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!

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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

The post WP Engine Review: My Pros & Cons of WP Engine WordPress Hosting appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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A2 Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of utilizing A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting Review

A2 Hosting is a completely independent website hosting company founded in 2003. They’re located in Ann Arbor Michigan but serve hosting markets globally. A2 Hosting positions themselves like a high end, speed-focused webhost with excellent support.

The sale a complete spectrum of hosting solutions varying from shared Linux hosting (what most companies need) completely to cloud and server solutions for big, growing websites.

Like InMotion Hosting and SiteGround Hosting, they&#8217re among the faster growing independent website hosts (i.e., not of a bigger corporate holding company like Endurance or GoDaddy). There is a large dedicated fanbase in accessory for some high-profile bloggers as customers.

Like my test out Website Hosting Hub, I lately were built with a couple small websites that needed their very own hosting accounts. Since I Have&#8217ve had readers inquire about A2 Hosting, I made the decision to try them.

Get A2 Hosting&#8217s current discount here.

Here&#8217s my A2 Hosting review structured with benefits and drawbacks according to my experience like a customer.

Skip to direct comparisons or skip towards the conclusion.

Disclosure &#8211 I receive referral charges from companies pointed out on this web site. All opinions and knowledge derive from my experience like a having to pay customer or consultant to some having to pay customer.

Pros of utilizing A2 Hosting

There are plenty of A2 Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews according to anecdotes and private experience. That’s fine however i have a different approach. Like I mention in most my hosting reviews, there’s no such factor like a “best” hosting company. It’s by pointing out right fit for the project according to your objectives, budget, experience &amp expertise. Listed here are the professionals (advantages) for thinking about A2 Hosting.

Speed &amp Performance

A website hosting service could be several things for your business, however the core purpose of a hosting server would be to serve your site files whenever someone demands them. But &#8211 the implied adverb there’s for everyone individuals files rapidly.

At a time of worldwide audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever before. While there are plenty of variables in have fun with website speed, it’s mainly your hosting server’s job to transmit the requested files towards the visitor’s browser as rapidly so that as efficiently as you possibly can.

A2 Hosting makes lots of claims regarding their speed.

A number of individuals claims are misleading hyperbole. A number of individuals speed claims are upsells (that we&#8217ll reach within the cons of A2 Hosting).

But overall, A2 Hosting does generally meet their promises.

Among the primary factors of site speed ‘s time to First Byte (TTFB) – ie, how rapidly the server transmits the very first byte from the first file as a result of a request. Here’s how my A2 Hosting website tested by helping cover their a standardized install to compare.

A2 Hosting Speed Test - Standard

Their TTFB was a lot better than a few of their big brand competitors like Bluehost or GoDaddy and as good as others that concentrate on speed. For instance, here&#8217s my TTFB report from tests which i did on my small SiteGround website.

SiteGround Speed

A little faster &#8211 however in exactly the same ballpark &#8211 especially because of the variance that may happen with TTFB tests. Not to mention, for those who have a great server setup, that you can do much more. For instance, here&#8217s my TTFB test by having an enhanced InMotion server.

InMotion VPS SpeedTest

Overall, A2 Hosting excels within their primary claim that they can fame &#8211 speed &amp performance. In the event that&#8217s your priority, they are extremely within the running along with other direct competitors.

*Observe that I actually do possess some qualms with A2 Hosting over speed, measurement &amp the way they approach optimization. I&#8217ll reach individuals within the Cons section, until then &#8211 A2 Hosting does perfectly on speed.

Global Data Centers

On the related but different note than speed &amp performance, A2 Hosting scores along with a globally focused host that may efficiently serve websites all over the world.

While there are numerous factors in website speed (like TTFB), the location of the server matters a great deal. Demands for information travel over physical wires to some physical server. Even at lightspeed, distance matters, particularly if you own/conserve a site or maybe these potential customers have to stock up a variety of files.

If both you and your audience are somewhere from the globe, it&#8217s best to host your files near you and your audience.

*Note &#8211 if you’re in a single country, however your audience is disseminate, most sites solve this issue having a CDN.

Until lately, most leading edge website hosts were based &amp centered on the united states market. Should you be in Asia or Europe -you very well may be tied to lackluster local hosting and/or slow connection occasions.

A2 Hosting enables you to decide your datacenter one of the three they be employed in US, Europe or Asia. If you’re ex-US or are attempting to serve a crowd solely there &#8211 A2 Hosting&#8217s datacenter choices are an engaging advantage.

Support Access &amp Options

Like I’ve pointed out in other hosting reviews, reviewing customer care is hard. Much like the local restaurant on Yelp, probably the most positive and many negative comments are generally useless.

Who knows when issues are customer-caused or if somebody simply experienced that certain amazing/horrible worker.

I’ve were built with a good knowledge about A2 Hosting. But that’s very anecdotal. So, I additionally like to check out “proxies” for customer care. Quite simply, stuff that indicate something concerning the culture &amp processes of customer care.

First &#8211 A2 Hosting provides lots of different channels for customer care.

A2 Hosting Customer Service

There is a telephone number in the forefront. They’ve a comprehensive knowledgebase, live chat, as well as Skype access. They are doing well triaging demands via social networking.

Second, A2 Hosting&#8217s reps are extremely &#8220hands-on&#8221 &#8211 they provide custom installs and lots of solutions where your repetition goes in and connect the problem instead of speaking you thru the procedure. Although some customers might or might not like this option, it will signal they see customer care as an investment instead of a cost. That&#8217s the kind of general conclusion which i search for &#8211 and the one which I believe matters within the lengthy-term more than a one-off experience.

Similar to their independent competitors in InMotion and SiteGround, A2 Hosting&#8217s customer care is really a major pro to selecting on them a large brand webhost that might or might not prioritize support in the same manner. This time segues into another huge advantage for A2 Hosting.

Transparency &amp Independence

To begin with, I don&#8217t believe that a business is &#8220good&#8221 or &#8220bad&#8221 simply because of its size. It&#8217s about tradeoffs.

There are plenty of major benefits of utilizing a big company. They often possess the sources to supply big comprehensive solutions. They often have lower unit costs that may be passed towards the customer. They’re also usually more stable than small, upstart companies.

That stated businesses are often capable of being more agile, closer &amp more attentive to the client, and less inclined to view customers exclusively with the lens of the Internet Promoter Score.

In the realm of hosting &#8211 it truly depends upon your objectives &amp preferences. There isn’t any right answer.

That stated, it&#8217s a large advantage that A2 Hosting is really a founder-owned, independent company &#8211 due to the fact that’s so rare in 2017. Most website hosts are brands of Endurance Worldwide, GoDaddy or even the Web.com group.

And not just is A2 Hosting independent, they’re stable and growing and extremely use their independence to advertise transparency and ease of access that the big brand simply can&#8217t match.

A2 Hosting CEO

If you’re someone searching for any webhost as opposed to a hosting brand &#8211 A2 Hosting will tick that box. Otherwise, you are able to ignore this and concentrating on your priorities.

Hosting Customizations &amp Features

The final major benefit of A2 Hosting that I wish to on-site visit is the concentrate on hosting features and customizations. They’re not only a complete-spectrum webhost with products targeted at virtually every need, they likewise have a concentrate on the exact features that you will get together with your plans.

They’ve from Home windows hosting to Dedicated and Cloud computing. All of their plans include current versions of software (ie, PHP7, new cPanel, etc).

Now &#8211 I believe a few of their &#8220features&#8221 are misleading marketing-speak. But, similar to their speed claims, they are doing come finished supplying the hosting that the project will require.

Cons of utilizing A2 Hosting

Like every hosting company, A2 Hosting has disadvantages. There are many A2 Hosting complaints online. But don’t forget, that they like the professionals, all of these are poor your objectives &amp priorities. With this stated, listed here are the disadvantages which i found while using the A2 Hosting.

Cost Point

Like I’ve pointed out in other hosting reviews, evaluating prices across website hosts could be maddening. It’s tough to compare apples to oranges because plans generally include various caps.

That stated, I attempt to check out compare prices in line with the 3 “D’s” of core hosting features –

  • Domains &#8211 the number of websites you are able to operate on your bank account
  • Databases &#8211 the number of software installs you are able to run
  • Disk Space &#8211 the number of files you are able to upload for your requirements

After searching at &#8220core&#8221 hosting features, I love to factor all of the possible &#8220bonus&#8221 features. Bonus features are features that you ought to only element in when they have to do with your objectives.  For example, if you are considering running AdWords, a credit there can be useful, but when not, it&#8217s something to disregard completely.

In either case, A2 Hosting has 3 primary tiers for shared Linux hosting &#8211 the Lite ($7.99/mo for just two-year plans), Quick ($9.99/mo for just two-year plans) and Turbo plans $18.99/mo for just two-year plans.

With heavy discounting, their plans aren’t bad when compared with both competitors and discount brands.

That stated &#8211 they’re certainly pricier than most website hosts which i&#8217ve checked out for any couple of reasons.

First, their renewal prices is just valid for just two-year plans. Should you simply want to pay yearly &#8211 their renewal prices is a lot greater.

A2 Hosting Pricing Specifics

Second, their Lite plan’s pretty heavily capped. It&#8217s really appropriate for literally one website without any additional use cases.

Third, they don&#8217t start adding some key &#8220bonus&#8221 features their competitors do include. I&#8217ll discuss individuals later, but such things as backups, dedicated IP addresses, &#8220performance&#8221, &#8220priority support&#8221 and junk e-mail filtering all get bucketed as upsells instead of as pre-packaged features.

4th, I&#8217m not entirely obvious on which justifies having to pay double the amount cost for &#8220Turbo&#8221 &#8211 you can even find some features that change from Incorporated to &#8220Available&#8221. Evidently from it, it seems they promise to place yourself on a less crowded server. However the factor is &#8211 that wouldn&#8217t appear enjoy it would enhance minute to minute performance with an absolute measure. It might, however, &#8220increase&#8221 speeds if when compared with crowded servers under constant load.

I&#8217m not really a network engineer and that i&#8217m definitely not aware of how A2 Hosting has their network setup. It may be fabulous. However the factor is &#8211 after searching at &amp using many website hosts, it appears like simply a method to have more money monthly without supplying immediate value every month.

Now &#8211 to become obvious, that&#8217s not necessarily a bad factor. Cost isn’t a particularly good metric. Every customer need to look at overall value for his or her needs. But in either case, A2 Hosting works in a greater cost point than other hosts, and that i&#8217m unsure their raw features satisfy the cost point&#8230.which segues in to the next section.

Technical Marketing Speak

Sometimes in marketing. I really like it. I believe good marketing could make the planet a much better place.

But marketing is really a tool. And That I absolutely don’t like it when companies use &#8220marketing-speak&#8221 to misrepresent services and products. It&#8217s fine to simplify, but tell it enjoy it really is. Also it&#8217s fine to re-frame or re-position, although not at the expense of hiding other details.

A2 Hosting does this a great deal. There is a sleek website. They’ve good copy. However they consistently invent features that aren&#8217t really features or they position details outdoors of context so that they appear great&#8230but really don&#8217t make sense at all.

Here&#8217s a good example.

A2 Hosting Specifics

The chart looks great. It&#8217s certainly one of individuals marketing assets which makes you nod and move along towards the buy button. Everybody will it for an extent, but there’s a couple things here that bother me.

First, the Performance Plus pitch grossly simplifies what must be done to &#8220maintain your website&#8217s speed during traffic spikes.&#8221 That depends upon your caching, how big your website, how big your &#8220traffic spike&#8221 (ie, could it be hundreds, thousands or countless demands?&#8221, and a large number of other variables. It plays on fear as opposed to a better upside like &#8220smoothly handle an origin-intensive site).

Second, the Cores, Physical and Virtual Memory allocations are missing any kind of context. They come to influence you to definitely purchase a more costly plan &#8211 to not provide any truly helpful comparative information.

To be fair to A2 Hosting, I actually do such as the specificity and I know that supplying concise, helpful details are challenging on the web page. That stated, combined with next disadvantage, their marketing-speak works as a disadvantage for just about any customer attempting to make an educated selection of webhost.

Onboarding &amp Product Setup

Onboarding is the procedure of moving a brand new customer for an active, happy customer. It&#8217s a vital process for just about any company, but specifically for website hosts who’re selling an inherently technical product.

While A2 Hosting has most of the common ingredients for any good onboarding (ie, email confirmations, intuitive client area and standard cPanel) &#8211 everything while establishing my account was slightly off. It had been a little frustrating &#8211 enough to really make it a drawback.

They begin out their orders simply by having an Order Confirmation.

A2 Hosting Confirmation

Their account area is rather simple.

A2 Hosting Backend

Their welcome email looks comprehensive&#8230but it&#8217s not. Most sign-up emails have critical username and passwords to be able to get began immediately (see examples within my Website Setup Guide).

But A2 Hosting&#8217s emails don’t.

A2 Hosting Onboarding

It informs me to obtain my DNS information within their help area.

However when I visit the help area&#8230it informs me to return to the e-mail.

A2 Hosting DNS

But there&#8217s no information within the email.

A2 Hosting DNS

So to Google/customer care.

In either case &#8211 using their cPanel, they’ve customized it to highlight their &#8220A2 Customized Installers&#8221 as opposed to the standard Softaculous installer.

The issue using their customized installers is that it helps make the installed software way harder and cluttered than it must be.

A2 Hosting WordPress Install

Basically were a brand new, unskilled user, I’d be regretting my purchase about now. It&#8217s these situations where A2 Hosting needs good support as their onboarding is creating issues that shouldn’t exist to begin with.

But past the &#8220customized&#8221 setup/onboarding &#8211 I had been disheartened at just how they&#8217ve pre-configured their &#8220A2 Enhanced&#8221 software.

It appears as though they&#8217ve hamstrung it to make use of less sources than usual while configuring plugins to obtain the software to a non-hamstrung condition. For instance, here, they set the default WordPress memory limit to 40M instead of something helpful like 256M. I&#8217m sure they’ve their reasons, however that was frustrating because it&#8217ll immediately provide error flags for many plugins.

A2 Hosting WordPress Limits

But &#8211  the website will still appear fast given that they have very aggressive caching pre-installed. I&#8217m not really a huge fan and believe that pre-configuring software like this can be a problem with firms that use a standard form of your software of preference.

Upsells &amp Offers

Upsells aren’t inherently a &#8220bad&#8221 factor. If presented well, they may be helpful. But upsells have to be obvious, helpful and presented well. While less bad as some big brand competitors, A2 Hosting doesn’t do upsells well.

Here&#8217s a specific item on checkout &#8211 a wall of &#8220configuarable options&#8221 &#8211 also known as, upsells.

A2 Hosting Choices

Whilst not garish or overwhelming, individuals configurable options create lots of questions.

A2 Hosting Choice Confusion

Each and every option (aside from Server Location) either creates doubt or confusion within the mind from the customer. Furthermore, because they are all presented from context &#8211 I do not know what they’re or why they’re helpful or the way they affect my purchase.

However the frustrating offers/upsells don&#8217t visit the checkout screen. They’re built-into A2 hosting&#8217s &#8220optimized software&#8221 as proven earlier.

But they’re also marketed inside the server backend. As seen here &#8211

A2 Hosting Offers

Within this situation, it&#8217s less concerning the offer and much more using what the sale is. It&#8217s a really horrible &#8220SEO&#8221 product. The type which makes me embarrassed to operate in the Search engine optimization industry. Here&#8217s a specific item whenever you click A2 Hosting&#8217s &#8220Link Building&#8221 product.

A2 Hosting Offers

Yeah. I&#8217m unsure how much cash Attracta pays A2 Hosting for your product placement, but wow does that negatively affect A2 Hosting&#8217s otherwise solid, clean brand.

In addition to video sales letters &#8211 but A2 Hosting also instantly provided my email to Attracta to have an email automation setup that I didn’t join &#8211 pure junk e-mail.

A2 Hosting SEO Tools

However the frustrations with offers/upsells/messaging will get worse. A2 Hosting takes credit for supplying free, open-source products using their company companies free of charge. In their &#8220Optimization&#8221 upgrade, they supposedly install a lot of exclusive software to assist your website.

Within the situation from the WordPress install, it happens to be some standard, free plugins open to anybody through the WordPress wordpress plugin repository.

A2 Hosting Claims

It&#8217s one factor to supply a car-install service &#8211 that&#8217s fine. It&#8217s another to make use of another person&#8217s work and employ the worth using their try to add &#8220exclusive&#8221 value for your product.

Now &#8211 from a day-to-day use perspective &#8211 none of the matters. You are able to disregard the upsells, disregard the offers and take away the bundled plugins. But so far as selecting a business according to trust &amp values, I view it like a problem with A2 Hosting.

Guarantees, Backups &amp Bonuses

Guarantees and backup services are &#8220bonus&#8221 features within the grand plan of hosting. However for something as essential as your site, they may be existence (err wallet) savers.

A2 Hosting&#8217s money-back guarantee is okay however is not impressive when compared with direct competitors.

A2 Hosting Refund

Additionally they only provide &#8220server rewind backups&#8221 free of charge together with your standard plan. If you would like true regular backups, you&#8217ll have to sign up for a third party service.

A2 Hosting Backups

Again, that&#8217s fine, however it&#8217s something to element in while evaluating cost &amp value among competitors.

Lastly, their actual bonuses/freebies are pretty thin on the floor. Actually, 3 of the 4 freebies are ad placements to profit A2 Hosting. Nothing outdoors standard, but something to element in if you know a few of the services you&#8217re searching for.

A2 Hosting Offer

Overall, A2 Hosting&#8217s guarantees, backups, and freebies are ok by themselves, however a disadvantage when compared with all of those other industry.

Options to A2 Hosting

From the best-known hosts that I’ve utilized as a person or consultant, here’s how A2 Hosting compares straight to each.

