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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 (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 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.


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
  • 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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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 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 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 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 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.


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.


How Does Shopify Work?

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If you’ve just begun looking into shopping cart software, chances are you’ve run into Shopify (see our review). Shopify is an all-inclusive online selling platform. For one monthly rate, you can create and develop an online store from which you can promote, sell, and ship your products.

Shopify is popular due to its low startup cost and easy-to-use interface. It’s possible to run a complete online store for as low as $29/month, and you can have everything online in less than a week!

Shopify is an excellent solution for many merchants, though it’s not perfect. Keep reading for more information about what comes included in a Shopify subscription, the merits and disadvantages of the software, and how to set up a Shopify store.

Table of Contents

What Does A Shopify Subscription Include?

Shopify is a cloud-based, SaaS (software as a service) shopping cart solution. A monthly fee gives you access to an admin panel where you can enter store data, add products, and process orders.

In addition, you’ll be able to choose from a rich selection of free and for-purchase design templates. These themes are clean and modern, and Shopify provides a variety of editing tools which you can use to make your chosen theme fit your brand.

What’s more, a subscription with Shopify includes secure, reliable hosting for your website. You don’t have to worry about your site crashing during peak traffic or hackers hijacking your transactions. With 99.9% uptime and a free SSL certificate, Shopify has you covered.

Finally, your monthly payment entitles you to comprehensive 24/7 customer support. You’ll be able to contact support via phone, email, and live chat. And you can also use Shopify’s knowledge base to solve smaller problems on your own.

Shopify boasts that they’re an all-in-one solution. With a Shopify subscription, you should have everything you need to quickly begin selling on your very own site.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Shopify?

As you may expect, while Shopify is an excellent option for many merchants, it isn’t for everyone. Here’s a brief list of the reasons merchants choose Shopify, followed by a list of common customer complaints.


  • Easy To Use: This is by far the biggest reason merchants love Shopify. Shopify is built for the technically illiterate. It’s simple to add products, create discounts, and process orders. Web design is user-friendly — and even easy — with the new drag-and-drop editing tool.
  • Low Startup Cost: Shopify’s relatively low monthly fees make setup affordable. The basic plan costs $29/month and the mid-level plan is priced at $79/month.
  • Beautiful Themes: Subscribing merchants can choose from a variety of free, mobile responsive themes. Premium (paid) themes are also available for merchants who want more options.
  • Good For Dropshippers: Shopify is the platform of choice for many dropshippers. Integrations with Ordoro and Oberlo make dropshipping from your Shopify admin a lot simpler.
  • Lots Of Support Options: You can access technical support every hour of the day through phone, live chat, or email. Self-help options are available as well. Customers like that support is available outside of regular business hours.


  • Limited Functionality: Shopify comes pre-loaded with almost all of the features smaller merchants need to build an online store. However, every business has some specialized requirements, and Shopify typically does not have the features to meet those specific needs. This is where add-ons come in. Many merchants end up needing to purchase a handful of add-ons to make this shopping cart work the way they need it to.
  • Costly Add-Ons: As I’ve said, while Shopify offers almost every basic feature, the software is lacking many advanced features. You’ll have to find these features in the form of add-ons, which are not free. The cost of adding just three add-ons can double your monthly fees.
  • Transaction Fees: Although most shopping carts have dropped their transaction fees entirely, Shopify has retained their 0.5% to 2.0% fees (depending on your pricing plan).
  • Strained Customer Support: While in the past Shopify has been known for responsive customer support, it seems their support team has experienced increased strain this past year. Shopify’s client load is increasing exponentially, and support is struggling to keep up. Hold times of up to thirty minutes are not uncommon.

How Do You Make Shopify Work For You?

The way to get the most out of your Shopify subscription is to play to the software’s strengths. Shopify offers a few feature modules that you can use to boost your administrative power and expedite daily processes. Here are a few of Shopify’s strong points;

  • Shopify Shipping: Shopify’s brand new shipping modules allows you to integrate with major shipping carriers in order to calculate real-time shipping rates. You can purchase and print shipping labels directly from your admin panel. You should note that this shipping module does not let you display calculated rates in your customers’ shopping carts.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify allows you to integrate with a handful of dropshipping applications, including Ordoro and Oberlo. I have seen numerous reports of success with these applications in combination with Shopify.
  • Mobile Management: Shopify offers a mobile app, which lets you manage your store from anywhere.
  • Integrations With Amazon & eBay: Connect your Shopify account with two of the internet’s biggest marketplaces. Process orders from all of your sales channels in Shopify. It should be noted that while we’re glad Shopify has bothered to create these integrations, they have not garnered good reviews with Shopify’s user base. Read our article on the two integrations to learn more.

How Do You Start?

If you’re considering Shopify, take the first step to getting started and sign up for their 14-day free trial. You won’t have to enter any credit card information to access the trial; they’ll just need you to submit contact information and answer a few questions about your business.

During your trial, make sure to test every aspect of Shopify’s software. Add products, create marketing campaigns, change your storefront design, and add on an application or two. Make sure Shopify can handle all of your daily operations. Look for any advanced features you may need, like filtered search, abandoned cart notifications, and pop-up promos.

Once you’re sure Shopify is the right choice for you, choose your appropriate pricing plan, and get moving.

If you didn’t already do so in your trial, you’ll need to begin by adding your company’s basic information. Providing an accurate location will help estimate shipping rates and taxes.

You can then head over to the products section to upload your wares. Make sure to list weight and dimensions for each item as this will help Shopify accurately calculate shipping rates in Shopify Shipping.

As you add your products, you should keep in mind your ultimate vision for the design of your site. Take a look at Shopify’s selection and choose a theme that fits your brand and accommodates the number of products you plan to offer.

For example, don’t choose a theme that does not include drop-down menus if you plan to list 500+ products. With so many items, you’ll need to be able to create subcategories.

As you explore your new platform, don’t forget about Shopify’s vast App store. Shopify offers over 1500 extensions and applications which can help fill in any gaps in features you may find.

And when you run into trouble, you can always reach out to Shopify’s support team. At this time, you can expect hold times of up to 30 minutes, so I would first look into Shopify’s knowledge base before calling.

