How To Print, Pack, And Ship With FedEx Office

As an online seller, you’re a busy person. Between managing your website’s design and processing incoming orders, you barely have enough time to restock your packaging materials, much less create and print new marketing inserts!

If this is you, it might be time to look into FedEx Office. You know FedEx as a shipping carrier that helps you get your products to your customers’ doorsteps, but they also offer a range of other services that can help simplify your business operations. And if you’re already using FedEx for your shipping, these services should fit right into your current business model.

Take advantage of FedEx Office’s free shipping supplies and DIY design and printing services for marketing materials. If you need a few extra hands, look into FedEx’s packing and design services for assistance.

Read on to learn how you can order free packaging materials and design and print your marketing inserts at your local FedEx store.

Get Started With FedEx Office

Packing & Shipping Supplies

One of FedEx’s best services is their free-to-order shipping supplies.

If you are using FedEx Express for your shipments, you can order FedEx boxes and filler material for free online. Those packages will be delivered to your doorstep within 2-5 business days. Take a look at a list of available packaging materials below, or view this webpage which includes a bit more detail about each option.

Or, if you already have a FedEx account, you can go one step further and login to your account in order to start ordering packaging materials.

Here’s a selection of those supplies:

  • FedEx Envelope
    • Best for papers. Must not exceed 500 grams.
  • FedEx Pak
    • For larger papers. Must not exceed 2.5kg.
  • FedEx Padded Pak
    • Tear and water resistant, for heavier documents that need protection. Must not exceed 2.5kg.
  • FedEx Small Box
    • Self-assembly box, for small documents and items. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Medium Box
    • Self-sealing box, for binders, books, and large documents. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Large Box
    • Self-sealing box, for large stacks of paper, heavier items, etc. Must not exceed 13kg.
  • FedEx A4 Box
    • Self-sealing box for shipping internationally. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx Tube
    • Self-sealing tube for posters, photos, etc. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx 10kg Box
    • Fixed rate via the FedEx International Priority Service.
  • FedEx 25kg Box
    • Fixed rate via the FedEx International Priority Service.
  • FedEx Clinical Pak
    • For shipping noninfectious clinical material. Must not exceed 9kg.
  • FedEx UN 3373 Pak
    • For shipping potentially infectious clinical material. Must not exceed 9kg.

For step-by-step instructions on ordering your FedEx shipping supplies online, take a look at this video:

If you choose to go the DIY route for packing, FedEx also provides several pages of advice on how to best pack specific items. Take a look at FedEx’s Service Guide, Packaging Help Hub, and Express Packaging and Labelling Tips.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer FedEx did the packaging on your behalf, that’s an option too. Just take your shipments to a FedEx store nearby, and they will bubble wrap and box your products right there. Take a look at FedEx’s information on these packaging services and view their list of available boxes below:

  • Standard boxes
  • Specialty boxes
  • Bulk boxes
  • Packing supplies

In my opinion, if you’re shipping more than twenty items a week, it’s a better idea to go with the self-packaging options. The materials are free, and after a bit of practice, you’ll be a packaging expert just like the employees at FedEx.

Get Supplies From FedEx Office

Marketing Materials

In addition to their shipping services, FedEx also offers design and printing services for your marketing materials. Create custom marketing materials in-store at the FedEx Office or use an available template to design your materials online.

You’ll be able to create the following items:

  • Banners
  • Business Cards
  • Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Flyers
  • Mounted Posters
  • Postcards
  • Posters
  • Presentations
  • Resumes
  • Sell Sheets
  • Signs
  • Design Services
  • Use Design Templates
  • Canvas Prints
  • Invitations
  • Manuals
  • Backlit Prints
  • Photo Posters
  • Car Magnets
  • Decals

Follow the links above to view pricing for each item based on size and materials.

You can pick up your order at a FedEx Office location or have it shipped to you. FedEx offers free shipping on orders of $100 or more.

FedEx is also currently offering a coupon for their printing services. Get $5 on orders of $25 or more.

Start Printing With FedEx Office

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an easy way to print your marketing inserts, posters, and business cards while getting your shipping done, FedEx Office might be the way to go.

Of course, you’ll need to consider that these FedEx printing services come with some cost, and though the prices are generally very reasonable, you may be able to find lower prices elsewhere. Shop around before you make your decision!

No matter what you decide on the printing services, one thing is certain: If you are using FedEx Express to ship your packages, you absolutely must take advantage of FedEx’s free shipping supplies. Just order the items you need online, and have those supplies delivered directly to your workspace in just a few days.

For more information on what FedEx can offer your business, take a look at their website. Or, for a comparison of FedEx’s shipping services with other major shipping carriers, head over to our article USPS vs UPS vs FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

Get Started With FedEx Office

The post How To Print, Pack, And Ship With FedEx Office appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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7 Shopify Dropshipping Apps

Dropshipping is the sweetest gig in eCommerce, and sellers and advertisers everywhere sing its praises. They claim all you have to do is select the most profitable dropshipping products, and the dollars will roll on in. And while we are skeptical of these claims (check out our article 7 Reasons To Rethink Drop Shipping), for some merchants — particularly those who have done their research, found a dropshipping niche, and sell products in a traditional way as well — dropshipping really does work.

Just run a quick search on YouTube, and you’ll find dozens of videos from bold teenagers who have made tens of thousands of dollars running dropshipping sites. If you look closer at some of these videos, you’ll find another commonality: most of these dropshipping success stories came about on the Shopify platform.

Shopify (read our review) is one of the most popular shopping carts in the eCommerce industry, especially for US and Canadian merchants. Shopify specializes in ease of use and simple, sleek design.

As a SaaS (software as a service) platform, Shopify manages the technical aspects of operating an online store, including the hosting and site security. You’re only responsible for designing your site, adding content, and fulfilling orders. Shopify users benefit from simple daily operations and 24/7 access to a support team.

And if you choose to dropship with Shopify, your business operations will be simplified one step further. By following the dropshipping model, you essentially outsource your whole fulfillment process to your suppliers. When a customer places an order on your site, instead of picking, packing, and shipping the product yourself, you place an identical order with your supplier. The supplier will then ship the product directly to your customer. The product never reaches your hands.

If you’d like, you can go about this dropshipping process manually. For every order on your site, you head over to your chosen marketplace–often sellers use AliExpress–and place the order again.

Or, you could make the process more automatic with an app from the Shopify marketplace. Shopify dropshipping apps let you connect your store to one or more supplier marketplaces. Products will be easier for you to add to your site, and the fulfillment process will be much simpler (in some cases, you just need to click “Place Order” to fulfill).

In this article, we’ll be covering seven of the best dropshipping apps for Shopify users. We’ve rated these apps based on their popularity and overall star ranking on the Shopify marketplace. Take a look at each individual app for more information on their pricing, features, and pros and cons.

To learn more about dropshipping with Shopify, take a look at the official Shopify dropshipping guide. This series includes plenty of great insights into how to start dropshipping on Shopify.

Get Started With Shopify

 

1) Oberlo

Oberlo is one of the most popular dropshipping apps for Shopify, which is why we’re including it first. The Oberlo app approaches dropshipping in two different ways. They allow users to link their Shopify accounts to AliExpress, and they provide their own product catalog from which merchants can select and sell products.

With this app, sellers are able to quickly add products to their Shopify stores and easily place orders with suppliers.

Pricing

Oberlo prices their services based on the number of orders you want to fulfill each month. The highest-level plan will also give you access to advanced features and multiple user seats. Take a look at pricing below:

Starter Plan: Free

  • Up To 50 Orders/Month
  • Shipment Tracking
  • Order Monitoring

Basic Plan: $29.90/Month

  • Up To 500 Orders/Month
  • Shipment Tracking
  • Order Monitoring

Pro Plan: $79.90

  • Unlimited Orders
  • Multiple Users
  • Multiple Sales Channels
  • Advanced Features

Features

Oberlo includes features that allow for automation of dropshipping fulfillment. Take a look at their full feature list on Oberlo’s website or view my abbreviated list below:

  • Import Dropship Products: Find and add products from AliExpress and the Oberlo Marketplace.
  • Fulfill Orders Automatically: All you have to do is click “Order Product” and then confirm.
  • Automatic Updates: Oberlo automatically transfers inventory and price updates from your chosen marketplace (Oberlo or AliExpress) to your Shopify store.
  • Edit Product Listings: Customize product titles, descriptions, and images.
  • Order Tracking: Find out where your shipments are in the delivery process.
  • Multiple Users: Available on the Pro plan. Let multiple employees access your Oberlo account at the same time.

The Oberlo app has received significant praise for its ease of use and ability to streamline the process of uploading new products to a Shopify page. Some users have reported difficulties with getting the app to transfer orders from their store to their suppliers. However, these complaints are very much the minority.

In Short…

Oberlo + Shopify is one of the most popular combinations for dropshipping merchants. If you haven’t looked into Oberlo yet, you should do so now. Check out Oberlo’s page in the Shopify marketplace and then take a look at Oberlo’s website for more information.

2) Spocket

Spocket is a dropshipping marketplace that lets you add products from US, European, and Canadian sellers. Spocket vets these dropship wholesalers to ensure that they offer quality products and customer service. You can benefit from discounts on niche products in the Spocket marketplace and features like automated order fulfillment.

Learn more about Spocket below:

Pricing

Spocket offers a free plan for merchants who choose to include dropship 25 or fewer products. If you’d like to list more products, you’ll have to subscribe to a paid plan.

Free Forever

  • Unlimited Orders
  • 25 Products
  • Real-Time Inventory Update
  • Currency Exchange
  • Global Pricing

Pro: $29/Month

  • Unlimited Orders
  • 250 Products
  • Real-Time Inventory Update
  • Currency Exchange
  • Global Pricing
  • Premium Products
  • Branded Invoicing

Empire: $199/Month

  • Unlimited Orders
  • Unlimited Products
  • Real-Time Inventory Update
  • Currency Exchange
  • Global Pricing
  • Premium Products
  • Branded Invoicing

Features

Take a look below at a few of the features that come included with every Spocket plan or view their webpage for more detailed information:

  • Products Ship Quickly: You can expect products to ship within 5-7 day (or 2-5 days locally). This may not seem fast in relation to Amazon Prime, but compared to many dropshipping suppliers, it is speedy.
  • One-Click Fulfillment: Place orders with your suppliers with just one click.
  • Discounted Products: Spocket offers a 30%-60% discount on all products to give you a higher profit margin.
  • Branded Invoices: Customize your invoices and add your logo.
  • Inventory Updates: Make sure you only sell products suppliers have on hand.

Merchants are big fans of those branded invoices; your customers will receive a branded insert in their shipments with your store’s logo. Merchants also like that Spocket is easy to use and features many desirable products. Some merchants, however, are discouraged by the amount of “Premium Products,” which you must pay to access. Spocket can also be difficult to contact at times, especially in their role as a supplier.

In Short…

If you’re looking to find good products quickly, look no further. Spocket has done much of the grunt work on your behalf. Sign up for a free plan to take a look at what they have to offer. Visit Spocket’s page in the Shopify marketplace or view Spocket’s website to learn more.

3) Spreadr

Spreadr is different from the above apps because, in addition to providing a connection to a marketplace, Spreadr allows merchants to bring in affiliate income.

Use Spreadr to import products from Amazon to your Shopify store, and either dropship those products or market them in exchange for a commission.

The best part of Spreadr’s affiliate program is that you don’t just get a commission on the products you market. You will also receive commision on all products visitors click on or purchase when they come through your site.

You should know, however, that you cannot use Spreadr to fill an entire online store. To qualify for this app, you must first fill your site with original content, whether that be products, posts, or reviews.

Pricing

Spreadr offers their application at one flat rate: $5.00/Month.

Try out the app for free with a 7-day Free Trial.

Features

Because Spreadr’s services are available at one rate, all merchants can expect to access the same features, no matter what. Take a look at Spreadr’s site for more info, or view my list below:

  • One-Click Upload: To upload a new product, just copy-paste the Amazon product URL and click “Add.”
  • Customize Product Descriptions: Make changes to product descriptions, optimize for SEO, and customize product titles.
  • Commissions: Make up to a 10% commission on all purchases (including purchases customers make on products you don’t list).
  • Use Amazon For Dropshipping: Instead of collecting commision, you can choose to use Amazon as a dropshipping source. Or, you can collect orders and fulfill them yourself.
  • Seamless Look: Amazon products appear on your site just like your own products. The only difference is that instead of an “Add to Cart” button there will be a “View on Amazon” button.
  • Locally Stored Product Information: Store product images and information on your Shopify website in order to resize images and display information faster.
  • Enable Auto-Sync: Automatically update price and inventory levels to match Amazon.
  • Bulk Import: Import thousands of Amazon products in minutes.

Spreadr users love that the affiliate program is quick and easy to implement. While some merchants have a bit of trouble setting up their site, the vast majority are able to get things working very quickly.

In Short…

Spreadr is a great way to start Amazon dropshipping on your Shopify store or to just make a buck from commissions. Try out a free 7-day trial by signing up on their page in the Shopify marketplace or read more on the Spreadr website.

4) AliExpress Dropshipping

This app from Appfreaker does exactly what you might anticipate. AliExpress Dropshipping for Shopify lets merchants easily import items from AliExpress and order those items through a semi-automated process.