A2 Hosting versus. SiteGround

SiteGround is among A2 Hosting&#8217s big independent (ie, also not of a large holding company) competitors. Both of them possess a concentrate on speed with reputations for solid support. SiteGround shares all A2 Hosting&#8217s positives (including global data centers) with couple of of A2 Hosting&#8217s downsides. Read my full SiteGround Hosting review here, but unless of course you’ve got a specific reason behind selecting A2 Hosting, I would suggest registering for SiteGround.

A2 Hosting versus. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is among A2 Hosting&#8217s big independent (ie, also not of a large holding company) competitors. A2 Hosting offers global data centers and Home windows hosting that InMotion doesn’t. Beyond that, I&#8217ve discovered that InMotion provides all of A2 Hosting&#8217s benefits with no downsides. InMotion has very involved support along with a solid prices structure. Read my full overview of InMotion Hosting here, but unless of course you’ll need Home windows servers, I would suggest registering for InMotion Hosting.

A2 Hosting vs. Bluehost

Bluehost is among Endurance International’s best-known brands. They beat A2 Hosting on prices. However, A2 Hosting does far better with performance and core hosting features whereas Bluehost has better “bonuses” and side upgrades. If performance matters more for you – then pay a little extra for A2 Hosting. If you are just managing a simple, straightforward project, then Bluehost is solid.

A2 Hosting versus. HostGator

HostGator is among Endurance International’s other well-known brands. They’re most widely known for offering good website hosting with unmetered features for very economical prices. I utilize them for small personal projects – plus they beat A2 Hosting on prices and core hosting features. However, A2 Hosting has better support and gratifaction. So again, together, opt for A2 Hosting for much better value &amp better performance and HostGator for much better (or temporary) prices and/or unmetered features.

Next Steps

There is a reason A2 Hosting is among the fastest growing independent website hosts. There is a solid product along with a great support.

If you’re searching for any complete webhost with solid support and gratifaction (and also you don&#8217t mind a couple of upsells) &#8211 go join A2 Hosting here.

If you’re searching for any webhost with the advantages of A2 Hosting – however with better prices and guarantees, I’d opt for InMotion Hosting. Get InMotion’s discount here.

If you’re more confused than ever before – then take my Web Hosting Quiz here or use this site setup guide here!

A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting is really a full-service webhost located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA and founded in 2003.
A2 Hosting
Date Printed: 06/08/2017
A2 Hosting has solid speed, customer care and hosting features. They fall lower a little on cost point and product onboarding.
3.5 / 5 stars

The publish A2 Hosting Review: Pros &#038 Cons of utilizing A2 Hosting made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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Web.com Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Web.com Hosting Review

Web.com is really a website hosting &amp website builder brand of the net.org Group. They are among the largest and earliest brands in the market. The Net.org Group also owns brands like Network Solutions, Register.com and 1ShoppingCart.

Together with GoDaddy, they have several the greatest brand recognition in everyone because of their huge investment TV, radio, billboard and traditional advertising. In Atlanta, I believe they’ve purchased a significant area of the bus stop ads. Additionally they sponsor the second tier professional golf league in the usa.

Web.com Offline Ads screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

That sort of offline advertising plays for their core marketing message because the one place to obtain your website, internet marketing and everything to choose it. Though from a technical perspective, Web.com offers only entry-level hosting &amp a do it yourself website builder application with upsell marketing services.

You should check out Web.com’s plans and prices here.

Because of my skepticism using their offline ads, I’ve never formerly attempted Web.com. But following a friend was asking about the subject, I made the decision to try them having a small trial website.

Here’s my Web.com Hosting review &#8211 structured with pros &amp cons according to my recent experience like a customer.

Skip towards the conclusion &amp next steps here.

Disclosure &#8211 I receive referral charges from companies pointed out on this web site. All opinion and knowledge is dependant on my experience like a having to pay customer or consultant to some having to pay customer.

Pros of Web.com Hosting

There are plenty of Web.com reviews online &#8211 usually with user-generated reviews according to anecdotes and private experience. That&#8217s fine however i have a different approach. Like I’ve stated in other hosting reviews, there’s no such factor like a “best” hosting company. The “best” may be the right fit for the project according to your objectives, budget, experience &amp expertise. Simply because one company isn’t a good fit for you personally does not necessarily mean it’s a bad fit for another person.

Web.com differs.

Web.com’s only pro is it works okay for somebody who desires a really fundamental drag type website while they have the cash for something better.

The very best example for Web.com is really a Hamburger King that charges hipster all-organic hamburger restaurant prices. On a single hands, they’re technically supplying something which works, however, you would not utilize it when they didn’t advertise everywhere using very specific marketing messages.

For “meh” companies, I attempt to drag out some benefits of using on them others. But I can not look for a single need to use Web.com.

Every potential advantage turned to be a fantasy.

For instance, they have the symptoms of solid discount prices, however it auto-renews at high rates. Their speed &amp performance made an appearance to become great, however they have really low memory limits and sources (so performance is just good on really small sites). They’ve phone support &#8211 but have awful DIY customer care (as well as their phone reps focused more about upselling than answering my fundamental questions).

If you’re interested in the facts, I’ll cover more within the cons section below. Or skip towards the conclusion and then steps for alternatives.

Cons of Web.com Hosting

Greater than many web hosting companies, Web.com has disadvantages. Listed here are the disadvantages which i found while using the Web.com for hosting.

Prices

Web.com markets themselves like a one-stop shop to obtain your website. They provide free website help along with a free website builder &#8211 you just pay single low rate per month.

Their 30 days opening rate (for that website builder product) looks attractive at $1.95/mo &#8211 but it features a major asterisk.

It escalates to $22/mo following the first month, and quickly will get much more costly with add-on after add-on. That $22/mo is much more costly than the most costly website builder plans available &#8211 in which you would a minimum of obtain a better website builder &#8211 like Squarespace or Weebly.

Web.com Signup Rates screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Should you search through the website offers and then try to register *only* for hosting to set up WordPress or some bit of website software, you’ll get prices that’s a little bit more competitive. However, it’s still more costly compared to most costly brand hosting, plus much more than affordable starter hosts.

Aside &#8211 even their domains are absurdly overpriced. They offer a “free” website name with purchase, however that same website name will renew at $37/year&#8230.when compared with $14.99yr w/ GoDaddy and/or perhaps a typical hosting company or $10/yr with NameCheap.

Plan Structure

When you purchase any product which can help you make a website, a core area of the plan’s hosting (ie, a spot for your site files to “live”).

Most website hosts either sell the hosting with complimentary website building tools or they’ll sell everything like a package. Here&#8217s one website landing page on Web.com selling the &#8220free website package&#8221 with ongoing charges.

Web.com Misleading Marketing screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Web.com takes both approaches. You pay different prices based on what approach you select, while you are becoming exactly the same factor within the finish (hosting with built-in website builder tools).

Web.com Plans Structure screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

For instance, Web.com sells a do it yourself Website Package. It offers hosting along with a website builder. It’s $1.95/mo and rises to $22/mo. They likewise have Hosting plans under Other Products. Diets likewise incorporate the web site Builder tool, but start at $5.95/mo and renew at $12.95. Quite simply &#8211 same product, different names and various prices.

Web.com Pricing screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Web.com Hosting Backend screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

&nbsp

Observe that within the second image &#8211 I have the website builder despite the fact that I purchased a normal hosting package&#8230not the &#8220website builder package.&#8221

I known as customer support relating to this discrepancy (I had been completely unclear about things i had subscribed to) &#8211 and she or he confirmed. They’ve different prices and various packages with respect to the “customer’s feature focus.”

In either case, their hosting plans have low caps for databases, disk space and domains, and emails on every tier &#8211 such as the Premium Hosting level. These caps mean that you’re restricted to on the best way to expand your website &#8211 or add new microsites.

User-ambiance

To become fair to Web.com &#8211 there can be some value in offering packages that sell simplicity or hosting plans with low caps. Not everybody really wants to compare different plans or search for more features when fundamental features is going to do fine.

However, if you sell simplicity, your process should really the simple. Web.com’s register process, their backend as well as their tools are just “user-friendly” inside a 2006 kind of way.

Web.com Onboarding screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Actually, many areas of their register process and website setup process appeared so user-unfriendly it forces people to call customer support&#8230who then upsell other things Web.com offers.

Here’s what their backend appears like &#8211

Web.com Hosting Backend screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Everything regarding their backend is proprietary to Web.com (unlike a business standard backend like cPanel) &#8211 which means you are stuck searching through their help documentation or calling customer support again.

Furthermore, their user-unfriendliness even would go to their cancellation process. After I required to cancel a free account &#8211 I couldn&#8217t get it done. The machine forced me to customer support where I needed to discuss my reasons having a repetition while hearing several sales pitches.

Web.com Cancellation screenshot for my Web.com Hosting Review

Lastly, not just is the register process and backend user-unfriendly (and ugly), additionally, it hides lots of features that some DIY customers want use of &#8211 which results in the following major drawback to Web.com.

Backend Features

Although Web.com claims they provide a full-spectrum of support for programming languages and website software (like WordPress) &#8211 I discovered the particular backend features to possess a couple of problems.

First, the backend hides fundamental server information. In case your domain is registered somewhere like GoDaddy or NameCheap, you have to point the DNS nameservers to Web.com. This method informs visitors’ browsers who key in your website name to visit Web.com’s server (where your site lives). Web.com’s DNS details are available only via customer care.

And that’s only the start &#8211 small things like MX records (you’ll need individuals to setup Gmail) and software versions were maddening to locate.

Second, once you discover the program, it might or might not work or supply the options that you’ll require. For instance, Web.com advertises a “one-click WordPress install” like other hosts. They’ve it, however, it unsuccessful the very first two occasions which i attempted to operate it. Furthermore, you can’t install software within the “root” folder of the account &#8211 meaning you are able to only install WordPress inside a subfolder of the website (ie yourwebsite.com/blog rather or yourwebsite.com).

Web.com Hosting WordPress Install

Web.com Install Fail

Which means that used that if you would like WordPress to power your whole website, as well as your homepage, you need to perform a manual install of WordPress. Their auto-install only creates subfolder.

Aside &#8211 I attempted to perform a manual 5 minute install of WordPress, but threw in the towel following the Web.com database creator stored dying on me.

Another example is tracking scripts for his or her website builder product. They merely script that you could place is Google Analytics. AdWords conversion tracking, Facebook retargeting, Search Console tags, etc &#8211 none can easily be bought the actual way it is by using most website software.

Third, Web.com dedicates precious couple of sources towards the applications that you could install around the backend. I’d be unable to operate a feature heavy website on Web.com. For instance, should you added a little ecommerce store with a lot of imagery for your WordPress website, you’d have a problem with performance. Exactly the same issue would hold for installing a Listserv or any type of application. Here&#8217s a screenshot of the speed test of the really small site &#8211

Web.com Hosting Performance

Customer Care

Like I mention in other hosting reviews, calling customer care / service like a pro or disadvantage is difficult. Only people within the organization determine if customer support is viewed as an expense or perhaps an investment.

Outdoors of the organization, customer support reviews usually devolve into “they are horrible since i had one bad experience” or “they are excellent since i had one great experience” &#8211 neither being very useful.

Rather, I love to take a look at customer support’s availability and just how the organization invests in customer care infrastructure.

Despite the fact that my customer support conversations were enjoyable, Web.com seriously fails on measures. Their customer support works merely a little outdoors US business hrs. They route just about everything via phone, though they are doing possess a ticket submission option within their backend.

There’s hardly any DIY customer care. There isn’t any forum section, chat, knowledgebase or help center whatsoever. It appears as though any investments that Web.com makes go for their phone support&#8230which is heavy around the upsells after they solve your condition, which results in the final disadvantage.

Upsells &amp Messaging

Upsells aren’t inherently bad or annoying. They offer choices for customers that are looking them, and prices low for everybody who doesn’t would like them.

However, Web.com does a couple of things wrong with upsells. First, they seem at virtually every chance rather of just when I’m searching (say at checkout or perhaps in upgrading section).

Second, their messaging for a lot of upsells is oversimplified. You’ll be able to oversimplify to the stage that you’re laying at worst or misleading at the best. Web.com comes awfully close using their upsells.

Backend Web.com

Web.com Misleading Marketing

Their Search engine optimization upsells preach features that haven’t mattered since 2002 (you don’t need to &#8220submit your website to Google&#8221 and directories aren’t a silver bullet). Their SSL upsells don’t provide any context. Their security and backup upsells makes me question what belongs to their actual plans.

The mixture of oversimplified, overpriced upsells pitched at each random chance is both annoying and results in me to question who they really are really searching out for.

Conclusion &amp Next Steps

Overall, I had been tossed just how bad Web.com was. I believed that any organization that spends a lot cash on offline advertising should have another business design than most competitors, but Web.com really sets a brand new standard to have an costly low value product. If you’re still offered in it, go try them out here.

If you’re searching for any webhost with excellent prices, service and product, then I’d recommend looking at Website Hosting Hub here. You may also take a look at HostGator here if you would like cheaper plans and also the choice to pay monthly. Learn to generate a website together here.

If you’re searching for a multi functional drag website builder, then I’d recommend looking at Weebly (review) or taking this site builder quiz here.

If you’re searching to have an all-in-one ecommerce platform, then I’d recommend looking at Shopify (review) or taking my ecommerce platform quiz here.

Web.com Hosting

Web.com is among the best brands within the website building industry with a lot of offline advertising.
Web.com Hosting Review
Date Printed: 03/01/2016
Web.com doesn’t meet the marketing and messaging. Their prices, features and support make sure they are a really poor lengthy-term option for an internet site builder or webhost.
2 / 5 stars

The publish Web.com Hosting Review: Pros, Cons &#038 Alternatives made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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Shopify vs Square

shopify-vs-square
Square is probably the most comprehensive free mPOS app out there. It was really the first company to make card processing widely available to everyone using just a free card reader and a smartphone.

Shopify launched in 2006 as e-commerce software. Like Square and mobile payments, Shopify has made selling online much easier for merchants, especially those who are just starting out with their business.

Not only that, both companies have since branched out considerably. Square now offers a comprehensive suite of business products for merchants who want to sell in store, online, and on-the-go. And Shopify has branched out from e-commerce with a powerful POS system and its own payments service, so merchants don’t need to have a merchant account.

The result is that two services that started off catering to very different audiences now have very similar offerings. Square and Shopify both have powerful POS apps targeted for iPads, a mobile solution, and multiple e-commerce options. Both give you tools you need to run a brick-and-mortar shop beyond just a POS app. 

Their card processing rates are also identical, with a couple of important caveats. The first of these is that Square and its POS app, Square Register, are completely free, while Shopify will charge you a baseline monthly fee, plus the credit card fees, plus additional fees for add-ons. The second of these caveats is that if you opt for higher-priced packages, you can also get lower processing rates.

Square is still the better option for merchants who only process credit card payments sporadically (such as artists who vend at conventions and art shows), because there’s no monthly fee. If your e-commerce site only gets a little traffic and your sales are infrequent, you’re better off using Square as well. But if your online sales are good enough to justify the added cost, Shopify has some very nice features and stunning themes for your store.

So what if you sell online and in-store, or on the go? The answer isn’t quite as clear-cut.

As a merchant, which one should you choose? Which service is the better value? Which has the best features? That depends largely on your own particular situation. Read on for a detailed comparison and find out which service comes out on top in the Shopify vs. Square debate.

Products and Services:

Winner: Shopify

Bear with me, but there’s a LOT to discuss here. Let’s look at each of the core offerings — POS app, payment processing, and e-Commerce, and see how they stack up individually.

POS App

Shopify’s POS used to be strictly for iOS, but as of January 2016, the app is now available for Android smartphones and tablets, too. Square, too, supports your choice of Android and iOS devices. However, to make the best use of either app, you need an iPad, as many of the best features are only available there. You’ll also find that you can use the app on any number of devices without needing to pay for additional license fees (but you won’t be able to differentiate among employees without paying for that feature).

Shopify POS Features:

  • Accept all forms of payment: Credit card, debit card, cash, check, and other customized payment methods — even Bitcoin.*
  • Split tender: This is useful and you can actually accept more than just 2 payment forms on a transaction.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Store credit: The only fault with the store credit option is that there’s really no accountability in it. You can simply mark a payment as paid via store credit, with no need for proof of it at all. Still, this is a useful feature.
  • Reporting: Track sales, compare how products are selling, monitor traffic to your store, customer data, and more. With the higher-tiered plans you can even built custom reports. Data can be exported to CSV, as well.
  • Item limits: The limit on the number of items you can include in Shopify POS depends on which device you’re running the app from. Also note that you can choose to hide or delete items depending on what you need. However, your Shopify store can have unlimited items and you don’t need to sync them all with your POS unless you want to. (It’s worth noting that you can’t actually make updates to items in Shopify POS, only through the browser interface.)
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.
  • Syncing: Shopify automatically syncs inventory and product information across all your sales channels.
  • Email/print receipts: Send digital receipts, or if you have an iPad and Shopify’s retail package, print them out.
  • Inventory: Shopify’s inventory features are pretty impressive. In addition to tracking your stock levels across every channel where you sell, you can print barcodes, manage products you order from suppliers and automatically update inventory counts, and more. You won’t get low-stock alerts without an add-on, though.
  • Employee accounts: In a retail setup, knowing who is ringing up sales is especially important. With Shopify’s retail package, you can assign individual staff PINs, track register shifts and sales, and more.
  • Invoicing: Shopify actually has a simple form you can fill out to auto-generate an invoice. You can email it to customers, save it, or print it out.
  • Full/partial refunds: Issue a refund or issue store credit.
  • Gift cards (iPad only): You can only get gift cards if you opt for the Standard plan or higher. However, you can sell physical and digital gift cards.
  • Offline capabilities: You can’t log in during an outage, but if you are already logged in you can still accept payments other than credit cards. This is very limited functionality, but it could get you through an outage mostly fine.
  • Auth-capture: You can pre-authorize a transaction for 7 days in Shopify, which isn’t the longest period of time we’ve seen, but absolutely workable if you need this feature.
  • Tax rate calculation: Shopify will auto-detect your tax rate based on your store’s location (if using the POS), or based on your shipping zones for eCommerce. Shopify doesn’t calculate tax for international orders. However, Shopify does generate tax reports for you if you have Shopify Standard or higher. You can also set up tax overrides for entire collections of products or individual products (or product variants, such as digital books vs print editions). Just remember to confirm that Shopify’s tax rate is correct when you get started.
  • Loyalty programs: This is not a native feature to Shopify. If you want a loyalty program, you’ll have to start looking at apps in the Shopify ecosystem and find one that works for you. There’s at least 1 free program, but the more advanced systems will cost you more.