Final Thoughts

Shopify is an excellent shopping cart for many merchants. Its easy to use interface, reasonable pricing model, and beautiful themes make it one of our favorite eCommerce solutions, and we recommend it frequently to readers.

But as always, I suggest you continue your research before you commit to the software. Head over to our full Shopify review for complete information on the pros and cons of the platform. Then, sign up for a free trial to test out the software yourself. Our reviews are just a place to begin. Your own experience with the software is more valuable than any advice I can give.

Best of luck and happy researching!

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull


7 Ways To Make Your Business Website Better

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As a reviewer of small business software and services — and a human who lives in the modern era — I’ve seen my share of business websites. Many of them are so basic that they serve only to confirm that the business in question, be it a bowling alley or an accountancy firm, is not merely a front for backroom bookie Big Sal and his associates (Fingers, Lefty, and Slippery Joe). What is dodgier than a business without a URL, after all?

(Read this article if you’re wondering whether your small business even needs a website. Spoiler alert: it does.)

Few websites are anything other than forgettable, and the ones that stand out usually owe their memorability to monumentally funny errors rather than to craftsman-level design.

Your website can be — and should be — more than just an online throwback to the yellow pages, a mere repository for basic information about hours and addresses and contact emails. Your website was destined for greatness. And I’m going to help you take it there. Here are several steps you can take to make sure your website stands out for all the right reasons:

Table of Contents

Join The 21st Century (Be Mobile Responsive)

When I say, “join the 21st century,” I am not being snarky in the manner of a 90s sitcom character. (If I were, I would have said: Welcome to the Oughts, holmes!)

I am trying to stress the importance of having a modern, mobile-responsive site. There’s a word for businesses with websites that don’t work well on smartphones. And that word is defunct.

Consumers are addicted to their mobile devices. And according to this article by Marketing Land, mobile devices now drive an estimated 56% of web traffic. That’s right — chances are that more than half of your customers will find your website on their mobile browser. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, I guarantee they will exit your page as quickly as they enter.

When viewed on a smartphone, non-responsive sites appear either too large or too small, requiring the reader to manually adjust the screen. Responsive sites, on the other hand, automatically adjust to accommodate each device, be it an iPhone, a Kindle, or a Galaxy Note8. Mobile sites are often simpler and/or allow the visitor to scroll down for more information, rather than navigating from one page to another.

Effective mobile sites are sleek, minimalistic repositories of information. They should be reminiscent of your full site and good ambassadors for your brand. They should not make people throw their phones in anger.

Happily, most do-it-yourself website builders allow for mobile responsive design; if yours doesn’t, it’s time to look for a new platform. And it goes without saying that if you’re paying a developer to design your site, you should insist that they make it responsive. If you want more information about this topic or tips about how to make it work for you, read our articles What Is Responsive Design? and Creating Websites For The Smartphone Generation.

Update, Update, Update

To stay competitive, your site has to look current. People are only becoming more attuned to (and judgemental about) the aesthetics of their technology. Older designs simply won’t cut it. You must update, and update frequently, to stay alive.

To be clear, we’re not just talking about upgrading from something like this…

If your site looks like that, you either went out of business in 1996, or you are using the design ironically. If it’s the former, and you’re now trying to get back into the game, good for you. Burn the site and start over. Burn it. If it’s the latter, you are invariably a hipster and I don’t want to talk to you or your handlebar mustache.

This is the horrible truth: your pages don’t have to be neon and underlined to look hopelessly dated.  Sites built as recently as 2012 now appear sad and outre. First impressions matter, and the average consumer will ditch your site without blinking an eye if it looks sketchy or old.

To stay in the game, you must update the design of your site every few years. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it will cost you time, money, or both. But what you gain in street cred will be worth every dime.

Updating actually isn’t so bad if you’re using a modern website building platform, like Wix (read our review) or Squarespace (read our review). New, intuitive site editors make it easy to switch layouts, change templates and forms, and alter color schemes — without paying an hourly rate to a spendy developer.

Provide Accurate & Complete Information

I know I spent a good part of the introduction talking about how business websites need to be more than just storehouses of basic information. That is 100% true, and I stand by every word. But…and this is a big but…it is vitally important to put basic information about your business on your website, front and center, or everything else in this article is pointless. Highlight your operating hours, address, phone number, and digital contact information, and put that information in more than one place. If your business occupies a physical space, your address and phone number should be above the fold. In other words, website visitors should not have to scroll down or navigate to another page to see this information.

You also need to give potential customers and new visitors at least a hint of what your company is all about on your home page. Don’t write a novel at this point. As you’ll see in the screenshot of Merchant Maverick’s home page below, a simple summary phrase — Unbiased Reviews That Save You Time And Money — is enough to convey the purpose of our site.

An “About Us” page is a great place to go more in-depth about exactly what your business does, and why you do it. It can also be a good vehicle to introduce yourself or your staff. Include mini-bios and pictures if you can. People are social animals. We’re evolutionarily wired for relationships, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. The exchange of goods and services is occurring less and less in the meatspace, but we still like to know who we’re dealing with.

Avoid Grammar Mistakes

You don’t have dig deep to realize that American public schools are sadly failing when it comes to even basic writing competency. Just log in to Twitter for 10 seconds and yOull sea that Im rite. (There’s a little editor humor for you.)

You can get away with shocking grammar in Tweets, texts, and even over email (alas). But your website is not the place to be slipshod and careless. Save that devil-may-care attitude for Facebook or Christmas cards, where only some of your acquaintance will be judging you. If your website is riddled with typos and syntax goofs, you will lose customers, period. Error-laden copy connotes one of two things to your client base: you are illiterate or you are lazy. Ponder this riddle: What’s more off-putting to a consumer — an uneducated merchant or an indifferent one? The answer, of course, is moot. Neither one is going to survive.

This may all seem terrifying if grammar isn’t exactly your thing. But don’t worry! There’s no need to hastily enroll in a community college course. Simply running your site through spellcheck should catch most spelling errors, though you’d be surprised how many merchants neglect to do so. For higher level syntax and grammar issues, try using a service like Grammarly. It’s not perfect for higher level writing, but it catches almost 100% of basic errors (there/they’re/their, etc.), and it’s free. You can also enlist help from friends and family. The more eyes on your website copy before you publish, the better.

