How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems

touchscreen cash register

Touchscreens are everywhere, and the point-of-sale industry is no exception. Touchscreen POS systems are more intuitive and easy to learn than traditional legacy POS software, and many cloud-based systems employ the same kind of iPad and Android tablets that your employees already use every day at home. Whether you’re running a restaurant, a retail outlet, or another type of business, a modern touchscreen POS system helps keep your sales moving and your business data secure. Besides simple point-of-sale features, most of these cloud-based systems also have advanced reporting capabilities, business management features, and integrations with other popular business software.

Arguably, the only problem with touchscreen point of sale systems is that there are so many different products to choose from. Do you go with a proprietary-hardware solution like Clover, an Android POS system like Toast, an iPad POS like Revel, or an open-source POS like Vend? In my opinion, the most important consideration when choosing a touchscreen POS is not just iPad vs. Android. More important are your industry type, your specific business needs, and user reviews. To help you get started in your search, I’ve put together this list of my favorite highly rated touchscreen POS systems, sorted by industry. Most of these are iPad-based, though I included some Android and open-source options as well.

To make it easier to find the best touchscreen system for your business type, I’ve sorted the following 15 POS systems into restaurant, retail, and hybrid (systems that can be used for either restaurant or retail) categories. Be advised that the order in which I’m listing these excellent systems does not indicate their ranking.

Restaurant POS Systems

The following restaurant point of sale systems can be used by just about any type of food industry business, from drive-thrus to fine dining:

1. Breadcrumb

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts $99/month/location
  • Must use with Upserve payments (interchange plus $0.15 fee)
  • Multi-location support
  • Online ordering

breadcrumb by upserve pos logo

Cloud-based Breadcrumb POS by Upserve (see our review) is a highly versatile restaurant POS, suitable for full-service restaurants, take-out, delivery, bars, and multi-location eateries. With Breadcrumb’s acquisition by Upserve in 2016 (Breadcrumb was previously owned by GroupOn), the company has expanded its restaurant management infrastructure, making this POS a complete business management system for just about any type of restaurant.

Breadcrumb is not the cheapest restaurant POS in town, but nor is it short on features. Some of the system’s strongest features include table management, employee management, customer management, and tableside ordering. Breadcrumb also recently teamed up with GrubHub to offer online ordering and delivery (at the $249/month/location “Pro” subscription level).

One thing Breadcrumb users really like about this system is that it is specifically designed with restaurant employees in mind. While we find Breadcrumb to be a very solid all-around POS/restaurant management system, a couple potential downsides are 1) you can’t use your own merchant account (you need to use Upserve Payments) and 2) there are occasional issues with outages. Learn more in our Breadcrumb by Upserve review.

2. Toast

  • Android POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $79/month
  • Must use with Toast credit card processing
  • Multi-location support
  • Exceptional customer service

toast pos logo

Android-based Toast POS (see our review) is another robust, cloud-based POS system for restaurants. It can accommodate any size or type of restaurant, and features like tableside ordering, labor management, and inventory management make Toast a force to be reckoned with on both the front and back end. Toast is intuitive and easy to use for servers, while also providing detailed reporting, customer data, and menu options.

Although we love Toast’s strong feature set and the fact that it uses Android tablets instead of iPads (cheaper hardware costs, less of a theft risk), keep in mind that if you want every single feature Toast offers, it’s gonna cost ya. For example, online ordering, table management, delivery management, and gift card support all carry an extra monthly charge. You also can’t choose your own credit card processor to use with this POS and must use Toast’s in-house processor (which Toast users seem to like, at least). What really sets Toast apart from a lot of other cloud-based POS systems, however, is their excellent customer support – an indispensable quality in any POS, given the inherent complexity of a system that lets you take payments, process orders, and manage almost all aspects of your business.

3. TouchBistro

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with multiple payment gateways
  • Best for single-location businesses
  • Locally installed system (not cloud-based)

touchbistro POS

Elegant and easy to use, Ontario-based TouchBistro (see our review) has the distinction of being the top-grossing POS Application on Apple’s App Store in over 35 countries. TouchBistro is one of the few systems on our list that, while tablet-based, is not cloud-based; rather, your store data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPad or Mac.

TouchBistro is not a full “restaurant management system” like Toast or Breadcrumb, but it’s good at what it does, and can readily handle the POS needs of just about any size/type of eatery, from a food truck to a full-service restaurant. Since TouchBistro stores data on local servers, it’s probably best for single-location restaurants (if coordinating data between locations is important to you). Keep in mind, though, that you will need an internet connection to process credit cards.

Some great features of TouchBistro include table management, menu management, kiosk option, tableside ordering, split-payment option, bar tabs, and sales reports. Customer service doesn’t seem to be as responsive as some users would like, though 24/7 support via phone and email is included in the standard cost. TouchBistro is compatible with Mercury, Cayan, Moneris, PayPal and several other gateways.

4. Lavu

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month with annual contract or $79/month without
  • Can use in-house payment processing or BridgePay, Heartland, PayPal, Nets, or Vantiv Integrated Payments
  • Multi-location support
  • Option to install in-house server backup in case you lose your wireless connection

lavu pos logo

Lavu (see our review) is yet another highly popular iPad POS system for restaurants, used in more than 20,000 restaurant terminals across 88 countries.

Lavu is not the most advanced restaurant POS there is, but it is equipped to handle the needs of most small-to-medium restaurants (or cafes, bars, coffee stands, etc.). Some features that make this POS system a hit include its customizable table layout and menus, easy employee management, advanced menu management, and useful integrations. Lavu also has renowned customer service, which is included in the standard monthly fee. You can add both a loyalty program and gift cards onto your subscription for just $40 a month.

Customers have complained about occasional glitches with the Lavu software, but the company releases frequent updates to solve any bugs or complaints. Affordable and highly customizable, Lavu is a strong and growing contender in tablet POS systems for restaurants.

Retail POS Systems

The following POS systems are suitable for retail store establishments, such as clothing boutiques, toy stores, electronics shops, and many others.

5. Lightspeed Retail

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $99/month (billed annually)
  • Integrates with Vantiv Integrated Payments (Mercury), Cayan, and izettle
  • Multi-location support
  • Bike rental store add-on

lightspeed retail pos logo

Lightspeed Retail (see our review) is one of the most fully featured tablet POS systems out there for retail. While Lightspeed can support up to enterprise-level size businesses, this cloud-based system is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses that want powerful functionality — think unlimited inventory, integrated eCommerce, work order management, and customer relationship management. Lightspeed Retail also makes it easy to transfer inventory between different store locations.

Lightspeed is among the pricier systems on this list, and various integrations to extend its functionality, such as eCommerce, can make it even more expensive. So, it’s not going to be the right POS every business. But if you want a super robust POS that you can operate from any desktop browser (meaning, you don’t have to buy expensive iPad registers), Lightspeed Retail might just be right for you. The POS is especially suited for apparel businesses but can accommodate virtually any type of retail setup, including rentals.

Note that there are several Lightspeed products in addition to Lightspeed Retail. These include Lightspeed Onsite, Lightspeed Restaurant, and Lightspeed eCommerce.

6. Vend

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with Vantiv, PayPal, and Square
  • Multi-store support
  • Apple Pay-capable

vend pos logo

Vend (see our review) was actually the very first web browser-based POS system when it was introduced back in 2010. Today, it is still a big force to be reckoned with in the retail POS world, used by more than 20,000 businesses in 100 countries.

Cloud-based and scaleable for retail stores both small and large, Vend uses an HTML5 browser (such as Google Chrome), or an HTML5 iPad app, for all operations. If the internet goes down, Vend can keep operating locally using the cache and will sync back up with the cloud once the connection resumes. Being browser-based means you can run Vend on a PC, Mac, or iPad. Some features on Vend we really like include customer management, eCommerce, built-in loyalty program, inventory management, and a good selection of third-party software integrations. Vend doesn’t have as much functionality as a POS like Lightspeed or Revel – for example, Vend doesn’t have item modifiers – but it is cost-effective and a good choice for a store (or even chain of stores) that doesn’t need every single “business management” feature out there.

Note that Vend’s email support is free, but 24/7 phone support costs an extra $19 per month, unless you have the multi outlet subscription ($199/month billed annually).

7. Shopify POS

  • iPad POS system for retail (Also supports mobile sales on iPhone and Android phones)
  • Pricing starts at $9/month for mobile and Facebook sales, or $54/month to also include Retail Package for in-store sales
  • Integrates with Shopify Payments and many outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Instant syncing with your Shopify online store

shopify pos logo

Shopify (see our review) started as an online shopping cart for businesses who wanted an easy way to sell their products online. Eventually, Shopify extended their offering to include a POS system for in-person sales. As you might expect, Shopify POS does a great job integrating online and offline sales for retail businesses that also do eCommerce with Shopify.

Shopify’s pricing structure is a little convoluted, but the most important thing to know is that if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to purchase the Retail Package, which costs $45/month on top of whatever other package you select — the $9/month Shopify Lite plan, the $29/month Shopify Basic plan, or another higher-tier plan. The Basic plan plus the Retail Package will cost $74/month and provide pretty much everything most retailers need for both online and in-store sales. You also have the option to get better credit card processing rates at higher price tiers.

Most Shopify POS features are comparable with other top iPad retail solutions, and they have strong customer service too. The thing that really sets Shopify apart is their seamless online/offline sales integration. So, if you already use Shopify for online sales or would like to, this might be the right POS for you.

8. Quetzal

  • iPad POS for independent fashion retailers
  • Pricing starts at $75/month per location
  • Integrates with Evo Payments International, Velocity, CardSmith, National Discount Merchant Services, Vantiv, and Moneris
  • Multi-store support (max. 10 locations)
  • Clothing/shoe matrix

With its exclusive focus on fashion retailers, Quetzal (see our review) is an iPad POS that’s tailor-made (ha-ha) for stores that sell clothing, shoes, and/or accessories. This aesthetically appealing system has a streamlined iOS aesthetic; the interface seriously looks like it could have been designed by Apple itself, and Quetzal even has an iTunes app that lets managers check in on their store from their Apple Watch. Quetzal also uses a compact, sleek register, Star Micronics’ mPOP system.

Of course, functionality is more important than aesthetics when it comes to a POS, but Quetzal doesn’t come up short in terms of function either. We like the clothing/shoe matrix, in-depth sales reports, “tag cloud,” loyalty program, employee leaderboard, and “sales thermometer,” in particular. At only $75/location price is right as well, especially as there is no charge for additional users or terminals. A couple downsides are that after setup and installation, customer support costs extra, and also there is no QuickBooks integration.

While it doesn’t have a huge marketshare of the overall retail POS segment, Quetzal’s niche focus makes it a functional, affordable, and visually appealing choice for emerging independent clothing brands.

Hybrid POS Systems

These POS systems are flexible in that they are equally suited to retail and restaurant environments. Service-based industries such as beauty salons, rental businesses, and hospitality businesses also often use hybrid POS systems.

9. Shopkeep

  • iPad POS for retail and quick serve restaurants
  • $69/month/register ($29/month/register for fourth register and beyond)
  • Integrates with Shopkeep Payments and outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Matrix inventory feature

shopkeep pos logo

Shopkeep (see our review) is an affordable and enjoyable-to-use POS system that runs locally from an iPad and syncs data back to the cloud. Shopkeep is used in both retail and restaurant environments, and while it’s more feature-rich on the retail side of things, it will more than meet the needs of most quick-service/coffee carts/food truck businesses.

Some things about Shopkeep we especially like include its comprehensive register functionality, in-depth reporting suite, mobile app to view your business stats on the go, and unlimited inventory matrix (which includes raw goods management). Shopkeep also offers unlimited 24/7 customer support (though premium phone costs an additional $30 per month). This POS integrates with MailChimp for email marketing, QuickBooks for accounting, and BigCommerce for eCommerce.

Shopkeep is a wise choice for a small-to-medium retail business or restaurant that doesn’t need extensive restaurant-centric features like table management. Note that ShopKeep is currently only available on iPad but is in the works to make its service available on the Clover Station via a recent partnership with First Data.

10. Revel Systems

  • iPad POS for retail, restaurants, hospitality, and more
  • Supports numerous payment processors
  • Custom pricing based on industry and individual business needs
  • Multi-store support
  • Ethernet internet connection

revel systems logo

Revel Systems (see our review) is arguably the holy grail of iPad POS systems. Revel is powerful enough that franchises like Cinnabon use it, and flexible enough that it can support businesses in virtually any industry, from brewpubs to gas stations. It’s also the only iPad POS system that offers a “wired” ethernet connection for a faster an more reliable internet.