*Shopify POS lets you connect external terminals and third-party payment providers, which may cost you more. 

Square Register Features: 

  • Accept credit card payments: You can also log cash and check transactions, but this feature isn’t nearly as robust as Shopify’s.
  • Split Tender: Accept cash and card, or cash and check, or check and card.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Reporting: Square’s reporting features are pretty solid, but they’re not quite on the same level as Shopify’s. Still, Square’s reporting will cover all the basics and does have some advanced filters so you can customize the data.
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.Square prefers to call these “price points” and you can track them in inventory. You can also add item modifiers, which are add-ons that don’t affect your inventory counts, though restaurants are far more likely to use this feature than retail shops.
  • Syncing: Square’s inventory feature will automatically sync across your online store and Square Register, and you can view it in the online dashboard.
  • Low-stock alerts: Square will send you daily email alerts for low- or out-of-stock products. Being able to get a daily alert is very useful for busy merchants, especially because Square lets you set the threshold for low-stock alerts.
  • Email/SMS/print receipts: Send digital receipts via email or SMS, or if you have an iPad, print them.
  • Inventory: Square has a solid free inventory management system, but you can also integrate with Stitch Labs and other inventory services.
  • Employee accounts:You can use Square on any number of devices, but if you want employee accounts, multiple permissions, and timekeeping, you’ll need to sign up for Square’s employee management ($5 per employee per month)
  • Invoicing: Send invoices from within Square Register or online.
  • Full/partial refunds: Pretty self explanatory here.
  • Gift cards: No subscription required, no redemption fees. Just pay the cost of the cards themselves, and load them up on demand. Note these are physical cards only, but you can use them online.
  • Offline capabilities: Square’s Offline Mode is actually one of the most powerful I’ve seen. You can still process credit cards during an outage, and they’ll go through so long as you connect to the Internet within 72 hours. The caveat, of course, is that you’re assuming responsibility for any transactions that don’t go through.
  • Tax features: You can disable or enable tax collection with Square, and set price to include tax, or have it added on separately. As with Shopify, you can enable or disable tax on specific items. However, there’s no auto-detect feature, so you need to manually look up your applicable tax rates.
  • Loyalty programs: For $25/month you can add a punch-based customer loyalty program. All consumers have to do is opt for a digital receipt. You can set the purchase requirements to earn a reward (Which could be a free item or a discount). It’s not the most advanced system, but it’s still pretty flexible.

Square also has a host of features/subscription services targeting restaurants and other service-based companies, none of which you’ll find in Shopify. This includes kitchen ticket printing, adding tip (by percentage or dollar amount), appointment booking, delivery services, and much more.

All in all, though, the two POS systems are about evenly matched. Shopify is more robust in most areas, such as its support for many payment methods and store credit, whereas Square shines with the simple things, like supporting SMS receipts as well as email, low-stock alerts, and its offline mode.

Card Processing

Shopify and Square are both aggregators — that means, when you sign up to process payments through either of them, you don’t get your own merchant account; your transactions are simply lumped in with everyone else’s. Shopify actually processes through Stripe Payments.

Aggregating is what has lead to the common complaints you get about Square holding funds or terminating accounts at random. Shopify generally appears to be more stable, which is good given that Stripe also has a reputation for funding holds and account terminations. However, I was still able to find a few complaints about account holds — I wouldn’t say Shopify is immune, but it does a lot better on the stability front. Most of those holds happen when merchants suddenly fall within Shopify’s requirements for 1099-K reporting.

We’ll look at specific processing rates later on, but for now, here’s what you need to know:

Shopify will let you use its Payments service at no extra charge beyond your swipe fees and monthly service charges. If you choose to use a third-party gateway (PayPal, Braintree, your own merchant account, etc.), you’ll be charged an extra 0.5-2% transaction fee. Note that you get a choice of more than 70 gateways, which is quite impressive. There’s no charge at all for accepting cash, check, or alternative payment methods (such as Bitcoin) using the POS app.

Square will lock you into using its service for payments. You’ll pay standard rates for credit card processing, and nothing for accepting cash and check. However, you can’t set up any other alternative payment methods and log them using Square (unless you want to mark them as cash/check).

Shopify has the advantage in terms of sheer versatility. I like that you can process through a third party and even connect terminals and PIN pads (allowing you to get interchange rates for debit, if your processor offers them), but a 2% transaction fee is high, especially for a small merchant. However, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Square is a solid option for payments. You’re covered for all the basics and you know exactly what you’re going to pay for each transaction, every time.

Both Shopify and Square now have APIs that allow you to build payment processing into your own apps as well.

eCommerce

Shopify started as an eCommerce product, and it’s stayed true to that idea with robust shopping cart software and an easy-to-use design that even newbies to selling online can handle. Features include:

  • Hosted site: Shopify provides hosting for your site with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products.
  • Domains: Use your shopify hosted domain only, purchase a domain through Shopify and set up a redirect, use an existing domain with a redirect, or buy your own domain and set up the redirect. There are a lot of options.
  • Buy buttons: Even if you don’t have shopping cart software set up on a site, you can use Shopify’s buy buttons to enable purchases on the web, or in an app, or via email with the Buy Button feature.
  • Sell on social media: With Shopify you can set up a store directly on Facebook, and also sell on Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Millennials are especially guilty of cart abandonment but with this feature, you can win them back. Only available for Shopify Standard and up.
  • Store migration: Making a switch? Use one of Shopify’s third-party add-ons to migrate your store from eBay, Amazon, and Magento without having to manually upload all of your products.
  • Import/export via CSV: Add your products to your store using Shopify’s CSV template.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across all your sales channels, including your POS and social media.
  • Reporting: We’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating that you get some solid reporting features and can separate data by sales channel.
  • Order management: Shopify has some comprehensive order management tools that work in the app as well as through the dashboard. You can also get integrations to help with it.
  • Third-party integrations: There are a LOT of integrations out there for Shopify (just check out the app store). Some are free, some will cost you. But in addition to your standard accounting, inventory, and order management integrations, you can opt for a Fulfillment by Amazon integration and recurring billing/layaway services.
  • Discounted postage rates: Postage can be one of the biggest expenses for online shop owners, but if you print your postage through Shopify, you can get a discount. The higher-tiered packages give bigger discounts.
  • Many themes: Design-wise, Shopify gives you a huge selection of store themes and you can even customize them further if you have programming knowledge.

Square’s eCommerce support initially felt more like an after-thought. It was very limited, but lately the company has really expanded its offerings, which makes me happy.

  • Hosted site: Square will give you a webstore on its own domain. This feature is pretty limited, but it’s a great starter site and there’s no monthly cost.
  • Domains: You can also integrate your store with Weebly, Bigcommerce, or Ecwid. 
  • Import/export via CSV: Get your online store loaded up quickly, or update your inventory counts en masse. Also helpful for migrating stores.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across your online store and the Register POS.
  • Reporting: All of your data is available and can be downloaded from the Square dashboard.
  • Third-party integrations: Square’s list of integrations includes some robust inventory and order management tools. There’s a custom API you can use to create your own.
  • Order management: You can manage your orders through Square’s online dashboard, but not in the app. Integrations can extend the functionality.

Shopify offers far more eCommerce features, but it’ll be interesting to see what Square does in the future. It’s also worth mentioning that if you opt to integrate your existing site with Square, you’re going to get the benefits of whatever shopping cart software you choose, so even if Square lacks a feature you need, you might be able to get it another way.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Shopify

Both Square and Shopify offer a range of hardware options, from free credit card readers to full-fledged retail kits with everything you need for a conventional register setup.

At the very least, you’re going to need a card reader to use with your smartphone or tablet. You have a couple different options there:

Shopify Card Reader Options:

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/NFC reader: $129 (retail: $149)
  • Lightning magstripe reader: $99 (includes charging capabilities)
  • Third party terminals and PIN pads: $199 and up

Square Card Reader Options: 

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/Magstripe reader: $29
  • EMV/NFC reader: $49 (includes free magstripe reader)
  • EMV/NFC reader with PIN pad: $129 (iOS only)

That’s just for the basic setup for smartphones or tablet. If you happen to have an iPad, you can take advantage of both services’ more advanced features (such as receipt printing), but you’ll need more hardware. Both provide ready-to-go retail bundles that you can use to set up your register.

Shopify Retail Kit

A bundled, ready-to-go retail kit from (excluding your tablet) costs $779. That includes:

  • iPad stand (retail price $129)
  • Bluetooth receipt printer ($399)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($139)
  • EMV/NFC card reader ($139).

You can also purchase each piece of hard hardware separately, but buying the bundle will save you about $25. Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode reader ($229/$399)
  • Barcode dock ($79)
  • Barcode printer ($119)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($39)
  • Cash drawers ($139-$349)

Square Retail Kit 

Square offers a few options for retail kits that range from $486 to $659, depending on your tablet (it even offers kits for select Android tablets. The iPad Air kit, which is $659, includes the following:

  • Square stand ($99)
  • USB receipt printer ($299)
  • Bundle of receipt paper ($49)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($229).

Note that doesn’t include an EMV-compliant card reader (the Square Stand has a basic built-in magstripe reader), which will add $29 to $129 to the cost, depending on which EMV reader you want. You can add an iPad Air for $399, as well.

Something worth noting is that Square does not officially support bar code printers, whereas Shopify does. Some Square users have had luck with a Dymo printer, but there’s absolutely no guarantee.

Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode scanner ($199)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($29)

Square actually offers a selection of both wireless and Ethernet-based receipt printers, as well as a kitchen receipt printer, and multiple cash drawers. With Shopify, there’s only one receipt printer but you do get multiple cash drawers.

It really comes down to your person needs. I like that Shopify’s kit includes an EMV card reader by default, because it is very important for businesses to transition over to accepting the new chip cards. It’s a nice thought that Square includes receipt paper, but I think an EMV reader is a lot more important.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Square

At first glance, Shopify and Square appear to have identical pricing: 2.7% for swiped transactions and 2.9% + $0.15 for online transactions. Simple, right?

However, that doesn’t account for Shopify’s monthly fee or its retail add-on package, or the transaction fees if you choose another payment processor. Depending on which features you need, the cost of Shopify can really start to add up over time, especially with add-ons. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you should look closely at your budget and projected sales to see if you can justify the expense.

Square Fees

Square will charge you $0 in monthly fees, PCI compliance, etc. You will pay nothing beyond the credit card transaction fees unless you opt for one of the add-on services (appointment booking, email marketing, employee time management/payroll). It really, really is that simple.

  • Credit card fees: 2.7% swiped, 3.5% + $0.15?? keyed, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce.

Shopify Fees

There are four Shopify plans. As you can expect, with higher-tiered plans, you get a greater number of features. Check out the Shopify pricing page for a full breakdown of features:

Shopify Lite ($9/month) 

  • Facebook store
  • Buy buttons
  • Shopify POS
  • Invoicing
  • 24/7 support
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Basic ($29/month)

  • 2 staff accounts
  • 24/7 support
  • Online store + blog
  • Discount codes
  • Fraud analysis
  • Sell on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Standard ($79/month)

  • Everything in Shopify Basic
  • 5 staff accounts
  • Professional reports
  • Gift cards
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Credit card rates: 2.6% + $0.30 per online and 2.4% for swiped transactions,

Shopify Advanced: $299/month

  • Everything in Shopify Standard
  • 15 staff accounts
  • Advanced report builder
  • Real-time carrier shipping
  • Credit card rates: 2.4% + $0.30 for online/2.2% swiped.

The plan I really want to draw your attention to is Shopify Lite. If you are just starting out, this is the most affordable option, and you can still sell online via Facebook or your own site (or even Tumblr). If you find that Shopify is right for you, you can upgrade to the Basic or Standard plans. If that’s still too much of an expense, or you want a hosted eCommerce site without paying for it, you’re better off with Square.

For large businesses, there’s Shopify Plus, which is the company’s enterprise solution with custom pricing based on your volume and features.

Shopify Retail Package 

If you want to track staff shifts and run a proper register setup with receipt printers and other hardware on your Shopify POS, it won’t come cheap. You need the Retail Package, which will give you individual PINs for your staffers and allow you to use hardware and integrations for $40/month.

This is where it’s worth doing the math. Square doesn’t charge you for using add-on hardware. But it will charge you for employee management (timekeeping and staff IDs). That’s $5/employee monthly, so if you have more than 8 employees, Shopify winds up being the better value, if we’re just counting the retail package, not the monthly fee.

Shopify Transaction Fees

We’ve already covered what you’ll pay if you use Shopify payments to process credit cards. (Note: there’s no fee at all for cash, check, or alternative payment methods). But what if you already have a credit card processor and just need an eCommerce solution and mobile processing? Shopify will let you do that!

It’ll just cost you.

Let’s say you’ve got a great interchange-plus plan where you’re actually getting the very low debit interchange rates. You’ve got a PIN pad so your customers can process cards as debit.

First of all, you need to have the Retail package — so that’s $40 plus whatever Shopify plan you have. You’ll pay your credit card processor whatever they normally charge, and then an additional percentage to Shopify.

  • Shopify Basic: 2%
  • Shopify Standard: 1%
  • Shopify Advanced: 0.5%

So that’s a lot to consider. I highly encourage you to do the math and figure out where the best deal lies for you!

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Tie

Square has no contracts what so ever. Everything is pay-as-you-go, with all of its add-ons on a monthly subscription. You can even try each service out for 30 days, no charge.

Shopify is a monthly service. You can pay for an annual package and save some money per-month, but otherwise there are no contracts or obligations. You can get a 14-day trial, no credit card required.

Either way, there’s no long-term commitment, which is a serious advantage.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

Overall, Square and Shopify are both very transparent as far as their sales and advertising go. There’s no hidden fees, no contracts, no sneaky auto-renewal clauses. I like the resources that both companies put out — blog posts on topics that merchants should be aware of, and tips for helping their businesses thrive. This is important, especially when serving small businesses. We live in the information age, and yes, content is king. You should absolutely expect this out of any service you use — especially in the payments space. Educated merchants make for better customers.

Both are doing very well on the social media front as well, with active Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, as well as dedicated Twitter support channels (@SqSupport and @ShopifySupport, respectively).

This is exactly what we like to see. You know exactly what you’re paying for, you know all of the terms, and you know what you’re getting. Best of all, you can move on whenever you’re ready.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the clear winner in this category. No matter what Shopify plan you have, you get 24/7 access to the support team, which is astounding. Not only that, but the support team’s overall reputation is quite good, with timely responses and helpful answers. I also like that Shopify’s knowledge base is incredibly detailed. You should be able to get answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have without having to get anyone on the line. You can also get email, live chat, and phone support. There’s a community forum, and Shopify will even help pair you with experts who will help you complete your project. This is a convenient way to get up and running if you have more capital but not a lot of time or know-how — expect to pay for these experts’ time and insights.

Square…well, if you check out our Square review, you’ll see what others have said. While the company has made major strides to improve, it’s far from perfect. That said, Square’s knowledgebase is astounding. As with Shopify, unless you’re dealing with a complex, account-specific problem, you’ll be able to find an answer without having to contact one. You can get phone support, but you’ll have to get a code first. Otherwise, it’s email only to contact Square directly. It’s also interesting to note that Square just added a user forum where merchants can connect. I expect to see this feature take off soon.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: Shopify

Square’s complaints fall into two categories, mostly: account holds/terminations and bad customer support. The issues are related, too: merchants find out their accounts have been shut down or funds are being held until additional verification is required, and run into a brick wall when it comes to support and getting the matter resolved. We’ve seen an overall improvement on this front, but these are no minor concerns. (Another concern we’ve seen a lot of recently is faulty EMV hardware, but Square is generally good about replacing it.)

The complaints about Shopify are far different. One of the biggest complaints is that you can’t get a hosted payment page — any time customers complete a purchase they’re directed to checkout.shopify.com, which may drive off some potential buyers, who are understandably wary. Another common complaint is the difficulty of learning Shopify’s programming language, Liquid. If you want to make code-level tweaks to your site you are much better off hiring a Shopify expert. Something else that comes up quite often is that many of the apps and integrations available through Shopify aren’t free. This isn’t surprising, but it can be understandably frustrating for merchants, especially those who are just starting out.

We have found a few complaints about Shopify holding merchants funds, but nowhere near on the scale of Square or even Stripe, through which Shopify processes payments.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Shopify

Most of the positive chatter you will find about Square comes from the Reviews page, or big news publications (linked to on said page). From general user chatter, merchants love how easy it is to get started, the fact that all of the core features are free, and the overall ease of use. The fact that it offers an EMV reader for just $29 is amazing when most hardware runs upward of $100 is nice, especially for merchants who are just starting out, and the offline mode can be very useful.

With Shopify, people also rave about the ease of use. The fact that you have so many gorgeous themes to choose from with your online store is a major advantage. The rates are competitive (especially if you use Shopify Payments), and with the higher-tiered plans you get some really great features especially. But even the basic plans have everything you need.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Shopify

It’s difficult to say unequivocally that Shopify or Square is better than the other. Shopify does have many more advantages than Square — more robust POS app and eCommerce features, round-the-clock customer service, and less of a reputation for holds. But that doesn’t mean that Square isn’t a good choice for some merchants. Especially for new merchants, Square makes a LOT of sense.