Write Engaging Copy About Your Products/Services

It’s not enough for your content to be grammatically perfect. It must also be useful and interesting. And there’s the rub.

How does one write captivating copy? Especially if one is trying to sell items as unsexy as, say, lawnmower parts or plumbing services? The key is to know your audience. Your stuff doesn’t have to be Dostoevsky-good. It doesn’t even have to be Reader’s Digest-good. Excellent website copy is defined by only three characteristics:

  • Detail
  • Utility
  • Appeal

Let’s take them one by one.


Presumably, you understand your business and your products or services well. Take the time to describe them, providing as much or more of the minutia as is reasonably warranted. Color; size; shape; weight; feel; smell; taste. Go further into the aesthetic sensibility of your items if you want. The more your customer knows about the product or service, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their purchase.


The overall helpfulness of your copy will depend in part on how wisely you’ve used detail in your descriptions. But you must go even a step further. It’s not enough to state that a scarf is hand-knit, blue, and made of angora wool. It’s not even enough to say that it is 60-inches-long and machine-washable. For optimal impact, you’ve got to paint a word picture for your potential customers. Give suggestions about various ways to wear the scarf. Talk about occasions or events the scarf is appropriate for. If a customer can imagine your product as a useful part of their daily life, you’re far more likely to make the sale.


This one’s not so straightforward. The line between interesting copy and content that is mind-meltingly dull is thinner than you’d expect. When in doubt, go back to the advice above: know your audience. If you’re hawking lawnmower parts, it’s best not to be cutesy or make attempts at humor. You’re likely to simply irritate people. For utilitarian products and services, appealing equals factual and descriptive. But if bespoke spa treatments or patchwork quilts are your daily bread, be as whimsical as you want. Go nuts. Employ first-person language. Break out the charm. And if you don’t feel up to the task, hire someone who is. There are plenty of freelancers out there who write website copy for a living. Sites like Upwork are teeming with writers who would fist-fight each other for the privilege of generating your web content. (I know because I used to be one of them.)

Use Original Images

On the internet, as in life, it often pays to be unique. And not in an after-school-special, every-snowflake-is-beautiful kind of way. Search engines like original content. They give preference to it, in fact.

That said, unless your name is Dorothea Lange or Ansel Adams, you’re much better off using BigStock or Getty Images for your graphic content than simply uploading pictures from your digital camera or smartphone. Unique isn’t always equivalent to good. My iPhone pictures, for example, are invariably blurry and too dark, invoking what I’m sure are merely pity-likes on Instagram. Yours may be better (and likely are), but I can say with near certainty that they aren’t good enough to be featured on your website.

Website-quality photographs and images should be:

  • High-resolution
  • Well-lit
  • Sharply focused
  • Artistically blocked, posed or designed
  • Minimally cluttered

Images like this don’t grow on trees. They come from professional photographers and graphic designers who use professional equipment. In other words, you’ll have to pay for them. Craigslist is a good place to find relatively cheap freelancers in your area, or you can solicit help from sites like Upwork and Guru.

Maintain A Blog

Blogs aren’t just for bloggers. Used wisely, a blog can be an excellent marketing tool for your retail, restaurant, or service business.

For starters (to reiterate my point in the section above), search engines give preference to original content. They gobble it up, in the manner of hungry hippos. To be clear, Google is an equal opportunity tool in that, if you have a URL, you’ll show up in an appropriate keyword search…eventually. But if you want to rank a little higher than the two-millionth results page, you’ll need to put it a bit more effort. Creating unique, high-quality content for your site increases your visibility to potential customers online. The key phrase here is high-quality, by the way. Search engines employ highly trained digital bloodhounds that can sniff out BS filler-content a mile away. You can try to cover redundant or pointless copy with metaphorical coffee grounds, but Google algorithms just keep getting smarter.

If you equate blogs solely with hot-button social issues like politics, the Mommy Wars, religion, and the like, it may be difficult to see how having one could benefit — or even apply to — your business. There are only so many edgy articles you can write about lawnmower parts.

Blogs don’t have to be hilarious rants or incisive social commentaries. In fact, if you want them to work well for your site, you should avoid controversy and/or high-art altogether. Instead, think about what kinds of things your customers are interested in, and provide content that caters to those interests. Do you sell custom clothing? Write a few how-to posts about accessorizing or blog about fashion trends. Run a pet shop? Talk about what pet owners can do to keep their dogs healthy. Rank cat toys from worst to most purrr-fect. Cat owners in your area who search for toy ideas may just stumble on your article and become loyal customers. Blogs exist to provide helpful information for your current clients, but they serve to draw in new customers as well.

Here are some articles types that work well for business blogs:

  • Top 10 Lists
  • How-To Articles
  • Dos & Don’ts
  • Product Comparisons
  • Guides
  • Best Of/Worst Of Lists
  • Industry News
  • Trends & Fads
  • Interviews

If you don’t feel up to creating the content yourself, hire someone who is.

Final Thoughts

In our increasingly digital society, your website is the most visible face of your business. It behooves you to make that face as clean and attractive as possible. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to create a professional, effective site.

Consider the tips above and take action where you can. With just a little TLC (and a little cash), your website can go from bland and forgettable to sleek and profitable.

Further Reading

We’ve talked about seven ways that you can create a better website for your business. Here are some other resources to help you get started.

Starting From Scratch?

Check out our large selection of do-it-yourself website builder reviews or compare top website building software vendors. If your website needs to incorporate an online store, you’ll want to peruse our eCommerce software reviews and compare some of the top shopping carts.

Read these articles if you need help deciding on a platform:

Looking To Improve Your Current Site?

If you already have a site, but need some tips on how to take it to the next level, these articles should help:

Want Tips On eCommerce?

We’ve written a comprehensive ebook on starting an online store. It’s free and well worth a read. If you’re operating an online store already or are thinking about adding one to your website, check out these articles:

Need Help With Social Media For Your Business Website?

Social media is a huge part of good business marketing, and it’s helpful to integrate your social media channels with your website. Check out these articles for more information:

Julie Titterington

Julie Titterington is a writer, editor, and native Oregonian who lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley with her husband and two small children. When she’s not writing or testing software, she spends her time reading early 20th century mystery novels, staring blankly at her iPhone, and attempting to keep her kids fed, clothed, and relatively uninjured.