Revel POS pricing is determined by which industry-specific package you choose, but depending on your needs, you can expect to pay about $80 to $200/month per location. Myriad add-on applications and integrations extend Revel’s functionality to make it do just about anything you can imagine, though this naturally increases the system’s cost as well. Some of Revel’s more impressive features include its kiosk mode, digital menu board, and ability to accept mobile payments (including ApplePay, PayPal, Bitcoin, and others). Because Revel is so powerful and customizable, initial system setup can take a while.

Revel can manage multiple locations and up to 500,000 SKUs. It is optimized for mid-sized businesses, particularly busy quick-serve restaurants that can afford one of the best iPad POS’s money can buy.

11. ERPLY

  • Web browser/iPad/Android/Windows POS for retail and restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $200/month/location
  • Compatible with all big-name payment processors, (though currently promoting PayPal as a preferred processor)
  • Multi-store support
  • Strong inventory features

erply-logo

ERPLY (see our review) originated in 2009 as a retail POS system, though it has eventually expanded support to food service too, now offering food-centric features such as kitchen printing and sell by weight. Whether you run a retail business or restaurant, ERPLY is especially powerful in the inventory management department, with functions like automated ordering, supplier management, and multichannel (online, in-store, phone, email) inventory tracking and transfers.

ERPLY gives you a lot of flexibility as a business owner. Using just about any payment processor under the sun, you can accept traditional swipe, chip card, and mobile payments, including Apple Pay, PayPal, and Android Pay. You also have the option to use pretty much whatever device you want, even without a reliable internet connection, or run ERPLY right from your browser.

It’s actually kind of hard to come up with a feature ERPLY doesn’t have. An open API architecture allows customizability and the ability to develop your own software integrations and customize it to meet your needs (or, have ERPLY make these integrations/customizations for you). Being such a versatile piece of software, it’s one of the pricier cloud-based POS systems. If you have a larger or franchise business, or you just want the flexibility and horsepower this system offers, you might try ERPLY out for size.

12. talech

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Standard subscription is $62/month/location (billed annually upfront)
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Kiosk mode

talech POS logo

talech (see our review) is a smaller player in the iPad POS world, but with their affordable price point and impressive set of more than 100 features, they can certainly give their larger competitors a run for their money. talech is used by both retail and restaurant businesses, but restaurants, in particular, will find a lot of useful features, including table management, coursing, and the ability to split the check by table positioning (seat).

Advanced inventory management, self-service (kiosk) mode, and the ability to generate purchase orders are some more features that set talech apart from some of its competitors in both the retail and restaurant spheres. talech also made it possible for restaurant owners to integrate an online ordering system so that you can manage in-person and online orders all from your iPad POS terminal.

One caveat: being 100% cloud-based, talech is unable to take credit card payments in the event of a WiFi outage, and you also won’t be able to access your back office. However, it’s possible to circumvent such issues by getting a specialized backup router.

13. Bindo

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Custom pricing depends on industry and number of SKUs
  • Works with nearly any payment processor
  • Multi-location support
  • “Favorites” grid displays most popular items as register buttons

Bindo POS logo

Bindo (see our review) is a hybrid POS whose varied and easy-to-use features make it suitable for retail or restaurant environments. A reasonable pricetag, clean interface, robust eCommerce storefront, and thoughtful inventory reporting suite make this an especially versatile touchscreen POS option. While fewer than 5,000 businesses use new-ish POS, customer support (included at all price levels) is responsive to these customers’ needs and tech support (also included) issues frequent updates to fix any software glitches.

As with most other fully cloud-based systems, you’ll need fast internet to experience the best functionality. More than one customer has also complained about being stuck in a leasing contract with Bindo for equipment they were not satisfied with (though in general, we do not recommend leasing POS equipment). Since Bindo works with most standard iPad POS equipment and offers a 14-day free trial, it is likely that you’ll be able to test out Bindo using your current equipment before you commit to purchasing.

14. SalesVu

  • iPad POS for restaurant and retail
  • Basic restaurant and retail packages start at $75/month
  • Works with Vantiv, Evo, and WorldPay
  • Multi-location support
  • Allows items to be charged by decimal and fractional quantities

SalesVu (see our review) is another affordable and feature-rich iPad POS system that can be used in many industries, including service industries and traditional retail and restaurant environments. Since this system allows you to ring up transactions in fractional amounts, it’s especially useful for hourly professionals such as therapists or dog walkers, and businesses that sell items based on weight, like fro-yo shops. SalesVu also has an appointment booking system that health, beauty, and hospitality businesses will appreciate. Like the majority of touchscreen POS’s on this list, SalesVu is best suited for smaller to medium-sized businesses, though it has the capacity to scale up if you open a second or third location.

SalesVu runs locally on iPad registers and syncs all your data to your account in the cloud. Though you can use the SalesVu POS app without an internet connection, you’ll need internet to process credit card transactions; however, you can use a specialized router with a 4G wireless modem with a data plan so that you can switch to 4G without any interruption if your main internet connection goes down.

Another cool thing about SalesVu is that it will run on an iPhone, allowing you to take mobile sales on the go. The basic mobile POS app without any frills is free, similar to Square. Which brings us to the final favorite touchscreen POS on our list …

15. Square Register

  • Proprietary POS hardware with free cloud software for retail, restaurants, service industry
  • Hardware costs $49/month for 24 months or $999 one-time payment
  • In-house credit card processing is 2.5% + $0.10/transaction or lower for high-volume businesses
  • Multi-location support
  • Best for businesses with average transaction of $40 or higher
  • Ethernet support for more reliable internet connection

While Square‘s popular free POS mobile app has been around for some time, the Square Register is a relatively new product, released in October 2017. There are still no monthly service fees, but rather than selling on your smartphone or iPad, you’re ringing up sales on fully featured POS hardware that you purchase as a complete package from Square. With a concept similar to that of Clover Station (which I didn’t include on this list because it is locked into First Data’s less than stellar payment processing), the Square Register is sleek, proprietary POS hardware that works right out of the box, complete with a customer facing screen and built-in credit card terminal. The Square Register hardware itself costs $49/month for 24 months, or you can simply purchase the system outright for $999.

Note that Square Register users have a different credit card processing rate than the standard Square mobile processing rate. With Square Register, businesses are charged 2.5% + $0.10 on every transaction, vs. 2.75% (+ $0.00) with regular Square. This pricing setup may at first blush look like Square Register has cheaper rates, but if you have a lot of small transactions you’ll actually pay more with Square Register than with the Square mobile POS. For this reason, Square Register is a more appropriate solution for larger businesses with average ticket sizes of $40 or higher. Larger businesses processing more than $250,000 per year and with an average ticket size of $15 or higher may also qualify for lower rates.

As for the specific business type, 100% cloud-based Square can work with just about any industry. Square has a built-in 24/7 online booking system for service-based industries, as well as restaurant-centric features such as suggested tipping amounts and online food orders.

Finally, Square Register is not to be confused with Square’s iPad-only, $60/month solution, Square for Retail (see our review).

Final Thoughts

When sorting through your options for touchscreen POS systems, the plethora of choices may at first seem overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here to help you sort out the stinkers and lead you to the very best tablet point of sale systems. And really, you can’t go wrong with any of the POS software systems on this list. Just check that the touchscreen POS system you’re considering meets your business’s needs in terms of functionality and budget, and test it out with a free trial before purchasing. And of course, don’t forget to check user reviews and complaints on the BBB and other consumer review sites. If you need further help choosing a touchscreen POS system, please contact me in the comments section and I’ll give you some further guidance.

The post 15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Shipping Software For 2018

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

There must be a better way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. ShippingEasy

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

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

Other features include:

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

Read our full ShippingEasy review

Visit the ShippingEasy website

2. OrderCup

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

For more information, view OrderCup’s pricing page.

Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway 

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

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

Read our full OrderCup review

Visit the OrderCup website

3. Ordoro

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

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

Features

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

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

Here are a few more features that come with Orodoro:

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

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

Read our full Ordoro review

Visit the Ordoro website

4. ShipStation

ShipStation

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

Read our full ShipStation review

Visit the ShipStation website

 

5. ShipRush

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

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

Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

Read our full ShipRush review

Visit the ShipRush website

6. ShipHawk

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

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

Features

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

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

Here are a few of the more notable features:

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

Read our full ShipHawk review

Visit the ShipHawk website

Get Started!

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

Good luck, and happy shipping!

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

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How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.

Journalists

Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.

Vendors

Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Shopify vs. Squarespace: Online Store Options Compared

Shopify vs. Squarespace – they are two of the most well-known brands in the online store / website builder industry. I’ve written a Shopify review here and Squarespace review here. But how do they compare directly to each other?

First, a bit of background. Over the past few years, online store software costs have plummeted, and the technology to get a website from idea to reality has blossomed.

Whether you’re using a text editor and uploading to the Amazon cloud, hosting your own site powered by WordPress + WooCommerce or using a drag and drop website builder, there’s never been an easier time to create an online store. It’s no longer 2002 where every storeowner had to know PHP, HTML, CSS and a bit of Javascript.

All-inclusive ecommerce builders have been particularly interesting. Companies like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce – not to mention platforms like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon – have brought ecommerce to everyone regardless of their coding skills.

On the wide spectrum of ecommerce store building solutions, they all live on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website.

That is in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something to be aware of when you’re choosing one of them as a solution since it affects your website both long and short term.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

Using an online store builder is like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

Shopify, Squarespace and other options like BigCommerce and Weebly as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file.

The last preface I’ll mention is that Squarespace is an all-around website builder with ecommerce capability.

Shopify, in contrast, is strictly an ecommerce platform.

This focus puts Squarespace behind as an advanced ecommerce tool and Shopify behind as a general website builder tool. With their respective free trials, you can quickly see the differences.

Try Shopify for Free

Try Squarespace for Free

Make sense? Awesome – let’s dive into the comparison.

Side note – if you want this comparison in a BuzzFeed-style quiz, you can take my online store builder quiz here…

You can also look at my posts on –

Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, ecommerce features, marketing features, and customer support.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my professional experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pricing

Comparing pricing between Shopify and Squarespace is fairly straightforward if you have a clear idea of your needs. This comes from the fact that Shopify focuses on *only* online store owners whereas Squarespace markets to everyone.

The short version is that Shopify is more expensive. But there’s a few caveats to look at.

Shopify Pricing

Squarespace Ecommerce Pricing

The first caveat is credit card fees.

Squarespace syncs with Stripe and PayPal. Their fees are 2.9% + $.30 per transaction.

Shopify has their own payments gateway that charges lower per transaction fees. But – if you use a non-Shopify gateway, Shopify charges an additional transaction fee that Squarespace does not have.

So why is this important? If you already have a gateway (ie, Authorize.net for your physical pop-up shop) and you want to use them with Shopify – then Shopify’s transaction fee kicks in. But – if you want to use Shopify Payment’s for your online store – you can save a bit of money on transaction fees. Those fees add up. If you have revenues of $100000 – a 0.4% reduction in fees could equal $500 per month.

The second caveat is value pricing.

On front-end features alone – Squarespace is significantly cheaper than Shopify, especially on their Advanced plan, which compares almost directly with Shopify’s Standard plan.

See Shopify’s Plans here.

See Squarespace’s Plans here.

But – like I mentioned in the introduction, it’s hard to compare their pricing tables directly since they are really different products for different audiences.

It’s a bit like comparing the pricing of a motorcycle vs. an SUV.

Sure, the motorcycle is much cheaper and it gets you from A to B. It has wheels, an engine, and it drives on the road just fine. But it’s also meant for a certain type of driving.

It all really comes down to what you need for you project – two wheels that will get you where you need to go or a vehicle that has plenty of room along with lots of features. So let’s look at other differences.

Aside – if you’re curious, Shopify’s $9/mo Lite plan isn’t applicable since it’s more of an inventory/payments software than an online store builder software. You can upload products, manage them, and accept payments, but you can only sell them via other platforms such as a Facebook plugin or a button on an existing website. Same goes with Squarespace’s Business Plan. It’s meant to do a website that happens to have a couple things for sale – not really a full online store solution. I’ll set both those options to the side for the moment.

Onboarding & User Experience

No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

Onboarding is the process of guiding you past that point. In theory, a huge selling point of online website / store builders is that they have a near-zero learning curve. They have a straightforward process from website concept to website reality.

On this point, Squarespace and Shopify both do alright but in different ways.

Shopify has a quick path from free trial signup to site launch. They have guided tours and a very straightforward setup. They also have customer support outreach focused on getting you up and running quickly.

Shopify Backend

However, Shopify also has many more features, apps, and technical options available that can present a challenge. The most daunting hurdle is linking your domain name to your store. It’s not difficult but is daunting at the mention of “setting your CNAME” (in fairness, you don’t have to direct your domain if you purchase via Shopify for a bit more per year than via a 3rd party).