Let’s look at a few key factors that will influence your decision:

Cost: Square is by far the less expensive service, especially if you are just starting out. If your online sales or in-person credit card payments are infrequent, Square’s pay-as-you-go plan with no monthly fee is ideal. As your cash flow improves, and business steadies, it makes more sense to invest the cash in tools that will make managing your business easier (and less time-consuming!).

Features: Square Register is easily the most robust free mPOS app out there. But that’s among free apps. Shopify isn’t free, and when you look at the feature sets, it’s pretty clear why. You’ll get more features suited to growing eCommerce and retail businesses than you would with Square. If you are doing steady business, you should absolutely consider upgrading if the features work for you.

Add-Ons and Integrations: How do you run your business? Do you print barcodes for every product? If not, the fact that Shopify supports barcode printers and scanners is probably irrelevant to you. But what other services do you use for your business? Both Shopify and Square offer a custom API that you can use to integrate if you have the technical know-how, but if you don’t, which one has a greater selection of ready-to-go integrations that suit your business? Keep in mind that Shopify’s app store is full of a huge selection of free and paid integrations that can do everything from help you migrate your inventory from eBay to Shopify to setting up layaway plans.

Level of Support: Hands-down, you will get better customer support from Shopify than Square. You can contact them 24/7 by email, phone, and live chat, whereas Square only offers email and phone (during limited hours and only with a code). Both have community forums and pretty respectable knowledge bases, so most of the basic technical questions may not ever require contacting a support person. It also bears mentioning that Shopify allows you to connect with experts who can get you set up, or take your business to the next level. If having someone you can reach at any time with questions is of the utmost importance to you, then Shopify is the obvious solution. If you’re the go-it-alone type, Square should do you just fine.

I hope this has helped you understand some of the big differences between Shopify and Square! They look quite similar at first glance, but when you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find they both have so much to offer. You absolutely need to consider costs when making the choice, but keep in mind your long-term goals and the features you are most interested in pursuing.

Have experience with either or both of these services? We’d love to hear from you, too! Leave a comment! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

The post Shopify vs Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square VS Vend

Square-vs-Vend
Finding a robust POS app that is also affordable is basically like ordering a really delicious cupcake with just the right amount of icing. Finding one that has mobile support and an integrated eCommerce store? Well, that’s akin to the holy grail for new and small business owners.

Vend is something a bit unconventional in the POS space. Its POS app is entirely browser-based, powered by HTML. That means you can run it on both Windows and Mac computers — as well as iPads! Everything is stored in the cloud, meaning you can access your information everywhere. There’s also an integrated eCommerce store, and integrated payments.

Square is best known for its mobile payments app, which lets anyone accept credit card payments with just a smartphone and card reader. But the real advantage to Square is a powerful, completely free POS app — and an entire ecosystem of business products that can help entrepreneurs exceed. Everything is stored in the cloud, as well. And did we mention you can sell on Square’s marketplace or through pretty much any other shopping cart software, too?

All of this sounds great, right? Good.

Vend will charge you a monthly fee for its POS. There are multiple subscriptions depending on what features you need. You have a limited selection of payment processors (at least for retail setups) with no transaction fees, and a simple, but functional, eCommerce setup (if you opt for the mid-tier plan).

Square is entirely pay-as-you-go. The POS is free — you pay only the processing fees, plus a monthly fee for whatever a la carte services you choose to add on. eCommerce support is entirely free beyond processing fees — you can use Square’s hosted solution or integrate with something else.

Both services have all three core offerings: a retail setup with a solid POS, mobile capabilities, and eCommerce setups. But as you’ll see, both have different core strengths. I highly encourage you to think about where most of your business comes from and evaluate which features are most important. Then crunch the numbers and look for the most cost-effective strategy.

Read on to see how Square and Vend match up on core features, extra services, cost, support, and more!

Products and Services:

Winner: Tie

Square and Vend are both omni-channel commerce solutions. They’re integrated so well that you can sell pretty much anywhere and keep all of your sales data and inventory in one centralized dashboard. Let’s take a look at how each of the 3 sides of Square’s products (the POS app, payments, and eCommerce solutions) match up. We’ll also take a look at the integrations and extra services available.

POS App

Sometimes I am genuinely shocked that Square doesn’t charge at all for its POS app (and a bit disappointed that it won’t let you use the app with a different payment gateway). It is without question the most robust free mobile POS (mPOS) out there. While it’s definitely friendly to both iPhones and Android devices, you get the most functionality out of an iPad. This is especially important in a retail setup.

Vend’s core offering is its POS — it’s taken the easy path toward integrating payments and eCommerce as well. So its app really is the biggest draw. Here’s the thing, though: I have a hard time really calling Vend “mobile friendly.” Since the POS is primarily browser-based, it runs on Windows and Mac computers. There is also an iPad-exclusive POS app — no Android, not even iPhone. That said, you can absolutely make do with an iPad as your mobile solution for pop-up shops or booths at events. I just don’t think Vend is really designed with mobile as a priority.

Square POS App Features:

  • Unlimited registers and up to 75 locations: Note: if you want to track individual employees, you’ll need to add the employee management subscription. But if you don’t need that individual data, this feature is free.
  • User permissions: This is fully customizable — you determine the role and what features they can use. But you have to be using Square’s Employee Management system. Otherwise, it’s all default.
  • Credit card payments: Accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express at 1 flat rate.
  • Transaction records: Record cash and check as well as accepting cards. This still allows you to take advantage of the customer database and loyalty program features.
  • Split tender: Accept cash and card in one transaction.
  • Inventory: Square’s inventory feature is basic, but it does allow you to keep track of stock levels in-store and online. Square will send you low-stock alerts and let you set your own threshold for them. Square also integrates with Stitch Labs for more comprehensive inventory support.
  • Import/Export via CSV: Populate your online and retail stores with products in one go.
  • Product Variants and Add-Ons: Technically, Square calls variants “price points” — but the point is the app supports them. You can also add item modifiers, which are essentially add-ons.
  • Email/SMS/print receipts: Your choice (and your customers’, too).
  • Full and partial refunds: Self-explanatory.
  • Gift cards: Order your own custom designs. There’s no redemption fees or activation fees. You only pay processing fees if the gift card is purchased on a card.
  • Offline mode: Square’s offline mode is pretty unique. Most “offline” functions for POS apps allow you to accept cash only — no cards. But with Square you can swipe a card as normal, and as long as you reconnect to the net within 72 hours, the transaction will go through. The caveat is that you eat the cost of any declined transactions.
  • Sales tax and tip: Square’s sales tax feature is basic, but very functional. Toggle sales tax collection on or off and set multiple rates as necessary, if you are selling in multiple locations or move around. You can also enable tips, which is something Vend does not support.
  • Loyalty program: Square’s loyalty program (add-on for $25/month per location) works by giving either free items or percentage discounts. The system is tied to the customer’s mobile number.
  • Reporting: Square won’t give you the advanced reporting of a full-scale POS but it does pretty well in this category.
  • Customer-facing display: This is a beta feature, but one that puts Square closer to full-fledged POS systems.
  • Customer database: Square’s customer database isn’t quite as advanced as you’ll find with more expensive CRM software, but it’s definitely worth looking into, and it’s improving all the time. In addition to the loyalty program, there’s a feedback feature and custom segmentation, and it links directly with Square’s email marketing service (starts at $15/month).
  • Special Offers: Send automated email campaigns linked from your customer database if you use Square’s email marketing.

Vend POS App Features:

  • Sell through one or multiple outlets: While multi-outlet support will cost you more (a point we’ll come back to), you can get a boatload of features that will make managing each location easier.
  • User Permissions: You can choose from pre-set roles with limited customization, but this is an entirely free service.
  • Accept Credit Card Payments: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express through one of Vend’s partners. You can also use non-integrated solutions through another payment processor if you choose.
  • Record cash payments: No check support, though.
  • Split tender: Accept cash and card.
  • Inventory: Vend has options to help you manage your stock orders in the dashboard as well.
  • Import/Export via CSV: Vend allows barcode printing, too.
  • Product variants: The POS technically supports 3 types of products: Standard, Variant, and Composite. Standard products are individual items with no other versions. Variants are products such as clothing, which come in different colors and sizes. Vend’s system allows you to create 3 modifiers per item. Composite products are those assembled from your inventory into a grouping — such as gift baskets. You cannot have separate inventory for composite products; it’s based on inventory for your other products.
  • Parked sales: This lets you save ticket in the POS and pull it up later, which is useful.
  • Price Books: You can create different price books for different stores, or for promotions, or for loyalty customers, or for whatever other reason you want. In Square, the best way to accomplish this is by setting individual item modifiers, so Vend is definitely far more functional.
  • Full and partial refunds: Self-explanatory. You can also do exchanges, a feature not available with Square.
  • Email or customizable print receipts: Your choice.
  • Store credit: This is a new feature, still in beta, but I would expect to see it roll out to everyone soon. Unlike Shopify, which lets you issue store credit but doesn’t have a proper way to track it, Vend’s store credit feature lets you keep track of it in your customer database. Currently this feature integrates with Xero, but not QuickBooks Online.
  • Gift cards: Gift cards work in store and online, but you can’t order them from Vend the way you can with many others (including Square).
  • Offline mode: Vend has an offline feature — but like Shopify and many other POS systems, it really only lets you accept cash payments and record sales. No credit card sales. In addition, you have to be signed in before the outage, and in offline mode has limited features. That said, it will get you through an outage mostly OK if you can survive on cash alone.
  • Sales tax: There’s no tip feature in Vend at all. However, its sales tax features are pretty advanced. You can set a single tax rate for everything, or create groups of tax rates. You can also set tax by location. The one flaw I see in the system is that creating tax rates doesn’t apply them to any existing products in your store. If you’ve already loaded products into your store, you’ll need to open up those products and modify the tax settings.
  • Loyalty program: Vend’s loyalty program is very simple, based on a dollars-for-dollars system. Spend so much and earn so many dollars to spend.
  • Reporting: Vend has some pretty advanced reporting — you can generate pre-populated reports or create your own custom ones.
  • Layaway program: This is included at no charge, with no integration required.
  • Customer-facing screen: A useful feature available at no-extra charge. You can only have one register linked to a display, but you can link multiple displays to one register.
  • Customer database: Obviously the database is good for having a loyalty program, With Vend, it’s possible to segment databases by groups and even create different price books for them (such as rewarding particularly loyal customers with special offers). Vend’s API can link it to another CRM if you want. Note that Vend doesn’t have its own email marketing service; you have to integrate with another.

While Square’s app is incredibly robust for an mPOS, it’s still not quite quite on par with a full-fledged POS like Vend. You’ll get an incredible array of features, but if you are looking for some highly advanced, retail-specific capabilities — like store credit and layaway, you should look more toward Vend. Of course, Square also supports more service-based companies with many of its features, notably restaurants. And you get a lot of integrated services in a single place (email marketing, loyalty program, even timekeeping and payroll). They’ll cost you more than just the processing fees, obviously, but the convenience of everything being consolidated in one place, with a single log-in and no need to bother with importing/exporting data, certainly can’t be overlooked.

eCommerce

As my fellow writer, Jordan, noted in her review, Vend’s eCommerce offering is basic. It was something added later, and so it’s not as refined as the POS system. You get everything you need to run a web store in tandem with your retail setup, but it’s not feature rich by any stretch. Here’s what you get:

  • Free hosting
  • Free domain (or bring your own)
  • Multiple responsive themes to choose from
  • HTML and CSS support
  • Integrate with Shopify’s eCommerce store for greater functionality (and higher cost)
  • Inventory sync across retail and online stores
  • Customer accounts (can be linked to customer profiles in database)
  • Sales and promotions through Vend price books
  • Social media integrations
  • Integrated reporting features
  • Flexible shipping
  • Customizable tax settings
  • Pay Later (to support ACH or in-store cash payments)

There are some drawbacks, however. The eCommerce system isn’t particularly friendly to dropshipping, and there’s no integrated blogging system or email marketing (but you can get email CRM with an integration). You can’t support individual promo codes, either. Inventory is based on a single outlet, and you can’t change the outlet later. The system also doesn’t support partial payments using gift cards — the entire balance must be paid using the gift card.

But honestly? Square’s eCommerce feature isn’t amazingly complex, either. Unless you choose to integrate another shopping cart), you sell through Square’s marketplace (which gives you a hosted domain and URL, and not much else). The store designs you can choose from are responsive but there isn’t a lot of customizability. Square’s features include:

  • Free hosting
  • Free domain (or bring your own)
  • Multiple responsive themes to choose from
  • Choice of responsive templates
  • Support for digital and physical products (this is one of the biggest differentiators from Square)
  • In-store pickup available
  • Integrated reporting
  • Customizable tax settings

If you want more advanced features, or even just your own domain, you can integrate with Weebly, BigCommerce, or Ecwid or play around with Square’s API for a custom solution — but that’s only if you’re comfortable playing around with such things. Again, there’s no blog at all, and shipping options are somewhat limited — but you can enhance the options using an add-on such as ShipStation.

I think it’s important to remember that unlike a service such as Shopify, which was always meant to help people sell online, both Vend and Square started off serving different markets — Vend is a POS system for retailers, while Square’s core feature has always been mobile payments. It’s not surprising that both of these are lacking in eCommerce options. However, I look forward to seeing what both of these services introduce next as omni-channel commerce becomes more important.

Payments

I appreciate the simplicity of Square’s payments system. But no matter what kind of volume you do, you pay the same flat rate — 2.75% for swiped cards, 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce. There’s no reduction in fees until you hit a very high volume — much higher than would qualify most merchants for a solid interchange-plus plan. The good news is you don’t have to deal with any sort of tiered pricing or qualified cards, all of which can be frustrating for merchants. You even process American Express at 2.75%. You can’t use any other payment processor with the app. But at the same time, it’s worth noting that you don’t pay for the POS at all — and you don’t have to pay for a more advanced eCommerce option unless you want to.

Vend decided, rather than try to implement its own branded solution like Shopify or ShopKeep, to simply partner with some other payments providers. Vend is an international product, and so there are other solutions available in other countries, but in the U.S., if you want an integrated processing solution in-store, your options are PayPal and Vantiv Integrated Payments (formerly Mercury).

The biggest problem with this is that PayPal is about the same price as Square (2.7% per swipe, 2.9% + $0.30 for eCommerce), on top of Vend’s monthly fee. And Mercury/Vantiv Integrated, while not the worst company out there, has a record of spotty customer service and hidden fees and expensive contracts, and Vantiv tends to have a liquidated damages provision in its contracts.

However, there is a silver lining,of sorts. You can choose a non-integrated processing solution and use whatever merchant service provider you want. The one draw back to this is you’ll have to enter the transaction amount in your terminal and process it, then complete the transaction in Vend separately. It adds an extra step that not everyone wants to deal with. However, that said, it could easily be worth the trouble if you opt for a processor like Helcim, which will give you interchange-plus AND debit card rates for processing.

You can also choose from a variety of gateways (including Authorize.net) and connect your account to process eCommerce transactions. It’s a bit sad that Vend has disabled Authorize.net as a gateway option for the POS, but you can at least use it online so you can use virtually any payment processor.

None of these options is a terrible choice. When you want mobile processing, Square’s rates are absolutely competitive — as I’ve said, PayPal is very similar, and so are many other mobile options. I like that Vend will also give you special discounts once you clear $10,000 a month with PayPal. I also like that Vend doesn’t charge you any sort of transaction fees for using a non-integrated solution. Plus, with PayPal will let you start processing almost right away.

All I can say is, run the numbers. If you’re leaning toward Vend, talk to some of our top-rated processors and request a quote from Mercury. Don’t overlook PayPal, either. It might not be interchange plus, but there are some benefits: an affordable EMV reader, instant access to funds, and even a truly mobile option (PayPal Here) if you absolutely need to be able to use smartphones to process cards, not tablets. Plus, with the PayPal debit card, you can access your funds anywhere without needing to transfer them to your bank.

If you’re leaning toward Square, you have an advantage in that you pay no monthly fees, just card processing rates, That is, unless you opt for a monthly add-on service (like Employee Management). You can also get set up pretty much right away.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Tie

If you’re going to process credit cards, you need some sort of register setup, right? I like that both Vend and Square give you some flexibility in that department.

Vend Hardware

With Vend, you have a few choices for what platform to run your POS on:

  • Windows Computer: Requires Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 or Microsoft Surface Pro and Google Chrome.
  • Mac Computer: Requires Mac OSX Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, or El Capitan and Google Chrome
  • iPad: Requires iOS 8 or later. Download the app from the iTunes store.

All the hardware is sold via POSportal.com, which doesn’t offer any laptops but does have iPads available.

Vend’s hardware kit consists of the bare bones: a cash drawer and a USB receipt printer, plus a cable. If you opt for the tablet package, you also get a tablet stand and an upgrade to an Ethernet receipt printer.

The upside to this is that Vend’s hardware kits are fairly affordable (starting at just over $300 for Mac or PC, for $500 for the tablet version). You can also pick and choose your own hardware and build a custom package that includes a thermal label printer, a barcode reader and dock, and more. In all, that’s not too bad.

You’re probably noticing there’s one big thing missing: card readers. That’s because it entirely depends on who you choose for processing. PayPal has just a single EMV-compatible reader (chip and PIN) available for $149, that also supports NFC. Mercury offers a choice of EMV-compatible wired and wireless terminals, as will any non-integrated processing service you choose. Costs will vary, so be sure to shop around.

And if you already have some hardware, it might be compatible with Vend, no new purchase required! You can check whether your hardware is compatible here.

Square Hardware 

Square is far more flexible as far as hardware is concerned. While it can’t run from desktops or laptops at all, you do have a large range of mobile devices and tablets to choose from:

  • Android: Works with tablets and phones. System requirements vary, check the list of devices with known issues.
  • iOS: Works with iPad, iPhone, iPod. Requires iOS 8 or later, but some hardware may not be compatible with iOS 9, only 9.1.

It’s worth mentioning again that a handful of Square’s features are iPad-only. You can also check the compatibility between your device and specific hardware here.