Julie Titterington

Julie Titterington


How Does Shopify Shipping Work?

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If you operate an online store, you’re familiar with the everyday challenge of printing postage and shipping your packages on time. Because managing logistics is needlessly complicated, I often advise merchants to integrate full shipping software into their shopping cart system. Using a shipping software can help streamline your fulfillment process and prevent headaches caused by incorrect postage.

In the past, Shopify customers had to look elsewhere for shipping support, but Shopify recently made significant improvements to their shipping features. In fact, Shopify has rolled out an entirely new shipping system, Shopify Shipping, to help you simplify fulfillment.

Shopify Shipping is a built-in shipping suite that gives merchants access to calculated rates through USPS, UPS, and DHL. With Shopify Shipping, you can process orders and print shipping labels in bulk without worrying about a third-party integration. What’s more, Shopify has made arrangements with major shipping carriers that allow you to save on shipping costs.

Unfortunately, there are a few bugs in the works. Most importantly, while you (the merchant) can view real-time shipping rates, your customers cannot. In order to let customers view real-time rates, you’ll have to pay for an add-on or subscribe to Shopify’s Advanced plan.

Nevertheless, Shopify Shipping is worth considering. Keep reading to learn more about Shopify Shipping and how you can implement it in your business.

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Setting Up Shopify Shipping

Because shipping features are now included in every Shopify platform, implementing Shopify Shipping is a breeze.

You can find Shopify shipping options in your admin by navigating to “Settings” and then clicking “Shipping.” Or, to make things simpler, you can click this link to your Shopify admin.

This page allows you to connect with shipping carriers, set up shipping zones, and add dropshipping services.

In order for Shopify Shipping to really work for your business, you’ll have to make sure you have listed dimensions and weights for all of your products and product variations.

Once you have set up your carriers and double checked your products, you can start fulfilling orders. Here’s what your order fulfillment page will look like:

You’ll notice several shipping options listed below the product information. You can choose to leave your customers’ selected shipping speed or upgrade them to a faster or cheaper service.

You should note that while you are able to select from a wide range of shipping speeds, your customers will not be presented with these options. Rather, customers will see only the flat or calculated shipping rates that you manually set up in your Shopify admin. In order to display real-time calculated rates, you’ll either have to pay for the Advanced Shopify plan or purchase an add-on for $20/month.

Basic Features

Shopify Shipping doesn’t offer the most robust shipping features. However, their shipping suite should fit the needs of most small businesses.

Here are a few of the features you can find already built in:

  • Integrations With Major Carriers: Get real-time shipping rates from DHL, USPS, and UPS.
  • Bulk Order Fulfillment: Set up shipping rules to process your orders in batches. Purchase shipping labels right in your admin.
  • Bulk Label Printing: Print multiple shipping labels at a time. You can use a thermal printer or a regular desktop printer for these labels.
  • Shipping Insurance: Insure your packages so if something goes wrong, you’ll be covered.
  • Flat Rate Or Calculated Shipping Options: You can choose to set flat shipping rates or calculate rates based on weight and dimensions.
  • Better Customer Service Features: Provide customers with real-time updates and tracking information.
  • International Features: Shopify Shipping will identify your international orders and create customs information.
  • Review & Update Shipping Selections: Review your customers’ shipping preferences. Upgrade customers to cheaper or faster services in your admin.

Considering the rate at which Shopify has built this shipping system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more features continually added on in the coming year.

Reduced Shipping Rates

One of the main reasons to consider Shopify Shipping is the reduced shipping rates they offer through USPS, UPS, and DHL. All Shopify customers can benefit from this discount, but merchants on higher plans will save more on shipping.

Discounts are available on select services. You can look at Shopify Shipping’s full knowledgebase for in-depth information and example rates, or you can view a brief list of services below.


The USPS is an online seller’s best friend when it comes to shipping small, lightweight products. Their partnership with Shopify Shipping will let you save up to 46% on your shipments. View Shopify’s example rates for a more detailed breakdown.

Here are the USPS services you can access with Shopify Shipping:

  • Domestic rates
    • Priority mail
    • Priority express mail
    • First class package service
  • International rates
    • First class package international rates
    • Priority mail international rates


Specializing in fast shipments and guaranteed delivery, UPS is often the best option for time-sensitive shipments. You can save up to 52% on UPS rates, depending on your Shopify plan. View the details in Shopify’s knowledge base.

Here are the UPS services you’ll have access to:

  • Domestic rates
    • UPS Next Day Air
    • UPS Next Day Air Saver
    • UPS Second Day Air
    • UPS 3 Day Select
    • UPS Ground Rates
  • International rates
    • UPS Worldwide Express Rates
    • UPS Worldwide Saver rates
    • UPS World Expedited rates
    • UPS Standard to Canada rates


If you ship internationally, you should consider DHL for your fulfillment. Global logistics is what they do best. While I couldn’t find a percentage stating DHL’s discount, Shopify does say that DHL offers “Special DHL Express rates, exclusive to Shopify.” You can view a few examples of those special rates in that knowledge base I keep mentioning.

A Few Limitations

While Shopify Shipping supports most packages, it does not support all. Here’s a brief list of unsupported shipment types:

  • Letter
    • Flat envelope thinner than ¼ inch
  • Large package
    • Total dimensions (total of the package’s length, width, and height) greater than 84 inches
  • Irregular package
    • Non-rectangular package

Final Thoughts

As you set up your online store, be sure to tour Shopify Shipping. You may find it fits all your needs, or you may discover you need a couple of add-ons to fill things out.

Either way, we’re happy to see Shopify make this improvement, and we hope to see continued progress in the future. In particular, we’d like real-time calculated rates to be available for every storefront. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for this feature!

Take a closer look at Shopify Shipping on their page or navigate to our full review of Shopify to learn more about the platform as a whole.

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull


Shopify Payments Review: What Are The Pros And Cons Of Shopify’s Integrated Payment Processor?

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If you’ve spent any time on our blog, you know that Shopify (read our review) is one of our favorite shopping cart solutions, primarily because they provide an all-inclusive solution to a wide range of merchants. One monthly rate gives you access to Shopify’s hosting, security, administrative abilities, customer service features, inventory management features, web design tools, and more.