Since Shopify functions as a platform for payments, offline inventory and more – their website store setup is actually on the second menu of their main dashboard rather than front and center.

Squarespace has a ridiculously fast sign up to live site process. Their backend is fairly intuitive for basic websites. However, they to have a “Squarespace jargon” to get used to. They like to appeal to developers and freelance designers – so there are advanced tools that can clutter simply launching a site.

SquareSpace Onboarding

Their support emails and tours are structured well. But since their software is made for all types of websites, the ecommerce features are a bit buried (and limited) from the perspective of an online store owner.

I would not rule either provider out on onboarding/user experience. But their differences are sort of like a restaurant with a waiter (Shopify) vs. a fast casual restaurant with a menu above the cashier (Squarespace).

If you want more help and more customization, then Shopify is your choice. If you want to quickly see and order from the features, then Squarespace is less daunting.

Design Features

Part of the overall value of website builders is simple, straightforward design – no web designers necessary.

But good design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.

Both Shopify and Squarespace use templates (aka “themes”) for design. But they are very different in customization options.

Shopify has a solid drag and drop design feature. You can create any layout element you’d like and drag it into place. You can click and edit any portion of any web page – including both content and design.

But – Shopify does not combine design and content. You have to get your design right – and then add content in a separate area (ie, it’s a template).

Since you can edit HTML/CSS with Shopify, you can build any design possible. There are few, if any, limits to any design that you see on the Internet. Additionally, Shopify has a drag and drop template editor.

Shopify Drag Drop

Squarespace has a hybrid approach. They famously have beautiful pre-built designs.

Squarespace Designs

They also have drag and drop – and pretty intuitive editing.

But – they also combine design and content with their editor. This approach has tradeoffs. On one hand, you can edit the design for specific pages. On the other hand, your design can go “off-base” pretty quickly – especially with content for hundreds of products.

The other drawback with Squarespace is that their off-the-shelf themes require *a lot* of really good imagery. If you don’t have access to high-quality photography, their themes are not going to work well. Many of Shopify’s designs are fine and functional regardless of product imagery.

They both have large marketplaces for premium designs (in addition to professional designers).

If you are a fan of raw functionality – then you’ll appreciate Shopify’s approach to design. If you want your site to look amazing off the shelf, love to edit details, and have access to good imagery – then you’ll appreciate Squarespace.

Ecommerce Features

The absolute core features of an ecommerce store are a –

  • product database
  • shopping cart
  • checkout page
  • payment processor
  • order database

That is it.

But, especially in 2017 (and 2018 and beyond), there is a *lot* more than can (and should) go into an ecommerce store. There’s everything from selling via Facebook Messenger to syncing with Amazon FBA to integrating with eBay – not to mention features for executing on marketing fundamentals.

Even for advertising products, there’s selling via Buyable Pins, Google Merchant, Twitter cards, and more. There’s remarketing and coupon codes. There’s A/B testing. There’s inventory synchronization with vendors like AliExpress. And there’s order synchronization with shippers like UPS and USPS.

And that’s all a drop in the bucket.

Obviously, not every store needs every feature. If you are trying to sell a couple T-shirts or a couple specialty products – you certainly don’t need them all. But if you want to grow and expand, you’ll need your options open.

For ecommerce features, Shopify wins hands down, though Squarespace does make it simple to sell your product. Squarespace has a few advanced features (like abandoned cart recovery), but it’s nothing like Shopify.

Shopify not only has more features directly integrated into their platform, but they also have a well-established app store that includes free and paid apps to extend your store with every feature you could possibly need.

Shopify Integrations

That said, this section is a bit unfair to Squarespace, because, again, they are a general website builder that includes ecommerce. Shopify is strictly an ecommerce platform.

If Shopify didn’t “win” on ecommerce features it would be a surprise. Technically, Squarespace competes more with the likes of Weebly and Wix or WordPress who are also website builders that provide core ecommerce features.

In short – if you need core ecommerce features integrated in a simple, straightforward way, then Squarespace is fine. If you actually need a full suite of ecommerce features to grow, then Shopify is hands-down better.

Technical Features

Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really “matter”…until they matter a lot. I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.

On this point, Shopify does very well – and not just compared to Squarespace, but compared to any hosted platform.

Traditionally, hosted platforms presented a risk for web designers, developers, and marketers who wanted to work on the technical aspects of the site.

I know that I flinch anytime a prospective client tells me they are on a hosted platform of any kind.

But Shopify and Squarespace perform well in general. Many skeptics of hosted platforms note that they actually take care of the technical features well. You still don’t have FTP access to your server, but you do have access to change things via their Liquid editor (Shopify) or Developer Mode (Squarespace).

Where they differ (especially for me) is in their potential for technical features. And again, here, Shopify’s app store is their “killer” feature. Even if a feature is not native to Shopify, a non-developer can usually add it.

On the flip side, Squarespace has a lot of native features that simply “work” – and a process of continually adding & revising existing features.

Both Squarespace and Shopify have inherent limitations as hosted platforms (ie, when you leave, you a lot of your data), but Shopify does a bit more to eliminate the weaknesses and capitalize on strengths as a hosted platform.

Marketing Features

In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Like any business, you have to actively promote and market your online store for anyone to show up.

Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.

For marketing features, both Shopify and Squarespace both do really well. They support header scripts. They integrate with many products. They add meta data, product schema and open graph tags automatically.

But like design & ecommerce features, there’s the same catch. For an ecommerce store owner, Shopify has many more (and higher quality) built-in features plus a better, more developed app store.

Squarespace has core marketing features built-in, but with more limits.

Support & Service

Customer support and service are difficult to judge. Like I’ve said in most of my reviews, a single customer can never really know if they happened upon a disgruntled rookie or if the company is really that bad.

That said, there are ways to look at a company’s investment in both customer services and support.

For Shopify vs. Squarespace, I think the clear “winner” is Shopify. Shopify not only provides more channels for customer service (phone, chat, email, forums, social media, etc), they also have an incredibly extensive help center.

The help center not only tackles technical issues, it also tackles customer success issues (aka problems with making money).

Squarespace has email support, and limited chat support – but no phone. Their knowledgebase does not have the attention or the depth that Shopify has.

Comparison Conclusion

So Shopify vs. Squarespace – which one is a better fit for your project?

If you plan on running a growing online store and want all the features possible, then you should go try Shopify.

Go try Shopify for free here.

If you want a simple store – or a general site with a beautiful look, then Squarespace might be a good fit for you.

Also – bookmark my post on creating an ecommerce marketing strategy here.

Good luck!

“”

X-Cart Versus Zen Cart

xcart-vs-zencart

If you are launching or moving an ecommerce site you’ll wish to choose which group of shopping cart software best compliments your store’s scope and your height of technical understanding. Maybe you’re available on the market for any platform which includes hosting like Shopify and BigCommerce. These cloud-based carts don’t need you to know any code but offer less wiggle room to make deep customizations.

However, if developing a totally unique online shop is really a priority I suggest thinking about both downloadable and free shopping carts. X-Cart is really a downloadable platform that charges an upfront fee to make use of. It had been produced greater than a decade back by programmers in Russia and it has developed into a sizable platform having a staff well over 100 engineers through its parent firm Qualiteam. Greater than 30,000 users have obtained the licensed CMS to produce online retailers. X-Cart’s simple to use admin keeps improving and it is fully scalable. But based on your set of skills you may want to employ a pro that will help you launch, which could add cost and time for you to your roll-out. Note: X-Cart also provides a cloud-based solution known as X-Cart Next. We’ll be searching at X-Cart’s original, licensed option within the following review.

Zen Cart is free of charge to download, and 100,000 individuals have done exactly that because the cart launched in 2003 after splitting removed from predecessor osCommerce. But to make use of the PHP/MySQL free platform you’ll wish to have a minimum of mid-level coding skills or receive the aid of a developer. Zen Cart arrives with several features which are incorporated with fee-based carts free of charge, nevertheless its insufficient support means you’re subject to a forum: Fortunately, it’s accessible and active.

Do not have time for you to read a whole article? Check out our best search engine optimization for any couple of quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer care, superb website templates, and simple-to-use software, all for any reasonable cost.

Otherwise, continue reading for for my full X-Cart and Zen Cart comparison. I’ll examine each cart’s features, user feedback, prices, and much more below.

Table of Contents

 Web-Located or Licensed:

While users receive use of complete source code, X-Cart is really a downloadable licensed software that you will purchase upfront. Zen Cart is definitely an free shopping cart software which costs absolutely nothing to download or use.

Software and hardware Needs:

Being an X-Cart or Zen Cart user you’ll result in securing hosting for the website from the provider like Rackspace. Discover more about X-Cart’s server needs here and Zen Cart’s hosting recommendations here. Additionally, X-Cart offers in-house hosting plans.

Prices:

Champion: Zen Cart

With X-Cart’s downloadable version you’ll pay an upfront fee varying from $195 to $1,795 to gain access to this program. Retailers can pick between X-Cart’s Gold, Gold Plus, Platinum and Mobile plans, although for me choosing the Mobile choice is a no-brainer since increasingly more online purchases are now being completed on tablets and smartphones. X-Cart also provides SSL certificates, hosting, development and design work, and fee-based technical support. Take a look at our complete X-Cart review for plan and prices details.

Since X-Cart is self-located you’ll should also pencil in added monthly hosting expenses in addition to additional security, integrations, and charge card processing charges. People that use the liberated to download Zen Cart will encounter exactly the same group of charges. Plus, if you are not really a coder anticipate to budget in having to pay a developer and designer. But if you can to change PHP code, then Zen Cart is the foremost value.

Simplicity of use:

Champion: X-Cart

It’s simpler to set up and personalize X-Cart than Zen Cart, the situation when evaluating almost any downloadable Versus open source. To be able to begin using X-Cart you’ll wish to be comfortable installing software with the aid of an FTP and customizing code to produce a store that both looks great and runs easily. I discovered there to become a slight learning curve with X-Cart also it required a couple of minutes that i can find my way around its admin. But after customizing templates, importing product info, adding integrations, and inputting store settings, you ought to be through nearly all work required to start selling. Other extras can invariably be added in lower the street.

It’s harder to understand where to start after Zen Cart’s installation process is finished. The setup process takes some PHP/MySQL programming skills and it is less straightforward than X-Cart. Zen Cart’s admin is a little a bear that may need a update. Some backend options that aren’t that important their very own drop lower, just like a music genre page, while some aren’t found in the most apparent place and wish some hunting and pecking to locate. But around the plus side, if you are prepared to commit some effort to understanding the areas of Zen Cart which are helpful for you (i.e. adding products and filling orders) the cart will start to become simpler to make use of.

Product Features:

Champion: X-Cart

X-Cart offers sufficient features to help you get going, including configurable URLs and meta data (“clean” URLS are produced to exchange original dynamic URLS,) order tracking, and testimonials. I love that you could sell products with several variations with relative ease through the product option module and I like that traditional, express, and ‘fast lane’ one-page checkout can be obtained. Find out about X-Cart’s features here and find out our full review for additional features details.

Zen Cart offers a few of the same wonderful features you’ll find with X-Cart, including product critiques and downloadable products. A complete list is here now. That stated, although it downloads with increased features than some free competitors like osCommerce, Zen Cart doesn’t offer a few crucial factors that you’ll enjoy with X-Cart: I missed finding one-page checkout along with a mobile version as they are. Since clients are making physical and downloadable purchases via cellular devices increasingly more, not offering an enhanced, fast buying experience might be a real hindrance to finishing sales.

Confused or at a loss for your choices? If you want help sifting through shopping cart software software we’re here to assist. Take a look at Merchant Maverick’s talking to services.

Website Design:

Champion: X-Cart

As I didn’t find X-Cart’s free or fee-based CSS-based templates to become show-stopping, several are intuitive and could be altered to complement the theme and feel of the store. Browse some skin options here. I suggest starting with a reasonably simplistic theme and customizing it with the addition of fresh fonts, colors, and product photography.

To contrast, Zen Cart’s default theme is definitely an eye sore. You could attempt to brighten it up by installing among the several template alterations where you can, for instance, give a slideshow for your homepage or perhaps a sidebar that displays social networking buttons, but for me it’s a far greater idea to employ a professional to create your store or search for any cleaner theme such as this or this. Try Googling “free Zen Cart templates” or click on the disposable template packages on Zen Cart’s plug-ins directory for additional theme examples.

While Zen Cart’s admin area is simple enough to make use of to include products and fill orders when you get used to it, it is also seriously looking for a refresh. I’d a significantly simpler time getting acclimated to X-Cart’s more elegant admin, where one can create coupons, maintain order and inventory info, and rapidly click both to and from your backend to frontend. I additionally like this integrations are housed within “goodies” tab.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Champion: Zen Cart

X-Cart offers a number of free add-ons like f-Commerce Go: It’s an additional that integrates X-Cart together with your Facebook business page. You’ll also find several popular fee-based extras, such as eBay and Mailchimp integrations. But when compared with Zen Cart, X-Cart offers far less add-ons.