Square also offers an assortment of hardware bundles, all of which fall in the $500 to $700 range. These include a tablet stand, a receipt printer, and a cash drawer, as well as receipt paper and a free magstripe reader.

That means the EMV-compatible card readers are sold separately. However,you do have a few options:

  • EMV and magstripe reader: $29
  • EMV/NFC (chip and sig): $49 (includes a free magstripe reader)
  • EMV/NFC (chip and PIN): $129 (Note: This isn’t a branded Square reader, but a Miura m010, which supports iOS only).

The Square Stand ($99 or included in some kits) also has a free magstripe reader built in. You can get a dock for your EMV/NFC readers, as well as a bar code scanner. Square doesn’t officially support a label printer, but it says many customers have used a Dymo printer in their setup.

Both Vend and Square give you some very flexible options as far as hardware goes. You have multiple cash drawers and receipt printers, and even card readers. It really depends on what you need. Frankly, though, the low cost of Square’s EMV readers is a big draw — they are the the lowest prices I’ve seen anywhere.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Square

It’s absolutely essential that your business find a POS and payment solution that fits your budget. There’s no sense in paying for more than you need, or letting yourself be conned into paying much higher credit card processing rates than you have to.

In that sense, Square has the advantage. You don’t pay for the POS, just card transactions. Here’s the basic transaction fees:

  • Swiped transactions: 2.75%
  • Invoice transactions: 2.75%
  • Keyed-in transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
  • eCommerce transactions: 2.9% + $0.30

If you want some of the additional services, here’s what you’ll pay:

  • Gift cards: Per-card cost (starting at $2 per card and dropping as you order more)
  • Appointments: $30 for one person, $50 for 2-5 staff, $90 for unlimited staff.
  • Payroll: $20 monthly subscription + $5 per employee paid (available in limited states)
  • Employee management: $5 per employee
  • Email marketing: $15 per month and up, depending on package

With Vend, you can choose from multiple packages:

Free Plan ($0/month)

  • 10 active products
  • Customers: 1,000
  • Users: 1
  • Community forum support only

Starter Plan ($59/month on yearly plan, $69 billed monthly)

  • Single-outlet support
  • Active products: 500
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • Live chat and email support

Advanced ($85/month on yearly plan, $99 billed monthly)

  • Single-outlet support
  • Active products: Unlimited
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • eCommerce store
  • Live chat and email support

Multi-Outlet ($169/month on yearly plan, $199 billed monthly)

  • Multiple-outlet support
  • Active products: Unlimited
  • Customers: Unlimited
  • Users: Unlimited
  • eCommerce store
  • Live chat and email support
  • 24/7 phone support

Remember that this is on top of any processing fees you pay. On the one hand, $60-$70/month sounds expensive because Square is free, and Shopify’s basic plan is $29. If you want an eCommerce store, that costs even more.

But that kind of thinking overlooks the fact that Vend gives you unlimited users and hardware integration for free. Shopify will charge you $40/month for those capabilities, and Square will charge you $5 per employee per month.

I like that Vend won’t charge you any transaction fees if you choose a non-integrated solution. If you use Shopify, you can wind up paying an additional 2% per transaction on top of your processor’s fees. And Square won’t let you use anyone else for payment processing at all.

If you use a different eCommerce gateway with Vend, you could wind up paying an additional charge for that. And if you choose an add-on (such as Shopify’s eCommerce integration), you’ll pay more for that, too. The same applies if you choose to integrate Square with another eCommerce provider, like BigCommerce.

This is really a matter of what you can afford vs. what you need. Since Square is entirely pay-as-you-go, it’s a good starting place if this is your first foray into retail. If you definitely need Vend’s capabilities, be sure to shop around and find the most affordable and convenient solution for card processing. Remember that you can use the import/export features both Vend and Square provide to move your data over if you ever decide to switch providers.

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Square

With Square, there’s no contracts, no monthly fees. You can stop using Square whenever you want with absolutely no penalty. That is a significant advantage. You can also try the add-on services for 30 days completely free.

Vend gives you the option to save some money by paying for a full year in advance. Otherwise, you can go month-to-month and pay more for each package. That’s pretty common for most SaaS (Software as a Service) providers. I recommend starting with the month-to-month plan and see how it works before you invest in Vend for a whole year. There’s a 30-day trial where you can decide if Vend is right for you. You can also try the free plan, although it has very limited offerings.

The other thing you need to consider, though, is who you choose as a processor with Vend. PayPal is entirely pay-as-you-go, so if you stop using Vend, you can stop using PayPal, too, with zero penalties.

The problem is if you choose Vantiv Integrated/Mercury. While if you look at the Vend site, it says that Vantiv offers no-term contracts, that’s not the case across the board. The company does lock some of its vendors into multi-year contracts with ETFs. So even if you can stop using Vend whenever you want, you may still be stuck with a Mercury contract that could be potentially difficult to get out of.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

Square has always been well known for its transparency. Clear, flat-rate processing, not hidden fees. There’s no pushy sales people, shady gimmicks or to-good-to-be-true promises. There’s a detailed knowledge base you can search without even needing an account, plus a solid blog with helpful resources for businesses, and social media (Twitter: @Square or @SqSupport, Facebook, LinkedIn).

I like what Square is doing in this department — though there is one niggling issue: account holds and freezes. Square isn’t exactly forthcoming about what causes them, and plenty of merchants are understandably upset. We’ll come back to this point in just a bit, though.

I also like how transparent Vend is. You know exactly what you’re getting and what the fees are. Again, there’s nothing that stinks of too-good-to-be-true. There is a sales force — you can request a consultation and Vend will send someone out to meet with you. However, I can’t find any evidence of Vend’s sales team using sketchy practices or hard selling techniques, which is good news indeed.

You can search Vend’s knowledge base before you sign up, and the blog is also full of great resource for merchants. Vend has a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as a YouTube and even a Pinterest.

The problem of course, is that payments aren’t integrated. PayPal is generally fair and transparent — flat-rate pricing, no shady gimmicks for businesses. You’ll see, if you dig into PayPal user reviews, that it still has an issue with holds and account terminations, but I can’t find any evidence that Vend users are affected by this.

The only “gimmick” I can find that Vend offers is a deal with PayPal that will give you a 50% discount on Vend when you sign up for both. The half-off deal lasts for three months. And if you process more than $10,000 monthly, you also get discounted PayPal rates.

Vantiv Integrated also has its own flaws with transparency (namely disclosure of that ETF). Quite a few complaints about Vantiv, especially recently, focus on merchants being overcharged for processing, which is understandably upsetting.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Vend

Square and Vend have both managed to keep their prices down by looking for cost-effective support…which meant neither company offered phone support at all initially. Fortunately, that’s changed, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say either company is completely rocking it in terms of customer service.

Check out any user reviews of Square, and the lack of customer service — especially decent phone support — is one of the most common issues. Square’s knowledge base is extremely detailed so you can solve most problems yourself. There’s also email support, and a new community forum. But to get on the phone, you need a customer code, which some users have had trouble getting (and something people with frozen or terminated accounts can’t get at all). There’s also a dedicated Twitter customer service channel, @SqSupport, and you can reach Square on Facebook as well.

Vend’s free plan doesn’t give you customer support at all — just access to the community forum. For the Basic and Advanced plans, you get access to a very detailed knowledge base, as well as email and live chat support — which is good. I like to see live chat as an option because honestly, waiting on hold and dealing with automated systems really sucks. However, if you really do prefer to talk to an actual person, Vend’s 24/7 phone support is only included in the multi-outlet plan. If you have one of the other paid plans, you can add phone support for $20/month. I don’t like merchants having to pay for customer support at all, but at least you get email and live chat at no added cost.

I do like that both companies have a service that will let you know whether the system is fully operational or whether it has issues. You can check out Vend’s status here, and Square’s here.

Something else worth mentioning is that if you need it, Vend has a lot of other resources to help. There’s Vend U, which is included at no charge with any paid subscription, and gives you a wealth of lessons and resources. If you’d rather pay an expert for their time, you can find Vend’s official list of partners here and look for someone in your area.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: Vend

There are two very consistent complaints with Square:

  1. Its tendency to hold or terminate accounts with no warning and very little room for appeal
  2. Dubious customer support, especially after having your account frozen or terminated.

As far as holds and freezes go, that’s an unfortunate side effect of Square’s business model: it aggregates payments rather than opening individual merchant accounts for every single user. On the one hand, this means you can start processing much sooner, but on the other it means you may find yourself shut down with no warning. Square seems to be doing much better at mitigating the risk over all, and it’s definitely taking strides to improve its customer service, as well. However, if you are in a high-risk industry, I highly encourage you to avoid both Square and PayPal as your processors.

Vend’s complaints are a bit less focused. Some of the issues that come up most often include lack of various features, including limited cash management, or glitches in accounting integrations. Vend is constantly adding new features and rolling out improvements, though. There are also a handful of complaints about the quality of customer support — but these are very, very few and far between.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Tie

It shouldn’t be so surprising that Vend and Square have a lot over overlap in the “Good Things” categories — namely, customers like how easy-to-use and intuitive both POS systems are. They are easy to set up and get running. Because everything is stored in the cloud you can access your data everywhere. Just grab your iPad and open up the app to run your reports and check on sales. Beyond that, here’s what else what people like about each:

Square

  • Easy to set up: You can start processing through Square pretty much right away.
  • Truly mobile: Unlike Vend, Square is truly mobile friendly. While the iPad gives you the most functionality, you can still run the system from a smartphone and have all your data in one place.
  • Offline mode: Square’s offline mode is the best one out there. It’s the only one that I know that will still let you process credit cards during an outage. Yes, you accept the risk yourself, but depending on your business it could be a nonissue.
  • Inexpensive: With a free website/shopping cart, a free POS, flat-rate processing and everything else, it’s hard to argue with the value that Square offers. When you throw in all the affordable monthly add-ons… it might not be the most advanced system, but Square has everything most businesses need at a very attractive cost.

Vend

  • Customer Service: You will see the few odd complaints about Vend’s customer service but overall, users really seem to appreciate it. You can get phone support if you want, but otherwise, live chat, email, and the knowledge base should see you through just fine.
  • Affordability: Vend sounds more expensive than Square, but compared to many other cloud solutions or full-fledged POS systems it is very affordable.
  • Feature set: Vend doesn’t have everything everyone could ever want — but it certainly has everything you need, and then some. Even better, the company is always introducing new, more advanced features. Overall many people are happy with everything Vend offers.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Tie 

In this case, it is honestly difficult to point out a clear winner. While Square and Vend have similar offerings, comparing them isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Vend is a cloud POS that happens to work on an iPad; Square is a mobile payments app that happens to have a very effective POS that also works on an iPad.

As always, the issue ultimately boils down to what features you need and what you can afford. Vend is a great option for retail environments, but it requires a monthly or yearly subscription, plus you pay processing rates. Square is an excellent mobile solution, and it has everything you need to run a retail register setup as well. You pay only processing rates and the monthly subscription fee for any add-on services you want.

You get comparable options for hardware. Square gives you an online store at no additional cost, while Vend offers one in its mid-tier subscription plan. Both also give you inventory management and a choice of add-ons and integrations to expand the functionality.

If you’re unsure of your budget, you don’t need as many advanced features, or mobile is a genuine concern, Square is a viable option. You only pay per transaction, which is great if you’re just starting out. Just know that Square’s aggregating model isn’t quite as stable as a traditional merchant account.

If you can afford Vend and need the more advanced features it offers (exchanges, store credit, etc.), by all means go for it. You’ll certainly get better customer support, but for the most part everything is so intuitive you should not need much guidance. Make sure you shop around for the best processing option, and consider a non-integrated solution from one of our top-rated merchant account providers if you want the lowest rates and best service. .

I hope this helps you make a decision! Be sure to check out our other iPad POS options as well as our mobile processors.

The post Square VS Vend appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Arvixe Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Arvixe Hosting Review

Arvixe is really a website hosting brand of Endurance Worldwide. They provide a complete spectrum of hosting companies from shared web hosting to hosting (even Home windows hosting).

They’ve been around since 2003, making their name within the mid-2000s having the ability to choose from US and European data centers. These were purchased by Endurance in 2014.

Their datacenter is situated in Austin, Texas. Like the majority of shared web hosting companies, Arvixe offers email, an internet site builder, as well as other complementary services to website hosting with round-the-clock support along with a 2 month money-back guarantee.

You should check out Arvixe’s plans and current prices here.

I’ve had several readers email to inquire about my estimation about Arvixe, and so i made the decision to try them out within my recent shopping tour of entry-level web hosting companies.

Here’s my Arvixe Hosting review &#8211 structured with pros &amp cons according to my experience like a customer.

Skip to direct comparisons or skip towards the conclusion.

Disclosure &#8211 I receive referral charges from companies pointed out on this web site. All opinion and knowledge is dependant on my experience like a having to pay customer or consultant to some having to pay customer.

Pros of Arvixe Hosting

There are plenty of Arvixe reviews online &#8211 usually with user-generated reviews according to anecdotes and private experience. That&#8217s fine however i have a different approach. As I’ve stated in other hosting reviews, there’s no such factor like a “best” hosting company. The “best” may be the right fit for the project according to your objectives, budget, experience &amp expertise. Here would be the pros (advantages) for thinking about Arvixe.

Prices &amp Plan Structure

Arvixe’s primary advantage is the prices. Regardless of how your perception &#8211 short-term, lengthy-term, total value or simplicity &#8211 Arvixe comes with an affordable prices and plan structure. Actually, they’re almost from the “too cheap to become true” variety as we’ll see within the disadvantages section.

In either case &#8211 Arvixe is affordable. Before searching in their plans, here’s a little bit of background on hosting industry prices structure.

Searching at prices plans across different hosting providers could be confusing as you would expect.

They all are selling exactly the same factor &#8211 a house for the website &#8211 but every one has different plans with various caps, different bonuses and various renewal prices. Working out their true value needs a breakdown into various parts.

To check “apples to apples”, I break things lower into Core hosting features and Bonus hosting features to be able to see exactly what you’re having to pay for and just how it comes even close to other providers.

Core hosting features would be the “3 D’s” &#8211 domains, databases and disk space. The main reason for a hosting server would be to serve website files if somebody types inside your website name.

  • Domains are the number of domains you are able to indicate your hosting account. If you would like multiple websites, you’ll wish to have multiple domains permitted. You’ll should also take a look at emails per domain &#8211 sometimes individuals are capped too.
  • Databases are the number of bits of website software you are able to operate on your hosting server. A WordPress install requires one database. For those who have any apps, listservs, etc &#8211 you’ll require more.
  • Disk space is the number of files try on some your server &#8211 images, text, PDFs, etc.

Additional features might be everything from built-in website builder software to advertising credits to backend software, etc.

Whenever you break it lower, you can at any rate compare apples to apples and obtain a feeling of value according to the thing you need.

Arvixe makes things simple simply because they have 2 plans. The only real difference is the number of domains you are able to connect for your requirements.

Arvixe Pricing screenshot for my Arvixe Hosting Review

*Aside &#8211 Arvixe offers both Home windows and Linux hosting. They make reference to the operating-system around the server. Unless of course you’ve got a specific need to use Home windows hosting, you’ll need Linux hosting. It’s the most typical and many versatile hosting operating-system. It’s the the type that many every common website software operates on including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. With this (and extremely all) reviews, I’m searching at Linux hosting.

With Arvixe’s two plans &#8211 they’re cheap both short and lengthy term. It’s $4/mo for any plan that enables 6 domains, and $7/mo for limitless domains &#8211 each of which really are a  bit more costly should you join a shorter time just like a month.

Arvixe Pricing updated for my Arvixe Hosting Review

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Arvixe doesn’t seem to inflict temporary discounts (apart from a couple of 10% coupons &#8211 search for &#8220coupons&#8221 towards the bottom menu), that is understandable since their normal prices is as good as most basic level host’s opening prices.

To compare, HostGator’s least expensive (1 domain) plan’s lengthy-term cost is $6.95/mo. Website Hosting Hub’s least expensive lengthy-term cost is $8.99/mo and even GoDaddy is $6.99/mo after their opening prices period.

For those who have a really tight budget and wish lengthy-term hosting for under $50/year &#8211 Arvixe has that advantage.

Clean Backend &amp Installations

Whenever you join hosting, you typically obtain access to a free account dashboard to handle your plans, products and then any add-ons. You’ll also obtain access to your own personal server’s backend where one can install software and obtain server information for whatever you really need it for.

In most cases your server’s backend will offer you a variety of auto-installers which will install common software like WordPress for you personally.

Every webhost approaches all these three areas differently. And also the backends of website hosts can differ broadly.

They have a custom account area &#8211 and it is usually straightforward. For that server backend, a lot of companies use cPanel &#8211 the standard server backend. Some, like 1&amp1 or Dreamhost provide a customized server backend (for much better or worse).

For software installers, some offer straightforward ones some pack it filled with upsells and ads. Many are better or worse than the others.

When compared with other shared web hosting providers, the 3 backend / account areas are refreshingly neat and uncluttered. It normally won’t perform a lot for “onboarding” or new user help. They also keep things neat and simple.

Here’s their account backend &#8211

Arvixe Account Backend screenshot for my Arvixe Hosting Review

Here’s their cPanel backend &#8211

Arvixe cPanel Backend for my Arvixe Hosting Review

Here’s their WordPress installer &#8211

Arvixe WordPress Install for my Arvixe Hosting Review

Here&#8217s the WordPress install (observe that it&#8217s default without any addons) &#8211

Arvixe WordPress Install for my Arvixe Hosting Review

In each and every situation, situations are neat and simple &#8211 even just in places that the as well as their sister information mill relocating to ads &amp upsells such as the WordPress installer. It’s a good advantage for Arvixe.

Miscellaneous Nutrients

Apart from the large benefits of clean backends and economical prices, Arvixe does not have every other big pros. However they will have a few smaller sized pros that aren’t big deals on their own, but they are worth mentioning.

60-day money-back guarantee.