With the addition of Shopify Payments, an integrated payment processor, you can even access built-in payment processing features. Shopify Payments allows you to quickly begin accepting orders on your online store. You won’t have to worry about integrating a third-party processor, and Shopify will waive their shopping cart transaction fees.

However, despite its convenience, Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution. Customers often complain that they do not qualify to use the service. Others say that Shopify Payments has frozen their account or is holding payments.

Keep reading to learn if you qualify for Shopify Payments and if it’s right for your business.

In this article, we’ll be discussing payment service providers (PSPs). If you’re new to the world of payment processing, we’d love to help get you oriented. Download our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing, to get started.

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What Is Shopify Payments?

Shopify Payments is a payment processor that allows you to accept customers’ money securely on your account. Shopify is responsible for these transactions, although they are effectively processed through Stripe and Wells Fargo.

Shopify Payments is already integrated into your Shopify account, so it requires very little setup. There is no need to integrate a third-party processor or coordinate payments with a separate company. All you have to do is select Shopify Payments in your admin and add your banking information. Read Shopify’s setup instructions.

What’s more, Shopify Payments comes with a few additional features, including chargeback management and fraud prevention.

When you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their usual shopping cart transaction fees. The only transaction fees you’ll need to pay are those associated with payment processing.

What Are The Rates?

Every PSP comes with its own processing rates and fees. Shopify Payments bases their rates on users’ subscription level. Users on higher Shopify plans benefit from lower rates. Take a look at the screenshot below for a breakdown of those rates.

Shopify states that they do not charge any monthly fees, hidden fees, or setup fees on their payments service.

Who Can Use Shopify Payments?

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that you must be a Shopify customer to use Shopify Payments.

Shopify Payments is only available to merchants in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Shopify Payments is not available to US territories, with the exception of Puerto Rico.

You must follow Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy. Take a look at the extensive list of products and services Shopify does not support below:

If you do not comply with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, you will not be approved or the service may be revoked.

When Do I Get Paid?

Payday is on everyone’s mind. One of the most frequently-asked questions regarding Shopify Payments is how long you’ll have to wait to receive your customers’ payments.

This period — the time between when a customer places an order and when those funds are sent to your bank account — is called a pay period. You should keep in mind that this pay period does not include the amount of time it takes for your bank to process that deposit after it’s sent (typically between 24-72 hours).

Your pay period with Shopify Payments will depend on the country in which your company is based. You can view the full breakdown of pay periods in Shopify’s knowledgebase, or you can see my summary below:

  • US: 2 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Canada: 3 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Australia: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • New Zealand: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • UK & Ireland: 4 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.

Make sure you keep in mind this delay in payments as you plan your business. It might be worth setting up a business credit card so you always have funds on hand.

Pros & Positive Reviews

Customers choose Shopify Payments for a number of reasons. Here are the primary benefits of using Shopify Payments:

  • No Shopify Transaction Fees: While there will always be processing fees, when you use Shopify Payments, you’ll no longer have to pay that 1%-2% transaction fee associated with your Shopify plan. I assume Shopify instead takes their money from your payment processing. Either way, it’s savings for you.
  • Potentially Lower Processing Fees: As I’ve said before, higher-level Shopify merchants benefit from lower rates. You may find that Shopify’s rates are competitive with those of other major processors.
  • Already Integrated: You won’t need any developers to connect with Shopify Payments.
  • Integrated Fraud Prevention: Shopify Payments helps you reduce fraudulent transactions. You can choose to enable an address verification system and a card verification value upon checkout to ensure customers are real cardholders. Read more about fraud analysis.

Shopify Payments is a great solution if you meet the requirements and are looking for a processor that’s easy to integrate.

Cons & Complaints

While Shopify Payments is great for convenience, I’ve seen numerous reports blaming the service for being unreliable and difficult to contact. Here are a few of the most common complaints and disadvantages of using Shopify Payments:

  • Ineligibility: Shopify users often complain that they are not eligible for Shopify Payments. For some, this is because Shopify Payments is not available in their country. In some cases, Shopify has actually revoked payment services because, for one reason or another, their business was deemed “high-risk.” Shopify’s Terms of Service states: “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Service for any reason, without notice at any time.”
  • Shopify Holds Funds: Merchants frequently complain of their funds being withheld for an extended period of time. Here’s what Shopify Payments’ Terms Of Service says about that: “Stripe, on behalf of Shopify and/or Wells Fargo reserves the right to change the Payout Schedule or suspend payouts to your Bank Account should we determine it is necessary due to pending disputes, excessive Chargebacks or refunds, or other suspicious activity associated with your use of the Service or it required by law or court order.”
  • Difficulties With Chargebacks: Chargebacks are an unfortunate and inevitable part of running an online business. If customers file too many chargebacks against you, Shopify may withhold your funds, further complicating the issue.

Make sure you read the Terms of Service for every solution you sign up with, including Shopify and Shopify Payments. It could save you a world of pain.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen enough negative reports about Shopify Payments to be skeptical of the service. Many merchants have been denied payments or had the service revoked entirely.

However, without the specifics, it’s difficult to determine whether Shopify was justified or not in these actions. If merchants were not complying with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, Shopify was within their rights to cancel the service.

As you make your decision, read every word of Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service to ensure your business qualifies. There are some great benefits to integrated payments, and if your store follows all the rules, Shopify Payments could be the best choice for your store.

But, don’t stop your research there. Take a look at our complete review of Shopify (and the real customer comments below) to learn more about the software, and be sure to read up on Shopify Payments in their knowledgebase. Best of luck!

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull


Small Business Sales Tax Guide

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Before you started your small business, you probably only thought of sales tax as a pesky total on the bottom of your receipts—the thing that changed your nice round price into something bizarre. (The Dollar Store doesn’t really work when it’s the $1.07 Store.) But now that you’re a small business owner, understanding sales tax is necessarily a lot more complicated.

In this article, we’ll explain the basics of small business sales tax and what you need to do to get your company legally set up to collect sales tax. By using this article as a starting point, you’ll understand the confusing concept of small business sales tax in no time.

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Understanding The Basics

Before we discuss how to set your company up to collect sales tax legally, we wanted to cover a couple of important basics and some common FAQs about sales tax. If you’ve ever had questions about sales tax, you’ve come to the right place.