Zen Cart arrives with sufficient fundamental features to obtain your store ready to go, but it’s likely you’ll wish to integrate a number of its greater than 1,500 extras to help make your store stick out while increasing its functionality. Bear in mind that quite a few users have experienced trouble customizing plugins previously and undergo difficulties transporting add-ons over after making sporadic Zen Cart updates. On Zen Cart integrations within our full review.

Payment Processing:

Champion: Tie

Zen Cart has the capacity to be integrated with Paypal, Authorize.internet, and FirstData, in addition to worldwide charge cards like Solo/Switch/Maestro (United kingdom), and JCB (multi-country). you may also processes checks and cash orders. Select charge cards your store accepts within the admin, including virtually all of the players like Visa, Mastercard, and American stock exchange. Take a look at Zen Cart’s plug-ins to locate several additional payment gateway and credit card merchant account integrations like PAYMILL and 2Checkout.

With X-Cart it’s very easy to integrate with any one of almost 100 gateways, including PayPal and Checkout by Amazon . com. You can process orders purchased with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express in addition to accept checks and cash orders. See the whole list here.

If you want help navigating the payment processor marketplace, take a look at our Credit Card Merchant Account Comparison page or call us for any consultation.

Customer Support and Tech Support Team:

Champion: Tie

Like other free carts, Zen Cart doesn’t maintain robust support beyond an energetic forum. However I did find Zen Cart to visit beyond a number of its free peers–it offers tutorials and FAQs, a person manual, a wiki that covers installing and upgrading this program, and YouTube videos.

For me, X-Cart’s support is a little an assorted bag–some retailers are pleased with their customer support experience, while some complain that compensated support costs $99 monthly (or $99 per single non-urgent incident should you not opt right into a monthly support plan) and isn’t offered 24/7. Also observe that tickets don’t cover all issues unless of course you have to pay yet another fee, so read the small print before you purchase a ticket. Unsupported topics vary from Search engine optimization to upgrades and gratifaction issues–see the entire list at the base of the page. Make sure to check other free sources for solutions for your questions first, via forums, a understanding base, and FAQs. I suggest going the only ticket route since X-Cart’s compensated monthly support costs almost $1,200 each year.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Champion: X-Cart

We spent hrs researching and compiling user feedback about both X-Cart and Zen Cart and located more negative feedback from Zen Cart users. As pointed out above, we noted that some X-Cart retailers wish its compensated support was available 24/7. For me, X-Cart could de-stress its compensated support model, especially since i have can’t make a slew of companies are pleased to fork over $99 for monthly support when cloud-based carts offer hosting, technical support, better styles and much more features for a lot less monthly that X-Cart charges for support alone.

Zen Cart users complain about its stale styles, counterproductive admin, insufficient one-page checkout (which X-Cart offers) and behind-the-occasions Search engine optimization and marketing features. And a few retailers are convinced that the woking platform can act buggy and also have experienced rocky upgrades.

If you wish to look for other complaints about X-Cart or Zen Cart, make sure to google X-Cart/Zen Cart reviews, X-Cart/Zen Cart complaints, X-Cart/Zen Cart comments, X-Cart/Zen Cart scam, X-Cart/Zen Cart testimonials, etc.

Positive Testimonials and reviews:

Champion: X-Cart

I discovered lots of positive X-Cart comments online from longtime, loyal users. Vibrant spots for X-Cart include engineers that rapidly reconcile issues, a complete group of as they are features, along with a very customizable admin. Others like its cost, social networking integrations, and PCI-compliance.

Zen Cart users like this it’s liberated to download–no surprise there–and that it is completely customizable and keeps a lively forum. Others appreciate that it arrives with a variety of features and add-ons. But overall, our search switched up more kudos from X-Cart retailers.

Final Verdict:

Champion: X-Cart

Selecting whether licensed ecommerce shopping cart software that needs an upfront payment to download like X-Cart or perhaps an free cart that’s liberated to download but requires more coding competence to produce like Zen Cart will provide you with control of your store’s feel and look. Both X-Cart and Zen Cart require that you get a host for the store and provide you with the actual capability to make serious customizations for your shop. Plus, each comes as they are with sufficient features to begin.

Which suits your company? This will depend in your shop’s scope and values. Some retailers are energized by the opportunity to opt-in for an free user community and therefore are comfortable taking it towards the forums for help when problems appear. If that’s you, Zen Cart could be the right fit. Before committing I’d also recommend searching at competitors like Spree Commerce. If it’s important to bring a developer aboard to produce your store with Zen Cart, my conjecture would be that the liberated to download platform would be the more pricey option within the finish.

If you are lured with a licensed cart that arrives prepared to be included in an entirely unique store I suggest searching carefully at X-Cart, which will keep improving. X-Cart arrives with fresher skins as well as an simpler to navigate admin than Zen Cart. I love that X-Cart also provides one-page checkout and supports responsive styles, since within my opinion both are crucial for the store’s success.

Consider using a free demo of X-Cart’s downloadable version or download Zen Cart to have an limitless trial and find out if either shopping cart software suits your web store.

“”

Magento Versus Zen Cart

Magento-vs-Zencart

If you are thinking about using free shopping cart software software to produce or migrate a current online shop, odds are you’re whether confident coder or will be ready to employ a professional to build up your shop. Either in situation, you’ll be thinking about two popular free platforms: Magento and Zen Cart.

Launched about ten years ago, Zen Cart is really a PHP/MySQL platform that branched removed from osCommerce. osCommerce was among the first free carts hitting the scene in 2000 (take a look at our osCommerce and Zen Cart comparison here.) Using more than 100,000 users under its belt, Zen Cart’s consistent performance, active forums, and relatively simple to complete installation process turn it into a serious contender which has earned many loyal users. However, many developers complain that although the program is a great candidate for code newbies, its less malleable PHP coding framework shows aging process.

Magento is completely customizable, elegant, flooded with features…and has a steep learning curve. An intricate open cart solution, Magento has been utilized by greater than 150,000 retailers because it launched greater than 5 years ago and it is a finest fit for mid to large-size companies who are able to afford help to obtain their store launched and maintained. I recommend getting a pro developer that has effectively labored with Magento prior to getting began, in addition to a designer based on your developer’s set of skills.

Observe that the next article compares Zen Cart to Magento CE, Magento’s free, free option.

Do not have time for you to read a whole article? Check out our best search engine optimization for any couple of quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer care, superb website templates, and simple-to-use software, all for any reasonable cost.

Otherwise, keep studying to understand how Magento and Zen Cart perform within our mind-to-mind comparison.

Table of Contents

Web-Located or Licensed:

Both Magento and Zen Cart are free, self-located shopping carts that is free of charge to download or use.

Software and hardware Needs:

Since they’re both free, downloadable platforms, it’s important to find hosting for the Magento or Zen Cart store. Read information regarding Magento’s hosting requirements here and discover Zen Cart’s guidelines here.

Prices:

Champion: Tie

Both Magento CE and Zen Cart are free shopping cart software platforms that won’t cost you a factor to download. However when planning just how much to plan for your store’s creation and launch, bear in mind that it’s important to purchase hosting, charge card processing, (possibly) a design template, security to make sure PCI compliance, and (possibly) a developer and designer. It’s easy to understand the way it can finish up squandering your at least as much to produce an ecommerce site by having an free cart like Magento or Zen Cart instead of a cloud-based option which includes hosting and expenses through the month, like BigCommerce or Shopify.

Simplicity of use:

Champion: Zen Cart

When I just pointed out above, free shopping carts will vary creatures than web-based competitors for example Shopify that include hosting, templates, and security as they are. Both Zen Cart and Magento require technical understanding and a minimum of mid-level coding competency to set up and personalize. If it is not after this you you’ll want to locate a developer to obtain your shop ready to go and train staff regarding how to add inventory, manage customers, fill orders, etc.

I discovered Zen Cart’s admin to become counterproductive, with increased drop downs than needed. Zen Cart’s template system for defining the feel of your shop (its as they are template is particularly underwhelming, so customizing its PHP code is essential) is sensible after committing serious amounts of it, but anticipate to search and peck to locate standard elements like product options and tax settings. That stated, when your store is live you’ll most likely have previously mastered in which the areas of Zen Cart’s admin which are highly relevant to you reside (also known as adding products and managing orders) and may ignore admin tabs like “index listing,” “default page status,” and “option value manager.”

You’ll need to know that some developers describe Zen Cart’s code as sloppy which its periodic software updates can lead to lost design and integration customizations. But overall its PHP-based code helps it to be simpler to get going rapidly, a minimum of when compared with Magento.

Magento’s complex code is notoriously difficult to master, and it is short stack of support tools make partnering by having an experienced pro crucial, particularly if you’re shelling out cash before you’re in a position to start earning it back by finishing sales. Magento’s backend isn’t a lot more streamlined than Zen Cart’s, with confusing system settings and admin pages that aren’t always in which you expect these to be. Intend to spend some time finding out how to add orders and keep your store.

Product Features:

Champion: Magento

Overall, I discovered Magento to provide a better developed, better quality group of features which are crucial for creating effective online retailers. For instance, only Magento is enhanced for smartphones and tablets, that is a must for reducing abandoned carts, especially since a lot of us are browsing and purchasing on cellular devices. Also, Magento arrives with more powerful fundamental Search engine optimization tools. Plus, I love that it may support several store from one admin–that’s a less frequent feature overall in web-based, downloadable, or free shopping carts.

Zen Cart does present some features you will not find after installing Magento, including gift cards along with a (dated) WYSIWYG tool. But Magento’s product comparison feature, coupon system (Zen Cart offers light coupon functionality), wishlists, and uber important one page checkout tend to be more types of extras making it soar beyond Zen Cart within the features department.

For more information concerning the feature teams of both carts, take a look at our complete Magento review here and Zen Cart review here. If you are confused or at a loss for your choices and would really like help sifting through shopping cart software software we’re here to assist. Take a look at Merchant Maverick’s talking to services.

Website Design:

Champion: Magento

There isn’t any doubt that both Magento and Zen Cart can establish completely functional shops, but getting there’s most likely likely to mean dealing with a thick pile of customizations or purchasing a theme. It’s one more reason to utilize a professional if you are not confident nipping and tucking code.

When you can tweak the headers, colors, fonts, along with other fundamental elements of design with Zen Cart’s as they are theme, I counsel beginning having a different skin since its default choice is, to become diplomatic, very dated. Take a look at more Zen Cart free themes to get an understanding of what’s available. Or, you are able to employ a designer to carry out a custom look that’s totally unique, that is things i recommend.

Compared, Magento has been utilized to create what, for me, tend to be more elegant stores (browse some Magento live stores here and Zen Cart live stores here to check.) This minimal free Modern Theme for Magento is miles over the skin which comes standard with Zen Cart in looks and usefulness. Plus, Magento’s template system streamlines customizing skins. Take a look at various other Magento templates here.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Champion: Magento

Magento arrives with several helpful features as they are, but you’ll wish to browse its countless free and fee-based integrations too. Take a look at its full plug-in list here by selecting “Community” under “Platform” around the left side from the screen. Extras are sortable by rating, relevance, and cost.

As opposed to Magento, which arrives with lots of more features after it’s downloaded, intend to depend on Zen Cart’s plugins to complete your store’s set of features. Zen Cart offers retailers an enormous database in excess of 1,500 integrations, including admin tools varying from bulk order plugins to advanced login features, language packages, social networking and marketing extras, and prices tools. A thing of warning: We found reports claiming that some Zen Cart plugins really are a bear to personalize and aren’t suitable for new versions.

I love that Magento’s application store lets users leave feedback about plugins which each integration earns a “popularity score.” Individuals factors should in no way be the sole reason you choose to make use of an add-on, but a minimum of the scores provide a frame of reference. Overall, I discovered Magento’s integrations to become more curated, reliable, and helpful.

Payment Processing:

Champion: Magento

While it isn’t suitable for as many gateways as some cloud-based shopping cart software platforms, Magento integrates with an array of gateways and third-party processors including PayPal.

Zen Cart integrates with lots of processors too, including Dwolla and Braintree, and supports plug-ins for a lot of more gateways. Also, when i pointed out above Zen Cart supports gift cards as they are while Magento doesn’t. However, Magento does support one-page checkout and guest checkout (each of which for me are essentials that internet buyers have started to expect) while Zen Cart doesn’t.

If you want help navigating the payment processor landscape, take a look at our Credit Card Merchant Account Comparison page or call us for any consultation.