The app also includes a Chrome extension that allows you to import products and edit product information as you browse.

Keep reading for more information on dropshipping with AliExpress, including pricing and features.

Pricing

AliExpress Dropshipping is available through a subscription plan, but you can try it out for free with a 7-day trial.

Take a look below at a breakdown of pricing for the application. Pricing is based on the number of items you list on your site, and each step up in pricing gives you access to more Shopify dropshipping suppliers:

Basic Plan: $5/Month

  • 5,000 Items
  • Unlimited Orders
  • Products Imported From AliExpress

Standard Plan: $10/Month

  • 10,000 Items
  • Unlimited Orders
  • Products Imported From AliExpress PLUS
    • Alibaba
    • DHgate
    • Banggood
    • Tmart
    • LightInTheBox
    • MiniInTheBox
    • Sammy Dress
    • GearBest

Pro Plan: $20/Month

  • 20,000 Items
  • Unlimited Orders
  • Products Imported From All Of The Above

Features

View all features on Appfreaker’s website or view a shorter list below:

  • Search Products: Search and import products within the application. Begin selling those products quickly.
  • Fulfill Orders: Take advantage of AliExpress Dropshipping’s semi-automated process. You just need to click “Order Product” and then enter payment information. Your customers’ shipping info will be imported for you.
  • Automatic Daily Updates: Update your products pricing and inventory levels as the information changes on AliExpress.
  • Chrome Extension: Take advantage of the single click import.
  • Edit Product Info: Edit product descriptions and images to better match your brand.
  • Pricing Rules: Set rules to update pricing in bulk as you import products.

Users comment frequently on how they’ve received good support from the platform. They often name specific representatives, which makes me believe they were encouraged to leave a review by the company. Nevertheless, these reviews seem to be genuine. Negative reviews include complaints that the user interface is outdated and that suppliers are slow to fulfill orders. Some customers also cite trouble with getting the app to autosync pricing information.

In Short…

AliExpress Dropshipping is not a perfect application, but it is a good one for those who want an easier way to import and sell AliExpress items. Take a look at the Shopify Marketplace for more information and to sign up for that free 7-day trial, or view their website.

5) Importify

Importify allows you to connect your Shopify site with the most popular marketplaces. These marketplaces include Amazon, Aliexpress, Etsy, Walmart, and DHgate.

You can use a Chrome extension to import products, and you’ll be able to customize product info like images, variants, and descriptions.

If you subscribe to Importify’s Gold Plan (see pricing info below), you’ll get access to semi-automatic fulfillment for Amazon, AliExpress, and DHgate.

Pricing

Importify is available on a subscription model. You can try out the software for free with a 1-day free trial. (A single day is the shortest trial period I have ever seen, and I can’t imagine you’ll get a good feel for the software in that time, but at least it’s something?)

Take a look at pricing information below. Note that the higher up you move in the pricing tiers, the more features you’ll be able to access.

Basic: $14.95/Month

  • Import Products From Less Popular Marketplaces
    • (Take A Look At Importify’s Supported Websites)
  • Shopify To Shopify Importer
  • Product Customization
  • Pricing Automation
  • Free Chrome Extension
  • 24/7 Customer Service

Premium: $27.95/Month

  • All Of The Above PLUS
  • Products Import From AliExpress & Amazon

Gold: $37.95/Month

  • All Of The Above PLUS
  • Semi-Automatic Order Fulfillment From Aliexpress, Amazon, DHgate, DropshipperUS

Features

As always, you can view a full list of features on Importify’s website. Take a look at my favorite features below:

  • Product Customization: Make products your own by editing product info like pictures, variants, product titles, and descriptions.
  • Price Automation: Set smart pricing rules so that your products are automatically priced at import.
  • Chrome Extension: Filter marketplaces to find the best products with fast delivery from trusted sellers.
  • Order Fulfillment: Available on the Gold Plan. Take advantage of semi-automatic order fulfillment.

Customers appreciate Importify’s responsive customer support. They also love that Importify gives you the ability to take your pick of multiple suppliers and marketplaces — particularly useful if you have fairly niche products that may be hard to find in one place. The biggest downside to the software is that in order to access AliExpress and Amazon, you’ll have to subscribe to a Premium or Gold Plan. What’s more, semi-automation is only available on the Gold Plan. This could make Importify one of the more expensive options, depending on your business’s needs.

In Short…

I have some concerns with Importify, mostly that you have to pay more to access AliExpress and Amazon, and only the highest level plan offers semi-automatic fulfillment. You can find these features available at a much lower cost with many of the applications I’ve already included in this list.

On the other hand, Importify allows merchants to list products from multiple marketplaces, which is a feature that’s a bit harder to find with other applications. So, if you are an eCommerce vendor who wants to include products from many different marketplaces, Importify may be the way to go. Visit the Shopify marketplace and Importify’s website for details.

6) Advanced Shipping Manager

Advanced Shipping Manager does just what its name implies. With this app, you’ll have advanced control over your dropshipping process.

Advanced Shipping Manager specializes in two areas: suppliers and shipping. Like other apps, Advanced Shipping Manager connects your Shopify account with many supplier and wholesalers. In addition, Advanced Shipping Manager gives you extensive control over shipping methods and markups.

Keep reading to learn how you can take control of the shipping aspect of your dropshipping business.

Pricing

Advanced Shipping Manager is available at one flat rate: $85/month.

Sound like a lot? I thought so too, but Advanced Shipping Manager guarantees that you will see a return on your investment within your first month on the software, or they’ll refund your first month’s subscription.

Features

Advanced Shipping Manager has quite a few features built into their software. I recommend you head over to their website for the full information. I have included a summary below:

  • Origin Zip Code For Items: Create specific shipping rules based on origin zip code, courier, and markups. You can also offer free shipping.
  • Dimensions: Set dimensions for your items to better calculate shipping rates.
  • Ship Individual Items Alone: Mark fragile items as “Ship Alone.” Set shipping costs appropriately.
  • Multi-Box Items: Set weights and dimensions for large, multi-piece products that ship in multiple boxes (like a sectional sofa).
  • Shipping Tables & Real-Time Shipping Rates: Calculate rates any way you’d like.
  • Dropshipping Markups: Set markups for products that are dropshipped.

Advanced Shipping Manager does its job well. Sellers report that the app gives them excellent control over shipping, and software is easy to set up and use. The only potential disadvantage is that the Advanced Shipping Manager’s flat rate is significantly higher than you’ll find elsewhere. (You should note, however, that that is my own personal concern. I have not seen any users complaining about price.)

In Short…

If you aren’t scared off by the $85 price tag, and you’re looking for a way to better manage your shipping, give Advanced Shipping Manager a shot. There’s a lot you can do with the application, and it just might solve your shipping woes. Learn more by going to the Shopify Marketplace and/or visiting Advanced Shipping Manager’s website.

7) Modalyst

Modalyst is a Shopify dropship integration that lets you upload products from three different marketplaces onto your Shopify site. You’ll have access to the Modalyst marketplace (which is the main purpose of the app), and you’ll be able to use a Chrome extension to upload products from Shein and Wish.com.

When you upload a product, you’ll instantly add inventory information, images, product descriptions, and pricing to your store.

Read on to learn if this app is a good integration for your store.

Pricing

Basic Plan: Free Forever

  • 25 Product Limit
  • Unlimited Orders
  • 5% Transaction Fee

Pro Plan: $45/Month

  • Unlimited Products
  • Unlimited Orders
  • Access To Shein.com, Wish.com, Modalyst Marketplace
  • 2% Transaction Fee

Premium Plan: $150/Month

  • Unlimited Products
  • Unlimited Orders
  • Access To Shein.com, Wish.com, Modalyst Marketplace
  • 1% Transaction Fee

Features

See Modalyst’s website for a full list of features. Read my own summary below:

  • Shein.com Integration: Get free standard shipping to the US on orders over $49. Learn more about the Shein.com integration.
  • Wish.com Integrations: Order forms are automatically filled out with customer info. Learn more about the Wish.com integration.
  • One-Click Add: Add products to your site quickly and easily.
  • Real-Time Product Updates: When your products are updated in your supplier’s website, they’ll be updated on your site too.
  • Customize Products: Edit product descriptions, pricing, variants, and images.
  • Pricing Rules: Set rules to price items as you add them.

Modalyst users appreciate that the app is easy to use, and they report having good experiences with customer support. The main complaint I’ve seen is that some customers have experienced inconsistencies with Wish.com, stating that there are occasional discrepancies between Wish.com’s price listings and what you actually pay.

In Short…

Before you make a paid commitment to Modalyst, I recommend you sign up for the free trial. That way, you can browse through Modalyst’s marketplace to get a better understanding of the selling potential for your site. Sign up for a free plan in Shopify’s app marketplace, or view the Modalyst website for detailed information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to Shopify dropshipping, you have quite a few options to choose from, and each dropshipping app claims that it will help you get rich more quickly and easily than the next.

As you research Shopify dropshipping apps, take every developer’s claim with a grain of salt. Read customer reviews on each application, and sign up for any available free trial.

We recommend that you start your research with the apps we’ve included in this list. They have all been thoroughly tested by the Shopify community, and have emerged with high praise. Test one or two of these Shopify dropshipping apps, and see what a good extension can do for your ecommerce website.

Get Started With Shopify

The post 7 Shopify Dropshipping Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Best Domain Registrars And Web Hosting Services Of 2018

domain registrars

If you’re planning to create a website, you’ve probably spent a lot of time considering how exactly you want to build it, who to hire to build it if you don’t want to build it yourself, the features and/or apps you want to include, how to monetize your site, and so on. One thing to which you may not have devoted much deliberation, however, is which domain registrar to purchase your domain from and which web host to go with.

What is a domain registrar? For those new to the technical aspects of getting a website online, a domain registrar is the service through which you reserve your site’s domain for an annual fee. Want to create a website at www.catfoodart.com? You’ll need to reserve catfoodart.com with a domain registrar first. Common domain extensions are .com, .org, .gov, .edu, etc. Most businesses will use a .com extension, though some go other routes.

What is web hosting? And how web hosts related to domain name registrars?

Importantly, a domain name registrar service is not the same thing as a web hosting service. Web hosting is the practice of storing the actual files that comprise your website on a physical server. The difference between a domain registrar and a web host is obscured by the fact that many domain registrars also offer web hosting (and vice versa). For the sake of convenience, many website owners choose to reserve a domain with the same company they use for web hosting, though there are some in the field who advise against this. Just know that despite the fact that many companies offer both domain registration and web hosting, they are, nonetheless, separate services.

What is the best domain name registrar? Who offers the most comprehensive web hosting services? Good questions! In this article, we’ll explore some of the leading domain registrars and web hosting sites.

1) BlueHost

domain registrarsBlueHost has become known as an easy-to-use domain registrar/web host and a solid choice for those seeking to get a site online for the first time. In fact, BlueHost is one of only three web hosts to receive an official recommendation from WordPress.

As BlueHost’s pricing currently stands, a .com domain will cost you $11.99 for the first year and $15.99 for all subsequent years. Unfortunately, if you want domain privacy protection so that your name, email address, phone number, and home address aren’t publicly available for doxxing, that will cost you an additional $14.88 per year.

If you decide to go with BlueHost as your web host as well as your domain registrar, you can get a domain with no extra cost. BlueHost’s hosting packages differ wildly in their pricing, as the company offers many different types of hosting, but in terms of shared hosting — the most common type of website hosting — BlueHost’s packages currently start at just $2.95/month, though this is subject to change. Furthermore, the $2.95/month Basic plan becomes more expensive if you buy your hosting package for less than a 36-month term and/or if you add on such things as domain privacy protection, SiteLock security, and BlueHost SEO tools.

Alternately, BlueHost offers WordPress-optimized hosting, cloud hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting.

If you’re interested in BlueHost as a domain registrar and/or web host, check out its offerings at its website.

Visit the BlueHost website

2) GoDaddy

GoDaddy is more than just a widely recognized brand and controversy magnet. With over 75 million domains registered for over 17 million users worldwide, GoDaddy is the world’s biggest domain registrar. Let’s take a look at just what they have to offer.

GoDaddy is known for eye-popping first-year prices. To this end, they currently advertise an extraordinary deal: you can register a .com domain for just $0.99 for the first year, renewing at $14.99/yr. However, if you want domain privacy protection — and you probably do; it’s a really good idea! — your first-year price will jump by $7.99, the cost of privacy protection for the first year (it’s $9.99 each subsequent year).

On the hosting side, GoDaddy offers a host (haha) of options, with the cheapest hosting option being their Economy shared hosting package, which goes for $2.99/month and includes a free domain for the length of your subscription before renewal. However, as with BlueHost, the $2.99/month price only applies if you lock in your subscription for 36 months. Add-ons like SSL security and website backup will boost the price further.

GoDaddy also offers a website builder called GoCentral for those who want a domain, web host, and website builder all from the same source. Read my GoDaddy GoCentral review to learn more!

To get further details on GoDaddy’s products, visit GoDaddy’s website.

