim that its credit card rates — 2.49% + $0.30 — are wholesale, especially given the additional $99 monthly fee for the basic plan. However, PayStand also gives you very low-cost ACH transactions and free Bitcoin processing, as well as mobile processing. The service is promising and some merchants are sure to find value in Paystand’s offerings.

You also don’t need to sell exclusively online to accept ACH. If you have a retail setup, you can get a scanner to convert checks into e-checks. That means transactions will be a bit easier — there’s no forwarding checks to banks and waiting to find out if they clear.

ACH is definitely a great backup option to have, but probably not the best choice for a sole payment option. There are a couple of reasons not everyone will want to use ACH payments:

  • One, ACH takes a bit longer to process than debit or credit. So it takes longer for you to get your money and consumers have to wait longer for the transaction to process.
  • Two, it’s not the most secure for consumers, because they have to provide both their account numbers and routing numbers. While the rate of fraudulent transactions is low — just 3 of every 10,000 ACH transactions are rejected for being unauthorized — online payments are the least secure form of ACH transfers (compared with direct deposits, P2P transfers, and online bill pay).

And frankly it’s easier for a lot of people to plug in a card number and a 3-digit security code than it is to root around for your checkbook to get the account and routing numbers.

10. Dwolla

dwolla-accepted-here-logoDwolla is technically a third-party ACH service, but it’s a standout in the field for a few reasons. One, Dwolla’s basic features are entirely free to use. That means ACH payments, recurring payments, and the ability to distribute large numbers of payments (e.g., employee paychecks). And there’s an option of sending money to family or friends, as well, so there’s definitely a consumer base.

Two, with the tiered service plans (starting at $25/month and going up to $1500/month) you get a range of extra features that make Dwolla even more attractive. That includes next-day transfers (a big plus) and the option for white-label payments. That means, basically, you’ll get a hosted payment page. Customers don’t leave your site and don’t get any indication that they’re using Dwolla.

Paying $1,500 per month for the service sounds outrageous, until you consider that you’re not paying any transaction fees. If you’re doing substantial business with ACH payments, you could easily wind up saving money in the long run. And having a hosted payment page is nothing to sneeze at — or the next-day transfers, the higher limits, payment profiles, etc. (There’s also a $250/month option that gives you more than the basic package but not quite as many perks. That’s good if your business isn’t quite enterprise-scale.)

Now, if you don’t want to shell out $250 or $1,500 monthly for all the fancy tools, or don’t care about a hosted payment page, the basic $25/month plan still gives you next-day transfers. If you want to keep your fees even lower, you can forgo the next-day payments all together.

Customers have the option to create a full-fledged Dwolla account or use the simpler Dwolla Direct. The Direct account is a lot less involved compared to Dwolla’s original setup. Customers can get themselves set up in under a minute and they can link their online banking credentials to pay instead of linking their accounts directly.

As far as security goes, Dwolla uses tokenization and TLS 128-bit encryption. There’s also two-factor authentication — and you’ll have to enter your PIN whenever you move money or make a change to an account.

Adding Dwolla to your options for online payments is easy with the custom API, and creating an account is free, so you can give it a try and get a feel for it before you even set up Dwolla for your business.

Alternative Payment Methods: So Where to Now?

If you are looking for alternatives to credit cards and traditional merchant accounts, there’s no better time to get started. Technology is changing the way we think about payments and how we handle money in general: everything from mobile wallets that replace credit cards to decentralized digital currency. There are alternative payment methods to appeal to every market segment, and options to appeal to every sort of business. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you and your customers.

Have questions about your options for payment processing? Leave a comment and let us know. We’re always happy to hear from you! We can also help you lower your processing fees or even choose a processor.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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8 Benefits Of Using Shopify For The Online Shop

Shopify Online Store

// Begin Editor&#8217s Note //

This publish is while being updated from 2012 to 2017. It&#8217s still fairly helpful, but needs some freshening.

Take a look at the next related posts &#8211

  • Shopify Review w/ Pros + Cons
  • Shopify versus. WordPress + WooCommerce
  • Shopify versus. Etsy
  • Shopify versus. BigCommerce
  • Help guide to Selecting An Ecommerce Platform
  • Ecommerce Platform Quiz

// Finish Editor&#8217s Note //

I lately spoken on how to choose an eCommerce platform and reasons why you need to use WordPress for eCommerce.

So that as I stated both in &#8211 sometimes the as they are solution is the greatest.

One of the &#8220big 3&#8221 search engine optimization (BigCommerce, Volusion, and Shopify) &#8211 I truly love dealing with Shopify. Actually, I did previously possess a store there for any year approximately.

Here&#8217s why you need to choose an as they are solution (using Shopify for exampleOrsuggestion).

8 Benefits Of Using An As they are Solution Like Shopify

1. Everything in concert with

Since Shopify (along with other platforms) are built by one company &#8211 all of the pieces interact flawlessly. Much like how Apple designs and manufactures the hardware and software to any or all sync up perfect &#8211 Shopify builds the web site, shopping cart software, payment, and inventory to any or all sync up well without any problems.

2. The technical stuff is taken proper care of

Unless of course you utilize WPengine for the WordPress installation &#8211 you’ll be accountable for security, speed, and hosting. Shopify has it built-in and brought proper care of by professionals. Your store is going to be fast, secure, and brought proper care of.

3. A lot of payment gateways

Probably the most awkward a part of running a web-based store is handling payments. Should you run your store off WordPress or any other platform like Magento &#8211 you typically need to buy extra extensions to include each gateway.

Shopify makes it simple to plug and play nearly any payment gateway.

4. Easy backend administration

Shopify Backend

Like a storeowner, you&#8217ll be spending much of your amount of time in the backend of the website &#8211 setting some misconception, adding product, and serving customers. Shopify comes with an amazingly simple backend system which makes your administrative chores easy.

Personally, i am keen on the paste-in Analytics fields, the drop lower settings, and also the setup listing. Click on the image above for any full-size view.

5. Professional support

Unlike WordPress along with other shopping carts that are open-source and depend on community (ie, wrong now) support &#8211 Shopify includes a dedicated support team. I had been especially impressed with Caroline Schnapp &#8211 who should you check out their Facebook page still impresses customers even today with detailed and useful service around the forums.

6. Large community of developers and third party professionals

Shopify encourages (and offers incentives for) developers, designers, and consultants to know the Shopify platform (like ShivarWeb is).

Whether you’ll need a specialized add-on application, a custom web design, or help marketing &#8211 Shopify includes a vetted network to assist you.

7. Cashflow friendly prices

With time, Shopify could be pricey &#8211 but short-term as well as for an increasing storefront &#8211 it&#8217s an offer.

You’ve got no upfront development costs &#8211 all of your pricing is disseminate every month for starting as low as $29.

You pay a transaction fee around the tiniest stores &#8211 but take it off as the store grows (and pays a  higher fee every month).

Overall &#8211 it&#8217s structured so you don&#8217t ever have a big one-time investment, and may spend your hard earned money on inventory. It&#8217s an excellent setup &#8211 there&#8217s no contracts either.