Most hosting providers perform a thirty day money-back guarantee. Whilst not as lengthy as InMotion or Website Hosting Hub’s 90-day guarantee, two months is lengthy and reassuring if you are undecided about Arvixe.

Run anything

Most hosts are (justifiably) cautious about running scripts and automatic software. It normally won’t desire a single customer using as numerous sources as other combined. While Arvixe comes with an abuse policy, they are doing appear to become fairly liberal about what you could elope your shared server. This time could be a be disadvantage as we’ll see in just a minute. But, if that’s what you’re searching for, Arvixe appears to become one to check out.

Choose server location

This time is when Arvixe made their name within the mid-2000s. Between much advanced technology, various other important speed factors, CDNs, and competitors, it isn’t as big of the deal now. However, it’s helpful if you’re serving visitors mainly in Europe or America and wish an information center so that your website files are nearer to your primary readers.

Aside &#8211 for hosting customers within the United kingdom, Australia or India, server location isn’t the only real consideration when searching for hosting, but it’s good to understand about.

Cons of Arvixe Hosting

Like every hosting company, Arvixe has disadvantages. Listed here are the disadvantages which i found while using the Arvixe for hosting.

Mediocre Performance

Like I pointed out before, the main job of the hosting company would be to serve website files if somebody types inside your website name &#8211 but many agree that there is a missing adverb. It ought to be “to serve website files rapidly.

To state website speed is essential is cliche, mainly in the chronilogical age of mobile. While server speed isn’t the only element in overall website speed, it’s an essential aspect.

And critically, it is also a “bottleneck” factor. Quite simply, regardless of how fast you compress or accelerate your site, you are able to only go as quickly as your server can respond.

Calculating server speed and response time is really a complicated issue. Just the network engineers at Arvixe can for sure say what’s happening with server speed. However, anybody can measure a ballpark metric of server performance.

It’s known as Time For You To First Byte (TTFB) &#8211 and shows how rapidly a web server offers the first byte of knowledge after it gets to be a request.

Here’s how Arvixe performed your day I measured it with this site &#8211

Arvixe TTFB

Here’s the exam a couple of hrs later having a different tool &#8211

Arvixe Pingdom Speed Test

Here’s how Website Hosting Hub (an immediate entry-level competitor performed that very same hour) &#8211

Web Hosting Hub TTFB Test

As you can tell &#8211 Arvixe is weak in performance time.

Now, TTFB is better measured like a trend. But, simply searching at Arvixe’s server information causes it to be seem like it normally won’t purchase sources around competitors.

Arvixe Information

Web Hosting Hub Memory

Overall, I wouldn’t buy Arvixe hosting for his or her performance. And given their “too cheap to become true” prices, this case is really a most likely a scenario in which you get that which you purchase.

Customer Care

Like server performance, customer care is notoriously difficult to judge. Usually customer care “ratings” are an accumulation of anecdotes which are rarely helpful or fair.

Rather, I argue that you ought to search for indicators of whether a business treats customer support like a cost or perhaps an investment, quite simply, could they be attempting to keep costs lower and maximize profit for a while or could they be attempting to develop happy, lengthy-term customers?

The 2 best indicators I’ve found are availability across a variety of support channels and purchase of DIY customer care.

Arvixe does poorly on.

For availability, other product phone support along with a consistently lengthy chat wait time. Again &#8211 the issue isn&#8217t always the chat wait time however the lengthy wait combined with insufficient other channels.

Arvixe Wait Time

There used to be attorney at law board, however it no more functions after i checked it.

So far as DIY customer care sources, there is a really small knowledgebase.

And also the help articles they will have are full of typos and damaged links.

Arvixe Knowledgebase

Overall, it appears like Arvixe views support like a cost to become absorbed, which isn’t well suited for customers.

Brand, Design &amp Investment

Associated with customer care &amp investment is logo and design investment.

An internet host’s website design doesn’t have an immediate effect on their goods, but whether they have issues with underinvestment in other locations &#8211 website design could be a confirming indicator.

It’s just like a dirty exterior with an apartment. It isn’t always a poor factor. But &#8211 should you start noticing roof leaks and bugs, the dirty exterior might help confirm that which you already think.

Arvixe was acquired with a Endurance Worldwide (a huge holding corporation) at the end of 2014. Giant holding corporations might help businesses reinvest within their services, update their website design and services. Endurance has been doing this with eHost and somewhat with HostGator and Bluehost.

However with Arvixe&#8230not a lot. They appear to stay in the bucket of forgotten Endurance brands like JustHost and iPage. Arvixe’s design appears like it’s from circa 2006 and except for their simple backend, they appear to be a path to profit maximization not reinvestment.

If their parent company isn’t purchasing them, I wouldn’t purchase them like a lengthy-term customer.

Customer Markets

You are able to tell a great deal in regards to a company by their squeeze pages &#8211 webpages focused on very specific audiences they believe are an ideal fit for his or her products.

You are able to usually locate them by clicking through their HTML sitemap within the footer. In either case &#8211 who Arvixe think it’s target clients are?

Outdoors from the normal, &#8220everyone markets&#8221 like ecommerce, WordPress, etc. Script websites aren’t bad whatsoever. Usually those are the handy little utilities you discover online &#8211 calculators and the like.

But Arvixe appears to focus on lots of grey-ant, spammy and incredibly old-fashioned type web applications.

Arvixe Sketch

Arvixe Sketchy

Remember after i stated within the pros section that Arvixe appears to possess a liberal abuse policy? This is when it may return to as being a bad factor.

Running your site on the shared server with a lot of grey area websites isn’t a bad factor, but it’s a bad factor either. At the best, it may place a stress on your server sources. At worst, it may unnecessarily familiarizes you with a panic attack or perhaps a “bad neighborhood” for IP addresses.

In either case, this disadvantage is just a relative problem with direct competitors. It isn’t inherently bad. It’s like deciding which store to purchase a Coca-Cola at &#8211 the main one with lottery ads, cigarette ads and steel bars within the window or even the vibrant, clean branded store with a lot of traffic while offering for Coca-Cola products.

When compared with competitors that market straight to companies and small startup websites, Arvixe feels a little off.

Just how does Arvixe compare straight to their competitors? Here’s how I’d concisely say &#8211

Arvixe Comparisons

From the best-known web hosting companies that I’ve utilized as a person or consultant, here’s how Arvixe compares straight to each. Or skip towards the conclusion.

Arvixe versus. GoDaddy

Between their TV ads, other offline ads, and lengthy history GoDaddy is easily the most recognized brand in the market. GoDaddy also offers a status for upsells and poor performance. However, unlike Arvixe, they appear to become improving instead of declining. I’d opt for GoDaddy &#8211 see their promo here.

Arvixe versus. Bluehost

Arvixe and Bluehost are sister brands of Endurance Worldwide, though they’ve completely different plans and market focus. Bluehost is really a more full-service host company and it is Endurance’s marquee brand. I believe they’re costly, but I’d certainly opt for Bluehost.

Arvixe versus. HostGator

Like Bluehost, HostGator is an extremely well-known brand within the hosting industry. They’re also of Endurance Worldwide, causing them to be another sister brand to Arvixe. Like Arvixe, HostGator has very economical plans for starter websites. Unlike Arvixe, they’ve very good performance and customer care options. I’d opt for HostGator.

Arvixe versus. Dreamhost

Dreamhost is among the earliest and many respected independent brands within the hosting industry. I reviewed them here. They’re a little costly, but have solid performance and support. I’d opt for Dreamhost over Arvixe every day regardless of the cost consideration.

Arvixe versus. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is among the largest and fastest growing independent (ie, of employees not really a large corporate holding company) website hosts. This website utilizes a VPS server with InMotion. They will be a little more costly than Arvixe. However, they’ve far better customer care and performance. InMotion’s least expensive plan isn’t that a lot more costly than Arvixe &#8211 and it’d be worthwhile. Take a look at InMotion here&#8230

Side note about InMotion &#8211 additionally they possess a starter hosting brand known as Website Hosting Hub (review) that provides better still limitless prices than InMotion with great performance. They compete mind to mind with Arvixe. They’re a little more costly, but additionally make a great starter webhost if you would like a completely independent webhost. You should check out Website Hosting Hub here&#8230

Conclusion &amp Next Steps

Overall, I discovered Arvixe hosting to be among individuals hosts in which you get that which you purchase. They’re cheap, however their heyday appears to become in it. It normally won’t appear to become positively purchasing their professional services. I’d search for alternatives.

If you’re searching to have an independent shared web hosting company with nearly as good prices, better performance, and customer care, out on another mind having to pay yearly then I’d recommend looking at InMotion Hosting here or (for limitless plans) Web Hosting Hub here&#8230

If you’re searching for any very economical option using the choice to pay monthly, then I’d take a look at HostGator w/ 45% off discount here&#8230

If you’re more confused than ever before &#8211 then take my BuzzFeed style Weblog Web Hosting quiz here, the Website Hosting Quiz here or use this site setup guide here!

Arvixe Hosting

Arvixe is really a host company in Austin, Texas began in 2003 supplying budget hosting companies.
Arvixe Hosting Review
Date Printed: 03/29/2016
Arvixe is really a classic you-get-what-you-pay-for provider – they’re cheap, however that&#039s really their only feature.
2.5 / 5 stars

The publish Arvixe Hosting Review: Pros, Cons &#038 Alternatives made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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Square vs. Etsy: Which is Best for Artists and Crafters?

Square-vs-Etsy

Artists and crafters are a unique subsection of merchants, in my experience. And I say this as someone who has worked an artist table at conventions and other events for a few years. Running a business of this type deserves a special sort of consideration: if you are an artist or a crafter, you handle not just the sales, marketing, accounting, and other day-to-day tasks (like order fulfillment), but also the manufacturing! Some artists work on their business full time, while for others, it’s a second (or even third) job, but it is always 100% a labor of love.

But even a labor of love needs the right tools! While artists and crafters are essentially running retail businesses, many of the crucial components of a retail business — a solid POS, affordable retail hardware like receipt printers, and advanced inventory software — don’t always apply. Instead, mobility, flexibility, and affordability are most important. Omni-channel commerce, the ability to sell seamlessly in person and online, is often the best solution, because many people sell online as well as traveling around to events. And if you make your own products (2-D art, 3-D art, knitting/crochet, paper crafts, jewelry, for starters), there are two standouts in this category: Square and Etsy.

Background

SquareSquare review is well known in the arts community because it made accepting credit card payments via a smartphone feasible for the masses, allowing almost anyone to run a business anywhere you could get cell signal or Wi-Fi. More than 2 million merchants of all sizes use Square.

Etsy logoEtsy is the first marketplace that’s truly friendly to artists and other creators. It’s hugely popular with consumers, too, who know they can find tons of vintage and one-of-a-kind creations (not to mention their craft supplies) all in one place. Etsy boasts 1.6 million sellers.

Nowadays, both offer that oh-so-important omni-channel experience — though with a very different feel to each. Square’s biggest draw is the sheer abundance of features it offers, but not all of them are something artisans can or will use, at least not until their business grows a bit. Etsy’s biggest draw is its visibility — the guaranteed traffic to your online shop. It also offers other tools and partnerships to help merchants grow their business.

If you’re just getting started with your art or crafts business, or you’re looking to take it to the next level, Etsy and Square should be at the top of your list for ways to do so. But which is the better option? That depends on a lot of factors.

1. Do you sell (or plan to sell) mostly online and only occasionally in person? Mostly in person and occasionally online? Both? Do you want to change that ratio at all? Some artists and craftspeople sell very well online, while others have much more success at events. Selling online can provide extra money in between events.

2. How much freedom do you want in selling online? If you want to be able to build an entirely custom website, Etsy is likely not a good fit for you. Square has its limitations as well, but they are far fewer. As far as websites go, convenience (and a built-in audience) will always cost you more.

3. How large are your average purchases? If you have a large average ticket size, you might want to consider investing in an EMV reader. EMV is the official name for the chip cards that have been cropping up more often of late. Rather than relying on the magnetic strip (magstripe) on the back of cards, EMV readers encrypts information from the tiny computer chips embedded on the front of the cards. It’s a more secure method of data transmission and also makes it more difficult to counterfeit cards.

That’s important because in October 2015, there was a massive liability shift in terms of who’s responsible for processing any fraudulent cards. Now, any merchant who swipes a chip card that turns out to be fraudulent is responsible for the cost of the transaction. There are a couple of caveats: this doesn’t directly affect eCommerce, and it doesn’t apply to cards that don’t have the EMV chip.

NFC, or near-field communication, is what powers contactless payment methods such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. While it’s not necessary to accept NFC payments (they’re still very much a new thing), if your audience tends to be younger and tech-savvy, it’s not a bad idea to be ahead of the adoption curve (if you have the funds for it).

Generally speaking, artists are at a lower risk for fraud than other retail businesses, especially those who have a lower ticket volume. That doesn’t mean you should assume you’re immune to fraud, but it shouldn’t haunt your thoughts if you don’t have the cash for an EMV-friendly reader right away. (It’s worth noting that Etsy doesn’t offer an EMV reader at all.)

Both Square and Etsy have shortcomings, as well as serious advantages. One issue is that both use aggregate payment processing, which translates to greater account instability. But the same, the convenience of automatic inventory counts and minimal work to create an online shop should not be overlooked.

Let’s take a look at the key elements of Square and Etsy — the mobile apps, the online stores, and the costs — to see how they stack up against each other.

Square vs. Etsy: Mobile Apps

Etsy started as an online sales platform only. Eventually it introduced its own mobile app, called Sell on Etsy. It is partly a dashboard for managing your online sales, and partly an app for taking payments in person.

Square’s app is called Square Register, and it’s honestly the most robust mobile POS (mPOS) app out there right now. It is available for both Android and iOS. However, unlike Etsy, the Register app is almost exclusively for in-person sales. eCommerce sales are mostly controlled through the browser-based dashboard.

Square Register App Features:

square-register-tablet

You may not ever need all of the features Square has to offer, but it has some great ones:

  • Custom Sales Tax: While I wish Square would get around to an auto-detect feature that can pick up sales tax rates based on GPS location, it is still nice that you can toggle sales tax on and off and save multiple tax profiles in the app. You can also set or disable tax for specific items as needed.
  • Item variants and add-ons: Great especially if you have several color options for the same basic item.
  • Record cash and check transactions: Keep all your transactions in one place, which is helpful especially if you are using Square’s inventory option. No fee for either of these options.
  • Inventory sync: if you sell online and have inventory management enabled, the system will automatically adjust your inventory count when you sell an item. So if you sell out at an event, no one can purchase that item from your online store. That’s a useful feature if you only have a limited run of products, or maybe even just a single item. Most mPOS providers allow you to create items and run sales reports for what sold, but they don’t keep track of your inventory like Square does, which can be a very big deal.
  • Invoicing: Do you take custom orders and commissions? Square lets you send invoices directly from within the Register app (or through the online dashboard). The invoice is free to send, and there’s no charge beyond the transaction fee, which is deducted from the total invoice once it’s paid.
  • Apply Discounts: You can apply a percentage discount to one or all items, or apply a dollar-amount discount to the entire purchase. This applies to orders before tax is applied.
  • Email/SMS receipts: Send digital receipts at your customer’s request.
  • Custom purchase amounts: If you don’t use Square’s inventory feature or item listings, you can still just ring up individual purchases by just the amount.
  • Full and partial refunds: Send full or partial refunds from within the app or the online dashboard.
  • Offline mode: Process credit cards even when you can’t get Wi-Fi or cellular signal. Of course, you eat the cost for any transactions that are declined, so use this feature at your own risk. Still, it’s very useful, especially if you’re at a venue where it’s difficult to get signal.
  • Item and category creation: You can create and manage your items in the app using both Android and iOS devices.

Some of Square’s more advanced features (such as the ability to scan item bar codes) are only available in the app if you’re using an iPad. However, most of these are more focused on retail stores, so you likely don’t need them as an artist. Also, you have full control over everything if you log into your Square account in a web browser and head to the dashboard.

Overall, though, the Register app is simple to use and very intuitive. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding your way around it even if the technology is entirely new to you. Remember that you don’t have control over eCommerce sales from within the app. You need the dashboard for that.

Something else I like is that Square keeps a comprehensive list of devices with known issues. This is very helpful because Square offers multiple credit card readers, and not all of them work with every device.

Speaking of hardware: the basic magstripe reader is still free from Square if you order online (or you can get a credit for purchasing it in-store). You can get an EMV/magstripe reader for $29, and the EMV/NFC readers start at $49. Check out our unboxing of the Square chip reader here.

Sell on Etsy App Features:

While Square Register is largely for processing payments and most eCommerce matters must be handled through a web browser, the Sell on Etsy app is much more comprehensive. Available for Android and iOS, It allows you to run your online store and sell in person without having to log into the online dashboard.

Etsy-in-person-payments-1

Here’s a breakdown of features:

  • Alerts: Get a notification when someone makes a purchase or favorites your shop on Etsy.
  • Conversations: Communicate with your customers through the app.
  • Shop stats: Check your reviews and other Etsy shop details
  • Order management: Mark online orders as ship and add tracking details, process refunds (full refunds only), add notes to transactions, and more.
  • Create listings: You can add items to your online store via the mobile app.
  • Inventory sync: You can sell items from your online store and Etsy will automatically adjust your inventory counts.
  • Email Receipts: No SMS option, but if the email is linked to an Etsy user ID, the transaction will appear in their purchase history.
  • Record cash transactions: No fee for this, obviously.
  • Quick Sale: If you don’t want to bother with items and keeping track of your Etsy inventory, or you have items for sale that aren’t in your Etsy shop, you can use the quick sale feature to enter an item name and amount. The nice thing is this won’t incur any listing fees (we’ll come back to this in a bit).
  • Discounts: Apply a percentage or dollar amount off the entire purchase. The percentage deduction is taken off the total purchase, including taxes.
  • Sales tax: Again, an auto-detect for sales tax would be great here. You can set multiple tax profiles and modify taxes on individual items.