Customer Support and Tech Support Team:

Champion: Zen Cart

Magento CE users depend on its active, almost 2 million member forum when questions show up pre and post stores are live, so bookmark the page for reference. Overall, I didn’t have positive interactions with Magento support–answers to questions I sent staff via email or Facebook weren’t clarified. Also, users are convinced that Magento’s documentation is thin, however it does keep growing.

To contrast, Zen Cart offers several additional tools for help which go beyond its 135,000 member forum, including tutorials and FAQs, YouTube videos, along with a wiki since the installation process and upgrades. Or you prefer holding a reference guide with you you may also order Zen Cart’s instructions.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Champion: Zen Cart

Retailers and developers have lots to complain about with Magento and Zen Cart. After hrs of research and time spent culling user feedback, we could find out the following common negative trends about each cart.

A vintage complaint about Magento is the fact that it’s slow and clunky. Another common gripe concentrates on the Magento customer care department and documentation, with are essentially nonexistent in the CS edition except for a properly-used forum. Other Magento users aren’t happy that developer charges, security, hosting, and processing charges allow it to be an costly option, leveling out the advantages of that download free pretty rapidly.

Zen Cart users frequently complain about its outdated admin design, lagging marketing and Search engine optimization features, and not seamless version upgrades that may result in lost data. Also, some state that the cart is glitchy, miss good choices for mobile integrations, and wish the opportunity to offer customers one-page checkout. Overall, we found more negatives concerning the better-known and harder to understand Magento.

If you wish to look for other complaints about Magento or Zen Cart, make sure to google Magento/Zen Cart reviews, Magento/Zen Cart complaints, Magento/Zen Cart comments, Magento/Zen Cart scam, Magento/Zen Cart testimonials, etc.

Positive Testimonials and reviews:

Champion: Magento

We collected assorted positive reports about Zen Cart, varying from kudos because of its solid uptime record, great support sources, and broad group of add-ons. Other Zen Cart retailers verify its customizable admin and worldwide achieve.

But we found more users singing the praises of Magento, with lots of programmers building totally unique, effective stores which are scalable, specifically for medium and enormous size e-tailers. Magento users like its meaty attributes, which rivals some fee-based located competitors, and therefore are happy that it arrives with various coupon and promotions options and may support mobile sales and multiple stores.

Final Verdict:

Champion: Magento

Zen Cart gives retailers the opportunity to build relationships an active user community that aims to constantly improve its functionality. It is also fast, lighter, and much easier to navigate than Magento and may take a shorter period to understand. Consider it started 10 years ago, some smarter, leaner free competitors like Spree Commerce and PrestaShop have challenged Zen Cart’s comparatively dated admin and lagging marketing, mobile, and Search engine optimization integrations.

Magento is really a workhorse that may create effective, beautiful stores, however it needs a real commitment. It’ll likely try taking some cold income and also the right team of developers to unveil a effective store, but Magento’s capability to scale enough to aid companies which are big names is definitely an appealing plus: The Harper’s Bazaar and Fiji Water web stores are generally operated by Magento. I additionally found it packed with some of the very features cloud-based carts charge money to make use of. When compared with Zen Cart, Magento is really a fight tested and much more impressive bit of software–if you really can afford it.

Prepared to take both ecommerce shopping carts try it out? Download Magento here and Zen Cart here to find out if either choice is the best fit for the business. Also, take a look at our full Magento and Zen Cart reviews for that full lowdown.

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MailChimp Versus Constant Contact

Mailchimp-vs-Constant Contact

Constant Contact was among the first companies to get involved with the e-mail marketing business. The organization was founded 1995, and started operating in 1998. Up to now, it’s still probably the most broadly recognized ESPs — particularly among individuals who know hardly any about e-mail marketing. Which, to be honest, is most likely most of Constant Contact’s users list.

MailChimp, however, took its begin in 2001. It’s very easy to inform the people behind MailChimp possess a great spontaneity — they’re known as The Brain Surgery Group. And despite rocket science’s status to be complicated, MailChimp really isn’t. It’s set itself apart like a cool, funny brand while still offering the type of features that attract serious Online marketers.

Constant Contact has a respectable 550,000 customers in a wide array of industries. But MailChimp claims greater than six million customers, including some huge names, including TED. We’ve reviewed both services formerly (take a look at our individual reviews for MailChimp and Constant Contact), but let’s check out where both of these e-mail marketing platforms stand out, what sets them aside from one another, and which is the greatest solution for you personally.

Table of Contents

Web-Based or In your area Installed:

Champion: Tie

Constant Contact and MailChimp are generally cloud-based e-mail marketing suites. You may also download mobile phone applications for services on Android and iOS, though it normally won’t possess the full suite of features. Consider them a lot more like supplements as opposed to a substitute. You’re have to a laptop to make use of these types of services for their full extent.

Software and hardware Needs:

Champion: Tie

MailChimp works on Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome. It is also compatible with Internet Explorer 9 and above. Constant Contact works together with Chrome, the present form of Firefox and also the 3 previous releases, Safari 7 and above, and Explorer 9 and above. You should also enable JavaScript and pop-ups for services.

I will refer to this as a draw because support is fairly universal. We stated within our Constant Contact review the software has “known issues” in Explorer (around the support site it particularly mentions issues on Home windows XP) — but you aren’t really using Explorer, right? …Right? (Go download Chrome, Firefox, or Safari at this time.)

Specific Size Business:

Champion: MailChimp

E-mail marketing isn’t just something do since your competition is doing the work, too. The thing is to retain customers and also be your company. For this reason MailChimp wins this round.

Constant Contact is a perfect suite for small companies which are just beginning by helping cover their Online marketing. However, it isn’t very scalable. The client support Constant Contact provides causes it to be well suited for newbies, but when you’ve become used to e-mail marketing and wish to increase your time and efforts, you might find you’ve outgrown it.

MailChimp is much better suitable for companies of any size — from single-man (or single-lady) startups to large institutions. The prices structure is a lot more flexible and scalable too. Should you enter into this having a plan and carry it out well, you’ll find MailChimp provides you with the infrastructure to develop without getting to handle the need for importing your database from another service (unless of course you’re already searching to change, obviously).

Features:

Champion: MailChimp

When it comes to pure functionality, MailChimp dominates Constant Contact. Whichever plan you select, you have more value for your money, as they say. Let’s check out you skill beyond just delivering emails.

Features MailChimp Constant Contact
Analytics and Reports Yes Yes
Social Networking Support Yes Yes
Multiple User Accounts Yes Yes*
Autoresponders Yes – compensated plans only Yes – greater tier plans only
Sign-Up Forms (including QR codes) Yes Yes
Subscriber Profiles Yes Yes
A/B Split Testing Yes No**
Send Time Optimizer  Yes No**
Mobile Phone Applications (iOS, Android) Yes Yes

A couple of notes here:

* When you can authorize multiple users using the greater-tiered plans in Constant Contact, you cannot set multiple permissions. MailChimp, however, enables you to designate multiple roles and restricts use of features according to individuals permissions, that makes it a lot more helpful for collaboration.

** Constant Contact does not have built-in tools to evaluate this data, however that doesn’t mean you cannot get it done by hand. You may create two separate drafts of the email and segment your list to transmit one version to every segment, then evaluate your open and click on-through rates by hand. Likewise, you can try your open-rate data to get the best time for you to distribute data according to that. Still, it’s far easier to possess built-in tools that handle it for you personally.

Analytics and Reporting 

Another subject we discussed within our previous reviews may be the depth from the reporting obtainable in both services. Constant Contact’s metrics are fairly fundamental: open rates, CTRs, bounces, opt-outs, etc. You do not get tools to evaluate any A/B testing, Return on investment, or conversions — all available in MailChimp, additionally towards the standard fare. You need to do get Google Analytics integration with, that is useful, but MailChimp may be the obvious champion here.

Constant Contact’s Plus Campaigns

Both ESPs have pretty thorough social integration. However in its Plus Campaigns feature, Constant Contact also gives you some additional features that MailChimp does not have:

  • Facebook: Run sweepstakes, offer digital coupons, and share other downloadable content which you can use to develop your client base.
  • Event Promotion and Registration: Share, register visitors, accept payment and set of metrics in one place.
  • Donations: Run charitable organization campaigns via social networking or email.
  • Trackable Coupons: Digital coupons that the visitors can share and you can track.
  • Surveys and Polls: Get much more data out of your subscribers.

There’s a couple of additional features incorporated in Plus Campaigns, too. You’re likely to pay more of these features in Constant Contact. However, MailChimp can also add these functions through its integrations along with other services.

Prices:

Champion: MailChimp

The prices structures for Constant Contact and MailChimp really are a bit different, and they’re complicated enough that It is best to go take a look at our original reviews of every for that specifics. Meanwhile, here’s the rundown from the major variations:

Constant Contact is entirely list-based. You have to pay in line with the quantity of total subscribers you’ve (important to note: a subscriber on two lists continues to be only counted as you subscriber), and select 1 of 3 tiered plans for that features and additional services you would like. You can include features from greater-tiered plans for the next fee.

MailChimp, however, has three kinds of plans. The Entrepreneur plan’s free of charge (available for approximately 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails monthly).It’s not necessary to go in a charge card, however your emails have a little MailChimp badge incorporated at the end.

Beyond that, you’ve got a send-based option (essentially pay-as-you-go) along with a monthly subscription in line with the number of individuals inside your lists. Unlike Constant Contact, their email on two separate lists counts as two subscribers. The monthly subscription includes a couple of features another two plans don’t, but you can include them for a small fee.

Within our Constant Contact review, we noticed that its services have to do with 120 percent to 150 percent of the items competitors charge for comparable services. You receive more quality with MailChimp (including more reporting options and integrations) at a lower price — but we’ll enter into that later. And also the free choice is very appealing, considering that MailChimp’s most fundamental plan’s $35 per month for approximately 2,5000 subscribers.

Simplicity of use:

Champion: MailChimp

Certainly one of Constant Contact’s selling points is it’s very easy-to-use templates (65 of these, actually). They’re great and also the WYSIWYG editor is fairly intuitive. However, you’re going to need to jump through hoops (or at best screens) if you wish to code your email in HTML yourself.

Finding what you would like within the template menu can be challenging, and mobile options indicate pretty clearly that it is an area Constant Contact hasn’t really stored on. There isn’t any method to even preview your mobile emails. Much more frustratingly, the overall email preview feature is hard to rely on and sporadic, too. And you may easily miss a “save” button and lose a number of your projects.

Quite a few users appear to become at odds with regards to MailChimp’s simplicity of use. Some repeat the email creator is simple to use, while some appear to consider the personalization choices are hard to use unless of course you’ve got a solid knowledge of coding. You receive 12 fundamental templates and hundreds more styles according to individuals templates.

Here’s why MailChimp arrives ahead: You can get a typical email preview along with a mobile preview. You may also observe how the e-mail will appear in various clients. MailChimp auto-saves every 20 seconds, so you aren’t likely to lose your projects.

Integrations and Add-Ons:

Champion: MailChimp

MailChimp’s site claims it’s greater than 700 integrations with assorted third-party services. Constant Contact’s list of apps and integrations appears just below 250 during the time of writing.

Are both going to provide the fundamentals. There’s Google Analytics, obviously, WordPress, and Salesforce (in addition to Zoho). MailChimp has more CRM integrations, including Capsule and Contactually. Have e-commerce integrations with BigCommerce and Shopify, too.

By sheer figures, MailChimp may be the pretty apparent choice if you would like lots of integration with all of your data.

Customer Support and Tech Support Team:

Champion: Constant Contact

This is when the option of best ESP really boils lower to your demands. From the bat, Constant Contact has won three Stevie awards because of its customer support. It features a phone support option that MailChimp doesn’t, and also the hrs are pretty, too: Phone support can be obtained 7 days per week. Hrs are:

  • Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. EST
  • Friday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST
  • Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to eight p.m. EST

And also the phone support is excellent, too. If you want someone to secure your hands and take you step-by-step through everything, Constant Contact is what you want.

Service isn’t perfect, however. Our reviewer had some negative encounters with Constant Contact’s support personnel, too, mostly concerning slow responding time.

That stated, Constant Contact also provides an intensive understanding base that you could consult as needed. There’s decent social networking support, even though you will from time to time you need to be told to email customer support. Constant Contact’s blog is filled with useful tips and there is a online community, too.

Want in addition to that? You have it: Webinars (including free and compensated options) can be found regularly. If you go searching for the greatest-tiered plan, there is also use of a 1-on-one personal coach. Constant Contact even hosts in-person classes that will highlight the fundamentals (for $199, obviously).

MailChimp does not have telephone service. However, their support is usually prompt and professional and also the individuals are knowledgeable. You are able to achieve representatives via email 24 hrs each day. Live Chat can be obtained Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to six p.m. EST (for those who have a compensated account, that’s). Social networking support can also be quite responsive.

Beyond that, MailChimp comes with an extensive understanding base, like Constant Contact, and a range of video training or even a reference of important terms. And there’s your blog, that also offers plenty of tips and information.

In case you really require the extra hands-holding, Constant Contact is the foremost option. In case your search-fu is powerful or else you have a handle on which you’re doing, you’ll get on all right with MailChimp.

Security:

Champion: MailChimp

With programs such as these, security is vital. In the end, it isn’t just your computer data on the line — it’s your customers’, too. These two services are EU Safe Harbor compliant. Both of them use SSL file encryption to safeguard charge card data.

However it shouldn’t surprise you by using roughly 12 occasions the amount of users as Constant Contact, MailChimp is really a bit more transparent about its safety measures.

If you are seriously interested in security or else you anticipate a really large list inside your future, opt for MailChimp. It even includes a documented continuity plan “in situation of nuclear attack on the data center” — something it mentions outright on its security page. Large lists are stored by themselves individual servers to lessen the risk of data corruption. (For smaller sized lists, including free plans, MailChimp uses shared servers.)

Check our earlier reviews, or visit the MailChimp and Constant Contact security pages for yourself, if you would like.

Let’s also talk as it were about junk e-mail. Nobody wants it, and both Constant Contact and MailChimp take quite strong stances against it. You have to make certain that you’re following your ESP’s tos (including incorporating remove yourself from list links inside your emails) as well as in compliance with U.S. laws and regulations and individuals associated with a country where you’re delivering email. Go browse the anti-junk e-mail policies for Constant Contact and MailChimp.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Champion: MailChimp

Watch will have its detractors. MailChimp will get flak from users for that difficulty in building custom templates using HTML and CSS. Some also complain about getting to inquire about users to re-opt-in to receiving emails when transferring lists.

But it is not bad thinking about that among the greatest complaints about Constant Contact is manipulative salespeople. It’s extensively recorded (take a look at our earlier review), and may be described as a switch off.

Complaints of unfair charges when a free account is frozen for spammy tactics really are a common one. You cannot make use of your account even though it is under review, but you’ll be billed for this. You are able to cancel your bank account if you are on the month-to-month plan, but there is not much to complete for those who have a pre-compensated plan. Beyond that, you have complaints of poor usability, bugs and glitches, and merely too little features.

Positive Testimonials and reviews:

Champion: MailChimp

It’s worth mentioning again that Constant Contact’s customer support has won Stevie awards, and also the fundamental email designer is simple to use. Typically people think MailChimp’s software programs are simple to use, too. Furthermore, MailChimp’s reporting services tend to be more robust also it comes with a totally free option.

It is also important to note that MailChimp beats Constant Contact in G2 Crowd reviews (4. across 103 reviews in contrast to 3.6 from 67 reviews), which its mobile phone applications for Android and iOS tend to be better reviewed.

Final Verdict:

Champion: MailChimp

Constant Contact earned a decent 3.5 stars within our earlier review, but MailChimp earned 4.5 stars, and it’s easy to determine why. With better prices, better quality features, as well as an impressive quantity of integrations, MailChimp is the foremost choice for anybody who would like to boost their e-mail marketing business. If, however, you’re brand-new towards the game and most likely will not be delivering even more than an periodic e-newsletter, Constant Contact provides the type of give you support might take advantage of. But you’re prone to outgrow it in case your efforts remove. Plus, MailChimp’s entry-level package is free of charge, that makes it the safer option to test out e-mail marketing if you are just beginning out.

We like to know what you think. Got questions? Would like to learn more? Take a look at our other e-mail marketing reviews or be at liberty to contact us!

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Manley is definitely an independent author and editor who loves e-commerce, internet marketing, technology, and social networking. Not so long ago, she earned a journalism degree, but she continued to uncover that they could work at home, researching, editing, and covering the items she found most fascinating. When she’s not associated with her laptop, Melissa usually can be based in the kitchen, studying a magazine, or doing something from the nerdy persuasion.

Melissa Johnson

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The Advanced Help guide to Running A Highly Effective Loyalty Program

Exactly what do the Walmart Savings Catcher, Macy’s Shop The Right Path, and Delta SkyMiles programs all share? They’re loyalty programs operated by large companies generating huge amount of money annually. These programs offer incentives to customers in return for certain behaviors, varying from frequent or greater spending to social discussing and referrals.
Loyalty program InfographicBy providing carefully marketed incentives, loyalty programs boost sales and feet traffic, increase contact with your company, and open a door for future marketing. Sophisticated, digital loyalty programs aren’t always new, but having to pay between tens to thousands and thousands of dollars of these programs make them unattainable for small companies – until lately.

Loyalty and reward platforms are relatively recent towards the small company space. Numerous companies have embarked to produce top quality, digital loyalty programs at affordable rates. The majority of the companies I’ve reviewed average around 2-four years old the first began in ’09. That being stated, loyalty programs are extremely diverse, and also the rules and abilities of 1 aren’t prone to match another. Regardless of this diversity, most programs are made having a couple of things in your mind. The foremost and primary because you have a company that needs significant feet visitors to stay afloat. Companies for example restaurants, stores, fitness gyms, local niche shops, and ecommerce stores which require frequent visits may benefit a good deal from loyalty programs. Essentially, a properly-rounded loyalty program must do three things: increase repeat business, generate start up business, and provide you with an aggressive edge.

  • Construct it right. Developing a loyalty program that work well for you personally will require forethought and meticulous planning. While adjustments might be necessary after a while, you need to make certain the basic principles of the program are seem. I suggest studying the McKinsey & Co strategies in more detail.
  • Make use of the right draws. Among the best tools any loyalty program can provide is the opportunity to collect specific data regarding your customers. This data may be used to tailor promotions while offering to some customer’s preferences, giving your choices more quality and increasing the likelihood that buyers will revisit.
  • Possess the right reasons. Among the goals of the clients are to earn money. Getting stated that, it can’t be the sole reason if you wish to be effective. Your loyalty program is a superb tool. Utilize it to enhance the client experience, services or products you are offering, in addition to express gratitude for your customers for his or her patronage.

“But let’s say companies used their loyalty programs to help make the service or product better for me personally? Let’s say, rather of paying me for which is generally a similar (and of low quality) experience, they provided the knowledge better?” – Taddy Hall on loyalty programs, The Cambridge Group

(Link)

So, how can you tell if your loyalty program fits your needs? You will find numerous studies which suggest loyalty programs work, and numerous others which claim that loyalty programs don’t. Based on a Stanford Business article, loyalty programs don’t change customer behavior for top spenders, but instead only affect behavior for low spenders whose overall value might not offset program costs. A more modern article from Business Insider implies that companies without loyalty programs grow in a slightly greater rate than companies that do possess a loyalty program. Mckinsey & Company has identified a couple of explanations why loyalty programs neglect to deliver value, citing insufficient differentiation, innovation, and knowledge because the primary causes. Effective programs shared characteristics for example integrated or omni-funnel loyalty encounters, quality data to facilitate targeted marketing, and partnerships with non-competing retailers.

If you’ve didn’t have a loyalty program before, or else you have however it was unsuccessful, my hope may be the tips offered in the following paragraphs will take you better success. Loyalty programs are available in all sizes and shapes, so selecting the correct one for your company is key.

Table of Contents

Choosing the right Program

Steps
Choosing the right program may appear just like a daunting task. Whether you’re a physical merchant or work strictly in ecommerce markets, there’s a numerous possibilities. Prior to choosing a course, there are several preliminary steps you need to take that will help you make a good decision.

  • The First Step. Define your company. Your company type will matter when choosing a course. Some loyalty programs are produced strictly for ecommerce, while some need a location. If you are generating business both on and offline, you’ll find you will find less low-cost options open to you to streamline the procedure. Within each business type you will see limitations according to your company hardware and software. Some loyalty programs operate like a stand-alone product while some require integration. For brick-and-mortar retailers this can typically involve your POS for ecommerce retailers, this can involve your ecommerce platform or shopping cart software.
  • Second Step. Define your objectives. Knowing what you would like is half the fight in selecting, well, anything, particularly loyalty programs. From the three functions listed, that is most significant for you inside a loyalty program? Give me an idea your program to complete? Once you’ve written lower what you would like, begin defining how you need to keep it in check. Some programs permit you to make changes anytime towards the program, other medication is smaller. Just how much detail do you want in reports? Are you currently searching for simplicity or impressive personalization options? Be as honest so that as thorough as the hectic agenda enables.
  • Third Step. Define your limits. It’s important to reconcile what you would like with what you could realistically maintain. Many loyalty programs need a subscription, compensated monthly, though some don’t. Just how much are you able to afford? Are you able to invest in an agreement, as well as on what terms? Creating custom rewards and tiers could be a bit tiresome, as well as time intensive. Determine the length of time you’re prepared to invest in creating and looking after your program.
  • Fourth Step. Define your census. Probably you’ve already defined some, if not completely of those areas, in certain capacity. Your target audience (the shoppers you need to generate), subscriber base (the shoppers you have) as well as your competition (individuals who sell similar products within the same area or space) would be the areas that warrant probably the most analysis. Get just as much feedback as possible from customers about things that they like. This should help you pick which platform works perfect for your company, in addition to assist you in making significant rewards for the customers.

Survey Your Choices

Once you’ve completed your preliminaries, it’s time for you to start narrowing things lower making a top three list (or even more, if you have time). You should check out the loyalty reviews here on this website to obtain began. For physical retailers, I’d recommend you review FiveStars or Perkville for ecommerce retailers or retailers using both platforms, I suggest you take a look at Sweet Tooth. A couple of areas to seriously consider:

  • Customer Support. Each loyalty review gives information on customer support and overall impressions. If customer support is really a major feature for you personally, pay attention for this area. Some companies offer great products, but horrible interpersonal relations.
  • Prices, Contracts and Cancellation Policies. Before getting associated with any loyalty program, know with certainty ways to get out and just what do it yourself. Contract lengths and cancellation policies ought to be well defined and clearly expressed. A thing of caution: sales people will frequently downplay cancellation policies with vague or dismissive solutions. Never be afraid to inquire about more clearness about this subject, or request their official policy if it is not easily available online. Regarding contracts and prices, some companies are prepared to negotiate on either of individuals terms, therefore it never hurts to inquire about.
  • Simplicity of use. Typically, a great loyalty program ought to be simple for your clients to make use of and simple for you to handle. Some companies perform a better job only at that than the others, but make time to view available demos and tutorials on loyalty software to find out if it will likely be a great fit.

*If you are getting trouble narrowing lower your choices, or would prefer to have another person perform the legwork, you are able to call us for further assistance. *

Program Features

Each program may have its very own group of features open to you, and options and abilities will be different from business to business. A few of the more prevalent features are highlighted below:

  • Point-based programs. A place based program provides extensive value and versatility. Use a point based system to provide different point values for various services or products, and provide bonus or marketing suggests encourage specific actions.
  • Tiered programs. Utilizing a tiered system of rewarding your clients does a couple of things. First, it adds some gamification which provides your clients something to achieve for. Second, it enables you to definitely differentiate between customers and provide rewards according to their profitability.
  • Social Discussing. From Twitter and facebook posts email incentives, social discussing is a superb tool to market your company and special promotions. Most programs have incentivized social discussing (a coupon reward or X quantity of bonuses) however, many provide it without resorting to incentives.
  • Reviews. Not every companies provide the ability for the people to take a look at business from where you are, and also the limitations vary. There are several disadvantages in this selection namely, the possibility backlash from rewarding customers for 5 star reviews.
  • Data reports. Data reports are part of the effective lengthy-term loyalty program. Mckinsey & Co offer tips on how using data acquired through loyalty programs helps boost sales. Data collected from customer behaviors for example purchases, social networking interactions and reward redemptions will help you figure out what works well with each client and interact them in significant ways as individuals or smaller sized groups.
  • Campaigns & Promotions. Additionally in managing your loyalty program, some companies offer the opportunity to manage temporary or targeted campaigns and promotions via email, mobile application notifications, or SMS texting. These functions frequently include tracking abilities so that you can see whether a campaign ought to be repeated later on, or thrown within the scrap pile.
  • Mobile check-in. This selection generally needs a customer to download a particular application on their own smartphone. Mobile scanners such as the one utilized by Belly create a customer’s phone their loyalty card which may be scanned at the purpose of purchase. The iBeacon technology utilized by Perka automates the procedure using your customer’s Bluetooth capacity.
  • Omni-Funnel Features. Omni-funnel refers back to the ability for an organization to provide a seamless experience across multiple platforms. (i.e., beginning my shopping experience on amazon . com.com and finishing it with my cell phone) The amount of loyalty programs with omni-funnel technologies are still fairly small, however, many companies do provide omni-funnel development for his or her clients.

Companies to think about: Search Engine Optimization

Sweet Tooth
sweet-tooth-rewards-logoSweet Tooth can be obtained through Magento while offering a softer, Beta version in Shopify. Their point- based loyalty program has a clean front finish design and it is wealthy in features including social networking along with other interaction rewards, thorough program customizations, and product critiques. Sweet Tooth enables API integrations in addition to omni-funnel development. They’ve great customer support reviews, however the program could be cumbersome because of its complex rule system.

S Loyalty
s-loyalty-rewards-logoS Loyalty can be obtained through Shopify or BigCommerce and it is a place-based program. This program is extremely easy to use and could be setup within minutes. It can be bought in parts or in general package. It isn’t a really robust program, however it will get the task done.

Companies to think about: Physical Solutions

Perkville
perkville-rewards-logoPerkville offers affordable rates for any card free loyalty program. Their features include social networking and referral rewards, in addition to daily data reports. A good option for fitness gyms, gyms and restaurants, Perkville integrates with multiple POS systems and it has a reasonably seamless process. Their transaction limits can be a drawback, however their program has gotten lots of reviews that are positive from retailers as well as their customers.

FiveStars
five-stars-rewards-logFiveStars offers seamless integration with multiple POS systems, along with a well-rounded loyalty program. Features incorporate a customizable loyalty program, additional marketing abilities via SMS text and email, and knowledge reports to trace the progress of the program.

Belly
belly-logoBelly provides a customer facing iPad having a “per visit” loyalty platform. The Belly card is really a universal card customers may use at any Belly merchant location. An excellent choice for retailers with DIY customers, Belly offers social networking interactions, review abilities, a simple out-of-the-box setup, and knowledge reports which may be filtered into multiple groups.

Loyalty Gator
loyalty-gator-rewards-logoLoyalty Gator offers an array of choices for your loyalty program. Based on your subscription plan, you may choose multiple campaigns varying from the point system to some punch card system. Additionally they offer worker loyalty programs and coalition programs for multiple retailers. Additionally to data possession, retailers receive accessibility API to build up additional integrations.

Running A Highly Effective Loyalty Program

Promotion
Before you decide to unveil your program, and for some time later on, advertise it. For those who have an email list, enable your subscriber base be aware of information on this program ahead of time. Many programs offer marketing kits to brighten your doorways and funds registers (or nifty buttons for ecommerce retailers). Make use of the tools you need to tell your friends regarding your program. In almost any correspondence, your clients ought to be informed regarding how to join, how you can earn rewards, and the way to redeem them.

Should you haven’t already, ask your clients what sort of rewards they’d want to see, or make use of the information you’ve already to produce enticing rewards for the customers. With respect to the loyalty program you select, you could possibly get additional help with this out of your marketing repetition or software programs. Rewards ought to be enticing enough to inspire return visits, although not too pricey.

Maintenance
maintenance

Once you have your loyalty enter in place there’s a couple of things you want to do regularly:

  • Train your employees. Unless of course you’re the only real worker, the possibilities your employees may have different responses for your new program. Let everybody know upfront what’s expected of these, and make certain to possess very obvious guidelines to follow along with in situation something goes completely wrong (i.e., will we redeem rewards when the system crashes?). Some companies offer training via tutorials or webinars for the employees, so take benefit of individuals things too.
  • Inquire. Mainly in the beginning, and also at various times all year round, acquire some feedback out of your employees along with your customers on which they consider this program. According to your responses, you may want to have adjustments or re-train staff.
  • Use every chance. Whether it’s a complaint, concern, or compliment, use every chance to interact your clients inside a positive way. Versatility and courtesy go a lengthy means by improving customer relations.
  • Place your data to operate. Most loyalty programs have a helpful approach to data accumulation. Some data reports tend to be more extensive than the others, offering thorough analysis and actionable insights, while some just provide raw data for use at the will. The information abilities of the loyalty program are the best, since the insights attracted from that data may be used to enhance your business in other locations. My advice? Go to whichever you need to make smarter choices regarding your program and business.

Should you not seem like your program is fulfilling all your needs, speak to your customer support repetition. Regardless of whether you need additional tools or perhaps your loyalty program requires a couple of tweaks, contacting your repetition and expressing your concerns can help you save considerable time and. A lot of companies are eager to help you. In the end, your ability to succeed is the success.

Safeguards
Every loyalty programs aren’t likely to please everybody, so be ready for negative feedback, and prepare for foreseeable problems. All loyalty programs have limitations, and so i encourage you to definitely read both good and bad reviews when searching for your loyalty program. A couple of commonplace problems to think about are highlighted below.

  • Mobile Application software. If you are searching right into a mobile application for the loyalty software, it’s essential that you understand how your program interacts together with your customers’ phones. For instance, some mobile phone applications focus on all cell phones, while some only focus on smartphones. Also, apps have a tendency to crash more traditional programs.
  • Ecommerce software. The loyalty software I’ve reviewed for ecommerce can be obtained on 1 of 3 platforms: Shopify, Bigcommerce, or Magento. Though there are several integrations within the works best for the likes of Sweet Tooth, I haven’t seen anyone loyalty program on the 3 ecommerce platforms, therefore the platform you utilize will limit your choices. There’s a couple of software firms that can make custom integrations for the ecommerce store, however these integrations could cost you.
  • Program limitations. Some companies limit your program through transaction or signup limits, based on your subscription plan. Be sensible when selecting plans with these sorts of limitations, and think about future growth when deciding.

Guidelines
Loyalty programs provide essential tools to assist generate business, but the easiest method to stick out is thru customer relations. Most of all, preserve the connection you’ve together with your existing customers. Listed here are a couple of do’s and don’ts worth mentioning about this subject:

  • Don’t hide your loyalty program. This can be a horrible practice. If you notice that rewards are squandering your an excessive amount of, make alterations in your program or discontinue it. Sporadically telling your clients “the product is lower,” “the machine is damaged,” or “we’re full-scale,Inches paints your company inside a negative light, particularly when individuals statements are blatantly false. If individuals statements are true, which is likely to happen, attempt to offer positive alternatives (i.e. another reward, additional points/punches/perks, or perhaps an I.O.U.). Small gestures go a lengthy way.
  • Never be stingy together with your customers. Lavish gifts aren’t expected, but common courtesy is. You shouldn’t provide a “tenth donut free” if my tenth donut would be the tiniest, stalest one you’ll find. Help remind your employees that rewarding your clients is a great factor.
  • Don’t complain for your customers. In case your loyalty program is squandering your money, you shouldn’t gripe for your customers about this. Making your clients uncomfortable will probably turn them off and them.
  • Do smile. Smiling at the customers and which makes them feel appreciated for patronizing your company goes a lengthy means by keeping them. Whether they’re buying or redeeming a totally free reward, the interaction ought to always be an optimistic experience.
  • Do be flexible. Some arguments simply aren’t worth getting. If your potential conflict could be diffused with a small compromise, choose the compromise, particularly if the alternative involves creating a scene or slowing lower service.
  • Do give advance notice of changes for your program. If you are thinking about altering the guidelines of the program, or plan to cancel this program altogether, provide your customers a manages. Email changes, publish an indication, or inform customers once they buy something (Personally, I’d recommend doing the 3, simply to be thorough).

Final Ideas

Getting a loyalty program doesn’t guarantee your company will succeed, but the potential for a effective program can’t be overlooked. Loyalty programs boost profits inside a significant way. Selecting a loyalty program that’s the right fit for the business, creating significant rewards, and preserving the connection between both you and your customers will pave the best way to that success. Make sure to take a look at our loyalty reviews to obtain began with a small company loyalty program, and for those who have additional questions, you can leave a remark or achieve to us!

Phylicia Joannis

Phylicia is really a freelancer, indie author, and Google addict. She accustomed to scout all New York’s free venues in her own free time, however she’s reviewing loyalty rewards software for Merchant Maverick. Her professional background includes technical writing and research, though she’s also fluent in toddler gibberish. When she’s not crying over spilled milk, Phylicia enjoys studying, writing, and performing random Google searches.

Phylicia Joannis

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Would you like to Take Charge Card Payments in your Phone: The Best Guide

How to take credit card payments on your phoneShould you can’t accept charge cards for the business, you’re missing out on potential revenue. Many people don’t carry greater than $20 in money with them at any given time, and those that want credit cards have a tendency to spend more money than their funds-transporting counterparts.

However, charge card terminals and merchant services could be a discomfort to cope with, and costly as well. You need to cope with the vetting process and obtain the gear. For many small companies, this method is simply not practical.

Because of companies for example PayPal and Square, nowadays you are able to turn your smartphone or tablet right into a charge card swiper. But which service if you undertake? What must you consider when deciding?

That is why we’re here: that will help you recognize all the intricacies of taking charge card payments together with your smartphone or charge card.

Source: First Data http://www.firstdata.com/en_us/insights/Terminal_Compare_Infographic.html

Source: First Data http://world wide web.firstdata.com/ en_us/insights/Terminal_ Compare_Infographic.html

Charge card swipers are helpful in a number of industries as well as for companies of any size. A friend owns an crafts and arts business and uses PayPal here to simply accept charge card payments when she’s at conventions along with other occasions. There is a pub right by the house that provides its servers charge card swipers instead of getting to cover everything in the bar. And there isn’t any lack of restaurants within the college town my home which use Square along with other POS systems having a mobile integration to allow them to swipe your card around the place instead of taking charge cards over the telephone when ordering delivery.

Would you operate in one of these simple fields? It may be time for you to consider obtaining a card swiper:

Crafts and arts vendors: Would you sell your wares at conventions, art shows, along with other big occasions? You may be a magazine reseller, a painter, a jewellery maker, a clothing store, or perhaps a makeup seller.

Food Service: Food trucks were one of the earliest adopters of mobile card swipers, but there’s an abundance of restaurants which are with them now. PayPal Here and Square both offer POS systems additionally for their mobile card readers, which is ideal for delivery services.

Providers: If it’s not necessary a brick-and-mortar office or base of operation where customers visit you, or maybe you conduct your business in your customers’ homes (carpet cleaning, plumbers, lawn care, mobile dog groomers, exterminators, etc.), a charge card swiper provides you with versatility in addition to credibility, in addition to added security.

Table of Contents

Comprehending the Costs of Accepting Charge Card Payments

Within the traditional business design, to simply accept charge card payments you would need to generate a credit card merchant account. A free account typically entails an in depth review your credit rating and business. For any business that’s just making its ft, this may not be the best choice.

Establishing charge card payments having a service like Square or PayPal Here far less complicated, and almost anybody can perform it. There’s a trade-off with this convenience, however.

Charge card companies assess a little fee to retailers for processing payments. With merchant services and card swipers, the price is made in and deducted instantly, which means you don’t need to bother about having to pay yourself to it. With a free account, you normally get lower rates (one to two percent) due to the decreased risk. Most card swipers charge 3 % or even more (but much more about that later).

It isn’t only the standard charges you need to be worried about when you wish to simply accept charge card payments. You will find costs hidden everywhere, so let’s address a few of these issues:

Internet Availability

Typically, smartphone and tablet card swipers need some kind of Internet connectivity, using a cellular signal or Wi-Fi. I’ve labored enough vendor rooms to state that this is often a problem. Wi-Fi systems at hotels, convention centers, along with other venues could be slow or hard to rely on, especially if you have many people in it. Cell signal during these places can also be hit-or-miss, and also the best carriers vary by region.

Most smartphones nowadays can handle becoming Wi-Fi hotspots, so that you can make your own Wi-Fi. However, this method depends on your phone’s data plan. The greater transactions you are making, the greater data you utilize.

Compatibility

You should also make certain that the products are suitable for the credit card readers. PayPal Here and Square don’t support Home windows Phones, for instance. I finally upgraded from my Home windows Phones for an Android device so it’s stopped to matter for me personally, but it isn’t just Home windows you need to be worried about. There are specific tablets and smartphones running both android and ios that can’t be utilized using these card readers, meaning you’re going to need to change your device — something which can cost you between $500 and $1,000 when you get a brand new flagship device.

It’s not necessary to go down that path, though. I’ve used a classic hands-me-lower mobile phone that labored on Wi-Fi simply to take payments. The thing is, look into the listing of compatible devices prior to committing to 1 service over another.

Also observe that you’re likely to will often have to allow location services in your phone.

Card Compatibility, Manual Entry Charges, Location

My pal, the main one together with her own small business, has two card swipers. The two works 100 % of times (and oddly enough, each appears to operate best having a specific device), therefore we have experienced to type in greater than a couple of card figures.

You’re typically likely to pay more for by hand entering charge card figures due to the and the higher chances — the credit card does not have to physically show up to accomplish the transaction.

Likewise, you’re usually likely to pay more for accepting worldwide cards, and you aren’t going so that you can accept payments outdoors the U.S.

Taxes and Tips

Unless of course you reside within the five U.S. claims that don’t charge florida sales tax, you are more often than not responsible for having to pay florida sales tax for the business, that is usually between 6 and 10 %. Some states also assess local sales taxes on the top from the base rates. Between your charge card charges and florida sales tax, that’s between 7 and 13 % of the revenue from one purchase gone.

Several mobile charge card swipers enables you to add florida sales tax towards the base purchase without requiring you to definitely calculate it, that is handy if you are not keen on math or simply want the transaction to visit more rapidly.

As a substitute, you are able to build the florida sales tax in to the listed prices, which a number of your clients might appreciate.

Finally, based on your industry, you might want to make sure that the charge card swiper you utilize enables your clients to include some advice.

Time to obtain your Money

The ultimate cost to think about for charge card swipers is much more of the convenience fee than anything — it’s time before you access your hard earned money. PayPal Here makes your available funds very quickly for those who have a PayPal bank card, while some may require two full working days before depositing funds inside your account. On the top of this, each service have a slightly different insurance policy for limits and holds. Should you exceed a particular threshold for any single transaction, or total transactions for any certain period (typically seven days), you might find that the service will place a hang on your bank account, that could slow lower payment up to thirty days. Due to the greater risk, services like PayPal and Square tend to be suspicious, despite the fact that you’re managing a perfectly legitimate business.

If you are inside a high-risk industry or have a superior amount of business, you’re most likely best acquiring a free account and taking advantage of certainly one of their mobile solutions.

You’re also likely to want to bother with refunds and chargebacks. For instance, if, for reasons uknown, someone complains to their charge card company and there is a chargeback, PayPal will assess a charge on the top of whatever cash is instantly deducted from your bank account for that chargeback, and PayPal seller protections aren’t readily available for PayPal Here transactions. Square, however, doesn’t assess a chargeback fee, however it may withhold the sum chargeback of your stuff, and frequently the procedure could be a extended one — two months or even more.

Features to consider inside your Mobile Charge Card Readers

Features-wise, you can at any rate expect the fundamentals to stay consistent across smartphone charge card swipers: you are able to swipe cards, by hand key them in, and issue receipts. It’s the small stuff that may ultimately set one company in addition to the rest. A few of the things you might want to consider include:

Record-Keeping for money and Checks

Sure, you can handle your money intake that old fashioned way and allow your bank cope with checks. However, many charge card swipers, for example Flint (which doesn’t really need you to swipe cards, but more about that later) enables you to create digital receipts for money and appearance transactions too.

Important to note: PayPal initially had the opportunity to handle mobile check deposits, but later dropped it, claiming that buyers have discovered “other methods to pay.” While it is true that checks are decreasing, you may still find lots of people using them. A friend, who sells Mary Kay, still deals largely with checks instead of charge cards.

POS Integration

Based on your requirements, you might like to locate a service which has easy POS integration. Square and PayPal both their very own POS systems that complement their mobile solutions. This really is ideal for those who have, say, a mobile food truck in addition to a physical restaurant.

E-Commerce Integration

Likewise, search for easy integration by having an online shop, for those who have one. With sites like Shopify and BigCommerce, you are able to typically integrate with PayPal, which is fantastic for centralizing your accounts. However, this could get tricky based on in which you sell. Amazon . com, for instance, doesn’t accept PayPal payments, and eBay heavily favors PayPal because, well, it owns PayPal. Square really provides you with a choice of building your personal e-commerce store having its own service.

Accounting Integration & More

Would you make use of an accounting service like QuickBooks? If that’s the case, you may prefer the opportunity to transfer your computer data from your card swiping plan to your accounting software. Flint and Square both offer this ability.

Invoicing

Should you choose custom orders, offer services, or provide goods to some business, you’re very acquainted with invoices. With a few services, including PayPal, you will get invoices through them and send these to clients via email. The greatest benefit to this is just that you will get your hard earned money faster because there’s you don’t need to cut a cheque and send it through email.

Voids and Refunds

It’s unfortunate, but you will desire to make accommodations to process refunds and void transactions. Sometimes your finger slips on the key and also you don’t notice until afterward, and often the client just changes their mind. Make certain to know using these functions in whichever service you select.

Card Readers Design

Possibly probably the most ingenious options that come with the PayPal Here readers is its two-part design that enables you to definitely switch a triangular lower and stabilize the readers.

Regrettably, which include depends upon the headphone jack being on the left side from the phone. On my small Universe S5, guess in which the headphone jack is?

Around the right.

Pointless to state there’s greater than a little bit of clumsiness attempting to balance a telephone having a 5.1-inch screen inside your hands whilst stabilizing the credit card readers while swiping the credit card. Particularly when you’re dealing with limited table space. It’s worth searching in the card readers and also the device it’s mounted on and ensuring the look matches your needs.

Permissions for Multiple Users

Would you have several employees? A buddy who helps out when you are working occasions? The opportunity to give permissions to multiple users is useful here. By using it, you are able to enable employees (or perhaps your buddies) to simply accept payments without providing them with full access for your requirements. This really is great if you have multiple booths at occasions, or you send multiple employees on location and every you need so that you can accept payments.

The Main Players

Since we’ve reviewed what you ought to know before you begin even searching at taking charge card payments together with your phone, let’s take a look at a few of the greatest names in the industry and also the pros and cons to every.

paypal-here-logo

PayPal is considered to be a huge in e-commerce. It launched its card swiper service this year. Right from the start, the PayPal Here readers is totally free whenever you order it in the website. To keep your a card readers at Staples or Office Depot, and PayPal will compensate the cost directly with the application, that is readily available for android and ios.

Beyond that, PayPal and PayPal Here offer:

  • Online Invoicing
  • Send digital receipts or print receipts
  • Custom reporting on sales figures (exportable to .CSV file)
  • Cash and appearance payment recording
  • Multiple user permissions

Important to note is always that PayPal offers both its very own POS system for iPads as well as an e-commerce integration for websites. Plus, PayPal may be the preferred approach to payment on eBay (in the end, eBay owns PayPal). PayPal also offers partners offering additional services, which makes it well suited for retail, restaurant, along with other service environments.

Based on PayPal’s site, it’s ready to eat for that October 2015 switch EMV (cards with special chips baked into them for further security), and promises that PayPal Here users can accept EMV cards in addition to touch-enabled cards and NFC payments.

Swipe Rates:

PayPal Here minute rates are just 2.7% per swipe. Keyed in transactions are 3.five percent plus $.15. Add yet another 1 % for worldwide cards. With PayPal, your hard earned money can be obtained to invest practically immediately. If you possess the PayPal business bank card, the different options are it anywhere, not only online.

Square-POS-Logo

Square really was the very first player to create taking charge card payments on the smartphone possible, launching in ’09. Square’s readers can also be free whenever you join the application, or perhaps your can buy one at Target, Walgreens, Best To Buy, Apple Stores, and a number of areas. The Square application can also be suitable for android and ios.

Square also provides features for example:

  • Online invoicing
  • Send digital receipts or print receipts
  • Custom reporting on sales figures (exportable to .CSV file)
  • Record cash and appearance payments
  • Multiple user permissions

Square also provides its very own POS system, Square Register, plus an e-commerce store solution. The Square readers also offers an offline mode, which enables you to definitely accept payments when no internet signal can be obtained. Better still, there isn’t any added cost for offline swipes.

Square also offers announced its EMV-compatible readers, which you’ll pre-order for $29 here.

Swipe Rates: 

Square’s minute rates are 2.75 % per swipe. Manual transactions are 3.five percent plus $.015 per transaction. Square takes 1-2 working days to deposit funds with respect to the time the deposit is initiated.

Flint-mobile-logo

Flint’s mobile charge card payment solution doesn’t depend on extra hardware. Rather, it uses the smartphone’s camera to scan charge cards. The application doesn’t really have a photo record from the card and things are encrypted for security.

  • Record cash and appearance payments
  • Coupon generation (with Passbook compatibility)
  • Multiple user permissions
  • Send e-receipts
  • Custom reporting (downloadable to CSV or text files)
  • QuickBooks integration

Flint doesn’t have a POS system, however it comes with an integration to simply accept payments in your website along with a custom invoicing feature.

So far as EMV goes: transactions using Flint are processed as “card not present,” so EMV is basically irrelevant.

Scan Rates: 

Flint’s minute rates are less than Square’s or PayPal Here, for a price of just one.95 % per transaction for an atm card (scanned or keyed in), and a pair of.95 % for charge cards (scanned or keyed in). Deposits from Flint take 1-a couple of days to process.

LevelUp-logo

LevelUp is yet another less-conventional option to PayPal Here or Square. Rather of card readers, it uses QR codes. This specific option mandates that both retailers and consumers possess the application placed on their phones.

With LevelUp, you receive the next features:

  • Custom reporting
  • Discounts, coupons, and loyalty programs
  • Send digital receipts

You will find less features with LevelUp, but it’s unique for the reason that unlike other available choices, additionally, it works together with Home windows Phones. Additionally, it has support for NFC and iBeacons. You may also select from 50+ integrations along with other companies services.

LevelUp includes a zero-chargeback insurance policy for merchant.

There isn’t any e-commerce support, but LevelUp does offer bar code scanners for retail locations. In addition, there’s a tablet POS option.

Scan Rates:

Rate processing for LevelUp is really a flat 1.95 %, with next-day deposits.

Spark-pay-logo

SparkPay is Capital One’s mobile card readers solution. It provides most of the same features as other mobile card readers, however in this situation, it provides both a totally free option along with a compensated monthly service. Using the monthly service plan, you receive lower swipe rates, so if you possess the greater volume to warrant the main difference on price, you are able to really save a little bit of money.

Features include:

  • Mobile couponing
  • Custom reports
  • Send digital receipts and print receipts.
  • Multiple user permissions

SparkPay hasn’t yet announced its EMV solution — however it promises it will likely be offering compatible card readers.

Swipe Rates: 

For that free plan, the minute rates are 2.7 % per swipe (2.95 % for American Express) and three.7 % for keyed-in transactions.

For that compensated plan ($9.95 monthly), the rates drop to at least one.95 % (still 2.95 % for American Express), and a pair of.95 % for keyed-in transactions.

Funds is going to be available within 2 working days.

payanywhere-logo

PayAnywhere is Wells Fargo’s card swiping service. Additionally for you to get your readers free of PayAnywhere, you will get them in select stores. If you purchase a readers, you need to do get a $10 credit deposited inside your account following the swipe.

Features include:

  • Print receipts and send e-receipts
  • Automatic florida sales tax calculation according to where you are
  • In-application and web reporting
  • Inventory control
  • Support for multiple users
  • PayPal support

PayAnywhere also offers a store solution that provides a free tablet — as lengthy while you process more than $5,000 monthly. Otherwise, it’s a $79 monthly should you fall under that quantity in sales.

Swipe Rates:

The swipe rates for that mobile solution are 2.69 percent (including American Express). For that Storefront solution, that rate drops lower to at least one.69 percent (including American Express) along with a $12.95 monthly service charge. Money is deposited within one working day.

innerfence-logo

Inner Fence falls somewhere in the center of the spectrum so far as charge card payments go. It isn’t strictly a mobile charge card payment provider although not fully a free account provider, either. Inner Fence can also be interesting for the reason that it supports iOS, Android, Home windows, and Mac — you will find, which includes Home windows Phones.

Features include:

  • Florida sales tax calculator
  • Print receipts or send e-receipts
  • Web reporting
  • Multiple user permissions

Yes, Inner Fence functions as a full-scale POS when combined with a Home windows or Mac computer.

Swipe Rates:

So far as prices goes, Inner Fence is quite pricey at $39 monthly plus 2.9 % plus $.30 per swiped transaction. Money is transferred on the moving 2-day basis.

Final Ideas

Accepting charge card payments doesn’t need to be a terrifying prospect, even when you’re running only a small-time business. You can aquire a mobile charge card swiper free of charge oftentimes, even though you will not spend the money for lower charges connected with traditional merchant services, the expense continue to be readily manageable. What you ought to consider would be the hidden costs — not always within the providers, but those that originate from utilizing a data connection, or requiring Wi-Fi. How quickly you receive your hard earned money ought to be a high priority.

Got questions about how to consider charge card payments in your phone? Need to know more on how to accept mobile charge card payments? Tell us!

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Manley is definitely an independent author and editor who loves e-commerce, internet marketing, technology, and social networking. Not so long ago, she earned a journalism degree, but she continued to uncover that they could work at home, researching, editing, and covering the items she found most fascinating. When she’s not associated with her laptop, Melissa usually can be based in the kitchen, studying a magazine, or doing something from the nerdy persuasion.

Melissa Johnson

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