Visit the GoDaddy website

3) BuyDomains

domain registrarsUnlike GoDaddy and BlueHost, BuyDomains is strictly a domain registrar. BuyDomains owns many in-demand domains, so if your desired domain is under the company’s ownership, you can simply purchase it and it will be yours. These are premium domains, however, and they typically run upwards of $500-$800 apiece.

BuyDomains also lets you register a new domain. You can buy a domain for anywhere from one year to 10 years, but the price will remain the same: $24.95 a year for a .com. Domain privacy will set you back another $9/yr. Other available add-ons include an SEO tool ($50/month), SiteLock security ($35-$120/yr), and listing your business URL at whoisbusinesslistings.com ($20/yr).

Visit BuyDomains’s site at the link below if you’re interested.

Visit the BuyDomains website

4) CloudWays

web hostingAs the name would suggest, CloudWays specializes in cloud hosting. Cloud hosting differs from shared hosting in that your site is hosted on a cluster of servers, not just one single server. Unfortunately, CloudWays doesn’t offer domain registrar services.

CloudWays’s hosting packages currently start at $10/month and top off at $1,035/month. You’ll get escalating levels of RAM, processor speed, storage, and bandwidth with each subscription level.

web hosts

With so many hosting options, it’s all the easier to select just the package you want with the features you need.

Visit the link below to find out more about CloudWays.

Visit the CloudWays website

5) Domain.com

domain registrarsDomain.com is… wait for it… an internet domain registrar! As it happens, Domain.com offers hosting as well, so the name doesn’t tell the full story. In other words, Domain.com is about more than just…domain names.

A new .com domain from Domain.com costs $9.99/yr and comes with URL forwarding, email forwarding, DNS management, and transfer lock. Domain privacy will cost you an additional $8.99 per year.

Domain.com offers a broad range of hosting options. The cheapest packages come in the form of their Basic hosting packages, which cost $3.75/month for the Linux version and $4.75/month for the Windows version. Sadly, these hosting plans don’t include the cost of registering a domain. The Deluxe hosting package, by contrast, includes hosting, a free domain name, use of Domain.com’s drag-and-drop website builder, and personalized email for $6.75/month.

Additionally, Domain.com’s VPS hosting plans start at $29.70/month.

Click the link below to get more information on Domain.com’s domain registrar services and web hosting packages.

Visit the Domain.com website

6) HostGator

domain registrarsHostGator is another internet company offering domain registrar services, web hosting, and a drag-and-drop website builder — the web trifecta. HostGator’s shared web hosting is highly regarded in the industry.

If all you want is a domain, HostGator has you covered — .com domain names will cost you $12.95 a year, though domain privacy protection will set you back an additional $14.95/yr. If it’s a hosting package you’re after, HostGator’s Hatchling plan sells for $2.75/month and includes a domain for no additional cost. HostGator’s Baby plan and Business plan both offer unlimited free domains and cost $5.95/month as things stand.

If you want hosting, a domain, and a website builder, take a look at HostGator’s Starter plan for all-in-one hosting and site-building. For $2.75/month you get a domain, hosting, and a website builder. And for $9.23/month, you can get eCommerce on top of all that with HostGator’s eCommerce plan.

For more on what HostGator has to offer, check out the company’s website below.

Visit the HostGator website

7) DreamHost

domain registrarsDreamHost is akin to HostGator in that it offers the would-be webmaster the ability to get a domain, web hosting, and a website builder from the same source.

If you’re just looking for the cheapest domain registrar you can find, DreamHost offers up solid value. A .com domain will cost you $11.95 for the first year and $13.95 each subsequent year. What makes this a great deal is the fact that domain privacy protection is included at no additional charge.

On the hosting side, DreamHost’s shared hosting plans start at $7.95 a month and includes one free domain and privacy protection. DreamHost also offers VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, and WooCommerce hosting.

DreamHost’s website builder hosting package starts at $4.95/month and includes hosting and a free domain for one year. However, when the domain comes up for renewal in a year, you’ll have to pay the regular domain rate for it.

Check out DreamHost’s site below to learn more.

Visit the DreamHost website

8) FatCow

web hostingFatCow is another internet company offering the trifecta of domains, web hosting, and website building. FatCow’s website gives off something of a dated vibe, but let’s take a closer look at the company anyway!

On the domain side, you can register a new .com domain for $10.99/yr, though domain privacy will cost you another $9.99/yr. As for FatCow’s web hosting, the standard shared hosting package can be had for $4.08/month for the initial term and $12.95-$14.95/month subsequently, depending on the length of the term. A domain, a website builder, and an online store building tool are all included in the price, though domain privacy is not.

To learn more about FatCow and their web offerings, you know what to do.

Visit the FatCow website

9) iPage

web hostingLike the previous three companies I’ve mentioned, iPage offers domain registrar services and web hosting and throws in a website builder to boot. And like GoDaddy, the company offers an eye-catching introductory offer to would-be site owners.

If it’s just domain names you’re after, iPage offers .com domains at $10.99 per year, with domain privacy costing an additional $9.99 per year (renews at $12.99/yr). On the hosting side, iPage offers web hosting for just $1.99/month for the initial term. Tempting, eh? This hosting package includes unlimited domains (domain privacy is still extra though), a website builder, free email addresses and free marketing tools. However, when it renews, it will renew at the regular rate — $7.99 to $9.99 per month, depending on your chosen term length.

Check out iPage’s website if you’re intrigued.

Visit the iPage website

10) WPEngine

domain registrarsWPEngine is a web host that, unsurprisingly, focuses on one thing: managed WordPress hosting. WPEngine is not a domain registrar, so you’ll have to get a domain somewhere else.

WPEngine’s WordPress hosting options are as follows:

WPEngine’s cheapest plan goes for $35 a month and includes all the features you see above. While $35/month is significantly more expensive than the cheapest/most basic hosting plans offered by the other web hosts I’ve mentioned, it’s actually pretty competitive in the world of WordPress hosting.

Looking to take a WordPress site to the next level? Check the link below and look into WPEngine.

Visit the WPEngine website

Final Thoughts

A post like this can only scratch the surface of what’s available online in terms of domain name registration and web hosts, considering the countless such options in existence. However, by providing an overview of some of the better-rated and higher-profile companies operating in these spaces, I hope to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay for these services and what features to be on the lookout for.

The best domain registrar for your website will depend on a number of factors, including the domain extensions you want, whether you need SSL certificates, how long you intend to use your domain and whether you need to purchase an existing domain. The best web hosting service, on the other hand, will depend on your need for good customer support, whether you want eCommerce built-in, and your preference for shared servers vs VPS. Some businesses may want to find a web hosting company that offers packages for both domain registration and hosting.

Building a web presence isn’t rocket science. Just make sure to do your due diligence before signing up for a multi-year hosting/domain deal — you don’t want to be locked into an inadequate hosting arrangement!

The post 10 Best Domain Registrars And Web Hosting Services Of 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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International Shipping: Global eCommerce Rates And Shipping Carriers

There’s a whole world of business opportunities out there. I mean that literally. The entire planet is available to buy your products and services, and if you’re only selling domestically, you’re only tapping into a very small portion of it.

Perhaps you’re feeling the need to make a change. Maybe a few customers have reached out to you, asking if you could send your products internationally. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a new way to expand your business.

The global marketplace is awesome, but for eCommerce sellers, there is one major drawback: international shipping can be incredibly complex.

As an online seller, you already know that fulfilling orders within the States is hard enough. Now you have to deal with all the complexities of shipping, plus the added challenges of customs, duties, and international taxes.

In this brief guide, we will present a few of the initial steps you should take to start shipping internationally. We’ll go over the basics of shipping costs, shipping rates, and the shipping carriers you should consider. Keep reading to step into the world of international shipping.

How To Ship Internationally (From The United States)

This is why you’re here: to learn the basics steps of international shipping. Let’s get started.

Select Your Destination Country/Countries

As much as you’d like to ship your products across the entire world, for many merchants, major global expansion is not an immediate possibility. The best advice when it comes to international selling is to start small and gradually build.

As you choose your destination countries, you’ll need to keep in a mind a few factors. First, consider your current customer base. Who is buying your products now, and who has asked to buy your products from elsewhere? You should also factor in site translation and payment processing options. After all, international customers will need to read and understand your site and submit payment information for this all to work.

Evaluate Shipping Regulations

Next, you’ll need to decide which products to make eligible for shipping. Some of this may be based on logistics (it may, for example, be more trouble than it’s worth to ship a sofa to Guatemala), but some of it will also be based on product restrictions.

Each country has its own list of regulations regarding what can and cannot be imported and exported. Some of these restrictions may be surprising to you (for example, you are not allowed to send smoked salmon to Australia or playing cards to the Philippines).

Take a look at which products cannot be exported from the US on MyUs.com and USPS.com. Then, head over to this useful tool from the UPS to check the import regulations for your destination countries.

Learn To Manage Customs Forms

Filling out customs forms will soon become a part of your everyday life if you dive into international shipping, and you want to do it well. Take a look at general customs information from the US government, and then learn from Stamps.com’s advice for filling out a customs form.

Something to consider: Many shipping software solutions (like Shippo and ShippingEasy) include features for auto-filling these customs forms. If you aren’t using shipping software already, we absolutely recommend you take a look at a few of our favorite.

Decide On A Shipping Carrier

For many merchants, this step is the hardest. International shipping rates are complex, and what’s right for one shipment may not be right for another.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for shipping (domestic or international), and your shipping strategy will need to be flexible in order to be cost-effective.

We’ll discuss shipping carriers more a bit later, but first, let’s take a look at the costs you can expect as you enter international shipping.

International Shipping Costs To Consider

Shipping internationally inevitably comes with a bit of sticker shock. You may be used to the cost of shipping domestically, but all the extra expenses of international shipping can be overwhelming.

In order to ease some of that shock, we’re doing a quick breakdown of the added expenses you can expect. One key thing to keep in mind: Many of these expenses will be the customer’s responsibility.

  • Duties: Also known as tariffs, duties are customs charges on incoming shipments. Duties vary in price, depending upon the sending and receiving countries and the contents of the package. Paid by the customer.
  • Tax: Additional value added tax (VAT) or general sales tax (GST) charged by the destination government. Paid by the customer.
  • Fees: Some countries charge additional fees for processing packages through customs. These fees are in addition to duties. Paid by the customer.
  • Higher Shipping Rates: Shipping across longer distances comes with, of course, higher shipping rates. And not only are you shipping further, but also you’ll be shipping by air, and airmail comes with its own expenses. If you’re currently using UPS or FedEx, you’re already paying fuel surcharges for your ground shipments. International air shipments can come with slightly higher fuel surcharges. Take a look a UPS’s fuel surcharge rates (updated weekly) and FedEx’s info on fuel surcharges.

Make sure you clearly communicate these additional expenses to your customers. If customers refuse to pay the necessary fees, you may lose your product or have to pay to return it. Write a clear international shipping policy, and display it prominently on your checkout page.

Beyond the monetary costs of international shipping, another expense to consider is the time and effort required to make it all work. Make things a little easier with this pricing calculator from MyUS.com and Shipping Easy’s international seller’s shipping guide.

International Shipping Rates By Carrier

As we’ve said before, international shipping rates vary widely depending upon the product, the package dimensions, the destination country, and the shipping carrier. So, it’s impossible to summarize shipping rates, but I can provide you with a few helpful resources to calculate those rates for yourself.

Here’s a summary of the most popular shipping carriers, along with links to resources for each one:

Public Carriers: USPS & International Carriers

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a public carrier, which means that some shipping expenses are subsidized by the government.

Many merchants find the USPS to be the cheapest way to ship domestically, and some say it’s the cheapest way to ship internationally.

When you ship this way, the USPS will deliver your package to the public carrier in the destination country. The public carrier in your destination country (such as the Canada Post or Royal Mail) will then deliver your package to your customer’s doorstep. Beware, this exchange can slow the shipping process a bit.

To calculate estimated shipping rates, take a look at USPS’s resources.

Private Carriers

While the USPS passes shipments onto the next public carrier, private carriers handle a shipment from start to finish. Because one carrier manages the entire shipping process, there tends to be more security in the process. The private carrier is responsible for your package, and you’ll have just one service to contact if something goes wrong.

Here are the three most popular private shipping carriers:

FedEx

FedEx ships to 220+ countries and territories, and they offer freight shipment options as well as international package delivery options. Look into your potential expenses with FedEx using this rates calculator or by taking a look at FedEx’s overview of rates for international shipments.

UPS

UPS is another reliable international carrier. UPS manages a huge shipment volume, shipping 3.1 million packages and documents internationally each day! With UPS, you can ship to 220+ countries and territories, including every address in North America and Europe. Check into UPS’s brief guide, How to Ship Internationally, as well as their landed cost estimator, which includes price estimates for factors such as duties and taxes.

DHL

DHL is a private carrier that specializes in international logistics. They employ over 350,000 individuals in over 220 countries and territories. And beyond their regular international shipment options, DHL offers a special service for online sellers: DHL eCommerce. This service is intended for high volume shippers (those who send over 50 packages internationally each day), so it may not be the service you use initially. However, DHL eCommerce is a good logistics solution for those who meet the requirements. To learn more, take a look at our blog post on DHL eCommerce and visit DHL’s webpage.