It’s worth noting that to use the in-person sales feature, you must have Etsy’s Direct Checkout enabled. There’s also no dedicated iPad app. Etsy recommends, if you’re using an iPad, to enable the 2x zoom so the app takes of the entirety of the screen.

Talking with other artists, their experience is that the Etsy app is a bit clunkier for in-person sales. This may be because the in-person sales feature is buried within the menu, not the first thing you see. At the same time, the mobile app is for more than just processing payments — it is a genuine tool for managing your business on the go. I think it’s safe to assume Etsy thinks you’ll sell more online than in person.

Something I do want to point out is that while Etsy’s card reader is free, it’s just a basic magstripe device. It doesn’t support EMV or NFC payments, and Etsy says it has no plans to introduce an EMV reader at this time. This isn’t quite as terrible as it seems because Etsy is the one accepting the liability for processing any transactions, not you. But it’s still a bit disappointing to see that Etsy isn’t interested in keeping pace with the rest of the payments industry.

Overall, it’s fair to say both of these are pretty robust apps that will serve you well. What you’re looking for in an online store is likely going to be the deciding factor.

Square vs. Etsy: Online Stores

Square really has come a long ways as far as eCommerce is concerned. Its online store is completely free to use, though it can seem a bit limited compared to some of the more comprehensive options out there. You can also integrate Square’s payment processing with some other eCommerce providers (BigCommerce, Weebly and Ecwid). If you can navigate code or have a programmer friend handy, you can even use Square’s API to integrate the payment processing into another eCommerce solution.

Etsy, on the other hand, is a marketplace like eBay and Amazon. That means many sellers on Etsy will have their listings appear next to one another when users search for a product. This is both good and bad, really: One the one hand, marketplaces draw far more traffic than an individual site that’s just starting out. On the other, it puts you at the mercy of the marketplace, which means you could find your shop closed down with little to no warning or recourse.

Let’s see how these two companies compare as far as eCommerce goes:

Square Online Store Features:

square-online-store-screenshot

If you use Square’s store, here’s what you need to know. You get all of the following:

  • Free hosting
  • Free domain (the default is squareup.com/store/your-store-name, but you can edit the URL)
  • The option to purchase a new domain or use an existing one
  • Alternative payment/pickup options (including in-store pickup).
  • Invoicing support from Square dashboard
  • Inventory management: If you enable inventory management you can keep track of what is sold through online and in person. There are also some more comprehensive inventory features such as supplier management.
  • The option to integrate with BigCommerce, Weebly and Ecwid, or use Square’s API to integrate with another shopping cart.

One thing to note is that there’s no real custom order option or integrated communications channel with Square’s stores. You can handle custom orders through product variants or add-ons, or just use Square’s integrated invoicing system. For communication, consider investing in a business email (Google can give you an email to match your domain for $5/month).

Square’s online store option is somewhat limited as far as design options go, but they are at least mobile-friendly, responsive templates. You can create different sections to organize your products by relevant categories, as well. In some ways, the simplicity is an advantage because you have less to worry about.

The only costs you pay are per each transaction, much as with the mPOS app. If you opt for another shopping cart instead of Square’s story, you’ll have to pay whatever fees they charge, too. if you have something already set up, you can just switch to Square for payment processing by integrating the API.

Square will also let you control the status for your shop in two ways: you can set the store as visible or offline, and indicate whether you are accepting orders or not. (Think of it as a “Vacation” mode.)

Etsy Shop Features:

Etsy shop home page

You don’t have much in the way of customization for your Etsy shop, and that’s because as a marketplace Etsy has to create a consistent look. But that means you don’t have to spend a lot of time tweaking things.

Here’s what you get with Etsy:

  • Free hosting
  • Free custom Etsy URL
  • Custom orders option
  • Invoicing through PayPal
  • Mail and “other” payment methods supported.
  • Discounted shipping rates when purchased through Etsy
  • Advertising through promoted listings (for an additional cost)

Etsy has an easy-to-use feature for accepting custom orders. With a couple clicks, you can enable this option for your customers. “Conversations” is Etsy’s equivalent of a messaging system, where customers can reach out to you about your products and their orders.

Something relatively new to Etsy’s suite of services is Pattern, which allows you to sell on your own custom website while all of your inventory is linked to your Etsy shop. Management of both is centralized through Etsy and you pay the same costs as you would on Etsy — plus an additional $15/month.

etsy-pattern-site-screenshot

Like Square, Pattern gives you a limited selection of responsive themes to choose from. However, you can modify color palette, font, and other small aspects of your site. which gives you some creative control that you don’t get with Square.

Honestly, the fact that Etsy felt the need to branch out into payments processing and give sellers an option to run eCommerce stores on their own domains is a pretty powerful indicator of where the entire industry is going (hint: it’s heading toward omni-channel).

I need to stress this: Your own site should definitely be a long-term goal. It will give you much more freedom and stability, and generally costs less than selling through a marketplace, especially as your sales volume picks up. But Etsy will definitely help you get started and make some online sales, and possibly draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t even know where to find you. And there’s certainly no reason you can’t run your own online shop (through Pattern, Square or another service) and sell on Etsy at the same time.

Square vs. Etsy: Costs

Card-processing costs can make or break a business, and here at MerchantMaverick we firmly believe no merchant should pay more for processing than they have to. I’m happy to say that Square and Etsy are both very transparent about their pricing, and their actual card processing rates are competitive among aggregate processors. But, there’s one niggling matter…which is Etsy’s transaction fees.

Square Rates:

Square made a name for itself with its simple, flat-rate processing. There are no monthly subscription fees for using Square itself — just pay a small fee per every transaction. The Square Register app is totally free as well. This is what your rates will look like:

  • Swiped transactions: 2.75%
  • Keyed transactions: 3.5% + $0.15
  • eCommerce transactions: 2.9% + $0.30
  • Invoicing: 2.9% + $0.30 (or 3.5% + $0.15 for cards kept on file)

You can add on monthly subscriptions for addition services, but apart from email marketing, most are targeted pretty heavily at retail stores (loyalty program, timekeeping and payroll, etc).

I like Square’s payment scheme. Its rates are pretty competitive for an aggregate processor (the only way to get lower rates with a comparable value is to get a merchant account). I’m genuinely shocked that Square doesn’t charge more for its POS app, because it easily could.

Etsy Rates:

Etsy offers you several payment methods, which can be a bit complicated. There are two main options:

Direct Checkout allows you to accept credit and debit cards, PayPal, Etsy gift cards and Apple Pay. You pay Etsy’s rates and all of your funds (even PayPal transactions) go into your Etsy account, which will then deposit them into your bank account.

It’s worth noting that some sellers are unhappy about the integrated PayPal option, mostly because it takes longer to get your money.

PayPal allows you to accept credit and debit cards as well as payments from a bank account…so long as your customer has a PayPal account. The funds go into your personal/business PayPal account. Etsy doesn’t allow sellers to enable payments through both Direct Checkout and your personal PayPal.

If you need to, you can set your business up to take orders by mail. You can also set up custom orders and invoicing via PayPal, though the invoicing feature isn’t seamlessly integrated with Etsy.

Fees are as follows:

  • Swiped transactions: 2.75%
  • Keyed transactions: 3% + $0.25
  • eCommerce (Direct Checkout): 3% + $0.25
  • eCommerce (PayPal): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Online transaction fee: 3.5%* 
  • Item listing fee: $0.20**

*All items sold on your Etsy shop or through Pattern are subject to a transaction fee, but in-person sales are exempt.

**Listings are active for 4 months. If you have multiple quantities of an item, you’ll pay the initial $0.20, plus an additional $0.20 for every item after the first that sells. When you sell an item in your shop in person, you’re also charged the listing fee — but not for quick sale items, which aren’t listed in your online shop.

Time to Receive Funds: 

Square deposits funds in your bank account on a rolling basis, typically within 1-2 business days. You can check out more about Square’s deposit schedule here. You can also initiate an instant deposit for 1% of the transaction value and have your money within minutes.

Etsy takes a bit longer to get your money, at least if you use Direct Checkout. For the first 90 days, transactions take 3 business days before they are available in your account (after that point they are available the next day). Funds are automatically disbursed on Mondays, but you can can initiate a transfer to your bank account Tuesdays-Fridays. After that, it takes an average of 3-5 days for the funds to appear in your bank account.

There’s no question that Square is the more affordable option. You’ll pay double on Etsy thanks to that transaction fee (which is still less than what you could end up paying on Handmade at Amazon or even eBay). You’ll also get your funds more quickly, unless you choose to only accept PayPal on Etsy — in which case you will have your money in your PayPal account almost instantly, and can spend it anywhere so long as you have a PayPal debit card.

Square vs. Etsy: Other Concerns

There are other considerations beyond just cost. We’ve already talked about the features and services available, but what about the other stuff, the intangibles that neither company really spells out? What about value-added tools and services that don’t fit neatly into another category?

Visibility: Etsy is a known marketplace, with thousands of visitors daily. Unless you’re a marketing genius with an established name, having your own website just isn’t going to bring you that kind of traffic. Of course, you have to deal with the competition from other sellers, whose products will appear next to your own in the search results. With Square, you don’t have that competition, but you’re also not going to get that kind of traffic. However, since you don’t have to pay for hosting or anything beyond the actual transactions, you can spend some time (and maybe even money) building your reputation and putting your website out where anyone can find it.

Stability: Square does have a reputation for holding funds. There’s no way around that. However, artists and crafters generally seem less affected by Square’s trigger-happy risk department. I’d guess it’s because most transactions are relatively low-volume, but there’s no official word on that. Still, the most likely thing to trigger an account hold or termination is processing an unusually large transaction.

Etsy is a marketplace, and you are subject to its rules. If you break them, or if Etsy thinks you’ve broken them, it will shut your store down the same way Square implements holds. Do a bit of Googling (try “Etsy shop shut down”) and you’ll see this happens, if not regularly, at least with enough frequency to note. If you create fan-art based on popular media, know that some very large companies regularly search Etsy and other marketplaces to issue cease-and-desists. Copyright infringement (even in a nebulous area such as fanart) is just one of the reasons your shop could be shut down.

However, it’s difficult to draw apples-to-apples comparisons between the two because while Etsy is exclusively for artists, crafters, and other small niche retailers, Square serves merchants in a huge variety of industries. This is the risk you run with aggregate payment processors and marketplaces. A merchant account will give you more stability, but is generally not suitable for small, low-volume businesses. Don’t let it keep you up at night, but do have a backup plan.

Customer Support: Things happen. Sometimes you’re going to have questions. Sometimes customers file chargebacks and disputes. That’s why customer service is there.

Square’s support system is based primarily on a very detailed knowledge base and a user forum. You should find most of the answers to your questions there. For more complex issues, there’s phone support. But first you need to obtain a passcode to be able to call in at all. There’s also a dispute management system in case a customer files a chargeback. Square will request documentation. In a handful of circumstances you may be eligible for chargeback protection — which means you won’t pay for the chargeback even if the case isn’t resolved in your favor.

Etsy has a similar setup. There’s both a community forum and teams where like-minded sellers can collaborate and community. There’s also a phone support option, but you submit a request and receive a callback (Etsy says within 30 minutes). There’s also a dispute resolution system for conflicts between buyers and sellers.

The question is whether the support offered is of any use. And that’s not an easy answer. A bit more Google searching and you will find no shortage of complaints against Square and Etsy, and their customer service (or lack thereof, as the case may be). Some are from disgruntled sellers. Some are from disgruntled customers. In short, your experience may vary. Some people have no problem at all; some have lots of trouble.

Marketing Tools: I’ve mentioned before that Square offers several marketing and business tools. Artists and craftspeople likely won’t get much benefit out of them, except the email marketing tool, which starts at $15/month.

Etsy has taken a different approach. There are no email marketing tools (though it allows you to post an email signup link on your shop). Instead, consumers can use Etsy Local to find events featuring Etsy sellers. It also offers an option for you to sell your goods wholesale through Etsy, and to pair with large manufacturers to scale your business.

Mass production on Etsy is a contentious matter — as you might expect on a platform started for independent craftspeople. But if you find these options worthwhile for your business, you should pursue them. If not, there are many, many other platforms and tools out there for you to grow your business.

Final Verdict: Should You Use Square or Etsy?

The right payment processor and online store provider is really a matter of personal preference.

With Etsy, you get access to a huge marketplace with people who are actively searching for products each day, but you pay for the convenience, literally. You’ll pay more than double what you would with Etsy. You can even run your own website with a custom URL…for an additional monthly cost on top of your fees. Still, for business that is just starting out, being visible to customers is a serious concern, and Etsy definitely delivers in that category. The Sell on Etsy app lets you manage every aspect of your business on the go instead of dealing with a browser interface, and you can take payments from within the app.

On the other hand, if you sell primarily in person (at conventions, craft fairs, pop-up sales, etc.) square is in your favor. Square Register is a powerful POS app that even has an offline mode so you can accept credit cards literally anywhere, any time. If you use Square’s online store, you’ll pay less in processing fees per transaction than you would on Etsy, and worry less about competition.

Both have their risks, because they aggregate payments and Etsy is also a marketplace that makes its own rules about what is acceptable for sellers. You aren’t guaranteed stability, but both services are generally friendly to artists and craftspeople. You pay only as you make sales unless you opt for any additional expenses, which means there’s no upfront investment beyond the costs to make your products.

And honestly? There’s nothing that says you can’t use both Etsy and Square! If you prefer Square’s mobile app to Etsy’s but want the traffic that Etsy provides, go for it. If you want to sell on Etsy and Square, that’s absolutely possible! What matters most is that you weigh all the benefits and disadvantages and find a solution that will help you manage and grow your business.

Got questions? Have an opinion about the Etsy vs. Square debate? Leave us a comment and let us know — we love to hear from you!

The post Square vs. Etsy: Which is Best for Artists and Crafters? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Helpful tips for Using CRM in eCommerce


 crm in ecommerce

CRM in eCommerce: What It Really Does

Initially, CRM was nothing more than an automatic Address Book. A CRM application would keep an eye on those who hadn’t been contacted shortly, and give back reminders to achieve to them.

The following iteration of CRM focused more its potential application running a business. Salespeople rapidly saw its possibility of organizing leads and nurturing existing sales possibilities.

Though CRM still dominates the Cubicle, the best CRM eCommerce application will help you together with critical tasks, having a scope broad enough to pay for almost every aspect of your company:

  • Obtaining leads through a number of intake methods
  • Maintaining timely communication with your customers and Business to business partners.
  • Performing e-mail marketing campaigns and newsletters
  • Managing your Social Networking channels
  • Keeping possibilities moving along profits pipeline
  • Advanced Reporting, to obtain a comprehensive look at profits team, sales goals, advertising campaign effectiveness, periodic trends, and much more.
  • Customer Care / Help-desk functionality.
  • Data storage: localized Understanding Base keeps pertinent customer information, support tickets, etc within the cloud for near-immediate access.

And that’s near the top of the my mind. In a nutshell, CRM for eCommerce covers almost everything from prospecting completely right through to a completed purchase. Some CRM solutions even mix the gray area between true CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning. ERP accumulates where CRM leaves off covering sales fulfillment and offer chain, and frequently ending in customer re-engagement. But that’s a subject for an additional article.

Things To Get

Most eCommerce platforms (like Shopify, Volusion, and Bigcommerce) start adding some amount of CRM control. The depth of features offered will be different from cart to cart, and in one subscription level to a different.

If you’re just beginning out, make sure to pick which CRM and E-mail Marketing features is going to be incorporated inside your selected eCommerce platform. Don’t over-buy just to obtain a lot of features! You could change your subscription (even in the center of an agreement) in case your needs outstrip the characteristics you subscribed to.

If you’re already well-established together with your shopping cart software platform, eCommerce CRM features may be when you need it. Otherwise, you may either change your subscription level (when the features you’ll need can be found out of your eCommerce software vendor,) or easily integrate a 3rd party solution. There’s a lot of CRM apps which we’ve curated and reviewed here.

When looking for the numerous CRM eCommerce options available, pick one that concentrates on – you suspected it – actually managing your relationships together with your customers. A lot of CRM apps on the market are aimed at these sales pipeline. That is great, if that’s the thing you need. But companies which be employed in the eCommerce space typically don’t use a salesforce they are driving sales, creating a Sales Pipeline Tracker a little less relevant.

Rather, you need to select a CRM for the online business which emphasizes these targets:

  • Obtaining Customer Data
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Customer Re-engagement (typically through Loyalty Programs)
  • Reporting and Analytics on customer purchases, periodic sales trends, etc
  • Customer Care / Help-desk functionality.
  • Brand Visibility

Within the next section, we’ll take a look at how you can hit all six of these eCommerce CRM targets.

How To Proceed

Acquire Customer Data

The very first, and hardest, a part of making use of your CRM will most likely be the way you start gathering helpful data regarding your customers. There are a number of the way this can be done, but possibly the best way would be to offer users the opportunity to on line and sign in to your website. This accomplishes a number of things at the same time (and who doesn’t love the efficiency of multitasking?)

crm in ecommerce

Offering your customer their very own account in your site enables certain features which benefit them, and eventually produces a lot of happy byproducts that really help you. It’s victory-win! (Though entirely disclosure, it’s not entirely without drawbacks.) Enabling customer profiles out of your eCommerce CRM application brings these benefits:

  • Customers can maintain Wish Lists, get personalized loyalty rewards, shipment tracking, and streamlined checkout (with stored charge card information, shipping address, and order history). Along with a *lot* more, with respect to the eCommerce and CRM apps you select.
  • Like a consequence, your CRM is going to be given probably the most coveted data in Customer Info: current email address, regional location, name, purchase history, and perhaps gender and age. These information will jumpstart your CRM like little else, enabling you to get the most precise and efficient marketing strategies.