So within my situation &#8211 when my buddy and that i made the decision to pivot our store into as being a pure writer &#8211 we didn&#8217t lose any huge upfront development cost &#8211 we simply cancelled our every month.

8. Plenty of built-in tools

Be it your blog, online coupons, upsells, crossells, analytics, inventory management &#8211 Shopify includes a full toolbox that will help you sell on this page. No hunting &#8211 it&#8217s most likely immediately.

Get Began

Mind to Shopify for a totally free trial.

Unsure if Shopify is really a fit? Take a look at 8 good reasons to use WordPress as the ecommerce platform here &#8211 and learn to setup your web store with WordPress here.

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StumbleUpon Advertising: Selecting Engaged or Unengaged Visitors

StumbleUpon Advertising

StumbleUpon is a little a classic school ad platform that’s been creating a small comeback, especially among marketing types. It&#8217s a social discovery application, much like Reddit. Users browse (or &#8220stumble&#8221) on content that’s posted by users, that is sorted by StumbleUpon&#8217s formula  (note particularly the elevated Earned &amp Delinquent visit within the image below).

StumbleUpon Campaigns Compared

StumbleUpon had its heyday within the mid-2000s, but continues to be a really large second tier social networking with 30-ant million users. It’s especially interesting to marketers since you can purchase compensated stumbles according to very precise interest &amp demographic targeting. And users take presctiption StumbleUpon since they’re particularly searching to browse &amp share. Quite simply, it’s all of the positives of Facebook (target census &amp likes) and Reddit (target precise interests of active browsers) with no anti-marketing culture of Reddit or even the competition with friend&#8217s baby images of Facebook. Also, StumbleUpon is amazingly cheap per click.

However, compensated StumbleUpon visits are infamously bouncy with low engagement. Should you&#8217ve ever used StumbleUpon, then you definitely&#8217ll realize that it&#8217s a really fast-paced knowledge about a to clicking to another bit of content instead of remaining &amp engaging using the content. Also it&#8217s an enormous downside. It&#8217s easy (really very common) to invest a couple of hundred dollars on the campaign obtain a tsunami of traffic and also have absolutely nothing to show after however a 99% bounce rate. Ross Hudgens has written a sophisticated Help guide to StumbleUpon Marketing which tackles this problem &amp AJ Kohn comes with an innovative method to combine StumbleUpon with remarketing to assist &#8220fill your funnel.&#8221

StumbleUpon offers a choice I&#8217ve been interested in &#8211 having to pay an additional $.05 for an engaged visit. StumbleUpon particularly defines it as being &#8220visitors who stay greater than 4 seconds.&#8221 However if you simply are selecting engaged of unengaged visitors &#8211 will it really really make a difference? Could it be well worth the money?

Here&#8217s the StumbleUpon Prices Overview for the reference:

StumbleUpon Pricing Overview

The Exam

The exam itself was really quite simple. I’ve got a calculator that can help online storeowners determine if free delivery is actually worthwhile. It&#8217s interactive, simple, helpful &#8211 and from things i read is a nice good page to undergo StumbleUpon.

I ran 2 campaigns consecutive days &#8211 on roughly exactly the same days each week. The targeting was exactly the same, census exactly the same, and devices exactly the same. The only real variable was &#8220engaged customer&#8221 setting. I spent $75 on every campaign to obtain a decent group of visits to check out. The engaged visitors cost $.21 per visit and also the unengaged visits cost $.16 per visit.

Engagement Results

To begin with, in each and every StumbleUpon campaign I&#8217ve ever run, my figures in Analytics and just what StumbleUpon reports never quite fall into line.

That stated, the overall visit and engagement rates arranged using what I purchased on StumbleUpon. Unengaged visitors spent 73.39% a shorter period around the page versus. engaged visitors. The bounce rate was also 31.65% worse.

Interestingly though, the unengaged (ie, cheaper) campaign only sent 7.93% more visits despite being 23.8% cheaper &#8211 something that will come up again within my cost results.

StumbleUpon Engaged vs Unengaged

But additional time on-page &amp lower bounce rate involved so far as the variations went. Here&#8217s StumbleUpon&#8217s campaign report:

Engaged Campaign Metrics &#8211

StumbleUpon Engaged Metrics

The Unengaged Campaign Metrics &#8211

The Unengaged Campaign Metrics

The possible lack of shares &amp re-stumbles was especially unfortunate. I’d wished more engaged visitors would be also more prone to share &amp re-stumble, but apparently not. A number of that might have been the information, but demonstrated that you will are merely having to pay for additional time on-page &#8211 not always engagement broadly defined. Bear in mind that &#8220time on-page&#8221 might just be individuals with multiple tabs open or anybody who is actually distracted together with your site open.

Cost Results

StumbleUpon comes with a deliberate quirk within their formula more engaged content can earn more organic stumbles &#8211 even when apparently nobody re-stumbles your articles. Also, to have an engaged campaign, you’ll still get all individuals unengaged visits. You simply don&#8217t need to pay on their behalf.

These two variables are type in figuring out regardless of whether you should spend the money for extra $.05 for engaged visitors. Here&#8217s the account overview using the 2 campaigns consecutive.

StumbleUpon Campaigns Compared

Both campaigns received some earned visits &#8211 using the engaged campaign earning a little more. But note all of the compensated visits that demonstrated up on the website which i didn&#8217t really purchase (the pink Delinquent bars). I compensated an additional $.05 for individuals clicks included in the engaged campaign. But, when they were a part of an unengaged campaign, they’d have cost $.10. Obviously, StumbleUpon is fairly good about not offering a lot of delinquent visits&#8230but it&#8217s a quirk that does affect your budgeting &amp choice. Here&#8217s the two campaigns damaged out.

StumbleUpon Engaged Campaign Overview

The engaged campaign&#8217s effective cost-per-view (CPV) (ie, in the end visits generated through the campaign) was $.166.

StumbleUpon Unengaged Campaign Overview

The unengaged campaign&#8217s effective CPV was $.153.

Quite simply, I had been effectively having to pay a $.013 premium in my more engaged visitors after everything was stated and done &#8211 and not the full $.05 front-finish premium.

Conclusion

So might be engaged visitors worthwhile on StumbleUpon?

Again, it is going to your objectives. Prior to the test, I’d have believed that if you’re simply attempting to fill your remarketing audience, then go cheap with unengaged visitors, so if you’re opting for engagement &amp shares, go with engaged.

However the high bounce rates &amp effective CPV throws a quirk for the reason that conventional knowledge. I only were built with a 7.93% rise in visitors (where your remarketing audience can come from) using the unengaged campaign. That’s something, but less than I’d want given the 31% rise in prices. When you element in the effective CPV, it&#8217s only an extra cent to obtain the significant reduction in Bounce Rate &amp Time Allocated to Site with engaged visitors.