What Is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is a government tax on the sale of goods and services.

In Which State(s) Do I Have to Collect Sales Tax?

You must collect a sales tax in any state where you have a nexus.

What Is A Nexus?

We’re glad you asked. In the original sense of the word, a nexus is a connection. When talking about sales tax, a nexus is a legal term that means you’ve created a sufficient physical presence in a state. Once a nexus is established, you are required to pay sales tax on any items sold in or shipped to that state (with the exception of Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, and New Hampshire, which do not impose a sales tax).

How Is A Nexus Created?

You may have a sales tax nexus in states where:

  • You have an office or other property
  • You have a storefront
  • You have employees (including salespeople and remote workers)
  • You have a warehouse
  • You attend a tradeshow (or other events)
  • You use drop shipping

For example, let’s say my company is headquartered in California, but I also have an inventory warehouse in Washington. That means I would have a nexus in both California and Washington and must collect and pay sales tax in both states.

Each state has slightly different rules about what constitutes a sales tax nexus, so be sure to contact a state’s sales tax authority directly if you think you may have a nexus there.

If you’re still confused about what constitutes a nexus, you can read about it in more detail in the Tackling Taxes section of our Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store ebook.

How Do I Determine Which Sales Tax Rate To Charge My Customers?

Sales tax rates vary by state, county, and even city. And some states—Oregon, Alaska, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Montana—don’t even have sales tax. So how do you know which rate to use?

First, you have to determine the address on which to base the sales tax rate.

If you are selling items from a storefront, your sales tax rate will be based on your store’s address. If you are shipping items, the sales tax rate will be based on the address you’re shipping the items to (not the address you ship goods from).

As we mentioned above, you only have to charge sales to customers when you are selling items in or shipping items to a state where you have a sales tax nexus. So if you are shipping items to a state where you don’t have a sales tax nexus, then you don’t have to worry about sales tax.

Once you’ve determined the proper address to use, all you need to do is consult the state’s sales tax agency to find the sales tax rate for that state, county, and city. (Most states offer a tool that allows you to look up sales tax rate by address online.)

Here is a list of all 50 states’ tax agencies. For most states, the appropriate tax agency will be the Department of Revenue. If you operate out of California, you’ll want to go to the Board of Equalization.

How Much Sales Tax Should I Charge My Customers?

Once you’ve determined the proper sales tax rate (as explained in the section above), you can use this formula to calculate your actual sales tax:

Total Cost x Sales Tax Rate = Sales Tax Total

Let’s do an example. My customer spent $49.95 at my store in California. The sales tax rate is 7.5%. How much sales tax do I charge?

I’ll put the total cost and sales tax rate into our formula.

$49.95 x 7.5% = ?

Since we’re working with a percentage, we have to move the decimal to the left two spaces. So we’re calculating:

$49.95 x .075 = ?


$49.95 x .075 = $3.746

Round to the nearest ten. Now you should have $3.75 as your sales tax amount. Simply add this amount to your total cost (in this case $49.95) and voila! You have the correct price to charge your customer.

$49.95 + $3.75 = $53.70

Luckily for you, you don’t need to manually calculate sales tax. While knowing the principles of sales tax calculation is important, almost all POS and accounting programs do the math for you, and there are plenty of tax software options that can help too. We’ll cover these in more detail later.

What If I Sell Products Online?

Things get trickier when it comes to online sales tax. The sales tax laws for each state were originally created with the brick and mortar store in mind, so figuring out the correct procedures for online sales tax can be a bit difficult.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to make this easier. In our eBook The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store, we devoted a whole section to the basics of eCommerce sales tax. We also recommend TaxJar’s complete Sales Tax Guide for eCommerce Sellers to online sellers who want to learn the nitty-gritty details of online sales tax.

Preparing Your Company To Collect Sales Tax

A lot more goes into charging sales tax than just figuring out the appropriate sales tax rate. You’ll need to take the proper legal measures to ensure your small business is set up to collect and pay sales tax.

Here are four simple steps you’ll need to follow before you can legally charge sales tax:

Step 1: Learn Your State’s Sales Tax Rules

Above all else, be sure to learn the sales tax rules of every state in which you have a nexus. Each state has different laws, which makes this research imperative. Go directly to your state’s official sales tax agency for the most accurate information.

Again, here is a list of all 50 states’ tax agencies. As I mentioned above, for most states, the appropriate tax agency will be the Department of Revenue. If you operate out of California, you’ll want to go to the Board of Equalization.

Take note of the state sales tax rate, county sales tax rates, city sales tax rates, and sales tax exemptions. Check and see if your state offers an online “lookup sales tax by address” tool. And don’t forget to make sure you’re up-to-date on your state’s specific sales tax laws.

Many of these cites will also have small business learning resources about sales tax. Be sure to take advantage of the resources offered by each state.

Step 2: Register For A Sales Tax Permit

You’ll need to register for a sales tax permit everywhere you have a business nexus. To register for a sales tax permit, go to the appropriate tax agency.

Some states may charge a fee for a sales tax permit. Read this post, Which States Charge A Fee to Register for a Sales Tax Permit?, to get an idea of how much you’ll be expected to pay.

If you need additional help, TaxJar has a comprehensive How to Register for a Sales Tax Permit post where they break down the registration process state by state. The post covers how to apply, the information you’ll need to apply, the cost of the application, the state’s sales tax permit renewal policy, and more.

Step 3: Collect & Record Sales Tax

Once you’re officially registered to collect sales tax in a state, you can start collecting and recording sales tax. We recommend talking to your accountant about using accounting software to keep track of your sales tax records.

Accounting software can help you:

  • Keep good records
  • Charge sales tax to customers
  • Automatically calculate sales tax totals on invoices
  • Provide important sales tax reports

Many accounting software programs also integrate with key tax software players like Avalara and TaxJar.

If you need help deciding on an accounting software, check out the top-rated accounting software programs in our accounting comparison chart or visit our comprehensive accounting software reviews for more details.

Step 4: Pay Your Sales Tax

Depending on the state(s) in which you’re registered to collect sales tax, you may be paying your sales tax monthly, quarterly, or yearly. After you complete your Sales Tax Permit registration, you should receive information about when sales tax payments are due and where to go to make these payments.

If you are unsure, contact your state’s sales tax agency directly.