A Great Alternative: FBA Export

If you’re an Amazon seller, you have another option available to you. Instead of choosing from the carriers I listed above, you can let Amazon handle international fulfillment on your behalf.

FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) is Amazon’s in-house warehousing and fulfillment program. For a fee, you can send your products to Amazon’s many warehouses and have Amazon’s employees and robots pick, pack, and ship products for you. And with FBA Export, you can start sending those products to over 100 countries.

In order to use FBA Export, all you have to do is enable export functionality on your FBA account. There are no additional fees for merchants who are using FBA Export to ship their Amazon orders internationally. However, merchants who want to use FBA Export to ship products from their own online site will have to pay some additional fees. This type of warehousing plan is called Multi-Channel Fulfillment or MCF.

The great thing about FBA Export is that Amazon will handle all of the complexities related to international shipping. They will identify which of your products are eligible for export and fulfill your international orders. They also manage import duties and customs clearance for you.  Your customers will pay the shipping costs and customs duties, and all you have to do is determine which products you’d like to exclude from the program.

If you’re already selling on Amazon and using FBA for your fulfillment, FBA Export is an easy solution for your international shipping.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been considering international shipping, now is your time to act. You now have all the resources you need to assess your shipping options and decide what’s right for your business.

So, dive deep into your store’s analytics. Find out which products you should start selling internationally and which countries might want access to those products. Pick out a shipping carrier (or two), check into customs, and get shipping!

The post International Shipping: Global eCommerce Rates And Shipping Carriers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Stripe VS Square

Stripe VS Square
✓ Products and Services ✓
✓ Compatible Hardware ✓
✓ Fees and Rates ✓
✓ Sales and Advertising Transparency ✓
Customer Service and Technical Support ✓
✓ Negative Reviews and Complaints ✓
✓ Positive Reviews and Testimonials ✓
Tie Final Verdict  Tie
Read Review Read Review
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Overview

Spend a little bit of time reading up on Stripe (read our review) and Square (read our review) and you’ll start to see the similarities. They’re both giants in the payment industry, media darlings that have transformed the way people pay for things and the way merchants accept payments. They’re both on the leading edge of technology and rely heavily on machine learning to drive their payment processing systems.

Most importantly, both Square and Stripe offer huge assortments of commerce tools that make it easy for merchants to run their businesses. With the various APIs and integrations available, there are almost limitless possibilities for creating a custom system with everything from invoicing to email marketing and more.

But that’s where I stop pointing out the similarities. Once you get past that point, it becomes harder to draw apples-to-apples comparisons because Square’s offerings are much more varied. Square really is an all-in-one processor that can handle in-person and eCommerce payments, as well as inventory management, customer databases, and more. Stripe is more limited to eCommerce, both for websites and for mobile apps, but it has powerful tools for global enterprises, subscription-based businesses, and other online companies.

To keep things fair and within a manageable scope, we’re going to limit the scope of this comparison to each companies’ online and mobile commerce tools. That means, for the most part, we’re not going to look at mPOS apps, POS integrations, appointment booking, or email marketing…except to say if you need them, Square is the better choice.That also means we’ll be ignoring Stripe Atlas, the company’s service for helping international merchants establish themselves in the US.

If you want to sell online and Square and Stripe have made your shortlist, you should start by asking yourself some questions:

  • What features do you absolutely need? Which features aren’t essential, but would be very nice to have?
  • What percentage of your transactions are from outside the US?
  • Do you have a developer or advanced coding knowledge yourself?
  • Do you have limited tech knowledge and need an easy solution?
  • Are you looking for specific integrations?
  • What industry is your business part of?
  • How advanced are your subscription tool needs?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can sit down and look at each company in more detail. Read on for our comparison of Stripe vs. Square!

Products & Services

Winner: Tie

It’s so important to have a list of must-have features before you set about choosing any sort of payments or eCommerce software because you don’t want to make the decision and then find out that you’re missing a very important function. But it’s also important to think about where you want your business to go and what tools you want to invest in as your business scales up. If you pick the right service, it could mean you never need to switch. But if you don’t think about growth, you may wind up having to make a complicated switchover later in the future once you’ve outgrown a solution.

The good news is that for the most part, Stripe and Square are both very good solutions that scale up as a business grows. It just comes down to in which direction a business wants to grow.

Square Tools and Services for Online Merchants

Square initially stood out among mobile competitors by offering a free webstore to its merchants. Since then, the company has branched out considerably to include eCommerce integrations as well as developer tools. For a more in-depth review of all of Square’s offerings, check out our full review.

  • Online Store: Square’s free online store is very basic. There are only four templates to choose from, and you can only customize portions of the site (such as filling in your business name and address in the footer) in addition to loading your products. This is not a good solution for anyone with a large and diverse inventory, especially if your shipping costs vary significantly or if you’re looking for a particular visual aesthetic.
  • eCommerce Integrations: When you first take a look at Square’s eCommerce offerings, you’ll see that Square very conveniently groups everything by a merchant’s level of technical expertise. I think this is a really helpful approach.

    The easiest integrations are listed on the site and Square lets you know that you can choose from an assortment of templates.

    The intermediate level includes eCommerce integrations that require a bit more work and technical knowledge to get set up.
    Square’s list of integrations includes some of the best shopping cart options, and the list keeps growing. That makes me happy, but if your preferred integration isn’t on the list yet and you do have the technical knowledge (or an eager developer on your payroll), there are more tools at your disposal. You can check out the list of Square integrations in the app marketplace.
  • Developer Tools: Square’s dev tools make it possible for you to create almost any custom integration you could need. For eCommerce, there are two APIs, Checkout and Transactions.  Square Checkout is a premade form that can be dropped into a site with minimal fuss. Using Checkout means merchants are eligible for some perks, like next-day deposits and chargeback protection. The Transaction API, combined with Square’s payment form, is more customizable. Square has other APIs to handle other aspects of commerce, but you’ll find that Square doesn’t readily support in-app payments.
  • Dashboard Reporting: Square’s reporting tools are fairly advanced, especially for a company that started as an mPOS. They’re very popular with merchants who want to know what’s selling and how much they’re processing and need standard business data. The dashboard is actually quite intuitive, as well. However, Square doesn’t allow for a huge amount of customization in reports unless you get into the Reporting API, which allows you to create real-time notifications using webhooks.

Additionally, Square offers the following tools:

  • Advanced Inventory: Square will reconcile online and in-person sales and give you an up-to-date count on your inventory, including low-stock alerts when you hit a specified threshold. Plus, you can bulk upload products and generate SKUs, create variants, and more.
  • Fraud Protection Tools: Square uses machine learning to analyze transactions and identify and flag possible fraudulent transactions.
  • Customer Database: Save customers’ contact information and build a database with records of their purchases so that you can market to them later.
  • Invoicing: Create invoices from within the Square dashboard or from within the mPOS app. Square also allows customers to store their cards to automatically pay invoices (using this Card on File will cost you a bit more). You can also create recurring invoices. However, if you want extensive subscription management tools, you’ll need an integration with a service like Chargify, which will add to your costs.
  • Free Virtual Terminal: If you want to process payments over the phone or you don’t have access to the mPOS, you can use Square’s virtual terminal. Transactions will be processed at the manual entry rate (3.5% + $0.15) rather than the eCommerce rate, but the solution is PCI compliant and is designed for regular use.

All in all, while it’s worth noting that Square really is an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to sell anywhere without needing to build a complicated system of integrations. But it has some shortcomings, especially for digital merchants. Subscription tools are nearly nonexistent, and fraud protection doesn’t compare to the tools Stripe offers. If you want advanced, custom reports, you’ll be better served by Stripe. However, Square’s tools and overall design are incredibly easy to use, especially for business owners who don’t have a lot of technical expertise or a large budget to hire someone. And it has very strong tools for merchants who sell physical products in particular.

Stripe Tools and Services for Online Merchants

Stripe has earned its name as a developer-friendly option, but you can also integrate with a host of third-party apps to accept payments with ease. The company focuses on internet and mobile commerce, but developers have extended Square’s power to include mobile payments and more. Just take note, there’s no free storefront option here. For a more detailed look at different features, check out our complete Stripe review.

  • eCommerce Integrations & Plug-Ins: Stripe outclasses Square in terms of shopping cart integrations by virtue of sheer numbers. In addition to integrations with major eCommerce software providers, developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for businesses operating on WordPress, Magento, and other websites. If you’re not really sure where you start, you might end up doing a lot of research to decide the best course of action, but you can at least take heart in knowing that there’ll be something that will meet your needs. You can check out the full list of eCommerce integrations on Stripe’s “Works With” page.
  • Developer Tools: Stripe is much loved by developers for its flexibility, its extensive documentation and its support for multiple programming languages. Its APIs allow you to create invoices and subscriptions along with many other features.

    Stripe Elements will let you create an entirely custom form with pre-built components; Stripe Checkout generates a pre-built form you can just drop into the site with a few lines of JavaScript. With Stripe, it’s very easy to accept payments on a desktop computer, a mobile site, or within a mobile app. Stripe now even supports 1-touch payments on mobile
  • Stripe Sigma: Stripe offers your standard user dashboard with some general sales reports at no charge. But if your business is heavily data-driven, Sigma’s customizable reporting is the perfect solution for you: you can generate reports based on SQL queries. This is pretty cool, and it’s a great way to make sure that anyone on your team can get the reports they need without creating an information bottleneck. Pricing is based on a sliding scale rather than a set additional monthly see.

Stripe’s additional tools include:

  • Stripe Billing: Stripe’s subscription tools are industry-leading, with the ability to charge clients based on a recurring quantity or metered usage, to set free trial periods, and much more. You can also create invoices or set up recurring billing tools. However, new businesses will pay a small additional charge per transaction to use these tools.
  • Stripe Radar: Stripe makes a big deal of its fraud monitoring tools, bundled under the very-apt name Radar. The system uses machine learning and a host of criteria to analyze every transaction and decide whether it is legitimate or possibly fraudulent. Radar also lets merchants set custom criteria for rejecting transactions and review flagged transactions to decide whether to accept or reject them.
  • Marketplace Tools: Merchants who want to operate a marketplace can use Stripe to build the platform. Stripe’s marketplace tools are grouped under the moniker “Stripe Connect.”
  • Multiple Currency Displays & Dynamic Currency Conversion: These tools are a major reason why Stripe is such a powerful tool for global businesses. Whereas Stripe will automatically convert transactions to USD (usually at the cost of a fee to the cardholder), Stripe will allow you to display prices in local currencies based on where the customer is located. Stripe then automatically converts them for the merchant, charging a small markup over the exchange rate. This makes a business more appealing to international customers.

There’s no doubt that Stripe is very powerful. It can handle all sorts of payments, from digital subscriptions to retail goods. It’s one of the best solutions for global businesses with its currency tools. But it does have some limitations. If you plan to sell across multiple channels, there’s no option for in-person payments unless you have an integration like Flint Mobile (read our review), but it’s still more costly than other mPOS options. There’s no virtual terminal, either. While Stripe does allow you to manually enter a transaction if all else fails, it’s a last resort rather than a tool to be used on the regular because of PCI compliance issues.

Stripe’s inventory tools aren’t on the level of Square. They’re powerful, but if you want advanced inventory management, you’ll need to tack on an integration. I also don’t think that Stripe’s inventory tools are even half as intuitive as Square’s. But I think part of that is Stripe’s focus on online payments and tools for digital merchants, compared to Square’s omnichannel approach.

All in all, it’s really hard to say one of these companies is inherently better than the other. Both have a good assortment of integrations for shopping carts and other tools, though Stripe has a greater number of supported integrations. If you want ease of use, especially if you sell physical goods,  Square is the standout option. But if you need flexibility, robust tools, and advanced data, Stripe is the better choice. So it ultimately comes down to your business’ needs.

Fees & Rates

Winner: Tie

I am happy to say that pricing for both Square and Stripe is mostly straightforward:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online card transaction

There are no monthly fees, no monthly minimums, no statement fees. That’s very nice to see.

I do want to point out that Square charges different rates for its card-present and keyed transactions (2.7% and 3.5% + $0.15, respectively). However, invoices process at the same rate as eCommerce transactions unless you’re using Card on File, which process at the keyed transaction rate.

Square also has no chargeback fees, which is very unusual. Not only that, but the company has rolled out Chargeback Protection, which will cover the actual chargeback costs on qualifying disputes up to $250 per month. This doesn’t apply to merchants who use the Transactions API, but it is available for those who use Stripe Checkout.

You can get volume discounts if you process above $250k per year AND have an average ticket size exceeding $15. That’s a mark in Square’s favor for large businesses. However, nonprofits don’t get any sort of special discount, which you can often find with other processors.

Stripe’s pricing has become a tiny bit more complicated. In addition to card transactions processed at 2.9% + $0.30, you can also accept ACH transactions for 0.8%, capped at $5 maximum.

The base fee per transaction is simple. And for each chargeback, Stripe will assess a $15 fee, unless the chargeback is decided in your favor. In that case, you’ll pay absolutely nothing.

Stripe’s subscription tools, lumped under the name “Stripe Billing” along with invoicing, will cost you a small percentage fee (between 0.04% and 0.07%) on top of your transaction.