I&#8217d state that unless of course you’ve got a specific reason to choose unengaged visitors, it&#8217s well worth the premium to cover engaged tourists in StumbleUpon. But don&#8217t take my word for this &#8211 go operate a small test here and take a look!

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Beginner’s Help Guide To Advertising online Effectively

How To Advertise On YouTube

Wish to build brand awareness having a compelling video advertising campaign, but don’t have the financial sources to land a conventional TV place? YouTube advertising provides a compelling platform to achieve a spirited online audience.

*Editor&#8217s note &#8211 This publish is as simple as ShivarWeb staff. I&#8217ve also written posts on making use of YouTube Analytics, optimizing your YouTube funnel, using YouTube data to tell your marketing, as well as how you can scrape YouTube tags for research. I&#8217ve also done a podcast episode online Search engine optimization.

Tell you Pay Per Click, YouTube video promotional initiatives, known as TrueView, could be tailored to manage costs while precisely targeting your ideal audience. In this overview, we&#8217ll check out the fundamental aspects of launching a TrueView campaign, whilst offer ideas to enhance your campaign&#8217s effectiveness.

We’ll also discuss using text-based ads instead of (or additionally to) videos to advertise your service.

Why You Need To Advertise online

The benefit of advertising online comes from the truth that it boasts over 1 billion users worldwide. By YouTube’s self-reported statistics, YouTube videos are believed to be vast amounts of occasions daily, with vast sums of hrs viewed.

Within the U . s . States, they’re saying to achieve more and more people within the key 18-34-year-old demographic than any television network, and it is not difficult to believe.

Anybody can produce a YouTube funnel and publish content free of charge. Videos can vary from the couple of seconds to hrs long, because of a max quality of 128GB. That you can do exactly the same, creating your own funnel and loading your video ads. YouTube won&#8217t ask you for simply because your video is advertising your brand.

The issue is based on the promotion of the video ad, and this is where TrueView is available in.

You are able to market your video ads by yourself, using Twitter, Facebook, along with other social systems to distribute them and check out and generate buzz. However, even though you invest substantial time with that task, odds are everything work will undoubtedly barely make use of your ideal target demographic.

TrueView uses Google and YouTube user data to increase your achieve to exactly the folks you need to achieve, without you getting to set up the legwork yourself. After creating and uploading your video to YouTube, you may create a TrueView campaign through AdWords that defines your audience according to age, gender, interests, along with other factors.

Lately, in The month of january 2017, Google also announced it allows advertisers to focus on viewers according to their Search history. That allows you to create ads that concentrate on individuals who lately looked for the products or services.

Know Your Target Demographic

Odds are should you&#8217re searching to market, you already know who your audience is.

Even still, before you decide to launch a YouTube marketing campaign through AdWords, it’s useful to invest time investigate the buying patterns, content consumption habits, and general interest of this audience.

Doing this can help you make the most of AdWords&#8217 targeting abilities. That, consequently, can help you get maximum value from your advertising budget. Once we&#8217ll discuss, TrueView campaigns are billed according to cost per view. Wasting thoughts about people unlikely of looking after by what you&#8217re selling is likely to sink your venture pretty rapidly should you&#8217re operating on the limited budget.

Such scientific studies are work you need to place in even before you make your advertising content. Knowing your audience&#8217s likes/dislikes will help you produce more compelling ads.

YouTube Video Ad Campaigns

TrueView Overview

Many people searching to market with video online elect to do this through TrueView campaigns. There’s an alternative choice to TrueView, referred to as reserved media buys ads. Reserved media buys guarantee ad views, while TrueView campaigns, as we’ll discuss in just a minute, are auction based.

However, reserved-media pricing is much greater. As a result, they&#8217re typically purchased by bigger corporations through advertising agencies. With this article, which assumes you&#8217re managing a smaller sized business or a new comer to advertising, we&#8217ll concentrate on TrueView.

Produced through Pay Per Click, TrueView campaigns can be displayed both online and websites that are members of google’s Display Network. The second includes YouTube videos baked into non-YouTube webpages.

Because of its recognition, ad space online is understandably limited. To create this space available to anybody, and by doing this improve Google’s profits, whether your TrueView ad plays for YouTube viewers depends upon be it “Ad Rank” is greater compared to competing ads.

Consider the Ad Rank system like a mix between a bidding and merit-based system. It’s produced from your Max CPV bid as well as your ad’s Quality Score.

Max CPV means “maximum cost-per-view,” and describes just how much you’re prepared to invest a person view. Don’t confuse viewing with impressions.

You simply get billed inside a CPV system when the viewer:

  • watches a minimum of thirty seconds of the ad
  • watch the whole ad if under thirty seconds
  • clicks right through to your YouTube funnel or website

Whenever a view happens, the price deducts from the daily budget you place in AdWords. You won&#8217t always pay the most you&#8217ve looking for your CPV, since time may be the maximum of the items you&#8217re prepared to spend to outbid other advertisers.

The Standard Score element of TrueView’s Ad Rank system enables you to jump in front of other advertisers, even when they’ve outbid you. Because Quality Score is essential for your advertising success online, understanding what composes that score is vital.

Two critical factors of the Quality Score are viewer tool and viewer intention.

For viewer device, ads enhanced for mobile are more inclined to appear for viewers using cellular devices. Optimizing your ad to see on cellular devices ought to be important since over 1 / 2 of all YouTube views take presctiption iPhones, Android smartphones, and tablets.

Viewer intention is trickier to understand. Your ads have a better possibility of turning up together having a YouTube video in the event that video is in some way pertinent for your ad, or even the keywords the viewer utilized in searching to get at the recording.

In that way, the viewer intention component is very helpful for improving the potency of your YouTube promotional initiatives. In the end, you’re more prone to garner views and clicks in case your ad pertains to the interests of the individual watching.

There’s two kinds of TrueView ad you should use: in-steam ads and video-discovery ads. Let’s have a much deeper take a look at both.

TrueView In-Stream Ads

In-stream ads usually play before (pre-roll) a featured YouTube video. The concept is the fact that a viewer must be careful about your ad before they begin to see the video they came there to determine.

Longer YouTube videos might also have ads play during placed &#8220ad breaks,&#8221 when the content creator has permitted for your. They are termed &#8220mid-roll&#8221 ads. Sometimes ads may also roll following a video completes.

Whenever you produce a TrueView in-stream ad, you are able to elect to really make it skippable or non-skippable.

Skippable ads let viewers hop over the ad to look at their YouTube video after five seconds. As pointed out, for billing purposes, skips won’t subtract out of your daily budget unless of course the viewer passes the 30-second mark.

Skippable ads can depend on a minute long. Longer videos don&#8217t are more expensive than shorter videos and aren&#8217t pretty much prone to play.

Non-skippable ads pressure viewers to look at right through to the finish prior to them getting to look at their YouTube content. Stopping non-skippable ads from disturbing the YouTube experience is really a 15-second limit put on their length.

Whether skippable or otherwise, TrueView in-stream ads feature various customizations to boost your advertisement. These don’t cost extra, and you ought to make the most of these to improve the potency of your campaign.

Customizations incorporate a funnel engagement panel, call-to-action (CTA) overlay, and companion banner.

Here’s a glance at where each element will be visible on YouTube:

YouTube Video Ad Addons

The funnel engagement panel sits towards the top of the ad. It’ll display entirely once the ad begins to play, then minimize, therefore it doesn&#8217t hinder the ad.

The CTA overlay is vital to driving viewers for your YouTube funnel or website. It will get displayed near the foot of the recording. You could have it show your website URL, but more effective campaigns will invite the viewer to do some type of specific engagement activity. Effective types of CTAs are &#8220book now,&#8221 &#8220get an estimate,&#8221 and “purchase now.”

The companion banner displays right from the video around the YouTube page. They may be Digital, PNG, or static GIF files. The banner will stay around the page following the video completes, or maybe it&#8217s skipped. Such banners don’t play in embedded players, cellular devices, video games, or SmartTVs.

They’re basically much like display text ads, which we’ll cover later.

TrueView Discovery Ads (formerly In-Display Ads)

Discovery ads receive prominent placement around the first page of YouTube, within the recommended videos list right of the YouTube video, as well as in YouTube search engine results. They’re always marked using the words, “AD,” so viewers know what they’re in advance.

That stated, investing in a discovery ad is a superb method to raise the visibility of the brand. Also, individuals who have a tendency to click such ads are often more thinking about your products than individuals who be careful about your ad in-stream.

YouTube Discovery Ad

Just like in-stream ads, discovery ads incorporate a companion banner around the right side from the YouTube page. This banner turns up when a somebody clicks your ad and visits your video&#8217s page.

Additionally they feature funnel engagement panels and CTA overlays. The second is of particular importance because hitting discovery ads takes the clicker for your YouTube funnel instead of your site.

Make Your TrueView Ad Video

Before launching your TrueView campaign, you&#8217ll have to create an interesting video. You may either do that yourself, use a freelancer, or opt for a company. Prior to getting the ball moving, though, it will help to understand the needs of putting a TrueView ad and also have a solid grasp of the couple of general techniques which will maximize the need for your campaign.

TrueView Technical Needs

We’ve already discussed video length: a minute for any skippable ad, and just a few seconds for any non-skippable, in-stream ad.

The extendable of the video advertisement could be AVI, ASF, QuickTime, Home windows Media, MP4, or MPEG. The suggested resolution is 480 x 360 (4:3), but 640 x 360 (16:9) works, too.

The max quality is 1GB.

Any video employed for advertising online must first be submitted for your YouTube funnel. To achieve that, you&#8217ll need to produce a YouTube account. See YouTube&#8217s upload instructions should you require help.

Additionally to technical needs, there are specific AdWords content policies you’ll need to follow, or Google might want to yank you ad.

Included in this are:

  • Unclear relevance: Information completed in creative fields must apply to your companyOritem (unclear relevance policy)
  • Unclear content: Ads must clearly identify what you’re advertising, and should incorporate a name or emblem (unclear content policy)
  • Video quality: Your video must be of acceptable quality (video quality policy)
  • Adult content: Adult-oriented submissions are dissalowed video ads (adult content policy)
  • Shocking content: Content for example nasty injuries, violence, gore, and obscene language is illegitimate (shocking content policy)
  • Copyrights: You have to own any content or perhaps be approved for doing things (copyrights policy)

TrueView Creative Techniques

Choosing the duration of your video will be based both on whether you go searching for a non-skippable or skippable ad, as well as your message. Should you decide on a non-skippable ad, there isn’t any reason not to benefit from the entire just a few seconds.

While creating a video that users must watch has its own perks, there&#8217s a benefit to making engaging ads which are 30-a minute lengthy. Namely, they&#8217re more prone to be shared, particularly if your ad expertly blends the limitations of advertisement and content.

To that particular finish, if you are thinking about launching multiple ads, thinking about linking them thematically. Ad series done correctly might help secure your audience through getting them thinking about what goes on next. That, consequently, does question for the brand awareness.

For skippable ads, you have as much as a minute to inspire brand consideration and, ideally, coax interaction. However, recall that you simply&#8217re only billed for that view when the viewer watches greater than thirty seconds of the ad &#8212 or they watch everything when the ad is under thirty seconds.

You are able to increase your budget by benefiting from these rules and viewer watching habits.

Instead of creating a 25-second ad video, allow it to be 31 seconds. Fill the final six seconds having a static image showing your contact information, or recapping your product’s cost featuring. Most viewers will sense the ad has ended and skip right through to their video.

You&#8217ll have delivered your message without having to be billed.

Most skippable ads are pre-roll, which presents some apparent trouble for you. Viewers visit YouTube to look at videos, not ads. Because of the chance to skip towards the content they would like to watch after just five seconds, most will require it.

The onus is for you, the advertiser, to find away out to ensure that they’re watching.

Probably the most effective advertising tool inside your arsenal could just be &#8220surprise.&#8221 Surprise the viewer, and also you catch their attention. Catch their attention, plus they&#8217re more prone to keep watching your ad.

Regardless of what, don’t skimp around the production process. Our eyes and brains tend to maintain the occasions. Using older video technologies is going to be observed. At the best, your ad can get overlooked. At worst, it’ll get mocked. A bad turn for the brand, in either case.

YouTube demonstrates this truth within its very own ecosystem. Probably the most effective funnel proprietors boost their quite happy with creative editing and-finish editing techniques before posting. Because YouTube viewers are becoming more accustomed to watching well-created, compelling content, it&#8217s crucial that your ad matches pace.

Thankfully, editing software programs are less expensive than ever. You are able to incorporate impressive visual effects and motion graphics with relative ease, as long as you realize the right path round the software.

Success may also depend, obviously, in your capability to match technique with creative vision. Comedy ads have a tendency to fair better with creative editing, for instance. Ads made to infer brilliance might perform best with dramatic visual effects (think vehicle ads).

Make Your TrueView Video Campaign

After you’ve produced your video advertisement and ensured it meets TrueView’s technical and policy needs, you are able to go to launch. Developing a TrueView campaign happens via Google AdWords’ video campaign site.

The first step would be to indicate the YouTube Link to your video advertisement. This task mandates that you&#8217ve produced your YouTube funnel and submitted your video.

YouTube Load Video

Next, you’ll have to generate a title for the ad. Try to choose something appealing and also to-the-point. Longer headlines aren’t (usually) memorable. The suggested length is 25 figures, too, since anything longer may be truncated based on what device the viewer is applying.

You may also include two lines of descriptive text regarding your brand or product, each having a max period of 35 figures.

Plus, it’s important to choose a video thumbnail. AdWords instantly generates four thumbnails for you personally. You are able to load a custom thumbnail, however, you&#8217ll have to contact Google support to do this.

YouTube. Create Ad

While you complete these steps, you are able to preview what your ad may be like by scrolling support the page, where you indicated the ad URL. AdWords enables you to preview what your ad may be like online, and just what it may be like when individuals view embedded YouTube videos on other websites.

Here’s a glance at the way a YouTube preview seems:

YouTube Preview Ad

Click continue, and also you&#8217ll have the ability to define the experience which will occur when somebody clicks your ad. You may either want to send individuals to your YouTube funnel or perhaps your website.

The following task would be to set your everyday spending limit. You may choose the suggested budget of $10 to begin, or input a custom amount. Additionally you set your maximum CPV here. Remember, it&#8217s a bidding-based system, therefore the greater this value, the greater rapidly you&#8217ll generate views.

YouTube Set Budget

You&#8217ll have the ability to improve your budget and CPV later. It&#8217s better to begin small and progressively tweak both before you hit the preferred performance objectives for the ad.

The ultimate part of creating your TrueView campaign would be to define your audience. While optional, this task is vital to moving out a highly effective advertising campaign, unless of course you intend on marketing to everybody.

YouTube Set Target Audience

You will find three sections to accomplish here, each with sub-sections.

Under &#8220Locations,&#8221 you can preserve your viewership worldwide, or target viewers particularly countries, regions, and metropolitan areas.

YouTube Pick Locations

Under &#8220People&#8217s web activity,&#8221 you are able to want to target those who are searching for YouTube, watching YouTube videos, or browsing elsewhere online.

The ultimate section, &#8220Attributes,&#8221 enables you to define the sex, age, and interests of the audience. This is how thorough research of the ideal consumer will be handy.

YouTube Use Interests

Google includes multiple audience interests, and you may select as much as you would like. Remember, an advantage to advertising online is the fact that these interests originate from Google&#8217s user data, too.

When you have your ad all set to go, click “Save and Continue.”

The following page enables you to sign to your Google account, or create a replacement, after which you will be requested to provide billing information and take a look at order.

Once done, you&#8217ll have the ability to define your ad as with-stream skippable, in-stream non-skippable, or discovery, by going to the Campaigns tab of the recently produced AdWords account, and clicking &#8220Video.&#8221 This tab is to&#8217ll also visit make spending limit and CPV changes.

It is also where you’ll monitor the prosperity of your TrueView Campaign.

Monitor Your TrueView Campaign

When your advertisement is live, you&#8217ll wish to monitor its performance carefully. Doing this can help you remain on budget and gauge its usefulness. Data and insights collected out of this process may also help you intend future campaigns.

Pay Per Click provides tools that will help you keep on the top of the ad monitoring, which enables tracking of several key metrics.

Core performance of the video could be measured by:

  • Views: quantity of occasions someone viewed/engaged together with your ad (views under 11 seconds don’t get tabulated)
  • View Rate: quantity of views/engagement divided by quantity of impressions
  • Average CPV: just how much you ppv typically

Clicks and Engagement metrics include:

  • Clicks: quantity of occasions people click your ad
  • Click-through rate (CTR): quantity of clicks your ad receives divided by its total impressions
  • Engagements: quantity of clicks interactive elements inside your ad
  • Engagement rate: quantity of engagements divided by total impressions

Video viewership metrics assist you to evaluate the amount of your video will get performed. This metric can help you determine where viewers may be falling. Viewership stats are classified by percentage:

  • Video performed to 25%
  • Video performed to 50%
  • Video performed to 75%
  • Video performed to 100%

Other metrics include achieve, that is tracked according to viewer cookies, and earned actions, like viewers adding your video ad to some playlist or registering to your YouTube funnel.

Metrics are sortable by column, restricted according to date ranges, and viewed by &#8220ad group,&#8221 that is a user-defined number of video ads.

Setup YouTube Remarketing Lists

Additionally to monitoring your speed and agility, a different way to enhance your ad campaign’s effectiveness is to benefit from AdWord’s remarketing abilities.

YouTube video remarketing means reinforcing your message with individuals who’ve already shown a desire for your brand. You are able to achieve these folks by altering the targeting settings for the advertising campaign. Doing this means they are more prone to visit your new or existing ads.

Remarketing lists can be found for those who have:

  • Viewed any video from the funnel
  • Viewed a specific video in your funnel
  • Visited your funnel page
  • Enrolled in your funnel
  • Linked video out of your funnel
  • Shared video out of your funnel
  • Commented in your video

By delivering happy to those who are already thinking about your brand, you increase your odds of conversion.

YouTube Text Advertising: Display Ads and Overlay Ads

If video ads aren’t your factor, you may still make the most of YouTube being an advertising funnel by creating text ads. Text ads will also be a great way to compliment your video campaign by reinforcing your brand message.

Just like video campaigns, these ads are produced and billed through Pay Per Click, making management easy.

There’s two kinds of text ad that you could choose from for YouTube advertising: display ads and overlay ads.

Display ads appear right from the featured video playing in YouTube. There is a set size either 300&#215250 or 300&#21560 pixels. These ads only appear through desktop browsers, meaning you won&#8217t be reaching a mobile phone audience.

Overlay ads are semi-transparent ads that appear at the end of YouTube videos. Sizes could be either 468&#21560 or 728&#21590 pixels. These can target mobile users, so will probably have greater achieve than display ads.

YouTube Display Overlay Ads

Either ad could be by means of a GIF, Digital or PNG.

Observe that GIFs utilized in overlay ads should be static. Display ads, meanwhile, may use animated GIFs. You’re restricted to thirty seconds of animation, max – although that’s a great deal.

Instead of initiating an AdWords video campaign, with text ads you will be utilizing a campaign type known as, “Display Network.” (Other AdWords campaign types are Search Network, Shopping, and Universal Apps).

Just like creating video ads, costs be a consequence of a regular spending limit you place, alongside a bidding system. Within this situation, though, the auction uses cost-per-click (CPC) instead of cost-per-view (CPV) putting in a bid.

One factor to understand is the fact that Google may overdeliver in your daily budget by as much as 20%. You receive billed for more than delivery, but Google promises to not bill you greater than 30.4 occasions your 24-hour spending limit throughout a given month.

Anyway, it&#8217s frequently better to think about your advertising budget as 30-day costs so you don&#8217t loose sight from the main issue.

Just like TrueView putting in a bid, Google factors quality additionally for your CPC putting in a bid when deciding whether your ad will get proven over somebody else’s. Quality within the situation of text ads relates to both ad text and keywords you place for ads.

To enhance the potency of your ad, Google offers a keyword planner that provides you with keyword ideas. If you have a summary of keywords, you may also utilize it to create forecasts for total clicks and charges.

Strategies for a Effective Text Advertising Campaign

Generating clicks having a text ad can be challenging. They just do not have the engaging storytelling power video ads. Plus, individuals have trained their marbles to miss them. However, that does not mean they’re not able to work.

There are lots of things you can do in developing a text ad to assist boost engagement out of your audience.

First, being an AdWords campaign, you can get exactly the same targeting tools you need to do with TrueView ads. You are able to limit who sees your ad to individuals probably to embrace your brand by setting age, gender, and interest criteria.

Other steps to enhance the potency of your text ad require a little more creativeness.

While keywords for ads are defined whenever you make your campaign, it&#8217s helpful to incorporate a minumum of one within the ad itself. Doing this can help highlight the relevance of the business to whomever sees it.

Furthermore, incorporate a call-to-action inside your ad image. Effective CTAs encourage a viewer to consider a specific action by hitting your ad. Ads that highlight promotions, purchase prices, and factors that help make your product unique will also be effective ways of improve clicks.

Most importantly, experiment. Launch multiple ads with various looks and messages. By utilizing AdWord’s reporting tools, that are around for text ads, too, after that you can figure out what elements most attract your audience. Such understanding can help you refine your ad-creation tactic to produce more compelling ads.

Final Ideas

Because of its enormous users list, launching an advertisement campaign online is among the best advertising strategies today for building understanding of your brand. Engaging video ads that blur the lines between advertisement and content mesh perfectly using the dynamic platform that YouTube has produced.

Running your advertising campaign through AdWords TrueView enables you to insert your video content in to the viewing process, further immersing your brand in to the YouTube ecosystem. Tools that allow you to limit your ad views for your ideal audience can help you improve the potency of your campaign, while reporting tools can help you tweak your approach.

Create an ancillary text advertising campaign using display and overlay ads, and you will be well in order to getting your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition.

Here&#8217s a couple of high-quality related posts explore (all were vetted using the ShivarWeb e-newsletter).

  • Here’s one step-by-step guide regarding how to help make your own explainer video for the product
  • Creating a Better YouTube Strategy
  • 6 Easy Strategies for More Lucrative YouTube Advertising
  • 5 Brilliant Competitive Advertising Ways of Outwit Your Competitors

Have some fun!

The publish Beginner&#8217s Help Guide To Advertising online Effectively made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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WP Engine Review: My Pros & Cons of WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine Review

WP Engine is a Managed WordPress Hosting service based in Austin, TX. They were one of the (if not the) first companies to provide managed hosting services specifically for WordPress.

While they have plenty of competition in both hosting in general and in the managed WordPress hosting vertical, they are still the market leader in many ways with broad name recognition and cutting edge features.

Check out WP Engine’s current plans & pricing here.

With the growth of both self-hosted WordPress and website builders, the hosting industry has become a super-confusing place.

Several of the bigger brands such as GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion and SiteGround all now offer various flavors of “WordPress Hosting.” They all vary in services provided. Some simply have WordPress-trained tech support. Some offer services such as server-side features and staging for WordPress.

And then there’s a separate level of managed WordPress Hosting where you are not really buying hosting per se – but rather services to keep your WordPress install live. Basically, a Managed WordPress Hosting services do differently is offer a menu of services tailored to WordPress at a higher price point, so that the website owner can focus less on speed / security and more on the website content / functionality.

Every competitor in the Managed WordPress Hosting has a different offering. And there is no standardized “menu” of options, but as whole, they all compete with traditional shared Linux hosting offerings and customized WordPress hosting options.

Either way – that’s the field where WP Engine plays. It’s confusing, yes, but it’s important to understand before making apples to oranges comparisons.

There are a lot of WP Engine reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. This review will look at the pros / cons of WP Engine in the context of all web hosting options to see who it is a “best fit” for.

I’ve used WP Engine for various projects since 2012. I don’t use them for my primary sites right now (see conclusion), but I do have a current client on WP Engine who absolutely loves them. Here’s my WP Engine structured as pros / cons.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from any companies mentioned. All data & opinion is based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of WP Engine

To start, WP Engine does pretty much live up to it’s pitch on its homepage where they promise “stunning speed, powerful security, and best-in-class customer service.” Here is their promo pitch video –

They primarily target websites that are moving from other hosting companies (ie, customers dissatisfied with current hosting).
WP Engine Pitch

Here are some of the big advantages that I’ve seen as a customer & consultant to a customer.

Speed & Performance

There are a lot of variables that go into website speed, but the rule of thumb is that the more complex your site is, the more complex the solutions to speed become.

Out of the box – WordPress is fairly lean and fast. If you are running a mostly text site with a few basic plugins and a few small images, you’ll be fine on an affordable shared hosting plan from someone like InMotion, HostGator or Bluehost.

But few website owners keep their WordPress install lean. There’s usually additional plugins, custom theme files, lots of images, widgets, ads, forms and more.

All these features combined with decent levels of traffic can start to slow down your WordPress install.

But a slow site doesn’t mean that you need a bigger / better server. It does mean that you need to get smarter about speed. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting a more powerful server, but sometimes it’s more about caching certain resources in a certain order and optimizing your files. In other words – it gets complex.

Imagine you are trying to haul a trailer with a pickup truck. Imagine your trailer keeps getting heavier. It’s pointless to keep complaining that your truck is not big enough when you may just need to remove the emergency brake, install a turbocharger, refresh the transmission fluid and consolidate your load.

The point is that WordPress needs help to stay fast as you grow. There’s plenty of solutions…but either you or a developer must implement them.

That’s where managed WordPress hosting comes in. WP Engine takes care of (nearly) all speed concerns. They have customized servers with extremely aggressive caching and even more advanced “stack” than a typical web host. They also have trained support who will go into your WordPress install and identify exact chokepoint to get your site moving.

They don’t even allow caching plugins on their installs because they have such a customized setup.

The interesting thing is that even unoptimized WordPress installs still do well on their platform because their platform does the extra work.

Here’s the speed test for one of my clients on WP Engine (who has a bloated theme, extra scripts, too many uncompressed images, among other things –

WP Engine Unoptimized Speed

Note the Time To First Byte and the Start Render numbers. That measures how quickly the server returned enough data to start loading the page.

Now here is the speed test of a standard WordPress install. WP Engine not only gets solid TTFB times, but note how similar the First Byte and First Render are to the Unoptimized site.

WP Engine Speed

It’s nice to have that kind of speed right out of the box – and have it stay that way no matter how big or complex the site gets.

*Note that the other point here is that if you are obsessed about speed, you can get even better numbers with WP Engine than you might could get with other services since you are free to focus on speed factors that you can easily control like image compression, usage of scripts, etc.

Lastly  on speed, WP Engine not only provides an integrated CDN, but they also provide global data centers in case your audience is primarily in Asia and/or Europe.

WP Engine Global

If you are trying to get top speeds without messing with layered caching plugins – the WP Engine does exactly that.

Customer Support*

Customer support has been a core part of WP Engine’s pitch since they were founded. After all, they are really selling more of a service (ie, managed hosting) than a product (ie, hosting). It makes sense for them to place a big emphasis on support.

Here’s a screenshot from one of my first contacts with support back in 2012 –

WP Engine Review Screenshot

Look at the response time – that wasn’t an autoresponder either.

Now – the company has grown & changed a lot since then. They went through a stretch where they were getting a lot of criticism about over-promising on support.

That said – the tough thing about customer support is that so much of the judgement is anecdotal. Everyone has a story, but you never know if the story is because they talked to the one rockstar / rookie having a awesome / terrible day. Like I mention in every hosting review, the important part is to see if a company treats support as an investment or a cost.

I like to look for access, systems and knowledge – all three require investment of money, time and expertise.

Based on my recent interactions and research, they are doing much better hitting all three boxes. They maintain a variety of support channels (including phone for non-Basic plans). They have a fast, trackable ticketing system and are available everywhere on the site via chat.

Based on their tutorial videos and extensive knowledgebase, they tick the knowledge box. Every support that me or my client has interacted with actually knew the fine workings of WordPress and has been able to problem-solve on the fly.

The most impressive (yes, this is anecdotal, but still) experience was a three-way call between my client, myself and WP Engine during my client’s transition to HTTPS / SSL. The rep was not only able to get on (and stay on) the phone, but he was able to adeptly help us “flip the switch” quickly in addition to taking care of several issues (ie, uploading a non-HTTP sitemap and fixing insecure image links) within WordPress for us.

I’m sure that WP Engine still has support issues – especially because as I’ll show in the disadvantages – their custom platform puts a lot of pressure on fast, accessible support. But they seem to know that support is core to their value and do make the needed investment.

Security

WordPress now powers over a quarter of the entire Internet. That means that it is a prime target for hackers & malware distributors.

But there is nothing inherently insecure about WordPress that is not an issue with all software. WordPress has a the upside of being open-source with a very large community releasing updates & testing vulnerabilities.

If you run your own WordPress install, the security basics are fairly straightforward –

  • Keep your install & all your plugins updated
  • Only install files from reputable creators
  • Run a security plugin to lock down the most common brute force attacks
  • Keep a backup for when things go wrong

*Aside – I use JetPack for the last two. It’s made by & powered by Automattic, the commercial arm of WordPress.

You’ll notice that even though security on WordPress is straightforward – the responsibility is still on you to keep things secure. Just like having a deadbolt does nothing if you don’t lock it – keeping your website secure is still ultimately on you.

And like speed & performance, WP Engine basically takes all those best practices and does them for you. They run automated backups to keep everything off-site & ready to roll back if something happens. Since you technically have an “install” on their server (rather than an account) – they tackle a lot of security issues globally on the server level.

WP Engine also works closely with top security firms on code reviews in addition to running their own team. They also make the guarantee that if you’re hacked – they take care of it for free.

I personally have never been hacked on my main /or secondary sites (knock on wood), but have helped clients who have been. It’s frustrating, tedious & a generally expensive situation (even if you are using a service like Sucuri). Having a professional security team take care of your WordPress install is a big pro in my book.

Pricing on Value

WP Engine is not cheap. Their personal plan is $29/mo and includes a single install and only up to 25,000 visits per month.

WP Engine Plans

For benchmarking – you can get a powerful, reliable VPS (ie, your own not-shared server) for the same price from InMotion. And if you are just starting out with a single domain – you can get a shared hosting plan from Bluehost for just a couple dollars per month.

Both of which allow for more storage & more visits (ie, basically as many as you can handle) than WP Engine. I’ve run sites that have had 60k visits per month on a shared server. I’ve also run dozens of small WordPress sites off a low cost shared hosting.

But I’ll cover that pricing disadvantage in the cons of WP Engine, but here’s the thing.

For some site owners – if you break out WP Engine by total value & factor in your own (or your developer’s) time, their pricing is amazing.

Just running WordPress updates every month & QA’ing your installation can take ~30 minutes every month. If your (or your dev’s) services are billed at $50 (or more)/hour, then that’s WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

If you lose a visits due to downtime from a bad plugin update, then that could be WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

If you do a hot-fix (ie, you don’t use a staging area) on your PHP code, and knock your site down…then that could be WP Engine’s entire monthly fee right there.

Losing visitors due to speed issues or downtime costs lost income.

Additionlly, premium security can costs ~$16/mo – minimum. Not to mention any personal or developer time fixing issues.

Basically, if your time is better allocated away from technical issues, then WP Engine makes a lot of sense on value. As a managed WordPress hosting service – that’s really their thing. Hosting services are an investment rather than a cost.

And that sort of value-based pricing segues into another pro for WP Engine – their focus on their core markets.

Market Focus

Like I said at the beginning, WP Engine isn’t for everyone. There are 3 types of customers that WP Engine seems to be a fit for. For those 3 types of customers, WP Engine has a strong focus with plenty of tools & focus for each.

WP Engine Pitch

From their backend process, the first customer type seems to be WordPress developers and designers who want to focus on development & design without dealing with hosting maintenance – and have clients who have some budget. The designer / dev builds the site directly in WP Engine’s staging environment, launches the site, then hands the website over to their client.

The designer can assure their client that WP Engine handles the hosting, security & speed. There’s little need for an ongoing basic website maintenance. For this market, WP Engine has interesting tools including staging, git push, site migration and transferable installs.

The second customer type is the growing website owner who is frustrated at having to deal with technical growth headaches. They’ve outgrown their shared hosting and need to move to a better host.

They’re also established enough that they have some budget for managed services. WP Engine has tools like the automated migration tool & customer support to make that process happen. The phone support is a key factor – especially being able to “just call WP Engine an have them fix it.”

Site Migration WP Engine

The third customer type is a startup website owner that has budget and wants a long-term platform that they can grow with. They are comfortable learning WP Engine’s unique backend, and plan on launching a near-complete website all at once.

They don’t have any prior habits or customs brought over from previous hosts or websites. Again, for this market, WP Engine has the scalable features, customers and support that they can make promises and provide support to win & keep this type of customer.

With these types of customers, WP Engine knows how & where they are coming from, so many of the improvements they make are focused on these markets (ie, the Git push functionality), rather than mass-market improvements like knowledge-bases, intuitive backend, etc.

Hosting Features

This advantage is similar to WP Engine’s market focus, but it’s really worth calling out in this review revision.

WP Engine excels not only on current features, but also on creating new, cutting edge hosting features. Every version of WordPress 4 has rolled out new developer features that WP Engine has been able to integrate.

Even general web development best practices have changed radically since I started observing the industry*. WP Engine has created tools to match.

*I’m an SEO / marketer by trade. I know enough web development to integrate best practices into implementation & projects with developers.

Here’s a screenshot of WP Engine’s Git Push setup that has been around for more than 2 years.

WP Engine Git Push

Even for non-developers like me, WP Engine has one-click staging areas to allow even DIY siteowners to get away from “cowboy coding” into proper web development best practices.

WP Engine Staging

There’s too many other specifics here to name, but in general, WP Engine has a strength in rolling out new, useful hosting features.

Cons of WP Engine

Just like any service, WP Engine is not a best fit for everyone. There are plenty of WP Engine complaints around the Internet. Some are anecdotal. Some are hyperbole (ie, SEOs complaining about dev sites). And many are valid because they simply aren’t a fit for everyone. For all their awesomeness in some areas, they have some cons which keep them from being a good fit for some customers. I don’t use them for this website because I do not need many of their features and I’m comfortable working “putting pieces together” w/ my InMotion VPS setup.

All that said – here’s some of the bigger picture disadvantages of using WP Engine.

Initial & Ongoing Complexity

To achieve the speed, security, and scale they promise, WP Engine does things differently. And that differently can be quite complicated – especially if you have just enough experience with hosting environments to be dangerous.

In fact, back in 2012 on this original review I wrote –

“Somewhere in WP Engine’s sales copy – I wish I had been told that ‘this product is going to be a royal pain to get everything set up perfectly – but it’s going to be well worth it.’”

*It’s not just me. Smart full-stack developers have similar complaints.

Their backend setup has gotten better. It’s cleaner, but it’s still custom. It’s nothing like a traditional cPanel hosting backend. Unlike many hosting companies, they also don’t provide DNS nameservers.

WP Engine DNS Update

Even if all the features are there, the unique backend can lead to some developers making mistakes ranging from frustrating redirect loops to duplicate content issues to leaving the dev site open to the public or simply not enabling the features you’re paying for.

If it weren’t for amazing support – I think they’d lose more beginner customers than they already do.

Like many custom platforms, it makes sense once you get over the learning curve. But WP Engine’s onboarding is very developer focused & remains so exception-focused that they never explain best practice for the general user.

Here is their video on pushing your site live –


I’ve set up my share of websites from platforms to custom hosts to cPanel hosting sites, but I had to watch that video multiple times to make sure I was pointing the right A record / CNAME to the right IP address.

Again, if you are in WP Engine’s core markets, the custom backend isn’t going to be a huge deal (once you get past the learning curve). But for most, you’ll likely get to find out first hand about WP Engine’s support team.

But here’s the thing.

WP Engine never really stops being quirky / complex. In their knowledgebase, they have a plethora of website checklists to help troubleshoot all sorts of issues.

WP Engine Ongoing Complexity

And – if you did not setup your DNS exactly how they’ve recommended – your site could go down at any time.

WP Engine A Record

Again – they have reasons why they do all this. And in most cases, support will just take care of it all.

But – you still don’t get to set & forget your website. Sure, you don’t technically don’t have to get in the weeds of a server panel. In many hosting cases (ie, a managed VPS) – you don’t have to do it anyway, and when you do, the knobs and options are familiar.

WP Engine’s proprietary setup cuts both ways in terms of reducing & increasing complexity.

Limited Versatility

This con is also related to WP Engine’s unique setup. In order to run their architecture as well as possible, all the installs on their platform need to be somewhat uniform.

They need to have predictable plugins; predictable visitor patterns; predictable use cases. Every hosting company has rules (or very real physical limits), but WP Engine goes a bit further to define what you can and can’t have on your WordPress install in addition to tiered overage pricing to discourage seasonal traffic spikes and local storage usage.

They do ban certain plugins & admin behavior for good reasons, but those bans limit versatility and experimentation if your site could handle it.

Hosting Versatility

For example, Yet Another Related Post Plugin is a common plugin. It’s resource intensive, but on smaller sites, it does the job well. It’s not allowed on WP Engine. That’s not good or bad necessarily. But it does make WP Engine less versatile and open to experimentation compared to running a shared or VPS server.

The way their pricing is structured allows for less versatility as well. It’s a positive that they will handle all the traffic you can send, but it’s also pricey to pay based on number of visits.

If you are running a big launch; are a seasonal business; or just want to drive a surge of traffic to your site – you’ll have to factor additional hosting bills into the mix. That puts a cap on how versatile you want to be with your marketing.

If you are running a lean cached site on a VPS server, you can handle a lot more traffic than WP Engine would allow on a Personal or Business. And this point goes further if your site requires many plugins for full functionality.

The same goes with storage. With WP Engine, you are paying for performance – not for storage. So if you are looking to use a server for media storage…that use case is out.

Additionally, you can’t really do automated email marketing campaigns from WP Engine. This was something that my client got called for & ended up having to do a painful migration to another email provider mid-campaign.

WP Engine Hosting Email Versatility

And of course – there’s no way to use WP Engine for receiving email or any non-WordPress software project

Either way – that point segues into the last con I found with WP Engine – their pricing based on features.

Pricing on Features & Usage

With WP Engine, you are generally paying for performance & not having to think too much about maintenance, security & speed. If you look at WP Engine’s pricing based on the features you’re getting – you really don’t get a whole lot.

WP Engine Plans

And if you are the type who will think about your site’s health anyway (ie, keeping WordPress updated and generally logging in frequently), you’ll likely be paying for “management” that is superfluous.

Many shared hosting servers can handle the same traffic numbers as WP Engine – and cost a fraction of the price. My personal site (running on shared hosting plan from HostGator with basic caching) handled more than 15,000 visits in a 24 hour period when a post of mine went viral.

And if you are running a reliable VPS, you can certainly handle a lot more for much less.

They are fairly transparent about how they count visits, but it can still be quite a surprise for “small” website owners how quickly they can get into the $249 per month tier.

And as mentioned earlier that doesn’t even include many of the features you don’t get with WP Engine’s plans. You can’t run any email from your servers. You have a low limits on local storage. Anything above the limits requires additional costs & technical implementation of Amazon cloud services.

And most importantly for me – you are limited on your installs. If you have a few side projects or low-traffic test sites, you have to factor those into the price. You can’t use them to spread out the cost of your plan – especially if you are hitting your visitor cap rather than your install cap.

One of the main features that helps speed up your traffic globally – a CDN – is only included with the Professional Plan and above.

If you are looking to pay for hosting – ie, a server that will hold & serve up your website files – WP Engine is a pricey option, especially compared to other non-managed hosting options.

Next Steps

Like any service, it’s not about what is best overall, but what is best for you based on your goals, budget, resources & habits.

If you are in what I think of as WP Engine’s core markets – they offer a great service with a solid product. Their pricing is competitive in the Managed WordPress Hosting space – and they offer more features than “WordPress hosting” plans from other hosting brands. Their feature-set is unmatched for savvy DIYers, WordPress website developers and/or high-traffic sites that don’t want to worry about hosting issues.

If managed hosting is a fit for you – then go check out WP Engine’s plans here. They do a 60 day money-back guarantee. So do a test install and see what you think of their backend. Be sure to chat w/ support & sales.

If you are a looking for a more budget friendly and/or traditional shared hosting option, check out Bluehost (review), InMotion Hosting (review) or SiteGround (review).

If you’re outgrowing your current host & want more freedom / better prices than WP Engine – check out InMotion Hosting’s VPS option. I’ve appreciated their balance of intuitive backend & responsive customer service.

And lastly – if you are more confused than ever – go take my WordPress hosting quiz. I put all these factors into a fun, Buzzfeed-esque quiz to simplify things.

WP Engine Review

WP Engine is one of the leaders in Managed Hosting for WordPress.
WP Engine
Date Published: 06/13/2017
Great fit for some customers who need performance & critical support above all else. Complexity and price make it less of a fit for others.
4 / 5 stars

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