Final Thoughts

We know that was a lot of information, but sales tax is one topic you don’t want to play fast and loose with. That’s why, when it comes to sales tax, we recommend that you consult your accountant.

While online resources and accounting programs can help point you in the right direction, your professional accountant is the ultimate authority on sales tax. Your accountant knows how to properly prepare your small business to collect sales tax and will ensure that you’re charging the appropriate rate.

We hope this overview gives you a basic understanding of sales tax and a clear idea of how to get started collecting it. Best of luck and happy selling!

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause is a writer, avid reader, and researcher. In addition to loving writing, she became interested in accounting software because of her constant desire to learn something new and understand how things work. When she’s not working or daydreaming about her newest story, she can be found drinking obscene amounts of coffee, reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files with her husband.

Chelsea Krause


USPS, UPS, or FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

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With the holidays quickly approaching, online sellers and postal workers alike are bracing for the sudden rush of packages from the holiday buying frenzy.

USPS, UPS, and FedEx workers everywhere are pulling out their gloves and strapping on their lumbar support. Winter is coming, and they are prepared!

Merchants, on the other hand, may feel a little less ready for the holiday rush. Not only do they have to maintain inventory and process orders, but they have to navigate the complex role of fulfillment.

With three major shipping carriers to choose from, it can be difficult to know which service you should use for your shipments.

Never fear! We’ve researched the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three major shipping services, and we’ve asked merchants to tell us their own experiences with each carrier. Keep reading to learn what each shipping carrier does well and where they can improve. We hope you’ll keep this information in mind as you explore your fulfillment options.

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The United States Postal Service is a public shipping carrier, subsidized by taxpayers. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will keep the postal service from delivering letters and packages to Americans’ mailboxes (though in my experience, freezing rain does the trick).

The USPS is the #1 shipping option for many merchants, especially those who ship small and light products. However, USPS is not perfect by any means. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you consider USPS for your business:


There are a lot of praises to sing about USPS. Here’s what merchants love most about the postal service:

It’s The Most Inexpensive Option For Small Packages

The USPS is, hands down, the most affordable option for merchants who ship small items. Because taxpayers subsidize much of USPS’s expenses, it is able to ship small objects (letters and bubble mailers) for incredibly low rates.

The USPS provides the cheapest shipping for many packages under two pounds, and USPS simply can’t be beat for packages under 13 ounces. Let me state it clearly:

If you’re shipping products under 13 ounces, you should use USPS.

In addition, many merchants benefit from USPS’s flat rate options through Priority Mail. For one price, you can ship products of any weight across any distance; it just has to fit into USPS’s box.

Merchants also save by utilizing USPS’s free packaging material. Priority Mail boxes are available for free, and you can even arrange to have them delivered to your place of business.

If you’re trying to cut costs, USPS may be the way to go.

It’s More Reliable Than In The Past

While in the past, USPS was infamous for misplacing packages or delaying shipments, in recent years, they have greatly improved their reliability. Here’s what Allen Walton of had to say about the USPS’s improved delivery rates:

Deliverability is pretty solid. We very rarely have lost packages. Occasionally there are hiccups in their system that make it seem like a package hasn’t moved in days, and that can sometimes cause annoying issues, but getting better tracking means way more money using UPS or FedEx, and those guys have their own tracking issues.

Dr. Eugene Emmer from RehaDesign uses USPS to ship from his store in Europe into the United States. He reports:

In 10 years, only 2 parcels have been lost. Both times, all costs were fully refunded.

If your concern is lost packages, it seems that concern is now unfounded. Merchants often state that their savings from using USPS more than covers the very few packages that go missing.

It Delivers To Mailboxes and PO Boxes

The USPS has a monopoly on mailboxes and PO boxes. They’re the only shipping service that does not have to drop off packages at customers’ doorsteps.

Zondra Wilson of Blu Skin Care lists these perks well. She says:

By far the best option when it comes to price, USPS also offers insures overnight delivery. USPS also delivers to most locations such as post office boxes, has pick-up options, a wide array of packaging (some free), and offers insurance for Priority Express mail and Priority Mail as well as tracking for various services.

Because the USPS routinely delivers across the country, it excels in getting packages to out-of-the-way destinations. According to Jim Milan of Auto Accessories Garage:

They’re definitely the king of the lightweight package, and since they try to prioritize every address equally, they’ll occasionally surprise us with how quickly they can ship something to “the middle of nowhere,” so to speak.

If you’re looking for a service that will allow you to deliver your packages along with customers’ daily mail, USPS is the only way to go.


While USPS is great for many purposes, it is by no means a perfect solution. Here are a few of the downfalls you’ll have to look out for:

There’s No Guaranteed Delivery

It’s common wisdom that if a service is cheap and good, it cannot also be fast. This holds true for USPS.

The USPS will not guarantee delivery for express shipping. Kristin Anthony, CEO of Anthony’s Ladies Apparel, shared her experience with me:

We do use UPS for all of our express packages (Next Day, 2-Day or 3-Day shipping options) because UPS guarantees delivery within those time frames and USPS will not guarantee it.

If you absolutely need a package to arrive within a brief window, you’re better off going with UPS or FedEx.

Tracking Is Not Great

While USPS has improved their reliability in recent years, packages still go missing from time to time. The USPS’s less-than-perfect tracking system does not help matters when deliveries are delayed or lost.

Although Milan from the Auto Accessories Garage emphasized that pricing is an important consideration for his company, he still has a few complaints regarding the USPS’s tracking methods:

…while USPS may often be the cheapest choice, they can never guarantee a delivery date, and rarely if ever provide accurate tracking. This can be very frustrating to our customers, and frustrating for us when we can’t provide more information about a shipment.

For better tracking capabilities, you’ll have to look into more expensive alternatives.

Poor Customer Service

Merchants report that when packages do inevitably go missing, it can be difficult to have them located and to get the refund you’ve been assured. Here’s what’s Walton has to say to that:

Their customer service is garbage. Impossible to find lost packages, and they don’t make it easy for the customer to do the legwork themselves – it’s always on the business that shipped it out. When they put you on hold, it’s just a dead silence for like 30 minutes and you never know if someone will get on the line….Getting refunds is not easy. Sometimes they don’t deliver on time and the process for requesting refunds is antiquated. Really wish they would make it easy.