Existing Stripe merchants are grandfathered out of this new pricing. Large businesses will actually pay the higher 0.7% markup, but it seems Stripe has compromised by offering lower transaction fees.

You’ll also pay a monthly fee for access to Stripe Sigma. The cost is a sliding scale based on the number of transactions you process each month, which is a great way for very small businesses to still get crucial data. But for a company that built its reputation on not charging any fees beyond transaction processing, it’s a little bit disappointing to see that model disappearing. You can estimate your cost with Stripe’s tool.

Stripe does offer enterprise pricing for very large businesses, and some nonprofits may be eligible for a special rate. Stripe doesn’t make any promises about nonprofit pricing apart from “let us know and we’ll see what we can do.” So you shouldn’t assume it’s guaranteed.

With Stripe, you may also be able to negotiate for micro-transaction rates. Whereas per-transaction fees like the $0.30 Stripe and Square charge can eat up fees from small transactions (less than $10 in particular), micro-transaction rates typically include a higher percentage and a lower per-transaction fee that can save merchants money. This is ideal for anyone who sells digital goods and other low-cost items.

Because it’s something offered as part of a custom package, Stripe may not offer this deal to everyone. If you’re unable to get a micro-transaction plan from Stripe, it might be worth looking at a third option — PayPal (read our review) — instead. The 5% + $0.05 fee could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

All in all, Stripe and Square are fairly evenly matched in pricing. Some merchants might enjoy the lack of chargeback fees and included chargeback protection that Square offers. But Stripe might be a bigger draw for other companies, despite the additional charges for using its subscription tools or Sigma reporting.

Contract Length & Cancellation

Winner: Tie 

Both Stripe and Square offer pay-as-you-go processing with no locked-in contracts or early termination fees. It really is that simple. Stripe will even help you transfer your customer data to another processor in a PCI compliant way.

If you’re using any of Square’s monthly services in addition to eCommerce processing, you can get a free 30-day trial, and then if you choose to continue with the service, you can cancel at any time. Square doesn’t bill annually for those services the way many SaaS providers do. (Conversely, you also don’t get any discounts for paying annually, either.)

Sales & Advertising Transparency

Winner: Tie 

One of the reasons I like pay-as-you-go processors is that they are, on the whole, very upfront and transparent. They tend to not have extensive sales teams, and if they do have a sales team, they’re all in-house. They’re very clear about their pricing and terms, and they’re applied fairly to all merchants.

Square and Stripe both fit this pattern to a T. You won’t see reports of misleading sales pitches or rates not as promised here, which is always nice to see. You can find Stripe’s terms of service on the site, both the general user agreement and the Stripe Payments agreement. Like Stripe, Square has separate agreements applying to general use, payments, and other services. I do recommend you be cautious and check that your business doesn’t fall on either list of “prohibited businesses,” because that’s an easy path to account termination.

Overall, I’m really happy with both companies in this category, and you shouldn’t have any worries about whether you’re being told the truth or whether you’ll pay what you were quoted.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Square

I think it’s fairly clear that Square outshines Stripe in terms of its customer support — both in quality and in the number of channels available.

Square offers merchants phone and email support, as well as an extensive knowledgebase. That’s pretty typical of any processor, but on top of that, Square operates the Seller Community, a community forum about all-things Square.

 

You can get answers from other Square merchants as well as from Square support reps. It’s a pretty powerful tool. But on top of that, Square’s team monitors Stack Overflow for questions about Square products and responds to them.

And that’s not even talking about Square’s dedicated Twitter support handle (@SqSupport), or the developer portal and documentation.

I can’t say that Square customer support is all sunshine and rainbows, because I do see customer complaints about the quality. However, without a doubt the biggest complaint about the quality of customer support comes from merchants whose accounts have been terminated. In that case, Square cuts off access to phone support and will only communicate via email. This is unfortunate and I don’t know if it’s actually a good solution. But I am sure part of the reason to reduce the odds of a customer support rep saying something they shouldn’t, and to prevent support resources from being tied up dealing with complaints from terminated merchants whose accounts won’t be reinstated.

Stripe is more limited in its support options. Its primary support channel is email. However, Stripe also operates an IRC Freenode chat (#Stripe) that developers may find useful. There’s no dedicated social media support with Stripe, but you can follow the general @Stripe twitter feed.

Stripe also maintains a self-service knowledgebase, though I don’t think it’s as extensive or detailed as Square’s. But I will say that Stripe’s documentation is pretty legendary, and so it’s going to be one of the best resources you can get.  You can also find questions about Stripe on Stack Overflow, but I am not able to ascertain whether Stripe’s team is active on the forum at all the way that Square is.

I do see comments from merchants that the support is pretty good. But I also see a lot of complaints from frustrated merchants about the lack of phone support. That complaint has actually become one of the biggest marks against Stripe. I’ve seen one mention that Stripe might be rolling out phone support to “select merchants” (presumably high-value clients). However, take this with a grain of salt. I wasn’t able to verify it through any sort of authoritative source.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

As far as complaints go, the single biggest issue for both Square and Stripe is a common one:

  • Account Holds And Terminations: This is unsurprising (understatement of the year, right there) because it’s a common issue with any third-party processor. Because these payment systems are usually open to almost anyone right away and they are all lumped into one large merchant account, there’s a greater risk that some of those accounts will be terminated for risky behavior. There’s very little scrutiny done before a sub-account with one of these processors is approved, which stands in contrast to merchant accounts, where the processing company will do a lot of underwriting and investigation before approving your application. Both Square and Stripe use a lot of machine learning to analyze transactions and flag suspicious behaviors. This potential for account holds or terminations is universal — you will encounter it with any third-party processor. If you want to avoid it, your only alternative is to seek out a traditional merchant account.

The other big complaint that I see with both is also a pretty common one:

  • Poor Customer Support: If I’m honest, reports about the quality of customer service conflict. But because of how common the complaints are, I’m listing it here. With Stripe, the most common issues are the lack of phone support and slow response times for email. With Square, a lot of the complaints about poor customer service come from terminated merchants, but I’ve seen a few complaints about slow or unhelpful email responses.

Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:

  • Lack Of Fraud Protection: I want to be clear: Stripe does have fraud management tools and a system to help merchants fight chargebacks. But I have seen complaints from merchants who don’t think these are adequate. Chargebacks are not settled by Stripe, so there’s not much the company can do beyond pass the requested documents on. But for fraud prevention, merchants need to make sure they have the appropriate tools enabled.
  • Not User-Friendly: There’s a lot of testimonials from users (especially developers) who really like Stripe and find it simple to set up. There are plenty of others who disagree with that idea. I’m inclined to think most people with a decent technical backing will get along fine with Stripe, but for some people, especially those with less technical knowledge, it’s not going to be a good choice.

For Square, there is one other common complaint:

  • Lack of advanced features: It’s not that Square doesn’t have enough features, or that it’s missing anything important. The complaints about Square often focus on the lack of very particular advanced features that you typically find in full-scale POS systems. In this case, I think Square’s lack of extensive subscription tools would fit the bill. Some merchants have been upset for quite a while over the lack of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) reporting. Square added this feature with its Square for Retail app, but not for online sales or its free POS. Square has some very powerful reporting tools, but in the end, they won’t hold a candle to Stripe’s Sigma offering.

I think, yet again, that the two companies are pretty evenly matched in this category. The largest complaints are identical, and that’s because they’re the same complaints we see with third-party processors. To be entirely honest, poor customer service is a common complaint across the entire payments industry. It’s frustrating, for sure. But you can take steps to better inform yourself — read our article on how to prevent holds, freezes, and account terminations. And please take reports of poor customer service with a grain of salt, because I see conflicting accounts there.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

As media darlings, both Stripe and Square have gotten lots of press. They’re both lauded for the way they’ve transformed payments.

I usually feel a little bit silly comparing two businesses in this category because it almost feels like a bit of a popularity contest. But in this case, we’re dealing with two companies who have both gotten a LOT of positive press over the years, not to mention high-profile clients. And the bits of each service that merchants love most are pretty similar, too.

Square merchants love how easy the service is to use. And I tend to agree — Square is one of the most intuitive options out there as far as payments and using the dashboard. Merchants also really like the predictable pricing and lack of fees. Other than that, the integrated invoicing feature and the seamless omnichannel commerce experience are big draws.

Stripe also wins merchants over with its pricing, and its tools are very much loved by developers. While if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, Stripe may feel foreign to you, developers say it’s incredibly easy to use. Also on the dev side of things, it seems like the quality of customer service is great, even if business owners don’t always like the lack of phone support. And unsurprisingly, merchants really seem to love Stripe’s robust subscription tools. The predictable pricing and lack of monthly fees are also appealing.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

Stripe and Square have some very important core similarities: they’re both third-party processors with an assortment of tools that allow merchants to sell online. Neither one is suited to high-risk industries, and there’s a lengthy list of businesses neither company can work with. But despite that, both Stripe and Square offer tools that cater to a huge assortment of industries. They’ll both grow with your business, making it easy to scale up.

But despite their similarities in terms of business model, it’s also pretty clear that what each company does best is completely different.

Square is a spectacular all-in-one processor. You can sell in a store, on the go, and online and get all of your information and payments and orders collected in one simply, intuitive dashboard. There’s a huge array of add-on products that allow you consolidate a host of business functions under one name, and they’re guaranteed to work together perfect. eCommerce support is really the newest branch of Square’s offerings, and it’s a work in progress as the company establishes more partnerships and integrations with other major players.

If you have limited technical knowledge, Square is going to be much easier to get started with and to navigate through the different features. It’s free advanced inventory tools are also very well suited to retailers and other businesses that sell primarily physical goods.

Stripe focuses only on Internet payments (both on the web and in-app), but its tools make it possible for businesses to cater to customers all over the globe. The international appeal — from the local currency displays to the sheer breadth of payment methods accepted — make it clear that Stripe is already a global player.Not only that, but with Stripe’s APIs and documentation, a savvy developer could create all kinds of payments platforms for a business. Business owners who don’t have a developer on staff, and who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge themselves, might struggle with understanding how to use Stripe, especially if you want to do anything more than integrate it with some sort of shopping cart software.

You also get a far more limited scope of features. There’s no native support for omnichannel commerce. No mPOS app, no POS integration to support card-present pricing, no invoicing. If you need more than online payments on a regular basis, Stripe isn’t a suitable choice. But if that’s all you need, Stripe isn’t just a good option — it’s one of the best out there, period. If your business has a global reach, again you’ll find that Stripe once again tops the lists of best solutions.

I’m not comfortable saying that one of these solutions is better than the other because it really comes down to what your priorities are. Do you need something easy to use? Do you want to embrace multiple sales channels? Or are you limited to online sales and want best-in-class tools to reach a global audience, manage subscriptions, and even drive mobile commerce? Square can get the job done, and it’ll be the easier solution, but Stripe offers far more tools.

Sit down, think about what features are absolutely mandatory for you to have — and then look at which ones you’d like to have, but aren’t necessarily required. From there, it should be fairly clear which solution is right for you! Don’t forget to check out our complete reviews of Stripe and Square for more insights into how they function.

Have questions? Leave us a comment and we’ll help! Have experience using either of these tools? We’d love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading!

The post Stripe VS Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools

Shopify is a cloud-based, SaaS solution for online sellers. This ecommerce platform allows you to build a full website, add products, create promotions, and sell from your own site.

Shopify is an incredibly popular solution, hosting online stores for over 500,000 merchants; this popularity is due primarily to Shopify’s simplicity and ease of use. Sellers of all skill levels can set up and operate their stores on Shopify.

What’s more, Shopify is well known for its excellent web design. The platform offers a wide selection of modern and elegantly designed website templates.

Like everything this company does, Shopify’s responsive design is intended to be easy to use and accessible to merchants with little to no experience in web development. Keep reading to learn more about Shopify’s design templates, design tools, and best practices for your own designs.

How Do Shopify Designs Work?

Shopify uses a theme marketplace to provide design templates to their users. Every merchant has access to Shopify’s theme marketplace, which includes 63 themes made to fit a variety of industries and online stores.

When you find one you like, you simply download the whole package and enable it on your site (in some cases, you will have to purchase the theme). You can then tweak your site with a few of the available design tools. We’ll talk more about those design tools later. First, let’s talk about the kinds of Shopify templates available.

Types Of Shopify Templates

Free Shopify Templates

10 of Shopify’s 63 themes are free to download. Those themes are a bit simpler than their premium counterparts. However, many merchants will find that the free themes fit their needs just fine.

Here are a few of our favorite free Shopify templates:

Premium Shopify Templates

If the free themes don’t strike your fancy, take a look at Shopify’s premium themes. These themes are a little more complex, and they are typically priced between $140-$180.

Here are a few examples of Shopify’s premium templates:

Buying Shopify Templates

If you do choose a premium design, purchasing the template is a simple process.

Just go into the theme marketplace, and select the template you’d like to buy. Then, click the “Buy Theme” button located under “Try Theme.”

You’ll be redirected to your admin where you can confirm the purchase.

Then, you can enable your brand new template on your site.

Available Design Tools

Once you’ve found your template, it’s time to start customizing your store. Shopify provides a variety of tools for different levels of customization. Here are a few of the tools you can use to change up your site.

Easy-To-Use Tools

  • WYSIWYG Editor: Use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to quickly update copy and add content to your site, without touching the code.
  • Theme Editor: Use Shopify’s built-in theme editor to make a few simple changes, and preview those changes in real time. You can use this tool to adjust the backgrounds, images, colors, and fonts of your online store.
  • Sections: Sections is Shopify’s new drag-and-drop block design tool. Sections lets you make large-scale changes to your site by adding content blogs and rearranging widgets. This tool is currently only available with select themes. However, Shopify is continually working to expand its availability. View the Sections editor below.

Advanced Customization Tools

While the above tools are great for merchants who simply want to tweak their existing designs, they do have their limitations. If you want to alter your templates more than these easy editors will allow, you’ll have to go deeper.

Here’s how you can best customize your website design:

  • Code Editor: In order to make dramatic changes to your site, you’ll need to really get into the code. Shopify uses the Liquid templating language (Learn more about Liquid). You can also edit your site’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Hire A Shopify Expert: If you want to make changes to your code, but you don’t have the skill to do it, look into outsourcing your customization to Shopify Experts.

Shopify Template Designs & Best Practices

When you select a Shopify theme, you get every template that comes with it. You will have a pre-designed template for your About Us page, storefront, blog, checkout page, etc.

As we’ve already discussed, while most of the design elements are determined by the theme you choose, you can edit a few elements of your online store’s design using available tools.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your site meets with industry best practices on every page:

Shopify Store Templates

Before we get into best practices for your storefront design, let’s take a look at one of Shopify’s preset storefronts. This image is taken from the free Brooklyn theme.

Shopify does a lot right with this preset. And, with a little work, you can make this design even better. Here are a few of the most important factors to keep in mind as you customize your design.

Prioritize Site Navigation

Excellent site navigation helps your customers locate the products they’re looking for, hopefully reducing your store’s bounce rates. One of the best ways to improve site organization is by implementing a navigation bar with a drop-down menu at the top of your site.

This navigation bar should include categories and subcategories (which you can display using a drop down bar). Everything in your navigation bar, from titles to promotions, should be clickable.

Not only does a navigation bar aid your customers, but also it improves your online store’s overall SEO. Listing your categories and subcategories on every page gives Google more keywords to grab onto, helping your site rank better on organic search results.

Focus On Images

Studies show that image-focused responsive design inspires more engagement. Design your homepage to feature your products and your brand with engaging, high-quality images.

Keep Information Above The Fold

Make sure your most important information is displayed at the top of your page, so customers will see it before they scroll. This includes contact information, promotions, shipping information, and your shopping cart icon.

Shopify About Us Templates

The About Us page is your space to shine. Share your story with your customers, and let your brand’s personality come through. Scroll down for a few more tips for your About Us page.

Connect With Customers

Your About Us page should be a place where you build a relationship with your customers. Make sure to welcome customers to your site and don’t be afraid to use flattery. (“You won’t settle for anything but the best!”)

Tell A Story

Every business has a story. Use your About Us page to put your history on display. Show your customers that you are regular people and demonstrate your business’s growth to date.

As you write your About Us page, be sure to use your brand’s own voice. Include all the personality of your brand.

Consider Including Alternative Media

Got a video you’d like to share? This is a great place to put it! Consider using videos, images, and testimonials on this page, as well as links to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.

Shopify Blog Templates

We love that Shopify offers built-in blogs with all their themes and designs. Maintaining an active blog is a great way to build your brand, promote your online store, and harness some extra SEO power. Here’s a look at Shopify’s blog template for the Brooklyn theme. See below for more information on blogging best practices.

Post Regularly

The most important part of having a blog is actually using that blog. Develop a publication schedule and stick to it! Posting frequently and regularly will show customers that your online store is still in business, and it will indicate to Google that your site is active.

Write Relevant & Useful Information

While your blog is an important part of your business’s marketing strategy, your articles should not read like advertisements for your products. Write articles that are interesting, useful, and entertaining to your customers. Each article should have some value for its reader. Keep in mind your customers’ needs and interests as you write.

Shopify Thank You Page Templates

The Thank You page is the page your customers will see after they finalize a purchase. Shopify gives you an excellent starting place with their predesigned Thank You page. However, you can still do more to optimize this page.

Think Upsell

Now that you’ve secured a purchase, it’s the perfect opportunity to encourage more purchases. Consider displaying related products in the sidebar of your Thank You page. You could even provide a discount code for future purchases at your store.

At the very least, make sure customers can easily return to browsing with the easy “Continue Shopping” button that Shopify has already included.

Final Thoughts

If you’re already a Shopify merchant, you’re only a few steps away from a beautiful baseline for your online store. Just take a tour through the theme marketplace, test out any responsive themes that pique your interest with a demo, and settle on one that fits your website design plans.

Then, customize, customize, customize, until your site works exactly the way you need it to!

Are you already using Shopify’s design tools? Do you have any favorite themes? Let us know in the comments below which theme you’re using and how web design is going for your online store.

The post A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Shipping Software For 2018

It’s 4:30 on a Friday and you’re knee-deep in packing peanuts and cardboard boxes. You’ve got twenty orders to pick, pack, and ship before the post office closes, and you keep misplacing your packing slips.

There must be a better way.

If your storage space is covered in packing materials and you record all your shipping information in spreadsheets and Post-It notes, it might be time to try something else.

In the era in which an app solves everything, it makes sense to turn to software solutions to soothe your shipping woes.

Shipping software solutions integrate with most popular eCommerce software programs and can help simplify your day-to-day operations. They let you calculate accurate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips in bulk. They can even grant you discounted shipping rates.

These programs are typically available as SaaS solutions that range in price from $25/month to $99/month — a small price to pay for the shipping issues they resolve.

It’s clear you should subscribe to a shipping software, but with so many options available, how do you choose?

We’ve tested out a handful of shipping solutions, examining price, ease of use, and customer service. Keep reading to learn more about the best shipping software for 2018.

1. ShippingEasy

With a near-perfect score of 4.5 stars, ShippingEasy (see our review) is our top-rated shipping solution for eCommerce businesses. This software is true to its name: it’s easy to learn and use and customer support representatives are ready to help with any potential hiccups.

Best For…

Businesses of all sizes. It works especially well for eCommerce merchants who run their own online stores.

Pricing

Pricing for ShippingEasy is simple and affordable; plans range from $29/month for 500 shipments to $99/month for 6,000 shipments. Each step up in pricing includes more monthly shipments and higher level customer support.

ShippingEasy has a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 shipments/month. For high volume sellers, ShippingEasy also offers enterprise options. Read more about ShippingEasy’s pricing in our full review.

Features

As I mentioned above, we found ShippingEasy to be highly user-friendly. You can easily import orders, create shipments, set shipping parameters, and buy and print postage, shipping labels, and packing slips.

We also like how many features come included with ShippingEasy. And we especially love the fact that ShippingEasy’s partnership with USPS lets you benefit from lower shipping rates. You can save up to 46% on shipping rates when you sign on for one of ShippingEasy’s paid plans.

Other features include:

  • A Free Endicia Account
  • Shipping Status Updates & Real-Time Tracking
  • Individual Or Batch Shipping

If you’re worried that ShippingEasy might not integrate into your eCommerce software, fear no more! ShippingEasy integrates easily with the biggest names in eCommerce, including 3dcart, Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. View all of ShippingEasy’s integrations.

ShippingEasy also has a good record when it comes to customer service. Their support representatives are knowledgeable and helpful.

Takeaway

With so many positives to ShippingEasy, it’s hard to find any downsides. You should note, however, that ShippingEasy still has room to grow when it comes to simplifying their daily operations. In particular, users would like to see improvement in expediting the data entry process.

Otherwise, ShippingEasy is an excellent option. Take a look at our shipping software reviews to learn more about the software or sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Read our full ShippingEasy review

Visit the ShippingEasy website

2. OrderCup

OrderCup (see our review) is one of our favorite shipping software solutions. OrderCup offers an easy to use interface, multi-carrier shipping options, and discounted shipping rates. And best of all, OrderCup provides users with reliable and responsive customer support, so you can get answers to your pressing questions quickly.

Best For…

Merchants who ship between 500 and 12,000 shipments a month and who only need up to 12 users on the platform. With five tiered pricing plans, OrderCup is accessible to many merchants.

Pricing

As I mentioned before, OrderCup separates pricing into five tiers. To add a little fun to the pricing, OrderCup has named each tier after a Starbucks drink size. Plans range from Short to Trenta, and each step up in pricing includes more sales channels, more monthly shipments, and more users.

The Short plan begins at $20/month for 500 monthly shipments, and Trenta costs $180/month for 12,000 monthly shipments.

For more information, view OrderCup’s pricing page.

Features

OrderCup’s dashboard is well-organized and quick to learn. During setup, you’ll be able to integrate your hosted shopping cart. Your online store’s orders will be automatically transferred to your OrderCup dashboard.

Then, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite carriers and start processing orders.

OrderCup’s feature list includes everything you’d expect from a multi-carrier shipping software. They have made arrangements with several carriers, including the USPS, DHL, UK Mail, and DX to offer their customers discounted shipping rates. You’ll also be able to integrate with worldwide shipping carriers across Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Here are a few more features you can expect from OrderCup:

  • Automate Your Shipping Process
  • Print Return Labels To Include With Shipments
  • Bulk Import Orders Using CSV Files
  • Schedule Shipment Pickups
  • Integrate With Third-Party Fulfillment

OrderCup integrates with many eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and Volusion. Integrated marketplaces include Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Check the full list for more information.

Out of all these features, OrderCup users seem to be most enthusiastic about OrderCup’s support team. Support representatives are responsive and patient, often spending up to an hour on the phone with users to make sure everything is working properly. Users also praise OrderCup’s Canadian shipping options; it is easy to ship to and from Canada.

There are few negative comments about OrderCup online, though we have seen customers complain about having to pay extra in order to access phone support and get priority attention for their technical issues.

Takeaway 

OrderCup is one of our favorite shipping software programs, scoring an excellent 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you think this software might be the right fit for your business, we recommend you try it out. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial in minutes.

But if you’d like a bit more information before you proceed, take a look at our complete review. We include in-depth information about pricing, customer service levels, and more.

Read our full OrderCup review

Visit the OrderCup website

3. Ordoro

Ordoro (see our review) is a shipping and inventory application designed for SMBs. Known for its drop-shipping features, Ordoro is particularly popular among Shopify users.

Best For…

Small to medium-sized businesses. Merchants who are planning to dropship can benefit especially from the software.

Pricing

With Ordoro, you have two options. You can use Ordoro to handle just your shipping, or you can have Ordoro handle shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro sets up their pricing structure differently, depending on which features you choose.

In my opinion, it’s best to use Ordoro for shipping only. Paid plans for shipping begin at $25/month and go to $129/month. Each step up in pricing includes additional features and monthly shipments. There’s also a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 orders/month.

Pricing for shipping and inventory management is structured much differently. The lowest plan costs $199/month for 700 orders. This plan includes drop shipping features. Plans can go as high as $499/month for 4,000 orders. For more information, view Ordoro’s pricing page.

Features

Ordoro comes with a minimalistic user interface. You can easily link your shopping cart to your new Ordoro account during setup. Then you’ll be able to sync your inventory and push new orders automatically to Ordoro. You can create shipping labels and packing slips one-by-one or in bulk.

Ordoro’s best feature is without a doubt their dropshipping functionality (available with shipping + inventory plans). You can set select items to ship directly from your supplier, and you can automatically split orders to dropship from multiple suppliers.

Here are a few more features that come with Orodoro:

  • Process Orders From Multiple Sales Channels
  • Integrate With USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, & Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime
  • Best-In-Industry Shipping Rates (Up To 67% With USPS)
  • Tracking Number Automatically Sent To Customers Upon Shipment
  • Inventory Management (If You Choose To Purchase It)

Ordoro integrates with a wide variety of eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, FBA, 3dcart, Magento, WooCommerce, and more. See if your preferred vendor is on the full list.

Ordoro users have a lot of good things to say about the platform. In particular, they praise Ordoro’s technical support options. Customers report that a real person will be available to answer your support concerns. On the off chance you can’t reach anyone, Ordoro’s knowledge base is detailed and well organized. You might find the information you need there.

I’ve seen a few negative reports of Ordoro. Some customers cite trouble syncing their Ordoro account with other software programs (namely Shopify and FedEx). Other customers complain that while Ordoro’s interface is easy to navigate, that simplicity is due to a lack of features.

Takeaway

In our opinion, Ordoro is best suited to small businesses, especially those that engage in a lot of dropshipping. To learn more about Ordoro, read our full review, or try out the platform yourself by signing up for a free 15-day trial.

Read our full Ordoro review

Visit the Ordoro website

4. ShipStation

ShipStation

ShipStation (see our review) is arguably the best-known shipping solution, partly due to the company’s excellent marketing campaigns and partly due to the numerous integrations they offer with major eCommerce vendors.

Best For…

Small to mid-sized businesses, particularly those which sell online.

Pricing

Pricing for ShipStation is on par with industry standards. You can choose from six pricing tiers, ranging from $9/month for 50 orders to $145/month for unlimited shipments. ShipStation does not offer a free plan, but they do offer a free 30-day trial of their software.

Features

When it comes to ease of use, ShipStation prioritizes functionality over aesthetics, which is perfectly fine by me!

If you have any trouble learning your way around, ShipStation provides video tutorials to help you figure out the admin. In general, we think that ShipStation is highly usable, though it may take some time to get the hang of the advanced tools.

ShipStation offers the basic collection of features, including the following:

  • Integrations For USPS, UPS, FedEx, & DHL Accounts
  • Discounts On USPS Priority & Express Mail
  • Stamps.com Account Included
  • Batch-Print Hundreds Of Shipping Labels & Packing Slips
  • Print A Return Label To Include In Your Shipments

ShipStation really shines when it comes to integrations. Check out this full list to see which eCommerce platforms, shipping carriers, and payment solutions integrate easily with ShipStation. Happily, it integrates with the most popular eCommerce solutions, including BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Volusion, Miva Merchant, and PrestaShop.

ShipStation’s customer service is available by email. They also provide live webinars, a knowledge base, and a community forum.

We see only one potential issue with ShipStation: it’s lacking customer management features. You cannot add identifying characteristics to a customer’s account, and ShipStation does not always recognize a customer when they make a second purchase on a different sales channel. However, for most users, this difficulty is not a deal breaker.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for an efficient, reliable shipping solution, ShipStation may be the way to go. Once you invest some time into learning the system, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a feature-rich shipping solution.

Learn more about ShipStation in our full review or take it for a spin with a 30-day free trial.

Read our full ShipStation review

Visit the ShipStation website

 

5. ShipRush

ShipRush (see our review) is an affordable software solution that is designed to make shipping selection efficient. ShipRush displays rates from multiple different carriers on the same page in your admin, allowing you to quickly and easily choose the most cost-effective shipping rates. What’s more, ShipRush offers support for many different types of shipping, including individual package shipping, freight shipping, and LTL shipping. Keep reading to learn more about the merits of ShipRush.

Best For…

Merchants who need to ship freight. I would recommend ShipRush primarily to smaller businesses, as the pricing model is designed for three users (though more can be added on at an additional expense).

Pricing

ShipRush’s pricing model is simple. It is divided into two options: Web and Desktop.

ShipRush’s web option is based on a monthly payment model and costs $29.95/month for up to three users (additional users can be added on three at a time for an additional $29.95/month).

On the other hand, the ShipRush Desktop version can be purchased annually for $795/year per workstation.

Features

You can test out ShipRush for 60 days by signing up for a free trial. Once you sign up, you’ll be presented with this dashboard.

The dashboard is a bit austere, but we don’t mind much as ShipRush has proved itself to be very functional.

Once I got over the initial learning curve, I was able to calculate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips easily.

Here are a few other features that ShipRush users benefit from:

  • Discounted Shipping Rates (Save Up To 60% On USPS Rates & 21% On FedEx Rates)
  • View Rates From Multiple Carriers On One Screen
  • Send Notifications To Customers When Orders Ship
  • Dropshipping Support
  • Print Scan-Based Return Labels

For the full list, head over to ShipRush’s website.

ShipRush integrates with over 75 eCommerce platforms, payment processors, shipping carriers, and accounting and CRM software apps. These integrations include 3dcart, Ecwid, LemonStand, Big Cartel, Shopify, FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

ShipRush has a lot of positives. Customers especially like the quality customer service and the relative ease of use. One downfall potential users should note is that merchants who maintain a large inventory (thousands of products) may have a hard time with the software. Creating shipping rules for all these different types of products could be more effort than it’s worth.

Takeaway

ShipRush is a great software for many businesses. It’s affordable, functional, and reliable, and you can test it out for yourself using their free 60-day trial.

For more information on ShipRush, take a look at our complete review of the platform. Otherwise, keep reading for more shipping options.

Read our full ShipRush review

Visit the ShipRush website

6. ShipHawk

ShipHawk (see our review) is a bit different than the alternative shipping software we cover above. While those software programs provide easy to use interfaces and hundreds of features, ShipHawk focuses its energy on one thing: an algorithm. ShipHawk is a complex shipping calculator, designed for large businesses and businesses that ship oversized or unique items.

Best For…

Larger businesses. ShipHawk’s cheapest plan is targeted at merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. ShipHawk is also good for merchants who ship uniquely shaped or oversized items.

Pricing

ShipHawk offers three pricing tiers. With each step up in pricing, you’ll be able to ship more parcels and freight and have access to more advanced features and technical support.

The Starter plan starts at $250/month and is for merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. Then there’s the Pro plan, which begins at $2K/month and is intended for annual shipping expenses up to $2M; finally, there’s the Enterprise plan, for an annual spend of up to $25M. Enterprise begins at $4,500/month.

As you can see, ShipHawk is not a cheap platform. It is designed for high volume shippers who need a high volume platform.

Features

In order to test out ShipHawk, you can sign up for a free demo of the starter plan. I didn’t find ShipHawk to be as intuitive as other shipping software apps I’ve tested. However, given time, I was able to figure out a few features. And as a whole, the dashboard seems well designed.

As I’ve mentioned before, ShipHawk works a bit differently than most shipping software when it comes to features. While ShipHawk does offer some of your typical features, they primarily advertise the calculator behind the software. ShipHawk will help estimate expenses for hard-to-ship items.

Here are a few of the more notable features:

  • Get Quotes From Multiple Carriers
  • Real-Time Tracking Updates
  • API: Integrate With Shipping Carriers & Shopping Cart Software
  • Set Up Automatic Shipping Rules
  • Provide Shipping Options To Customers

ShipHawk advertises that you can integrate with most software solutions through their API. You can expect to find pre-built integrations with a few shipping carriers and shopping carts, including DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS, Magento, Shopify, and more.

Customer feedback regarding ShpHawk is very limited. However, after some time searching the web, I was able to find a few comments. Customers primarily love ShipHawk’s customer service and robust calculation abilities. I myself was a bit disappointed with ShipHawk’s support material. There did not seem to be enough tutorial information to help me set up the program.

Takeaway

ShipHawk is not the right fit for many of our readers. However, if you ship thousands of products each month and you need access to freight and individual shipments, ShipHawk may be right for you. Test it out with a free demo and read our review for more information.

Read our full ShipHawk review

Visit the ShipHawk website

Get Started!

If you’re tired of losing yourself in packing peanuts and misplaced notes-to-self, try out one of these software options. You’ll find that shipping is much less of a chore when order processing and fulfillment is automated, organized, and synchronized. With many solutions beginning at $25/month, shipping software is a small investment that could do a lot for your business. Click one of the buttons above to get started with a free trial, or search our site for more quality shipping software reviews.

Good luck, and happy shipping!

The post Best Shipping Software For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is DHL eCommerce?

What is DHL eCommerce?

On this site, we often discuss shipping carriers, but most of the time we focus on UPS, USPS, and FedEx. We don’t frequently mention DHL, an alternative shipping carrier specializing in international shipping. This article is here to remedy that.

DHL offers services for domestic and international shipping, including pickup, delivery, and return. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by three partners: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. The name “DHL” is a compilation of the initials of their last names. Since its founding, the company has grown to employ over 350,000 individuals and serve over 220 countries and territories.

DHL is now based in Bonn, Germany with regional offices in US and Singapore. They offer logistics and fulfillment services for some markets in the Americas, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

Along with their regular services, DHL includes a specific set of services for online sellers: DHL eCommerce. Keep reading for a quick breakdown of what DHL eCommerce could offer your business.

Who Can Use DHL eCommerce?

As DHL is a worldwide shipping service, merchants from many different countries can take advantage of the service.

However, it is important to note that DHL eCommerce is intended only for high volume shippers. In order to use DHL eCommerce, you must meet the minimum shipping requirements. These requirements are as follows:

  • 50 Items Per Day For International Shipping Services
  • 100 Items Per Day For Domestic Shipping Services

What Does DHL eCommerce Include?

DHL eCommerce lets you take advantage of a few valuable shipping tools and services. Here’s what you can expect as an online seller:

Affordable International Shipping Options

  • Affordable Cross-Border Shipping With Returns
  • Choose Your Service Level & Features
  • B2C Customs Clearance
  • Start-To-Finish Delivery & Returns
  • Network Of Drop-Off & Pick-Up Locations
  • Global Fulfillment Network
  • B2C & B2B Fulfillment

Delivery Options

  • Connect To Domestic Delivery Networks
  • Cash On Delivery (COD)
  • E-Wallet Payment Options
  • Multiple Delivery Options
  • Six Delivery Days Per Week
  • Green Delivery Options

Integrate With Your Other Services

  • Integrated Tracking From Start To Finish
  • Integration Options
    • APIs, Web Portals, Major Marketplaces, eCommerce Platforms
  • Email & SMS Tracking Updates

For a full breakdown of the services included in DHL eCommerce, take a look at this pdf from DHL.

Shipping Services & Pricing

DHL breaks services into two main categories: International and Domestic. Pricing varies between these two types of shipping. As you might imagine, international shipping typically comes with more fees than domestic shipping.

Beyond that, pricing will vary between each package. As with any other shipping carrier, pricing depends upon a package’s size and weight, as well as the distance over which the package is shipped.

Take a look below at the services that DHL offers within each category.

International Shipping With DHL eCommerce

In order to figure out the cost of shipping for your packages, you’ll need to get a quote from DHL. Take a look at the table below (taken from DHL’s website) to see which international services you should consider:

Then you can contact a DHL eCommerce representative to get a quote for your products.

International DHL ICart Software

International shipping services also include DHL’s ICart Software, which should make processing online shipping expenses a bit easier.

This software integrates with your shopping cart (via APIs) to make shipping calculations simpler. You’ll be able to provide customers with the full cost of delivery in their own currency, including expenses related to taxes, duties, and shipping costs.

For more information about DHL ICart, take a look at this pdf.

Domestic Shipping

DHL partners with local postal services (like the USPS) to offer their domestic shipping services. In the States, USPS handles the final mile and return pickups, and DHL manages the initial pickup and sorting of the packages. Take a look at the tables below to view DHL’s domestic options:

As with DHL’s international shipping options, you’ll need to contact a representative to get a quote for your store’s shipping.

Additional Information & Services

For more information on DHL’s additional fees and surcharges, direct your browsers to this page on DHL’s site. You’ll find information on DHL eCommerce tracking, calculating chargeable weight (and understanding that pesky dimensional weight), fuel surcharges, and information on what DHL will and will not ship.

You can also view information on shipment insurance, which is available through U-PIC Insurance Services. You can insure up to $100 USD per package, and additional coverage is available.

Here are a few more services you can take advantage of:

Web Portal To Manage Your Shipments

DHL customers all gain access to DHL’s customer web portal. You can use this web-based admin to manage and monitor a variety of important aspects of your shipping. Here’s a quick list of available features:

  • View Shipment Data & Reports
  • Print Labels & Create Tracking Numbers
  • Batch Upload Feature
  • Access To Invoice & Shipment Rates
  • Delivery Performance Rates
  • Advanced Warning Reports
  • Package Delay Reports
  • Schedule Pickups & Create Bills Of Lading
  • Create & Track Return Labels

Warehousing & Fulfillment Options

Outsourcing your fulfillment has huge benefits for merchants. First and most notably, by letting someone else store your products and pick, pack, and ship your orders, you free up loads of time in your day.

What’s more, storing products in multiple warehouses across the country will bring your merchandise closer to customers, shortening delivery times.

DHL currently has two warehouses in the states. One is located in the oh-so-central Columbus, OH and the other is in Riverside, CA. In addition, a new warehouse is coming to New Jersey soon. To learn more about DHL’s fulfillment services, take a look at their FAQs.

Final Thoughts

If you often deliver packages internationally and you ship over 50-100 items per day, DHL may be the way to go.

However, as you consider DHL, you should keep in mind that both UPS and FedEx also offer start-to-finish international shipping options. Take a look at our comparison of USPS, UPS, and FedEx to learn more.

No matter what, you’ll want to contact DHL to get a quote for your business’s shipping needs. Having a dollar estimate in mind will help you greatly as you continue to compare shipping carriers.

Best of luck!

The post What Is DHL eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce

selling internationally

Online sellers are always looking to expand–expand their product catalogs, expand the reach of their marketing, and expand across sales channels. And when it comes to expansion, there’s no bigger project to undertake than international growth.

Successfully going global is only possible if you have the appropriate resources in the form of products, market, and software. And while finding a market and products is up to you, we here at Merchant Maverick can help when it comes to choosing the correct software.

International sellers demand more from their shopping cart setups than do domestically-based merchants. You’ll need your shopping cart to be able to display your site in multiple languages and currencies. What’s more, you’ll need to be able to handle complicated taxes and shipping functions. Your eCommerce software should either come with these features already built in or be able to integrate with extensions to fill the gaps.

In this blog, we’ll be discussing four carts that offer merchants the features (and integrations) they need to sell internationally. These software companies maintain a global focus, giving you multiple options for global success and staffing a diverse team of developers from all across the world. If you need the power to create a multilingual site — and a multilingual support team on hand at the moment’s notice — look no further than this list.

Keep reading to learn which eCommerce software programs we recommend for global expansion.

PrestaShop

prestashop logo

With PrestaShop, international is the name of the game. PrestaShop is behind 270,000 stores worldwide. They have headquarters in Miami and Paris and employ over 100 employees who are proud to speak a variety of languages.

PrestaShop is open-source software that is free to download, highly customizable, and offers loads of add-ons. With a strong international user community supporting the development of the software, you can expect new releases and extensions regularly.

PrestaShop’s biggest downfall is that you’ll need developer skills in order to best use the software. What’s more, PrestaShop’s customer support costs a bit more than you may be willing to spend.

PrestaShop comes with a robust feature set built in. Here are a few of the ways PrestaShop is especially good for international sellers:

  • Set Currencies & Automate Exchange Rates: Set your shop to accept a wide number of currencies.
  • Multi-language Product Sheet: Quickly import product information in multiple languages.
  • International Forum: Find support from other users in a variety of languages.
  • PrestaShop Translation Product: Users can assist in translating new versions of PrestaShop.
  • International Add-Ons: Purchase and download extensions from international developers to further broaden your store’s functionality.

For more information on PrestaShop, check out our full review or try one of PrestaShop’s easy-to-access demos.

WooCommerce

woocommerce logo

WooCommerce is one of the most widely used eCommerce solutions around. While the stats are uncertain (WooCommerce claims a part in 28% of all online stores, while BuiltWith says Woo is behind 42%), what is certain is that Woo is enormously popular in the eCommerce world.

WooCommerce is free, open-source software that plugs directly into WordPress.com. It is highly customizable and scalable. WooCommerce’s Achille’s heel, as with many open source solutions, is the unfortunate combination of limited customer support and a moderate learning curve. WooCommerce also follows a Core+Extensions model, which means that built-in features tend to be rather basic.

Despite these obstacles, WooCommerce is an excellent choice for international sellers. With employees located in 19 different countries, you’re sure to find support in a range of languages. And given the many international developers contributing to the project, international features are well within reach.

Here are a few of the international selling features that WooCommerce offers:

  • Calculated Taxes: Set tax rates for the countries and regions in which you sell your products. Show taxes based on your customer’s shipping address and billing address and your store’s base address.
  • Supports International Transactions: Accept multiple currencies with the right payment gateways.
  • WooCommerce Translation Project: Users help make WooCommerce available in multiple languages.

For more information, take a look at WooCommerce’s tips for selling internationally. Or, head over to our review and download the software for free.

Magento

magento logo

If you’re looking into open-source solutions, but our first two suggestions don’t quite meet the mark, you should take a look at Magento.

Magento is used by developers worldwide and supports a user base of 250,000 merchants. With such a wide base, the Magento marketplace is always growing. You can expect a steady release of new extensions and payment gateways from Magento’s global developers.

As an open-source software solution, Magento comes with similar advantages to PrestaShop and WooCommerce. The software is free to download, highly customizable, and scalable. Magento includes a robust feature set and boasts an international user community.

As you might expect, the trouble with Magento lies in its usability. In order to best utilize the platform, you’ll need to have confidence in your developer skills. The software comes with a steep learning curve, and there is no phone number to dial for technical support.

Regardless, Magento is a great shopping cart for merchants who are looking to expand internationally. Here are a few of the reasons you should consider Magento:

  • International Forum: Get help from a community of 150,000 developers. These developers can also help you create extensions that work for your target countries.
  • Extensions: Take your pick of a vast marketplace of extensions. You’ll find extensions for international payment gateways, currencies, and shipping carriers.

For more information on using Magento to sell globally, take a look at the company’s advice on making your site global ready. To learn more about Magento in general, head on over to our full review or get started now by downloading the platform for free.

Shopify

shopify logo

If you’re in the eCommerce industry, you’ve heard of Shopify. This Canadian SaaS solution is famous for its usability and clean design. And over the past few years, Shopify has skyrocketed in popularity. The platform now hosts over 500,000 stores worldwide.

Shopify is the only hosted solution we’ll be including in this list. In general, if you’re looking to build a website that reaches customers around the world, open-source is your best approach. With so much opportunity for customization and growth, you’ll likely find that an open-source solution better fits your international store’s needs.

However, like we’ve discussed, open-source comes with its own challenges, including limited usability and technical support. And so, if you want to take a global approach but aren’t sure you can handle the technical challenges of open-source, Shopify may be the way to go.

Here are a few of the international selling features you can benefit from as a Shopify user:

  • Multi-lingual Checkout: You can set your checkout to operate in over 50 languages. You’ll need to translate the rest of your theme on your own.
  • Non-US Taxes: Set up tax rates for other countries. You can also set your store to charge taxes on shipping rates.
  • Numerous Payment Gateways: Take your pick from over 100 payment processors in order to accept payments worldwide.

For more information on Shopify, take a look at our full review or get hands-on experience by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one or more of these shopping cart options has piqued your interest. As always, I encourage you to take your research further. Read our full reviews, look up comments from current customers, and take advantage of every trial and demo you can get your hands on.

You might also read our article, The Most Important Questions To Ask Before Shipping Internationally, and download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store. In this fifty page guide, we unpack everything you need to consider as you approach online selling.

But for those of you who are already planning your global expansion, I wish you the best of luck and bon voyage!

The post Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy

Shipping effectively is one of the most complex aspects of online selling, and a topic we focus on frequently here at Merchant Maverick. With so many variables affecting shipping, it can be difficult to know where your business stands. You could be missing out on valuable opportunities for savings or faster shipping without even knowing!

To help reveal some of these potential blind spots, we’ve compiled a list of 10 red-flag indicators. It may be time to rethink your shipping strategy if…

1. You Have Not Reevaluated Your Shipping Strategy Within The Past Year

Shipping rates change as often as teen fashion. If you aren’t up to date on the most recent pricing adjustments, your dollars may be flying right out the door.

And shipping rates aren’t the only elements in flux. Very likely, your fulfillment trends are changing frequently as well. Your customer base and shipping volume will vary from year to year. You may now have more international customers than you did in 2016, and you may be shipping larger items than in previous years.

A shipping strategy is not something you can set and forget. Much like your annual budget, your shipping strategy is something that should be monitored and reconsidered regularly.

If it’s been a year (or more) since you last considered your shipping methods, now is the time to look again!

2. You Use Only One Shipping Carrier

Variety is the spice of life, but it’s also the key to success when it comes to shipping. What one shipping carrier does poorly, another does well. If you sell products in multiple dimensions and weights (and most merchants do), you should be using at least two shipping carriers in your fulfillment process.

The main three shipping carriers are USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and every one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, we’ve written an entire article describing the pros and cons of each carrier. Take a look at that article for more information or view a very brief summary of each carrier’s best qualities below.

USPS: Cheapest Option For Small & Light Packages

The USPS (US Postal Service) is without a doubt the cheapest option for merchants selling small and light products. If your packages weight less than two pounds, USPS will likely ship for the lowest rates — and if packages are lighter than 13 ounces, USPS simply can’t be beat.

UPS: Guaranteed Express Shipping

If you’re an Amazon Prime user, you may have noticed that many two-day shipments are delivered by UPS. That’s because UPS provides dependable, fast shipping with advanced tracking services. If you need to get a package to your customer ASAP, UPS may be the way to go.

FedEx: Saturday Delivery

Unlike UPS, FedEx does not charge additional fees for Saturday delivery. It’s all part of their regular offerings. Delivering products to your customers two days early could be the edge your business needs.

For more detailed information about the pros and cons of each shipping service, take a look at our article: USPS, UPS, Or FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

3. You Don’t Use Shipping Software

If you’re already using two or more shipping carriers, you know that juggling multiple shipping rates can be difficult. Integrating with a robust shipping software can eliminate or diminish a few of the challenges that inevitably come with a diverse shipping strategy.

Shipping software programs, like Shipping Easy, ShipStation, and Ordoro, simplify the shipping process by running rates calculations for you. They also generate packing slips and shipping labels, which you can print in bulk.

What’s more, these software companies typically make arrangements with major shipping carriers to offer discounts on shipping rates. If you haven’t tried a shipping software yet, the discounts alone may be worth it.

Read our article, The Best Shipping Software Solutions For eCommerce Businesses, to learn more about which options may be right for your store.

4. You Don’t Give Your Customers Options

Customers love options. When it comes to shipping speed and price, you should provide customers with at least few different choices.

I recommend giving customers three options: free and slow; cheap and moderately paced (around 5-7 business days); and fast and expensive.

Not every merchant can offer free shipping to all their customers, but I recommend finding some way, however limited, to provide free shipping without breaking the bank. For example, you could try offering free shipping for purchases over a set amount or running free shipping promos. Test your options until you find something that works.

By giving your customers choices, you decrease the risk of cart abandonment. You won’t scare away customers who would rather wait a few days than pay for expedited shipping, and you won’t frustrate customers who need your products tomorrow.

5. You Don’t Get Packaging Materials For Free

If you purchase all of your shipping materials, you could be missing out on big savings.

Many merchants are unaware that the USPS offers free boxes and envelopes to their customers. You can order these packing materials and have them delivered to your warehouse. Keep in mind that these boxes are intended to be used for USPS’s Priority Mail. So, if you’re going to be using these free packaging materials, you should also be shipping via Priority Mail.

If you’re really trying to save a buck and you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, you can take a dumpster diving approach. Contact local brick-and-mortar businesses and ask if you can raid their recycling bin. Retail stores get rid of loads of cardboard and filler material every week, and they might not be opposed to you repurposing some of that waste.

Be creative, and you will find ways to save on the everyday aspects of shipping!

6. Customers Complain About Late Packages

This one is a no-brainer. If customers aren’t receiving their purchases on time, something needs to be done.

Start by considering your order processing system. How long does it take to get an order packaged, labeled, and out the door? Is there anything you can do to streamline that process?

Next, revisit your site’s shipping promises to make sure they’re in line with what shipping carriers can reasonably deliver. Only advertise delivery times that you can guarantee.

If the fault for your delivery delays lies with your shipping carriers, you should consider signing up with 71lbs. 71lbs will automatically file for shipping refunds on FedEx and UPS packages that are delivered even one minute late. This could amount to big bucks for you, which may redeem some of the damage done by late shipments.

7. You’ve Never Heard Of Last Mile Delivery

Last mile delivery services (UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost) let you ship one package through two different carriers, ultimately cutting down on shipping costs.

With last mile delivery, your packages ship first with a private carrier (UPS or FedEx) until they reach your customer’s local post office. The USPS handles the delivery from there.

Letting the USPS handle the last mile of your deliveries will add an extra day or so to your delivery time, but it will also eliminate the residential surcharges that you would have incurred with UPS and FedEx.

You will have to determine for yourself whether an extra day’s delay in shipping is worth the savings. Either way, just being aware of the option is a step in the right direction.

8. You “Wing It” When It Comes To Return Shipping

You work hard to sell your products, so it’s discouraging when customers change their minds about their purchases. Unfortunately, no matter how good your product descriptions and images are, you will always be faced with customers who simply don’t want your products after they’ve been delivered.

With a return rate as high as 20% for apparel and soft good (up to 30% during the holidays!), returns are inevitable. So when it comes to managing returns, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Create a refund policy early on and make that policy very clear. Put it on your FAQs page, on every product page, and on your checkout page.

If you have chosen to offer free refunds, one strategy you may consider is including pre-printed return labels with your shipments. Your customers will simply attach these labels to their returns and drop them off at a nearby carrier office. You will only be charged for these shipping labels when they are scanned.

If you’d prefer not to make returns quite so available to your customers, you can also offer free (or paid) return labels through email when requested.

Regardless, you should have a set plan for returns, rather than scrambling every time the issue arises.

9. You Don’t Include Branded & Promotional Inserts

The way you choose to package your products says a lot about your brand. eCommerce marketers refer to this branding as the “unboxing experience,” and you want your brand to shine as your customers receive their orders.

However, for many sellers, the expense of custom boxes and luxurious filler material is simply too much to justify. If this is you, you may consider instead including a few branded inserts in your packages.

This is your opportunity to communicate with your customers away from a computer screen. Send thank you notes, promotional inserts, or small gifts in every package. Engage with your customers in a more personal way by giving them a tangible piece of your brand.

10. You Spend Too Much Time Filling Orders

Your main job should be managing your business, not filling orders. So, if you spend a large portion of your time packaging and shipping orders, now is a good time to reevaluate your shipping strategy.

Consider integrating with a solid shipping software program and/or hiring additional help to tackle that overwhelming number of orders. Just one extra person working a few hours each week can free you up to take care of more important things, like actually running an online store.

If you’ve tried all of that already and you’re still swimming in packing peanuts, it may be time to go one step further. Look into outsourcing your fulfillment with a professional logistics company. These fulfillment services will store, package, and ship your products. What’s more, they’ll handle all aspects of customer service pertaining to shipping. Of course, convenience comes at a cost, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of these services as you make your decision.

Take a look at our article, Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your Fulfillment, to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Do you resonate with any of the statements above? If so, it’s time to dive back into your business plan and rethink how you do fulfillment. Simplify, streamline, and save!

Find more resources about mastering shipping in our blog or read the shipping section of our free, downloadable eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.

The post 10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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