With time, you’ll have the ability to:

    • See which marketing efforts were most effective
    • Create upsell strategies tailored to every individual customer
    • Recover sales from abandoned carts
    • Re-engage customers who haven’t visited you lately.
  • Drawbacks. As this is the easiest method to acquire customer data, it’s an more and more common practice. The finish result for that user is the fact that they’ll have too many accounts to handle among the various places they shop, and could be loath to begin yet another account. Each account generates (in the customer’s perspective) a lot of junk e-mail emails. Certain customers should choose Guest Checkout instead of produce a new account, or they might register having a “spam email account” that they solely use to enroll in things. Thus, any junk e-mail (read as: your e-mail marketing efforts) goes completely unseen through the customer.

E-mail Marketing

This is when CRM really proves its worth. The axiom “it takes money to create money” is really a nearly immutable law of economic so wherever business proprietors can reduce costs, it’s money staying with you. Marketing costs can definitely accumulate whenever you include print, postage, and promotions, but all individuals pricing is made virtually nil whenever your CRM can automate mass-email promotions. So when all of individuals emails could be custom-tailored to every customer, you can observe how this beats the socks from mass-mailers cluttering the United states postal service floor.

Using the dovetail of CRM and eCommerce, your customer could be given unparalleled individual attention. If Sally Shoebuyer hasn’t been to your web store shortly, your CRM can instantly send her an e-mail if you have operate a promotion on footwear. Or maybe Billy will get distracted mid-purchase, your CRM eCommerce platform can send him a indication to return and finished buying individuals t-shirts he wanted.

Customer Re-engagement

The options continue. You could have your CRM instantly serve your clients with:

  • Newsletters
  • Notifications concerning the Loyalty Points they’ve accrued
  • Notifications about cost changes on products within their Wish Lists
  • Periodic sales
  • Personal online coupons
  • Blog snippets, local event invitations, or other value-added info
  • As numerous Calls to Action as possible envision to create it well to your website

Reporting and Analytics

Both in eCommerce and CRM, it’s easy to obtain a bird’s eye look at exactly what occur in your retail domain. Need to see all of the products customers have purchased more often than once? Not a problem. Need to visit which promotions helped probably the most during last year’s periodic low tide? You have it. The opportunity to drill lower in to the specific details you have to see is simple.

crm in ecommerce

Customer Care / Help-desk Functionality.

Customer care is frequently an afterthought, or worse, totally overlooked. (That’s, before the avalanche of unanswered customer concerns overwhelms you.) Your online business lives or dies through the status you build on your own, and absolutely nothing affects that status like excellent (or awful) customer support.

CRM towards the save. Not simply will happy customers be asked to your store using your marketing efforts, but unsatisfied customers may yet be appeased if their problems could be resolved. Your CRM application will streamline this method. Support tickets could be flagged with different amounts of emergency so greatest priority issues could be rapidly resolved. Furthermore, a person&#8217s entire history could be when you need it your interactions together is going to be informed by their order history, communication history together with your agents, and then any additional information that you could track. You will never have to inform your customers “I don’t know.”

Brand Visibility.

With simple things like an e-mail or perhaps a publish to social networking, your brand stays fresh within the mind of the existing and prospective customers.

I can’t let you know the number of great websites I’ve seen and assumed I’d remember, simply to ask them to drowned out with a ocean of vendors vying in my attention. Had I had the ability to follow them on Facebook (for instance,) I’d be more prone to revisit them later on after i see their posts.

Conclusion

May be the mixture of CRM and eCommerce beginning to seem just like a quick fix?

It certainly could be, if implemented well. Like the majority of things, what you’ll get from it depends upon that which you put in it. A halfhearted make an effort to tack CRM on your online business will yield small results. However if you simply invest well, CRM can streamline your workflow, broaden your marketing, and shine your brand’s status, all without gouging your income.

Take a look at our CRM software reviews to obtain the right CRM for the online business!

Best of luck, and happy selling!

The publish Helpful tips for Using CRM in eCommerce made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Beyond Mobile: How Square Will Help You Sell Online

Square-sell-online-ecommerce

It&#8217s fair to state, at this time, that Square continues to be instrumental in democratizing the instalments space. Virtually anybody can open a free account and begin accepting payments anywhere, whenever. Nowadays it&#8217s by taking your same attitude and putting it on to some whole selection of business services, creating an ecosystem that enables a business owner to handle almost every facet of the operation — from sales and marketing to worker time keeping — having a single login.

Which includes online retailers. The truth that Square enables you to setup a web-based store for simply the price of payment processing is constantly on the baffle me. Even marketplaces that don&#8217t need you to purchase a domain or hosting still ask you for transaction charges on the top of the payment processing costs.

A part of this is because Square&#8217s Online Shop is very fundamental. That&#8217s not saying it&#8217s not functional, or attractive — it is completely each of individuals things. However the entire Online Shop feature continues to be made with simplicity in your mind. You don&#8217t require the smallest little bit of website design, coding, or software experience to produce your shop. However, you won&#8217t discover the more complicated features that some shopping cart software software providers offer, for example related products and keyword tags.

I believe lots of people know that Square is just for particular categories of retailers: coffee houses and take-out restaurants, or artists and crafters, to begin with. However that&#8217s not necessarily true. Square&#8217s set of features is really expansive, and there are plenty of integrations available, that you could easily run a restaurant, a café or cafe, just a little artist booth, a retail popup store, or even a full-fledged physical retail operation — plus your web store. Which doesn&#8217t include service companies (hair and nail salons, for instance) or nonprofits and occasions.

Which begs the issue&#8230.just what else could you sell through Square&#8217s online shop? Could it be the best option for you personally? Precisely how flexible may be the site builder? Let&#8217s have a look.

What Else Could You Sell Through Square&#8217s Online Shop?

Square is definitely expanding, also it&#8217s focused a lot of that effort on building up its eCommerce set of features. Retailers sell the following:

  • Physical goods
  • Digital goods (music, e-books, pattern files, etc.)
  • Restaurant carryout orders (you may also add delivery through another Square service known as Caviar)
  • Event tickets

You may also collect donations in amounts from $1 as much as $1,000.

Not just that, but Square supports variations of merchandise at different cost points. You may also create modifiers and add-on products for the listings.

Square comes with a summary of prohibited products and companies, and I suggest you make sure that out. But aside from that list, marketing virtually anything you like.

What Features Does Square Offer?

Running your web shop through Square means that you&#8217ll possess a couple of limitations, but overall it is a fantastic way to sell online and keep your costs lower. The setup is friendly to a lot of types of companies, too. You receive the following, at no cost past the payment processing fee for every purchase:

  • Free, limitless hosting.
  • Free URL (may also make use of an existing domain or get one through Google Domains).
  • Responsive web site design.
  • Inventory tracking and management.
  • Supplier management.
  • Integrated, advanced reporting.
  • Seamless integration with Square Register.
  • Support for in-store pickup.

Take a look at full Square Review for a far more in-depth take a look at Square in general. Continue reading for that information on Square&#8217s Online Shop platform and just how it can benefit you receive in to the eCommerce game!

Establishing Your Square Store

This process is only going to get you a couple of minutes to create your site. Probably the most time you&#8217ll spend is going to be on sorting your inventory (that is usually the case with any eCommerce shop).

Whenever you sign in to your Square dashboard, you&#8217ll visit a menu around the left hands side of options. Visit Online Shop, and also you&#8217ll visit a welcome page such as this:

Square Online Store in Dashboard

Click &#8220Get began,&#8221 and Square will begin the entire process of building your website. First of all, Square will request you to select a Store theme. There are just four, so that as you&#8217ll discover later, you don&#8217t have personalization choices for design past the images and text themselves. However, you are able to improve your theme anytime by entering the shop Editor and clicking &#8220Change Theme&#8221 at the very top.

square-online-store-change-theme

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Something important to note is the fact that each design should be responsive — it’ll instantly adjust its display according to which device your clients are utilizing. Quite simply, you receive a mobile-friendly website without getting to complete anything.

Next, Square will need you to definitely improve your information. Here’s your opportunity to set your store&#8217s name, add contact details for the people to achieve out, increase your brick-and-mortar hrs (for those who have them).

The 3rd step is establishing your store, the most technical step. And what i mean is Square insists upon choose your URL or incorperate your own domain. This can be probably the most complicated facet of building your website because you have to configure your domain&#8217s DNS settings. You may also set your shipping rates (we&#8217ll return to that), and condition your refund guarantee.

Other Setup Options

Square has invested a great deal in supplying more flexible solutions and providing the features which are most important for any business without emptying your wallet. It&#8217s even expanded its search engine optimization, enabling you to use Square as the payments processor along with other shopping cart software software.

All that you should do is integrate Square with BigCommerce, Weebly, or Ecwid to produce your web shop. If you be a little more tech-savvy (or you’ve got a web programmer within the company, a treadmill you are able to hire to complete work), you should use Square&#8217s eCommerce API to produce a custom payment form in your site.

Adding and Managing Products with Square&#8217s Online Store

Right from the start, among the greatest benefits of running your retail and eCommerce setups through Square may be the automatic inventory synchronization. Whenever you ring something in Register or sell online, Square adjusts your inventory counts for you personally. By doing this you won’t ever finish up selling that which you don&#8217t dress in hands. Obviously, it is really an optional feature — if you need to utilize it, you&#8217ll need to enable inventory management.

Whenever you setup your web Store the very first time, Square pushes you to definitely start adding products immediately. However, now is a great time for you to sit lower and determine what you ought to charge for florida sales tax, how you need to classify products , and just what modifiers you need to offer.

  • Florida Sales Tax: You may create multiple tax settings in Square. This really is helpful should you visit occasions, or run multiple stores, or from time to time have pop-up stores round the area. Make sure to label each tax setting clearly which means you know when it ought to be applied.
  • Modifiers: Modifiers are essentially add-ons. This is an excellent method to have an choice for expedited shipping or upsale products (let’s say you sell tech products, you could include on spare cables for cosmetics, makeup brushes).
  • Groups: Groups can be quite helpful for reporting purposes. Let’s say you sell various sorts of products (clothing versus. accessories, tea versus. tea-making supplies), this might prove useful for seeing what sells better.

Should you don&#8217t take proper care of these first, you&#8217re likely to by hand adjust the items&#8217s settings afterward. Florida sales tax, modifiers, and groups are controlled with the Square Dashboard, and not the Store Editor feature. Sign in to your bank account after which select &#8220Items&#8221 to check out the tabs at the very top right from the screen.

Square Dashboard - Item modifier tabs

 

Once that&#8217s done, it’s insanely easy to add products for your Online Shop. The Shop Editor enables you to create sections with products — you are able to place them all-in-one section or break them lower into multiples. Under each section, click &#8220Add Item&#8221 and also you&#8217ll visit a new box appear. (Note: these sections do not have anything related to anything groups you may have setup).

Square Online Store: Add Item form

Complete the information you have. Give a name, a photograph (or multiple photos), along with a description. This is where one can add variants (for example multiple colors or sizes) and choose a category for the product (note: groups won’t be the same as sections in your website).

Scroll lower around the box a little and also you&#8217ll see more of Square&#8217s advanced options — such as modifiers. You may also disable or enable a person item&#8217s visibility within the store, should you&#8217re less than prepared to launch a specific item.

Importing and Managing Inventory in Square

Should you&#8217ve recently been selling with Square, simply not online, you can include your whole item library in the Register application towards the Online Shop with only a couple of clicks. Visit &#8220Add Item&#8221 and select to import from library.

Had a large inventory?  You most likely want to benefit from Square&#8217s import from CSV feature. See your Square Dashboard after which select &#8220Items,&#8221 not &#8220Online Store. At the very top right from the page you&#8217ll visit a button for &#8220Import/Export.&#8221 Choose &#8220Import products,&#8221 select whether you need to develop your overall item library or change it, after which download the shape.

square-online-store-import-exportSquare Online Store: Import Items

Just load your data in to the template, then upload the file in to the Square Dashboard.

If you are considering tracking inventory levels, you’ve two options: 1. update inventory counts and hang tracking by hand for every item (visit the Square dashboard after which to &#8220Items&#8221 and choose each one of these individually), or 2 make use of a CSV file (choose &#8220Import Inventory&#8221 in the &#8220Import/Export&#8221 menu).

You&#8217ll wish to upload all your products first before you decide to perform the inventory level CSV.

When you&#8217ve enabled this selection, you may also set the reduced-stock alerts, meaning Square will instantly generate emails to show you when stock levels drop below a particular point. You may also check inventory levels using your dashboard.

Quick note: Products offered via invoice or perhaps in-store pickup don&#8217t use inventory management, which means you&#8217ll need to adjust the counts by hand. Should you process returns, you&#8217ll also need to adjust your inventory.

Setting Item Shipping Rates in Square

Square&#8217s shipping features may be frustrating for many retailers. Throughout the initial setup process, the website insists upon choose free delivery or set a set shipping rate for every item inside your store. There aren’t any shipping options according to weight or size.

That&#8217s not saying it&#8217s entirely unworkable. You are able to offer free delivery for those products (just make certain to regulate the cost of the products to pay for the elevated cost), that might attract your buyers, mainly in the chronilogical age of Amazon . com Prime.

Square also enables you to add yet another transportation charge for products. Regrettably, it displays such as this:

Square Online Store: shipping costs display

I recieve that this can be a transparency issue, however i want to just hammers home the concept that you&#8217re having to pay MORE for shipping. I question the number of customers which has driven away, since i would bet it&#8217s a good couple of. It&#8217d be nice if Square just totaled the 2 shipping costs together and presented just one number.

Another factor you&#8217ll see can there be&#8217s no choice for offering multiple shipping speeds/courier options. The best choice is to produce a group of modifiers for just about any other shipping options you would like — such as United states postal service priority or overnight, or UPS ground.

Finishing Orders in Square

Go to your store&#8217s dashboard and also the first factor you&#8217ll see is the listing of pending orders.

Square online store: pending orders

Clearly, our store is empty. Yours shouldn&#8217t be!

You have to mark each order as satisfied by hand to get payment for this. For now, Square supports the funds plus they&#8217ll show up on your statements as &#8220Deferrals Held.&#8221 When you complete an order, they reveal as &#8220Deferrals Released.&#8221

Automatically, Square sets the processing here we are at orders to seven days. You are able to change this yourself by entering your shipping settings. Should you don&#8217t complete an order through the deadline, Square instantly refunds your clients.

Whenever you complete an order, you can add tracking information. However, you are able to&#8217t do that when the order is finished — you&#8217ll need to examine your orders by hand to locate it after which contact the client to supply shipping information. This is a little a disadvantage — but not really a deal breaker. You may also integrate Square with ShipStation to deal with your shipping and order tracking.

With electronic orders, Square instantly generates a confirmation email. Let’s say you sell tickets, that email doubles as a ticket. However, if you sell digital downloads, you&#8217ll need to handle orders fulfillment yourself. That would mean that you give a connect to Dropbox or any other hosting space where individuals can download the files whenever you mark orders as complete.

It&#8217s not really a perfect solution, undoubtedly — it could be great to determine Square give a hosting choice for individuals files. However, I’ll explain that BigCommerce, Ecwid, and Weebly have the ability to greater support for digital downloads.

For in-store pickup products, you can auto-accept all orders, or by hand accept them. That&#8217s entirely your decision, but if you need to by hand accept orders, you must do so inside an hour from it being placed. Square also recommends you receive evidence of ID for choosing at any height-value orders ($250 or even more) along with a signed invoice for orders over $500. That&#8217s a fairly solid practice that may safeguard you against chargebacks.

How you can Increase Your Online Shop

When you begin to market online, don&#8217t forget to benefit from all of the great secondary features Square offers. For instance, Square&#8217s reporting is a terrific way to monitor profits (evaluating online to in-person sales, monitoring which products are most widely used, etc). You may also create custom reports tailored to your demands.

Not just that, but you might like to take a look at all of the integrations Square offers. In case your inventory needs tend to be more complex than Square can hold, take a look at Stitch Labs. You can observe the entire listing of apps here, but don’t forget by using the APIs you may create custom solutions, too.

You are able to&#8217t sell gift certificates online, but marketing them personally and employ them inside your online shop, that is a terrific way to encourage repeat customers. The only real pricing is them themselves and then any processing charges if a person purchases the present card having a charge card.

Square also enables you to setup discounts. You are able to apply these reduced prices for in-person sales only, or create codes for the people to use online, too. That&#8217s helpful if you wish to run holiday sales and have special promotions every so often.

The customer database Square offers (at no additional charge) ties into Square&#8217s e-mail marketing seamlessly. Square&#8217s e-mail marketing service starts at $15/month however it&#8217s a great way to connect with your most loyal customers and achieve to lapsed customers, and you may bring customers out of your emails to your website. If only Square&#8217s loyalty program (also associated with the database and available for the next monthly charge) labored with website purchases too, but provide a little time. That&#8217s something I am certain Square will address eventually.

Lastly, don&#8217t neglect a great social networking strategy. A good presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or perhaps Pinterest will go a lengthy way toward funneling customers to your website, especially coupled with coupons.

Verdict: Is Square Best For You?

If you’re just beginning by helping cover their a web-based store, Square is a superb starter because requires hardly any technical understanding. simple drag interface, you don’t need to ever wreck havoc on code. simple to perform a bulk upload to populate inventory

If you want advanced features, you should use Square to process payments and employ another shopping cart software software and obtain all individuals features. eCommerce rates on componen with many other processors. Really the only method to get substantially lower rates is to buy a free account — but you don&#8217t get free hosting, a totally free URL reely shopping cart software software, not to mention the other value-added goodies Square has packed into its choices (such as the free customer database that integrates seamlessly, or feedback programs, etc.)

To actually get the most from your Square Online Shop, you need to really plan several things out ahead — your shipping options, especially, but additionally your current organization plan and issues for example florida sales tax. Map many of these out before you begin building your store and also you&#8217ll save a lot time and effort. Don&#8217t your investment ease of the majority upload feature, either. It&#8217s only a matter of spreading the word and driving people aimed at your website!

Got questions? Have personal expertise with Square&#8217s Online Shop? Leave your comments below and let’s read your comments!

The publish Beyond Mobile: How Square Will Help You Sell Online made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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