In order to get the affordable shipping rates USPS offers, it appears you’ll have to sacrifice a bit in terms of customer service.

The Low-Down

While the USPS is not the ideal option for every merchant (or every shipment!), it still is well worth considering as a part of your fulfillment strategy. Those super low rates for light shipments are impossible to beat.


UPS is a private shipping carrier specializing in secure, speedy delivery. eCommerce merchants love UPS for its reliability and comprehensive tracking system. However, UPS’s services tend to come at a higher price. Here are the top pros and cons of the brown van shipping service:


There’s a lot to love about this service, but here are the primary reasons online sellers choose UPS:

It Offers Guaranteed Express Shipping

If you need a package delivered ASAP, UPS is the way to go. UPS provides services like same-day delivery and next-day delivery.

Guaranteed delivery gives you the peace of mind that your packages will arrive on time, keeping your customers happy and your business moving.

It’s Affordably Priced (At Times) For Heavy Shipments

While the USPS is the cheapest option for light shipments, pricing increases dramatically for heavier shipments. If you’re shipping packages heavier than two pounds, you should take a look at UPS’s shipping rates. They may be able to deliver your packages more quickly (and securely) at a lower price.

What’s more, if you ship large volumes through UPS, you should be able to lower your rates through negotiation. You’ll have to have proof of your previous shipments, but the discounts are worth the effort.

It Provides Unbeatable Tracking

UPS offers comprehensive tracking services. Customers will be able to see where their packages are from start to finish. UPS’s detailed tracking gives your customers a sense of security, and it’s also great for you! The UPS will be able to tell you at any point exactly where packages are. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll lose a package while shipping through UPS.


While UPS is a great service in many ways, it isn’t perfect. Here are a few areas in which you’ll have to sacrifice if you ship with UPS:

It’s More Expensive

While this is not true in every case, UPS’s services can cost a bit more.  There are a few reasons for this, but two of the main culprits are the fees and surcharges that UPS adds to their base rates. These include residential surcharges, extended area surcharges, and more.

You’ll want to consider these surcharges, especially if you’re shipping internationally. as they can be rather steep.

There’s No Free Package Pickup Service

Although the USPS offers scheduled pickups free of charge, you’ll have to pay a flat rate for the same service from UPS.

One of our contributing merchants, Mark Aselstine from Uncorked Ventures, explains how this affects his business:

…our packages are pretty heavy-a standard 2 bottle shipment of wine runs about 7 pounds. Since we often have dozens to ship, we prefer to have them picked up. Fedex charges some extra amount per pound for a pickup in our area whereas UPS charges a flat fee.

In this case, UPS is actually the best option as it offers the lower pickup fee when compared to FedEx. It’s just a bummer that UPS doesn’t offer this service for free like USPS.

There Is No Free Saturday Delivery

UPS is the only carrier on this list to not offer Saturday delivery as a part of their basic services. This can slow down your shipments by up to two days. Instead, Saturday delivery is offered as a “value-added service.” You’ll have to use qualifying shipping services and pay extra to extend your delivery window one more day.

The Low-Down

UPS is a great carrier for larger shipments. While it isn’t as inexpensive as USPS, UPS tends to be a bit faster and its tracking capabilities are much better.


I’m going to be honest: From what I’ve seen and heard from online sellers, FedEx isn’t too different from UPS. I know I’m going to get loads of protests about this in the comment section below, but in my opinion, the two are pretty similar.

Merchants often cite location as their main reason for choosing FedEx over UPS. However, your experience may prove quite different. Regardless, here’s our list of what FedEx does well and where it could improve:


As a private shipping carrier, FedEx has many of the same advantages that UPS does, including a great tracking system and speedier delivery. Here’s what you can expect from FedEx:

A Precise Tracking System

FedEx offers customers a robust tracking system. You can view your shipment’s progress every step of the way. You can also use FedEx’s delivery manager to hold packages at a FedEx office or schedule delivery for a specific time. Watch FedEx’s Ways to Track video to learn more.

Saturday Delivery

Unlike UPS, FedEx offers Saturday delivery as a part of their basic shipping packages. Mark Tyrol, president of Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, names Saturday delivery as one of the reasons he chooses FedEx for shipments:

For most other orders we use FedEx. FedEx delivers on Saturdays so some items shipped mid-week that would arrive on Mondays via UPS arrive the Saturday before via FedEx. So we use FedEx for these shipments.

Delivering products just two days earlier through FedEx can make a huge impact on customer satisfaction.

Negotiable Pricing

If you’re shipping large volumes of packages through FedEx, you may be able to negotiate for lower shipping rates. You may find that FedEx offers competitive rates for packages up to 50 pounds.


Of course, as you consider FedEx, you’ll have to also keep in mind its downsides. Here are a few of the most notable:

Higher Shipping Rates

Due to the highly variable nature of shipping costs, it’s impossible to label one carrier as definitely more expensive than another. However, from what I’ve seen with sample calculations, it appears that FedEx often charges more than its competitors. Of course, this won’t be true in every case (especially for merchants who negotiate their rates), but it does appear to be a trend.

No Free Package Pickup Service

Like UPS, FedEx does not offer a free package pickup service. That does not mean, however, that you cannot schedule a package pickup. You’ll just have to pay a fee.

Fewer Offices

There are over 1,900 FedEx Offices worldwide. In comparison, UPS provides over 5,000 UPS Stores. Merchants should be able to find a FedEx Office nearby; however, it’s probable that office won’t be quite as convenient as UPS.

The Low-Down

FedEx is an excellent option for merchants who are looking for fast, dependable shipping. As always, you should compare shipping rates with UPS and USPS to make sure you’re getting the best service for your money.

Finding The Perfect Balance

As you choose shipping carriers for you business, it’s important that you don’t limit yourself to just one shipping provider. Most merchants use a mix of two or even three services to offer customers the fastest, cheapest shipping every time.

You may, for example, choose to ship light packages with the USPS and heavy packages with UPS. Or you may ship everything through the USPS, with the exception of expedited shipments, which you send through FedEx. It all depends on your business model, your average order weight, and your shipping destinations.

Are you already successfully shipping with one or more of these carriers? Let us know in the comments which carriers you prefer and why. We love to hear from you!

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull