How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively

How to Advertise on Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest was launched in 2010 and has grown to at least 200 monthly active users in 2017. The social sharing platform is designed to help people discover information on the internet. Therefore, just creating an account on Pinterest can draw viewers to your brand.

Pinning content from your own website puts it in front of a new audience. Even pinning other people’s content can draw followers to your Pinterest account. You can get more data from your account. Optimizing the SEO of your Pinterest boards can boost their organic search rankings in Google. All of these strategies are free.

The platform began experimenting with monetizing certain pins in 2014, initiating an effective way for companies to advertise. Nowadays, advertisers can create Promoted Pins, which show up alongside all of the other pins on the page. In this image, you can see that the pin that says “Get 500% more traffic” indicates that it’s promoted by Pinterest in the description below it:

In this case, Pinterest is using its platform to advertise tips for businesses. It’s always encouraging to see a company using its own advertising services. That’s one way to know that the system works.

What Is Pinterest?

First, let’s discuss Pinterest and how it works. Some people say that Pinterest is a social network. Others refer to it as a search engine. Through Pinterest, you create a profile and then “pin” visual content onto different “boards.”

It’s like a collection of virtual bulletin boards. Instead of cutting out paper images from magazines, though, you save images that you find on the internet. You can write a description or include a link with those images so that you can refer back to the website from which they came.

You can create several boards and label them however you’d like. Most people set up boards for different categories. For example, you might have boards that are labeled:

  • Home décor
  • Fun summer activities
  • Dessert recipes
  • Knitting and crochet
  • Boho style

If you’re looking for inspiration for a project, a shopping venture or content that falls in line with your interests, you can search for it on Pinterest. Your search results appear as visual pins with short descriptions underneath them. This is what came up when we searched for “watercolor tutorials”:

To find out more about each search result, you can click on it. From here, you can see the full description, the URL from which the image came, when it was published and any comments that other users have left.

Here’s where things get social. You can leave a comment or ask a question. You can also follow the original poster’s account. Therefore, simply pinning items that interest you can drive traffic back to your Pinterest page and potentially to your website.

Emarketer says that there are 2 billion monthly searches on Pinterest. The platform drives about 5 percent of referral traffic to websites.

When you log onto Pinterest, you’ll see your feed, which shows the pins that the platform thinks that you’ll be interested in. You might see pins from people you follow or a combination of content that you might care about, based on other items that you’ve pinned.

However, Pinterest prefers to show content from trusted sources in users’ feeds. Therefore, if you’re using Pinterest for your business without advertising, you need to make sure that you pin high-quality content and that your pins are receiving engagement in the form of click-throughs, saves and comments.

Why Pinterest Advertising Works

While Facebook is the largest social media platform, Pinterest is competitive with Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter, according to Pew Research. Twenty-six percent of all American adults use Pinterest, and most of them are women. Pinterest reports that 40 percent of people who actively pin have a household income of at least $100K. If you sell products targeted toward women who want to shop, you’re in the right place.

Here are some other statistics about Pinterest users and their purchasing power:

  • Millenials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.
  • People who use Pinterest are ready to make a purchase.
  • 93% of active pinners use the platform to plan future purchases.
  • 73% of pinners say that brand content makes the platform more useful.
  • 61% of pinners have bought something after viewing a promoted pin.
  • 75% of saved pins are initiated by businesses.
  • People who use Pinterest spend 29% more on retail than non-users.

People search the platform for information that they can use to fuel upcoming purchases for things like home renovations, weddings, parties, vacations or having a baby. This is the place where people are looking for new information, ideas and brands. If you can provide these new ideas, you can make connections with a new audience.

Pinterest advertising looks natural. It fits into place with the other pins in your feed, and it doesn’t detract from or interrupt the user experience. Promoting your pins puts you in front of a receptive audience who is looking for products and ideas that will help them make their next move.

Types Of Pinterest Advertising

There are several types of Pinterest ads, including:

  • Promoted pins
  • Promoted video pins
  • One-tap pins
  • Promoted app pins
  • Cinematic pins

Promoted pins look just like a regular pin, except that they have the word “Promoted” at the bottom of the pin. Businesses pay Pinterest to give these priority over non-promoted pins. Once someone saves your promoted pin, it’s considered an organic find, and that person will no longer see the word “Promoted.” Other people who follow these pinners may find and save these pins, bringing you added traffic for free.

If your promoted pin contains a video, it will appear in search results, news feeds and a “More Like This” section that comes up below a clicked pin and shows similar content. The video will play automatically.

One-tap pins bypass the close-up image and “more details” page that normally shows up when you click on a pin in your feed. When a user clicks on these ads, they go straight to a landing page that you designate. You might think that this is a great way to get your audience in your lap, but some users are surprised by the change in the normal process and click off of your website quickly to get back to Pinterest.

If you are promoting an app, you can use a promoted app ad to get people to install it. The ad will include an app icon and install button so that users don’t have to leave Pinterest to sign up for your app.

Cinematic pins contain animation that moves when a user scrolls. This captures users’ attention and makes them feel like they’re in control without missing the end of the video.

5 Things To Do Before Advertising On Pinterest

Paying to promote pins can be an effective marketing strategy. However, there are a few steps that you should take before you set up your first advertisement on Pinterest.

1. Register For A Business Account

If you haven’t used Pinterest before, you’ll need to create a new account. It’s free to set up, and it takes less than a minute. Start by going to Pinterest’s Business Account page and clicking “Sign Up.”

Enter your email address, password and business name, select your business category from the drop-down menu and click “Create account.”

Follow the next steps, which are self-explanatory. These include selecting your language and country, adding your website URL and picking at least five categories in which you’re interested.

If you already have a Pinterest account, log in and click on Settings. It will say “Business Account Basics” on the top left if it’s a business account. If it’s a personal account, you can convert it to a business account by going to this link.

2. Claim Your Website

When you set up your business account, you should have added your business website URL to your profile. If you didn’t do that yet, go to your settings by clicking on the profile image on the top right when you’re logged into your account. Scroll down until you see the “Claim Website” section.

After you claim your website, you can utilize features such as:

  • Website analytics – Track traffic to pins from your site.
  • Featured logo – Add your profile picture to any content that’s pinned from your site.
  • Early access to tools – Be the first to hear about new business tools that Pinterest rolls out.

To claim your website, you’ll need to either add a bit of code to the <head> section of your website’s index.html file or download a file from Pinterest and upload it to your site’s root directory. After you do that, you can submit your website to Pinterest for review.

3. Install A Conversion Tag

You can add another Pinterest code to every page that you want to track on your website. The code is the same for every page, but you can use it to retarget people who have visited specific pages on your website.

To do this, click on “Ads” on the top left of your account, and then select “Conversion Tracking.”

Choose “Generate Pinterest Tag.” You’ll get code that you can insert between the <head> and </head> elements in the HTML of every page on your website for which you want to track visitors.

4. Upload Your List

If you have amassed a list for your newsletter, you can upload it to Pinterest so that you can target the same users with your Pinterest ads**. Just create a .csv file with the email addresses that you’ve collected over the years. Log into your Pinterest account.

**If you go this route – you need to have your audience’s consent. If you are in the EU, because it’s the law. If you are outside the EU, because you need to be cool, not creepy.

Click on Ads > Audiences.

Then, click on “Create Audience.” Choose “A list of customers that you upload” from the window that appears. Name your audience, and include the date so that you can update it a few months from now.

Pinterest will match up the email addresses from your list with those of its users so that you can show ads to the same people. In the future, you can also create “an actalike audience that behaves similarly to the one you already have.” This will choose people with similar demographics and interests as the people on your email list.

5. Pin Some Content

You can’t promote a pin unless you’ve pinned it publicly. Therefore, if you have created a new Pinterest account in hopes of setting up some ads, you should take some time to create boards and pin content for free before you put money into it.

Make sure that all of your pins contain high-quality images. The visuals are going to grab people’s attention before anything else. Therefore, they need to be top-notch.

Vertical Pins

Pinterest displays images vertically. Therefore, you need to use the correct aspect ratio to get the most out of your pins’ appearance. For years, Pinterest has claimed that a 2:3 aspect ratio is ideal. However, some pinners said that posts with these dimensions didn’t perform well. Some people even created extra-long posts to capture people’s attention.

As of June 2018, however, Pinterest said that those “giraffe pins” may be cropped and won’t show up as frequently in people’s feeds. The ideal aspect ratio is 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels high (720 x 1080 works well too). Square images look good, and they are easy to import from Instagram.

An aspect ratio of 600 x 1260 (with 1260 being the height in pixels) won’t be cropped. Anything taller will.

If you’re creating long giraffe pins, make sure that they add value. Infographics and step-by-step tutorials are ideal for these space-hogging pins.

Rich Pins

Creating Rich Pins can help people learn more about your products. Rich pins contain additional information, including:

  • App – Takes viewers to the app store for download
  • Article – Includes a headline, author and story description
  • Product – Includes pricing, availability and purchase location
  • Recipe – Includes title, ingredients, cooking times, serving information and ratings

By adding the metadata directly to the pin, brands can increase engagement. Picture a recipe that contains a gorgeous picture of the food that you’re eating with the recipe itself below it. The pins pull from the metadata on your website.

Creating Rich Pins is a two-step process. First, you must add metadata to the articles, products and recipes on your site. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily with a plugin like Yoast. Then, you need to verify your Rich Pins with Pinterest. Once you validate one URL with a Rich Pin on your site, you’re all set. You don’t need to validate all of the URLs with Rich Pins.

Buyable Pins

Pinterest rolled out Buyable Pins in 2015 to make it easier for its audience to shop directly from a pin. These pins list the price in blue and contain a Buy It button so that people can make a purchase right from the app. When someone clicks Buy It, they go directly to the checkout, where they can pay with a credit card or Apple Pay.

If you’re a retailer or sell your own products, you’ll need to have a Shopify store that’s linked with the Pinterest sales channel to take advantage of Buyable Pins. As long as you point a pin’s URL to the product detail page on your Shopify store, it will activate as shoppable.

Pinterest automatically matches your product feed with your pins and generates Buyable Pins for any products that you have already pinned. For any other product, you should create pins from scratch. These can include additional images so that more people can discover your products.

Buyable Pins are similar to Rich Pins in that they display additional information. Rich Pins, however, don’t send you to the checkout when you click on them.

How To Set Up A Pinterest Ad

If you’ve decided to spend money on advertising, you might wonder how to advertise on Pinterest. This is a step-by-step tutorial that teaches you how to do it.

1. Create The Ad

When you’re ready to start advertising, click on the + sign that appears toward the top right, and then select “Create Ad.”

This brings you to your Ads Manager, where you can create your campaign.

2. Set Your Goals

You’ll begin by selecting your campaign objective.

Then, you’ll enter your campaign details. You’ll have to come up with a name for your campaign if it’s new, or you can select an existing campaign from the drop-down menu. You’ll also designate your daily and lifetime budget for the campaign here.

Then, decide on your campaign placement, which includes whether you want to make your ads one-tap. This feature can’t be edited once your campaign starts running.

If you’re creating an app install ad, you will have the option to select whether to optimize the campaign for completed installs or visits to the app download page. Both are charged on a cost-per-click basis. Pinterest also has direct integrations with mobile measurement partners, or MMPs, which help you track the install performance.

Finally, click “Create campaign and continue.”

3. Set Up An Ad Group

An ad group is a set of promoted pins that fall under the same campaign. You can have multiple ad groups for one campaign, which means that you will have a separate budget for your ad groups than you do for the campaign as a whole.

Understanding Ad Groups

Each ad group can have multiple promoted pins within it. You can assign different budgets and targets to each ad group, though. Therefore, you can use ad groups to set up unique budgets for different marketing areas, such as regions, demographics or products. You can also use ad groups to test the design, placement and objectives of your advertisements without building separate campaigns.

For example, you could create separate ad groups with maximum daily budgets to target:

  • Your email list
  • People who have visited related pages on your website
  • Actalike audiences

To keep everything straight, you should name your ad group based on its organizational structure, such as who you’re targeting or what promoted pins are showing up within that group.

4. Create A Target Audience

On the ad group page, you’ll be asked to create a target audience. This helps you get your ads in front of the right people. You can target viewers based on the following criteria:

You’ll need to give this audience a name and description. If you choose to retarget people who have visited your website, you’ll have to create a Pinterest tag to track them. If you choose to target individuals from an email list, you’ll be asked to upload the list.

You’ll be able to further clarify your audience by interests, such as boards and pins that they’ve interacted with in the past, keywords, languages, locations, devices and genders.

5. Create Your Maximum CPC Bid

On the page where you create your ad group, you’ll be asked to set a maximum CPC bid. This is the maximum amount that you want to pay per audience action, whether that’s impressions, clicks, engagement or app download. You won’t be charged the full bid unless it’s necessary to beat out the next-highest bidder.

6. Select Your Promoted Pin

Now, you can select the pin that you want to promote. You can only choose from items that you’ve publicly pinned. The pin doesn’t have to be one that you have initiated through your own website, although it would probably be a good idea to use an image that you’ve created.

Next, you’ll give the promoted pin a name (optional) and set the URL of the landing page that you want visitors to end up on when they click on it.

Consider the URL carefully. Ideally, you’ll send people who click on your ad to a page dedicated to your Pinterest audience. The landing page should have something to do with the pin that led people to it. If you’ve added Pinterest tag code to your website, you’ll be able to track the success of each promoted pin.

Click “Promote Pin” when you’re finished. The ad will go to Pinterest for review, which can take 24 hours. At this time, add your billing details so that you can pay for your ad once it’s approved.

The Quick Way To Promote A Pin

Pinterest also provides a way to promote your pins in about 10 seconds. Go to your profile and hover over a pin that you want to advertise. Click on the Promote button.

A window will open up where you can add all of the promotional details, including the URL, daily budget, campaign duration, target audience and keywords.

Tips And Tricks For Optimizing Your Pinterest Advertising

Just putting yourself out there isn’t always enough to gain an audience. Instead of wasting your dollars by advertising blindly, follow this advice to get the most out of your budget.

Promote The Best Pins

You might wonder what pins to promote when you advertise on Pinterest. Those with strong visuals do best. Making multiple pins for the same product is a good idea. You can show different angles, styles and descriptions to pull in different customers. Adding your brand name or logo to the image improves credibility.

If you sell products, Pinterest says that photographing them in lifestyle shots is more effective than displaying the product on its own. For example, a fashion pin should show someone wearing the clothing in a real-world setting. Home décor pins do better when they concentrate on the product instead of people. Hair and beauty products get great engagement when the items are displayed against a plain, contrasting background.

Most experts recommend promoting pins that are already doing well. Even though you might figure that boosting a low-performing pin could help it get in front of your audience, promoting a high-performing pin is more likely to give you results. Wouldn’t you want to pay for results as opposed to a lackluster reception to your ad?

When you’re picking a pin in step 3 of the ad creation process, you have the option of choosing from all pins, 30-day most clicked pins or 30-day most saved pins. Use this to your advantage to promote your most engaging content.

Add Text To Your Pins

Even though Pinterest relies on photos, it doesn’t hurt to add a little text to your images. The text overlay should clarify what viewers are looking at without detracting from the design as a whole. The words shouldn’t detract from the aesthetic. A simple overlay works wonderfully.

Make sure that you’re using the description wisely too. A call-to-action helps users stay engaged. You can ask people a question or give an instruction, such as “Learn more” or “Buy now.” You might even try having your call-to-action say, “Pin this for later” to remove the urgent sales quality but encourage people to save your pin.

Consistently Monitor And Analyze Your Ads

It’s hard to predict what’s going to resonate with viewers. Pinterest is a visual platform, and some images may capture more attention than others. When you’re just starting out, test everything, including the:

  • Image
  • Description
  • Call-to-action
  • Keywords
  • Bids
  • Audiences

After doing this consistently for a while, you’ll begin to notice which combinations are more effective.

Focus Your Keywords

Although you’re allowed to include up to 150 keywords with a promoted pin, you don’t have to use all of them. If you’re all over the place, you won’t get many click-throughs. Think about the way that your audience interacts with Pinterest.

The keywords should match the way that your target audience uses the platform (similar to how you “theme” keywords for SEO). Make sure that the keywords are also consistent with the information in the pin and the landing page to which they’re directed.

Because Pinterest is a search engine, keywords are crucial to your pins’ visibility. Create your descriptions the way that you would create meta tags for a web page’s title and description. Using trending keywords earlier in the text will help your pins get noticed.

When you place pinnable images on your website, make sure that you include keywords in the alt text. Your boards should contain long-tail keywords. Use Pinterest Analytics to track which pins get the most impressions and experiment with the keywords that you use.

Add Value

The best practices for advertising on some other platforms involve using a call-to-action to send people to a lead page. However, people who search using Pinterest are looking for information. They might get annoyed if they come across your promoted pin, click on it to investigate it further and reach a page that simply asks them for their email address.

An effective way to use Pinterest for advertising is to send people to a landing page where they can explore what you offer. You can certainly include a lead generation form on this page, but don’t make it the only asset at that URL.

Group Boards

Group boards are sometimes referred to as shared, community, collaborative or contributor boards. Using them can lead to significant increases in traffic.

More than one person can add pins to a group board. Therefore, when anyone adds pins to the board, those pins may appear in the home feed of anyone who follows any of the board members. This exponentially increases your reach.

If you focus on sharing your own content to group boards, you’ll gain exposure for your brand. Keep the content relevant, however.

Because Pinterest rewards high-quality pins with exposure, make sure that you join the right group boards. Those that are targeted to a specific theme usually have more traction with an audience and get more engagement. Click on several of the pins on a group board that you’re thinking of joining to make sure that the links aren’t broken or redirect to a spammy or inappropriate site.

Pinterest is an opportune way to expose your brand to a new audience. The platform isn’t just used by crafty people, DIY-ers and foodies. Travel, fashion, design, hobbies, health and beauty, entertainment, accessories and sporting goods are commonly searched categories on Pinterest. Creating a business account for your brand is free, and you can play around with promoting your pins at a low cost to determine whether it works well for your business.

Next Steps

Pinterest holds a lot of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. It’s also straightforward and fairly risk-less to experiment there.

You’ll learn more from running a single experiment than any blog post – so go for it!

If you want to know other ways to use Pinterest for marketing, check out Nate’s post on Pinterest & SEO research in addition to Using Pinterest Analytics.

The post How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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3dcart VS Volusion

3dcart-vs-Volusion

3dcart VS Volusion
✓ Pricing
Ease of Use ✓
✓ Features
Web Design ✓
✓ Integrations & Add-Ons
✓ Payment Processing
Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Winner Final Verdict
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site

Everyone knows starting a business is a challenge, and setting up an online store can be particularly difficult. Not only do you have to find a product and make a business plan, you also have to build an entire website that can operate as your selling platform. This was an almost impossible obstacle for many sellers just a few years ago, but modern software has eliminated many of the hurdles merchants would otherwise have to overcome.

Cloud-based, all-inclusive store building software programs like 3dcart and Volusion can give you the tools you need to make your idea a reality. And because these software place a strong focus on ease of use, all sellers (even those with little technical knowledge) can get a store up and running in just a few weeks–or less!

As a fully hosted solution, 3dcart aims to be accessible and affordable for all merchants. Small and large businesses alike can use this eCommerce platform successfully, as is evidenced by the 22,000 current users. What’s more, 3dcart is continually expanding its features and services to fit even more users.

In the same way, Volusion is a comprehensive shopping cart solution for small to large businesses. Volusion hosts over 30,000 stores and is now offering two versions of their software: the more feature rich V1 and the easy to use (but still developing) V2. Volusion gives merchants the option of choosing between the two.

So, which of these shopping cart solutions should you choose? Well, it depends.

3dcart and Volusion both come with unique advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your business’s needs. To learn which solution is right for your online store, keep reading. We’ll compare the two shopping carts head-to-head in categories such as pricing, ease of use, and web design. Read on.

Don’t have time to read an entire article? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both platforms are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

None. You just need a computer, secure internet access, and an up to date browser.

Pricing

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart and Volusion follow similar pricing models. Both services are billed on a monthly basis, no contract required, with advanced features included in higher level plans. If you commit to a year-long purchase, you can benefit from a discount of 10%. Keep in mind that many software solutions do not offer refunds on year-long purchases, so don’t commit to a full year until you’re sure the platform will work for you.

3dcart determines pricing levels by the number of staff users and availability of features. All plans beyond the startup plan come with unlimited products and bandwidth. Take a look at a brief breakdown:

  • Startup: $19/Month
    • 1 Staff User
    • 100 Products
    • Sell Up To $10K/Year
  • Basic: $29/Month
    • 2 Staff Users
  • Plus: $79/Month
    • 5 Staff Users
  • Pro: $229/Month
    • 15 Staff Users

3dcart also makes an enterprise platform available for any merchant with an annual revenue of over $400K/Year. There are also discounts available for charities and non-profits.

Pricing for Volusion differs between their two versions: V1 and V2. The most notable difference is that pricing for V1 does not include any transaction fees; however, bandwidth on this plan is limited and bandwidth overage fees apply. On the other hand, V2 comes with unlimited bandwidth, but merchants will have to pay transaction fees on all their sales. See both pricing models below:

V1 Pricing

  • Mini: $15/Month
    • 1GB Bandwidth
    • 100 Products
  • Plus: $35/Month
    • 3GB Bandwidth
    • 1,000 Products
  • Pro: $75/Month
    • 10GB Bandwidth
    • 10,000 Products
  • Premium: $135/Month
    • 35GB Bandwidth
    • Unlimited Products

V2 Pricing

  • Personal: $25/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Professional: $75/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Business: $135/Month
    • Unlimited Products & Storage
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee

When we compare 3dcart and Volusion, we can see that monthly rates for each pricing level are similar, with Volusion offering cheaper premium level plans. However, Volusion also charges fees in addition to these monthly rates (either bandwidth overage fees or transaction fees, depending on the version). For this reason, we’re awarding the category to 3dcart.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Ease Of Use

Winner: Volusion

3dcart and Volusion both claim to be easy to use solutions. Let’s take a closer look at each software.

3dcart offers all potential users a risk-free, 15-day trial, so you can test out the platform for yourself without handing over any credit card information.

When you log in, you’ll get to explore 3dcart’s dashboard. 3dcart organizes all features in a toolbar on the left. Use categories and subcategories to navigate the software. Use video tutorials to learn the basic procedures.

Adding a product to your store is a two-step process.  First, you have to input and save basic product information. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add in more detailed product information. For example, you can adjust shipping, inventory, and SEO settings.

3dcart is relatively easy to learn, though you may have difficulty locating features initially. Some features are buried in places you wouldn’t expect under titles you might not know to look for. Discounts features, for example, are available under “Promotion Manager.” Overall, we give 3dcart a four out of five stars in ease of use.

Volusion also offers trials of their software. You can sign up for free 14-day trials of both V1 and V2. Let’s start with V1.

When you log into your trial, you’ll find this dashboard:

Use tutorial videos to quickly learn your way around.

As it is with 3cart, adding a product on Volusion is a two-step process. First, add your basic product information. When you’ve saved that, you can add advanced information like SEO and shipping details along with more product descriptions.

While we don’t think Volusion V1 has the easiest dashboard in the eCommerce industry, it shouldn’t take too long to learn. You’ll find plenty of features available in the tool bar up top; you just have to figure out how to implement them the first few times.

Volusion V2 is the company’s newest attempt to make an easy to use eCommerce platform. The software is still in development, and while it is missing a few features, the UI is looking pretty good.

We’d still like to see a bit more work done to this admin. In particular, we’d like to see subcategories added to the toolbar on the left. This would make navigation require fewer clicks, which can really add up for online sellers.

V2’s “add a product page” is inviting in its simple and colorful design.

We have experienced some frustration with V2’s simple design, however. V2 tends to railroad users through basic operations, which can be a pain when you don’t need the help.

For example, when you go to set up a discount, you will encounter this screen:

You have to select the appropriate options before you’ll be presented the more typical discount creation page:

I would rather enter my information first into this second page. I don’t find the first page to be particularly helpful.

Volusion’s goal with V2 was to create a platform that’s easier to use, and they accomplish that goal. Personally, however, if I were to choose a version of Volusion, I would still pick V1. I think it’s worth learning a slightly more difficult software in order to access better features.

With so many versions of these software available, it’s difficult to directly compare 3dcart and Volusion. As far as ease of use goes, I think 3dcart and V1 are comparable, and V2 is slightly easier to use.

For this reason, we’re giving ease of use to Volusion.

Features

Winner: 3dcart

To get the best idea of these shopping carts’ features, a good plan is to visit each platform’s website and review the full list. However, if you don’t have time to do that just now, we’ll provide a brief overview of a few special features that each software offers below.

3dcart offers users lots of features, even at the lowest pricing plan. Here are a few:

  • Sell Digital: Sell digital products alongside your physical products.
  • Checkout Options: Choose either one-page or three-page checkout.
  • Automatic Calculators: Use tax and shipping calculators to generate real-time quotes.
  • Abandoned Cart Saver: Email customers to remind them to complete their orders.
  • Built-In Blog: Boost your brand and SEO with a blog.
  • SmartCategories: Create an “On Sale” category to showcase items.
  • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms or make large scale edits with import and export features.
  • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart Point Of Sale.

As you might expect, Volusion’s two versions come with different feature sets. Here are a few V1 features:

  • Abandoned Cart Reports & Emails: Encourage more conversions.
  • Allow Reviews: Let customers leave reviews on your products.
  • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Easily process returned products.
  • Sell On Facebook, Amazon, eBay: Sync channels with your store and manage your multichannel orders from Volusion.
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN): Use a CDN to deliver site content faster.

And here are features for V2:

  • Instant Search: Let customers search products on your storefront.
  • Checkout On Your Domain: Customers will not be redirected to a Volusion subdomain at checkout (available for merchants on the Professional and Business level plans).
  • Shipping Features: Create shipping options like signature-required shipments, discounted shipping, and flat rate shipping.
  • Bulk Import: Use CSV files to import new inventory in bulk.
  • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Process returns easily.
  • Dropshipping App: Use Volusion’s already-integrated dropshipping app to fulfill orders without handling merchandise.

3dcart is well known for their robust feature set. Volusion, on the other hand, is still working on expanding their feature set to better match their competitors’. 3dcart wins this one.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Web Design

Winner: Volusion

As hosted software, 3dcart and Volusion work to provide elegant, easily customizable design templates for their customers.

3dcart users can find 90 free themes in 3dcart’s marketplace, all of which are mobile responsive. These themes are rather middle-of-the-road. They aren’t spectacular, but they aren’t ugly.

3dcart also has a few dozen premium themes available for purchase. These themes cost $99-$199.

Sellers can edit these themes in a variety of ways. Tech savvy users can edit the HTML and CSS, and less experienced users can use the WYSIWYG editor to make changes to your store’s language (like buttons, tabs, etc.). 3dcart also has a drag and drop available for merchants who request it, but it isn’t a very strong editing option.

Volusion features different themes for V1 and V2. V1 has a selection of 46 themes, 11 of which are free. V1 also sells premium themes at $180.

V2 has a much smaller set of themes–just 14–and all of them are free and mobile responsive. There do not appear to be any premium templates available for V2.

Theme editing between the two versions is different as well. V1 users are equipped with code editing tools. You can use HTML and CSS editors. There are also a WYSIWYG editor and visual style editor, which you can use to adjust and add blocks of content to your site.

Theme editing with V2 is much more focused on ease of use. You can use V2’s visual editor to make larger changes without touching the code. Or, if you’d prefer, you can make changes directly to the CSS.

While 3dcart provides more template options, we think Volusion has more user-friendly editing tools. Volusion wins web design.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart’s marketplace features plenty of add-ons that offer a variety of features, including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertisement, and more. There’s also a RESTful API that developers can use to build more customizations and connections.

Volusion also has a strong app marketplace for merchants on the V1 version. There are over 70 integrations available for shipping, email, accounting, and more.

V2, on the other hand, does not provide so many options. There are only 22 applications currently available. It’s worth noting, however, that one of those applications is Zapier, which facilitates connections to many, many more integrations. Zapier is a paid service.

Both versions of Volusion also have APIs available for further development.

We’re basing our decision for this category on numbers. 3dcart wins!

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. You’ll have plenty of options.

Both versions of Volusion connect with significantly fewer payment gateways. V1 has 30+ payment gateways, and V1 only connects with two options: PayPal and Stripe (if you connect with Stripe, you can also enable Apple Pay).

In addition, Volusion offers its own in-house payment service for V1 merchants only: Volusion Payments. Volusion Payments lets you process transactions for around 2.15% + $0.30 per transaction with no monthly fee (note: this rate is a ballpark number. Your actual rates may be lower or higher). Volusion Payments requires users to sign a three year contract. If you terminate this contract after the 45 day grace period, you will be charged a $99 termination fee. While we’re happy that Volusion has its own payment services, we are displeased with the way they provide information about the services. Volusion is not very upfront about their fees on their website. We wish they were more transparent.

We’re giving the category to 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

All 3dcart plans come with personalized support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help support options include a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and an e-university. 3dcart’s response times are good for inquiries via phone or web ticket. However, their response times for live chat support are significantly delayed. Essentially, “live chat” is just another way to submit web tickets. It takes hours for support reps to get back to you.

Customer support is the same for both versions of Volusion. All plans (except Mini on V1 and Personal on V2) come with 24/7 support via phone, chat, and email. Self help resources include a knowledge base, webinars, video tutorials, a blog, and guides. There are mixed reviews only about the quality of Volusion’s customer support. Some have great experiences, others don’t.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Every shopping cart comes with its fair share of negative reviews. Here’s what users dislike about each platform:

3dcart

  • Poor Customer Service: Users claim customer support is slow to respond to inquiries. Note below in the “Positive Reviews” section that this is not a universal experience.
  • Plain Templates: 3dcart’s templates aren’t bad, but they lack pizzaz.
  • Expensive Add-Ons: The cost of using multiple integrations and extensions can add up.

Volusion

  • Additional Fees: Merchants on both versions face additional fees: bandwidth overage fees on V1 and transaction fees on V2.
  • Dated Software: Users complain that Volusion’s features are not up-to-date with cutting edge software.
  • Misleading Sales Reps: I have seen a lot of reports of misleading sales tactics. It’s worth noting that Volusion has recently put a lot of work into improving their support system, and they claim higher levels of customer satisfaction.
  • No Free SSL On V1: Merchants on V1 have to purchase their own SSL certificate. These are normally included for free with hosted software.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Despite these negative reviews, there’s still a lot of good things to say about both of these platforms. Here’s what users love about 3dcart and Volusion:

3dcart

  • Low Price: 3dcart’s prices are competitive with other leading eCommerce software.
  • Good Customer Support: Some users have positive experiences with 3dcart’s support team.
  • Easy To Use: 3dcart’s UI is easy to learn, no matter what your technical ability level is.
  • Many Features Built In: 3dcart offers a robust feature set right out of the box. You’ll be able to access advanced features without add-ons.

Volusion

  • It Works: Users like that they can get started right away with all the necessary features. In addition, Volusion users say the software is bug-free, which is a huge plus.
  • No Transaction Fees On V1: Merchants on V1 do not have to pay transaction fees. They just need to monitor their bandwidth usage to make sure it stays within limits.
  • Ease Of Use: Volusion’s UI are very user friendly, especially on V2.

Final Verdict

Winner: 3dcart

It’s a close race, but in the end, 3dcart takes the lead. A strong feature set, low pricing, and high ease of use make 3dcart an excellent eCommerce platform for many merchants.

Despite the results of this comparison, Volusion may still be the right choice for your business. Volusion’s two versions give merchants a level of choice that 3dcart can’t offer. You may find that V1 or V2 fits your needs perfectly.

Whichever you choose, we hope you’ll consider signing up for a free trial of the software before you purchase. You can learn a lot from just a couple of hours exploring a software’s admin panel. Click the links below to get started with a trial of 3dcart or Volusion.

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

The post 3dcart VS Volusion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS 3dcart

If you’re looking into building an online store, you’ve probably seen mention online of both Shopify and 3dcart. Both of these are fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, and both boast usability and plentiful eCommerce features. These shopping carts call themselves all-in-one solutions, meaning that they will provide you with site hosting, web security, and customer support, all for one monthly fee.

Let’s start with a quick overview of each eCommerce platform:

Shopify VS 3dcart
Tie Pricing Tie
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
✓ Web Design
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
Payment Processing ✓
Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Tie Final Verdict Tie
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site

Shopify and 3dcart clearly offer their users a lot, but how do they stack up against each other? In this article, we’ll go over the price, features, and design editors of each solution. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of which software better fits your business.

Shopify is a Canadian eCommerce solution, which has grown since 2006 to host more than 600,000 stores worldwide. Shopify’s claim to fame is usability and affordability. Merchants at all stages will be able to access the software and use it to build a site to their liking.

Shopify’s downfall, however, is related to this usability. Because Shopify aims to provide easy-to-use features, they often fail to add more advanced functionality. Users have to add-on these advanced features with integrations and applications.

3dcart3dcart, on the other hand, is a feature-rich eCommerce solution that is built to serve merchants large and small. They offer a range of pricing options so that users can select a plan that fits their budget. 3dcart is a less popular solution than Shopify, currently hosting over 22,000 customers, but it is still a main player in the eCommerce industry.

However, 3dcart is not a perfect solution. While the platform is still relatively easy to learn, it is not quite as intuitive as Shopify. In addition, users often report that 3dcart’s customer support is not reliable.

Keep reading for more in-depth information on each of these platforms. Learn which software is best for you.

Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both services are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

None. You’ll only need a computer, internet access, and an up-to-date web browser.

Pricing

Winner: Tie

Pricing plan for 3dcart and Shopify follow a similar model. Both are available as a monthly subscription in which price is based on features. Neither service requires you to sign a contract, although you can get a discount on your monthly rate if you commit for a year or more. What’s more, Shopify and 3dcart both offer enterprise-level platforms for users who need a higher level of support and capabilities.

Shopify’s plans are billed on a month-by-month basis. If you choose to sign on for one year, you can benefit from a 10% discount on your plan, and if you pay for two years, you’ll get a 20% discount.

One way in which Shopify’s pricing is different from many eCommerce platforms is that Shopify charges transaction fees. You will be charged these fees (0.5%-2.0% based on your plan) in addition to the processing fees that you’ll pay to your payment processor of choice. Shopify will waive these transaction fees if you use their in-house payments solution, Shopify Payments. You will still have to pay processing fees to Shopify Payments, but you won’t be charged the additional transaction fee.

Here’s a quick overview of plans:

  • Shopify Lite Plan (No Online Store Included): $9/month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
  • Basic Shopify Plan: $29/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 2.0%
    • Two Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Shopify Plan: $79/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 1.0%
    • Five Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)
  • Advanced Shopify Plan: $299/Month
    • Transaction Fee: 0.5%
    • Fifteen Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Owner’s Account)

With 3dcart, you’ll be billed monthly. However, if you pay in advance for a full year on the platform, you’ll receive a 10% discount. Keep in mind that 3dcart does not allow refunds, so be sure 3dcart is the right software for you before you commit for a year.

All of 3dcart’s regular plans (excluding the Startup Plan) come with unlimited products and bandwidth, free domain registration, API connectivity, and 24/7 phone support.

  • Startup Plan: $19/Month
    • 1 Staff User
    • 100 Products
    • Sell Up To $10K/Year
  • Basic: $29/Month
    • 2 Staff Users
    • Unlimited Products & Bandwidth
  • Plus: $79/Month
    • 5 Staff Users
  • Pro: $229/Month
    • 15 Staff Users

Pricing for 3dcart and Shopify is very similar. Your choice will depend on how many staff users your business needs and how Shopify’s transaction fees would affect you. For our comparison, we’ll call this a tie.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

For many merchants looking for eCommerce software, ease of use is the number one priority. Fortunately, both Shopify and 3dcart provide that ease of use to all their users.

Shopify is one of the most intuitive eCommerce platforms on the market. Try out the admin for yourself with a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Here’s what you’ll find when you first create your account:

Adding products is easy. All of the information you’ll need to enter is available on one page. Just fill in the fields provided.

Discounts are similarly easy to set up, and you can make them specific to certain products or categories. You can limit your discounts to customer groups, number of uses, or minimum order total. There are also BOGO discounts available.

Shopify also makes site customization accessible to all merchants. Read more in our web design section.

3dcart works to make their software accessible to all merchants, regardless of technical experience. Try out the platform with a 15-day free trial, no credit card required.

When you sign into your account, you will immediately be presented with a setup wizard. This wizard and the available tutorial videos will help you locate and learn to use some of the more basic features.

3dcart’s dashboard is user friendly. You can find everything organized in the toolbar on the left. Most of this organization makes sense, but there are a few features that are buried where you wouldn’t expect them. ‘Discounts,’ for example, is under a tab called “Promotion Manager.”

Adding a product with 3dcart is unique because it involves a two step process. You’ll start by entering basic product information like images, product name, and a product description. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add more advanced information. On this page, you’ll be able to adjust your shipping and inventory information, write SEO descriptions, and more.

Discounts follow the same two-step model. The more detailed (second) page lets you apply your promotions to specific categories, to an order that includes a specific product, and more.

While we love that 3dcart’s dashboard, we have to award this category to Shopify. 3dcart is just not quite as intuitive as Shopify. There is a slight learning curve to overcome, and a few features are difficult to find in the admin.

Features

Winner: 3dcart

As we’ve stated, Shopify comes with all of the basic features merchants need. However, advanced functionality often requires add-on applications. Let’s take a look at a few of the features that come built-in with Shopify:

Front End Features

  • Language Capabilities: List your site in over 50 different languages.
  • Automatic Shipping Rates: Users on the Advanced Plan can integrate with UPS, USPS, and FedEx to calculate shipping rates. All users have access to Shopify Shipping, which lets you calculate shipping rates, and purchase and print shipping labels.
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery: Automatically send an email to remind customers about items they left in their cart.
  • Integrate With Shopify POS: Sell in person with Shopify’s Point Of Sale (see our review) system.

Back-End Features

  • Customer Segmentation: Group your customers by location, shopping tendencies, and demographics. Use those customer groups to market more effectively.
  • Dropshipping Apps: Shopify integrates with dropshipping apps like Ordoro, Inventory Source, and eCommHub (now HubLogix). Learn how to start a profitable dropshipping business with Shopify.
  • SEO Best Practices: Shopify includes many SEO tools, including a customizable H1, and automatically generated sitemap.xml, and the ability to write titles, meta tags, and product tags.
  • Discounts: You can create discount codes and coupons, including BOGO (Buy One, Get One) discounts. Gift cards are available at higher plans.
  • Digital Products: Sell physical and digital products on your site.
  • Bulk Import/Export: Make bulk edits to your products, or use the bulk import feature to easily migrate from another software.

3dcart, on the other hand, includes many of the bells and whistles that Shopify is lacking. For example, 3dcart includes the option to enable one-page checkout on your site. Here are some of the features you get with 3dcart:

Front End Features

  • Sell Digital: Let customers download products immediately after purchase.
  • Checkout Options: Choose to enable either one-page or three-page checkout.
  • Product Images: Include multiple product images, image zoom, and videos on product pages.
  • Promotions: Create gift certificates, discounts, and coupons.
  • Automatic Calculators: Provide real-time quotes for taxes and shipping at checkout.
  • Abandoned Cart Saver: Remind customers to complete transactions.
  • Blog: Include a blog on your site to boost your SEO and add value to your site.

Back-End Features

  • Inventory Management: Monitor low stock and make sure inventory is accurate.
  • SEO: Use a variety of tools to optimize your organic traffic.
  • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms and make bulk edits.
  • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart POS.

This one is close, but 3dcart has a few more features that are not available with Shopify. So, we’re giving the win to 3dcart.

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is well-known for its beautiful and responsive web design options. In the Shopify Themes marketplace, you can find 64 theme options, 10 of which are free. Take a look at one premium theme below:

There are a few ways you can go about customizing your theme. Users with little technical experience can use a WYSIWYG editor to make changes to site content. For example, you can update headings, categories, and button text. Shopify’s drag and drop editor, Sections, lets you make larger changes to your storefront. Use Sections to add and move widgets on your storefront. Shopify also offers code editors for the more technologically inclined. Shopify uses a language called Liquid, which some developers like and some don’t.

3dcart, on the other hand, offers 90 free themes, which is many more than Shopify. All of these themes are mobile responsive. In addition, there are a few dozen premium themes available from $99 to $199.

Users sometimes complain that 3dcart’s themes are dated, and I tend to agree. That isn’t to say that the themes are ugly; they just don’t have that sleek look I’m used to finding on modern eCommerce platforms.

You’ll have to edit these templates primarily using the HTML and CSS editors. 3dcart also includes a limited WYSIWYG editor for buttons, tabs, etc., and a drag-and-drop editor for older HTML5 themes (you must request to have this editor enabled). It isn’t a perfect editor (which is why it isn’t automatically available), but it could be a help as you learn your way around the code editors.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

Both 3dcart and Shopify offer plenty of integrations and add-ons to further functionality.

There are over 1500 apps available in Shopify App Store, which essentially guarantees that there’s an app to fill whatever feature gap you may have. Unfortunately, for many merchants, multiple applications are necessary, and the costs of those add-ons can quickly add up. Shopify also has an API that you can use to develop your own own applications.

In the same way, 3dcart offers integrations for a variety of features (including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertising, and more.) Users of 3dcart also complain that the cost of these add-ons can quickly become expensive. 3dcart also has a RESTful API available.

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways.

In addition, Shopify has its own in-house payment solution called Shopify Payments. As we stated in the Pricing section of this article, if you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their additional transaction fees. Shopify Payments is currently available to merchants in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland.

Credit card processing rates for Shopify Payments are based on a user’s Shopify plan. Take a look at the fees for each plan in the screenshot below:

Keep in mind that Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution, and there are many complaints online about withheld payments and cancelled accounts. Read our full review of Shopify Payments for more information.

3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. They do not offer an in-house payment solution, but they also don’t ding you with transaction fees if you use a third party processor, which in my opinion is a much bigger deal.

The winner here is 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Merchants using Shopify have access to 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, videos, podcasts, and guides. You can also hire a Shopify expert to help you through a particularly rough patch.

I’ve seen mixed reviews of Shopify’s support team. Some users say they’re helpful, while others blame them for reading from a script and being informed about the product.

3dcart also offers 24/7 personalized support via email, live chat, phone. Resolve issues on your own with a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and e-university courses.

Not too surprisingly, I have also seen mixed reviews of 3dcart’s quality of support. Users frequently complain about delays in response time via live chat (in my experience “live chat” is more like another way to submit a web ticket), but response times for web tickets and phone calls are decent.

Another tie here, folks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Surprisingly, complaints about Shopify and 3dcart are very similar.

Shopify is often blamed for including only the basics in their platform. You’ll have to find a few extensions in the Shopify App Marketplace in order to access more advanced features. And unfortunately, costs for these add-ons can quickly add up. Users also frequently complain about Shopify’s customer service. Some users have less than positive experiences. Finally, that transaction fee continues to be a frustration for many merchants, as does Shopify Payments’s tendencies to cancel accounts and withhold payments.

Users of 3dcart also complain about customer support, saying they are very slow to respond to inquiries. In addition, 3dcart merchants dislike that add-ons can be expensive, especially when you need to use multiple extensions. Finally, some merchants state that 3dcart’s available design templates are dated, and that they’d like to see more current designs.

Because these negatives are so similar, we’re calling it a tie.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Users of Shopify and 3dcart have similar things to say about the advantages of each platform. A few commonalities include the low monthly price of running your store, strong ease of use, and good customer support.

This final advantage may be confusing as we’ve also included it in the complaints section above. It is very common to see a 50/50 split between positive and negative comments on customer service. Both Shopify and 3dcart have these mixed reviews.

One notable difference is that Shopify is celebrated for its themes while 3dcart is praised for its features. If you scroll up to the negatives section you’ll see that users often complain about Shopify’s features and 3dcart’s themes. It’s interesting to see that what is a strength of one platform is a weakness of the other.

The two platforms tie in this category as well.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

It’s always disappointing to end on a tie, but with such a close race, we don’t think it’s fair to call a definitive winner. Your decision will depend on your business’s needs.

Are you looking for an easy to use platform with beautiful design templates? Try Shopify.

Are you willing to overcome a slight learning curve to uncover a few more advanced features? 3dcart is your best bet.

We will say that overall we think Shopify better fits the needs of most merchants, which is why we’ve given Shopify a perfect score of 5 stars in our full review while 3dcart has 4.5 (see our review). However, it’s evident here that both shopping carts are strong options. We recommend you sign up for a trial of each eCommerce platform and decide for yourself which option you prefer.

Get Started With Shopify

Get Started With 3dcart

The post Shopify VS 3dcart appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada

best canada ecommerce platform

Are you a Canadian seller looking to set up an online store? Or are you an American merchant hoping to sell products in Canada? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll be covering the top 5 eCommerce solutions for Canadian sellers. Each shopping cart included here provides the logistical features that Canadian merchants need for their online stores. What’s more, all of the shopping carts in this article are of top quality, each one earning a perfect five-star review.

Here are a few of the Canada-specific features we’ve looked for in each of the eCommerce solutions presented below:

  • Calculate tax rates for Canada
  • Display prices and accept payment in CAD
  • Integrate with Canada Post for real-time shipping rates
  • Support multiple languages, such as French

We’ll kick off the list with a couple of our favorite Canada-based shopping cart solutions, and then we’ll move onto some American software solutions that also work for Canadian merchants. Let’s get started!

Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers. Don’t have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

Review
Visit Site
Review
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Review
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Review Review
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Best Choice For Small to enterprise businesses with little technical skill Small to large businesses with some technical skill Small to large businesses with some technical skill Small to large businesses with advanced technical skill Large B2B businesses with some technical skill
Based In Canada Yes Yes No No No
SaaS Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Beginning Pricing Structure $29/month + 2.0% transaction fee $19/month for 75 orders $44.95/month Free $299/month
Free Trial Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Ease Of Use Easy to use Moderate learning curve Moderate learning curve Steep learning curve Moderate Learning Curve

Read on for more details about each eCommerce solution.

Shopify

Based out of Ontario, Canada, Shopify is our first recommendation for Canadian merchants seeking an easy to use shopping cart solution. Shopify is the perfect example of an SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that Shopify handles the technical aspects of running an online store. For a monthly fee (plus transaction fees) Shopify provides hosting, web security, and technical support.

Shopify is designed for merchants with little to no development experience, so it’s perfect for smaller merchants who want to get their products to market quickly. However, that does not mean that Shopify is limited to exclusively these merchants. The software is scalable, so large or enterprise level businesses can also use Shopify to their advantage.

Pricing for Shopify is relatively low, and all plans include unlimited storage, bandwidth, and products. You can subscribe to their Basic Shopify Plan for just $29/month (+ 2.0% transaction fee). For more advanced features, you’ll have to subscribe to a higher level plan. One step up is the Shopify Plan at $79/month and the next step is the Advanced Shopify Plan at $299/month.

Pros

As one of our favorite, most versatile solutions, Shopify has a lot to offer merchants. Here are a few of the biggest perks of using Shopify:

  • Ease Of Use: Shopify is known for their simple UI. Uploading products is a breeze, and you can make changes to your storefront design with a drag-and-drop tool.
  • Elegant Design: The Shopify marketplace comes stocked with beautiful, responsive, ready-to-use themes. Ten of these themes are available free of charge, and the rest cost between $140-$180.
  • Good Customer Service: 24/7 customers support is available on all pricing plans via email, phone, and live chat. Some users report excellent interactions with support reps, although other users have a different experience (see Cons below).

Cons

Despite all of its positives, Shopify is not a perfect solution. There are still many ways Shopify can continue to improve. Here are a few of the things users complain about on online forums:

  • Limited Features: This is the biggest complaint users have about Shopify. While Shopify includes all of the basic features sellers need to initially set up their store, there are not many advanced features available. In order to access more advanced features (like B2B selling options, single page checkout, etc.), you’ll have to purchase the appropriate add-ons. This leads us to our second complaint.
  • Add-Ons Add Up: Although Shopify’s plans are affordably priced, costs of using Shopify for your online store can quickly add up once you start using extensions. Extensions and add-ons from the Shopify marketplace are billed monthly.
  • Poor Customer Support: This contradicts the “pro” I mentioned above. Reviews are mixed when it comes to customer support. Some users have great experiences. Others end up frustrated.

Canada-Specific Features

Because Shopify was created by Canadians, you can expect the software to offer enough features to support Canadian sellers’ specific needs. Here’s how they handle Canada-specific selling:

  • Multi-Lingual Features: Have your storefront, checkout, and emails display in multiple languages. Shopify has also recently introduced a beta for a multi-lingual admin. Languages currently supported include French.
  • Multiple Currencies: Display pricing in multiple currencies using a drop-down currency picker. Accept multiple currencies.
  • Shopify Shipping: Use Shopify Shipping to calculate and display shipping rates for multiple carriers, including Canada Post, UPS, USPS, and DHL.
  • Tax: Set tax rates for countries and provinces.

Get started with Shopify by signing up for a free 14-day trial, no credit card required.

Read our full Shopify review

Visit the Shopify website

LemonStand

Founded in 2010, LemonStand is an SaaS eCommerce solution with headquarters in Vancouver, BC. Like Shopify, LemonStand provides merchants with hosting, customer service, and site security.

One notable trait about LemonStand is that their design templates are completely customizable. The design is all open source, so if you have the proper know-how, you can change nearly every aspect of the look and feel of your store.

Pricing for LemonStand is based on the number of orders you process each month. We like this pricing model because all features are included with all plans. However, merchants who process many orders each month with very narrow profit margins might be turned off by this pricing model. You can begin with the Starter plan ($19/month for 75 orders) or move up to the Growth plan ($69/month for 300 orders) or Professional plan ($199/month for 1000 orders). There’s also a Premium plan available for even larger sellers.

Pros

We deem LemonStand a 5-star solution, and it seems many users would agree. Here’s what current users praise most frequently on comment boards and review sites:

  • Customizability: If you have the technical experience, you can do a lot with LemonStand. In particular, you will be able to change many aspects of the look and feel or your storefront.
  • Progress: LemonStand is constantly working to add new features to their software and improve existing features. This progress is encouraging.
  • Good Customer Service: LemonStand’s representatives are helpful, courteous, and timely.

Cons

LemonStand isn’t a perfect solution, however. Here are a few of the complaints I’ve found:

  • Missing Features: LemonStand is constantly adding new features, in part because the software is still missing some advanced functionality. Users are hopeful that these gaps in features will be filled soon.
  • Technical Skill Required: Web design with LemonStand requires at least some knowledge of HTML and CSS. If you don’t have that knowledge, you should be able to hire someone who can take care of design issues for you.
  • Lacking Documentation: LemonStand provides documentation as a form of self-help technical support. Unfortunately, some of that documentation is not very detailed. Documentation can occasionally be difficult to follow.

Canada-Specific Features

Here’s how LemonStand supports Canadian merchants:

  • Canada Post: LemonStand integrates with Canada Post so you can provide real-time shipping rates.
  • Taxes: Use tax classes to define tax rates by location. Alternatively, you can integrate with Avalara for more detailed tax calculation.

Surprisingly, I was not able to find any information about displaying your storefront in multiple languages and currencies. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are unavailable (especially since LemonStand is a Canadian based company). Comment below if you have any information on the matter.

Test out the software for yourself with a free, commitment-free 14 day trial. Or, read our full review for more information!

Read our full LemonStand review

Visit the LemonStand website

PinnacleCart

PinnacleCart was developed with the intention of helping merchants promote and sell their products, regardless of technical ability. As SaaS software, PinnacleCart gives you the ability to add and edit products, process orders, create marketing materials, and customize your site design. And although PinnacleCart is not a Canadian company, they do provide many of the logistical features that Canadian merchants need.

Pricing for PinnacleCart is based on traffic and storage. All features come included with every plan. These features include unlimited products, daily backups, phone and email support, and an SSL certificate. Pricing is available in three tiers: $44.95/month, $94.95/month, and $199.95/month.

Pros

Pinnacle Cart is another five-star solution. Find out what makes it great:

  • Ease Of Use: Once you conquer the initial learning curve, using your PinnacleCart admin should be second nature.
  • Customer Support: Users are happy with the support they receive from PinnacleCart.
  • Good Marketing Features: Use widgets to market your products on any website, and integrate with social media to further your reach. PinnacleCart’s SEO features are also generally well praised.

Cons

Some PinnacleCart users, however, may have a different experience. Here are a few cons we’ve noticed:

  • Learning Curve: Users who are new to PinnacleCart (and new to eCommerce in general) will have to overcome a slight learning curve when they first begin using the software.
  • Difficult Customization: Some users have trouble customizing their design.
  • Not International Friendly: PinnacleCart does not offer many languages or currency options. In addition, users have some difficulty accepting payments outside of the US and Canada.

Canada-Specific Features

Although PinnacleCart is not the best solution for cross-continental selling, they offer plenty of features for selling within Canada:

  • Canada Post: Add real-time shipping for Canada Post.
  • Automatic Tax Calculation: Use flat-rate tax options to set up tax rates by state and province. Integrate with Avalara Ava Tax or Exactor Tax for more detailed tax estimates.
  • Accept Multiple Currencies: List your prices in multiple currencies and accept payments in multiple currencies.
  • Add French Language Options: Choose to display your site in multiple languages.

Try out the platform for free for two weeks, no need to hand over any credit card information. For more details on pricing and features, view our full review.

Read our full PinnacleCart review

Get Started With PinnacleCart 

Magento

Until now, we’ve discussed exclusively SaaS platforms that favor ease of use over customizability. Magento is the opposite. As one of the eCommerce industry’s most popular open-source software, Magento is highly customizable and scalable, and it’s perfect for merchants with greater developing skills.

Another advantage to Magento is that it’s totally free to download. However, that doesn’t mean Magento costs $0 to implement. Because Magento is open-source, you will be responsible for finding hosting, maintaining security, and hiring developers (or being your own developer) to design your site and add necessary features. There is no Magento support available. Your only options are to resolve issues on your own or pay a developer to fix things for you.

As you might imagine, Magento is more difficult to implement than the SaaS solutions we’ve discussed above. However, Magento’s strong feature set and customizability make it a good option for fearless merchants.

Pros

Take a look at the advantages that come with Magento:

  • Features: Magento provides a robust feature set right out of the box. Add even more advanced features through integrations or develop your own extensions with the available API.
  • Strong User Community: Magento is used by 240,000 merchants around the world. Join a wide community of sellers and developers. Find solutions in Magento’s community forum or hire a Magento developer for select jobs.
  • Scalable & Customizable: Use Magento to build the online store system that your business needs.

Cons

As you might expect, Magento comes with its challenges. Many of these challenges relate to ease of use. Take a look:

  • Steep Learning Curve: Many sellers find Magento difficult to learn. You will need to have some experience with coding or be able to hire a developer.
  • Expensive: Although the software is free to download, there are always expenses related to operating an online store. Be sure to consider web developer costs as well as the expense of hosting, adding integrations, and maintaining security.
  • No Customer Support: You can use self-help support routes or hire a developer. Magento does not provide customer support for their open source software.

Canada-Specific Features

Magento is built for merchants worldwide. The software includes many international selling features, which benefit Canadian sellers.

  • Languages: Choose from many, many available languages. Set up multi-language store views so that you can feature multiple languages without creating multiple sites.
  • Accept CAD: Accept CAD. Implement “dual currencies” to accept both USD and CAD easily.
  • Taxes: Manually add tax rates and rules, or integrate with AvaTax for more detailed (and easier) tax calculations.
  • Canada Post: Use integrations from the Magento Marketplace to add Canada Post shipping calculations to your store.

Magento does not offer a free trial because the software itself is totally free to download. Test out the software by downloading it for free, or read our review for more information.

Read our full Magento review

Zoey

If Magento sounds great, but you’re turned off by that “steep learning curve,” you might look into Zoey. Zoey offers the functionality of Magento paired with an ease of use that rivals Shopify. Sound perfect, doesn’t it? The only downfall: the price. Zoey is designed to be a B2B eCommerce platform with B2C capabilities. It is therefore intended for merchants beyond the startup phase, and the price reflects that.

Nevertheless, we think Zoey is a fantastic option. In particular, we love Zoey’s robust drag-and-drop storefront design tool, which lets all merchants make changes to their sites with zero coding. In addition, we love Zoey’s extensive feature set that includes strong capabilities for wholesale selling.

Pricing for Zoey is divided into two tiers: Entry ($299/month) and Power ($499/month). A step up in pricing includes more staff account permissions, the ability to list more SKUs, priority customer support, and more.

Something important to note: Multi-language and multi-currency features are only available on the Power plan.

Pros

There’s a lot to love about Zoey. Here are just a few of those positives:

  • Easy Setup: It’s easy to get your store up and running. Zoey also offers migration services to make the transition from another eCommerce platform easier.
  • Feature Rich: Zoey comes with lots and lots of features already built-in, so you won’t have to use so many add-ons.
  • Drag & Drop Editor: Zoey’s drag and drop editor gives you control over your site’s look and feel. You can use it to change many, many aspects of your storefront.

Cons

However, there a few drawbacks to using Zoey. We’ve compiled a few potential issues:

  • Pricey For Smaller Sellers: Zoey’s monthly subscription rates are significantly higher than any of the other solutions in this list. These rates are likely too high for merchants who are just starting out.
  • Limited Customizability: Although Zoey is similar to Magento in its features, it is not similar in customizability. Since Zoey is not open source, you will not be able to customize every aspect of your store. So, if you want any additional features, you’ll have to add them via integrations or wait until Zoey releases those features in an update.
  • “Heavy” Platform: If you add on lots of extensions, your platform can get a bit bogged down and not run as smoothly as you’d like.

Canada-Specific Features

Zoey provides sellers with multiple international sales tools, which Canadian merchants can use to their advantage.

  • Multi-Lingual: Sell in 80+ languages.
  • Multiple Currencies: Display prices in 168+ currencies and accept payments with 50+ international payment gateways.
  • Taxes: Zoey includes tax support for many countries, including Canada.
  • Shipping Integrations: Zoey does not offer a direct link to Canada Post, which is unfortunate. Access Canada Post with a shipping software extension like Ordoro or ShipStation.

As you’d expect, Zoey offers a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. Test the platform out for yourself or learn more with our full review.

Read our full Zoey review

Get Started With  Zoey

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve found one or two shopping carts that might fit your business’s needs. Take a look into our full review of each potential eCommerce solution to learn the details about pricing, features, and customer service.

And when you have a better idea of what each shopping cart provides, we always recommend you take advantage of a free trial to test out the software yourself. Test out your daily operations, and try to “stump” the software with complex products and promotions.

Best of luck in your search for a Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform! There are lots of great options out there, you just have to find the one that works for you!

Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers.

The post 5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is Shopify Easy To Use?

is shopify easy to use

If you’ve ever visited Shopify’s website, you know that ease of use is their number one marketing claim. But does that claim have any merit? Is this app as intuitive as they say?

As software reviewers who have tested over 40 eCommerce solutions over the years (many of them repeatedly!), we can confidently say that Shopify is indeed one of the most user-friendly shopping cart solutions on the market. In particular, Shopify is well designed for merchants with very little technical know-how.

Shopify makes it easy to set up an online store, add products, and tweak your site’s look and feel so that you can focus your energy on building your business instead of building your website.

In this post, we’ll give you a breakdown of a few frequently used features and design tools, complete with screenshots of Shopify’s admin panel. Keep reading to see if Shopify’s usability fits your experience level and business needs.

Signing Up For Shopify

The best way to experience Shopify’s usability is to actually take the software for a test drive. Shopify offers a totally free, no commitment required 14-day trial, which you can sign up for at any time. To create your account, all you have to do is provide your email address and answer a few questions about your business’s size and industry.

You’ll then be sent an email with login information, and you’ll be able to access your Shopify dashboard:

While Shopify does not provide a formal tutorial, they do list a few setup steps on your initial dashboard page. You can either choose to complete those actions now or find them on your own later.

We recommend you play around a bit with the “Add Product” and “Customize Theme” pages to get a general feel for Shopify’s functions. To start setting up your online store, head over to the “Settings” tab on the bottom left.

Adjusting Settings

From the Settings tab of the app, you can add payment processors, tax information, and shipping preferences. You’ll also be able to make changes to checkout, sales channels, account permissions, and more.

Calculating Taxes

Correctly collecting sales tax for online orders can be tricky business. Every state, county, and municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding sales tax, and trying to comply by all those rules can be maddening. Shopify makes this process a bit easier by keeping all those important calculations in one place.

In the setup process, you can decide how you collect taxes for shipments, including international shipments.

When it comes to domestic shipping rates, you can ask Shopify to handle all the tax calculations based on your business’s location(s). Input your State and zip code, and Shopify will present a range of tax rates based on all the locations in which you have tax liability (called “nexus”).

If you’d like to see those taxes more specifically, click on that range (highlighted in blue) and see details for each city.

Select Shipping Options

There are a variety of ways Shopify merchants can go about calculating shipping rates. You can, for example, integrate with your favorite shipping software app (like ShippingEasy or ShipStation) or you can subscribe to Shopify’s highest pricing plan to use your own negotiated rates with popular shipping carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. One of the most popular options, however, is to simply use Shopify Shipping to calculate rates and purchase and print shipping labels.

Shopify Shipping provides connections with DHL, USPS, and UPS. You can purchase shipping labels online and have those labels print in bulk from thermal or desktop printers. And now, you can even purchase those labels from your mobile device. What’s more, Shopify Shipping has partnered with shipping carriers to provide you with discounted shipping rates, depending on your Shopify plan.

To start using Shopify Shipping, click “Edit” under the “Shipping Zones” option on your Shipping page in settings.

You’ll then be redirected to this page where you can select carriers (such as USPS) and services (such as Priority Mail). These options will then be automatically available to your customers, and you will be able to purchase and print shipping labels for these services. Pretty easy, huh?

So far, I can only see one potential issue with Shopify Shipping and, depending on your business, it could be a big one. Shopify Shipping will only display calculated rates according to the dimensions you list for your “Default Package.” That means that all shipments, no matter their actual size, will be treated as the same size.

If you sell products that are a wide range of sizes, calculated rates with Shopify Shipping might not be the best option. You may instead consider integrating with a third-party shipping solution to handle that aspect of your fulfillment.

Connect With Payment Solutions

To process payments, just select your preferred payment processor or payment gateway from the drop-down menu on the correct page in Settings.

Shopify also offers their own payment gateway, called Shopify Payments. If you choose to use Shopify Payments to accept credit card payments, Shopify will waive their transaction fees (which range from 0.5%-2.0%, depending on your pricing plan).

Note: I have seen many complaints online targeting Shopify Payments. Merchants say that while it’s easy to be initially accepted to the processor, your account may be canceled further down the road when Shopify gets around to reviewing your site. I’ve also seen complaints that say Shopify Payments withholds money from merchants. Keep these complaints in mind as you look into your options.

Adding Products

Creating new products is a simple process. Head over to the “Products” tab and click “Add a Product.” You’ll then be taken to a page like this:

Here you can input basic information like price, inventory totals, and images. You can also write product descriptions on this page and use tags and categories to organize items. Toward the bottom of the page, you can add shipping information, like weight, and list tariff code. You are also presented with the option to add variants.

If you choose to add product variants (size and color, etc.), you’ll be redirected to a new page where you can enter variant-specific information such as weight, inventory, and price. Notice, however, that there is no field available to enter product dimensions, which may result in less accurate shipping calculations.

Once you’ve added this information, the basic “Add a Product” page will change to reflect new variants. You will now be required to edit all weights, prices, and shipping information on variant pages instead of the main product page.

Managing Inventory

You can either manage inventory on individual product pages or in the “Inventory” tab in the admin.

Set quantities for each variant, and set low stock notifications to make sure you always have items on hand when customers want them.

Creating Promotions

Use Shopify’s “Discounts” tab to create coupons and discounts for your site. You can make these discounts specific to select categories or products, and you can set minimum purchase requirements. You can also make discounts only available to certain customer groups and set active dates for the promotion. Discounts can be fixed amounts, percentages, free shipping, and Buy X Get Y.

You can also promote your store through order confirmation emails, abandoned cart notifications, and other email marketing strategies. Use HTML design tools to modify the email templates that Shopify provides.

Editing Site Design

This app is designed for sellers who have little to no technical experience. Shopify works to make all of their customization tools accessible to beginners, including website design. You don’t have to know a lick of code to edit the look and feel of your site (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt!).

Most merchants begin the site design process by selecting a theme from Shopify’s vast marketplace. There, you can find a range of mobile responsive themes that are priced between $0-$180. It’s a good idea to start out with a free theme and move on to a more sophisticated theme once you get the hang of the editing tools.

Shopify provides a few options for editing your theme. The easiest option is Shopify’s drag and drop feature: Sections.

Using Sections, you can add and rearrange blocks of content. For example, you can add a featured products display, a map, and an image gallery on your homepage. Then, just drag those elements around until the site looks how you envisioned.

Sections is currently only available on select pages and with select themes.

Although Sections is great for those with little know-how, merchants who are looking to customize many elements of their design may find it too limiting. For those merchants, there is also a code editor available. Edit using Shopify’s Liquid templating language, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Final Thoughts

If there ever was a long answer to a short question, this article is one of them!

In short: Yes, Shopify is very easy to use!

Get Started With Shopify

The post Is Shopify Easy To Use? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Stripe Payments Competitors And Alternatives

It’s safe to say, Stripe (read our review) has done a lot to change the way people pay online, and it’s opened up the potential for merchants all over the world to sell online and reach customers almost anywhere. The company has grown massively over the years, to the point that Stripe says there’s an 80% chance any given credit/debit card has been used on the Stripe network previously.

In addition to pre-built and customizable checkout forms that you can drop into a website, Stripe integrates into mobile app payments. Square’s documentation has become the gold standard by which all other documentation is judged. Developers love it for ease of use and the extensive support for programming languages.

Merchants also get access to advanced subscription and billing tools, including invoicing. Not only that, but the Stripe Connect platform allows you to create a marketplace for other merchants to sell and easily manage all their payments. However, it’s worth noting that Stripe will charge you additional fees on top of processing costs for using these services.

Plus, Stripe offers more than 300 ready-to-go integrations from eCommerce to invoicing and much more, which can simplify the process of building your business’ back end. Check out Stripe’s Works With page for the full list.

But Stripe isn’t for everyone, and it does have some serious drawbacks. The first among them is its third-party processing model that leads to account holds and terminations for unqualified merchants. The second is the dubious customer service, which includes a lack of phone support.

If you’ve had a bad experience with Stripe in the past, or you’re not sure if Stripe is actually right for you, have no fear! There are some great alternatives to Stripe out there, that offer comparable pricing, similar tools and features, and quality customer support. Let’s take a look at six of the most promising Stripe competitors and see how they stack up for merchants.

Stripe Key Facts 

  • Merchant Account Or Third-Party: Third-Party
  • Pricing Model: Flat-Rate Pricing
  • Processing Costs: 2.9% + $0.30
  • Suitable For Low Volume: Yes
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: No

Alternative #1: Braintree Payment Solutions

Braintree (read our review) is, hands down, the most direct and obvious alternative to Stripe. Its product offerings are nearly identical, documentation is quite good, and pricing is comparable. That means you get access to a pre-built payment form, a customizable form, subscription and recurring billing tools, marketplace tools, an API for custom reporting, and more. Braintree actually outperforms Stripe in terms of global reach for merchants, with more supported countries. However, like Stripe, there is no easy in-person payments option.

You also get access to a huge assortment of supported payment methods. It’s worth noting Braintree is owned by PayPal, so that does mean you can incorporate PayPal and Venmo acceptance, as well. But whereas Stripe will charge you for access to features such as Billing and Radar, Braintree charges absolutely nothing beyond processing costs to use its services.

Braintree doesn’t quite compare to Stripe as far as integrations, but there are some very good options on the list. Check out Braintree’s list of supported third-party integrations for more information there.

In addition, Braintree offers each merchant their own merchant account, which translates to much greater account stability than you get with Stripe. And despite being a PayPal company, reports indicate that Braintree is a little bit better about working with higher-risk businesses. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and you may be required to implement a reserve fund, but Braintree is certainly an option if you’ve had trouble with other processors. Braintree also promises “white glove” support, and with a few exceptions the merchant experiences support this claim.

Check out our Stripe vs. Braintree article for an in-depth comparison of the two services.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Merchant Account
  • Pricing Model: Flat-rate
  • Processing Costs: 2.9% + $0.30
  • Suitable For Low Volume: Yes
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: Yes (in some circumstances)

Alternative #2: Adyen

Adyen (read our review) isn’t exactly a big name. In fact, it only has about 5,000 merchants. But despite the small customer base, it had a payment volume of $50 billion in 2015, comparable to Braintree, which has quite a few more merchants. And that’s because Adyen’s built its business by chasing after the big fish. For example, Adyen powers payments for the crafting marketplace Etsy, and it recently wooed eBay away from PayPal.  However, now that it’s established itself, the company is started to court smaller businesses.

Despite providing merchant accounts (which historically translates to better stability), Adyen has one stipulation that makes it very unsuitable for high-risk businesses: a chargeback threshold. The industry standard is 1% (and that includes Stripe) but Adyen will terminate an account or implement holds if it exceeds a 0.5% chargeback rate. Adyen is also unsuitable for low-volume businesses because of its monthly minimum of 1,000 transactions or $120 per month in processing fees.

However, when you get past those concerns, you’ll find that Adyen is most similar to Stripe in its global reach and support for localized payment methods across Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and North and South America. Adyen even accepts PayPal transactions, which is something rarely available from companies not owned by PayPal. There’s also a decent list of supported partners and integrations.

Adyen has very powerful marketplace tools (it would have to, given the big marketplaces it’s landed as clients), but also a secure, customizable checkout form. It also has advanced tools to reduce chargebacks, increase success rates of transactions, and analyze your business data, all at no additional charge. Plus, Adyen has incorporated support for in-person payments into its package, making it an all-in-one solution. All of that makes it a powerful contender for growing businesses that need advanced technology to power their payments system.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Merchant Account
  • Pricing Model: Blended (interchange-plus for Visa, MasterCard, Discover; flat-rate for Amex)
  • Processing Costs: 0.6% + $0.12 markup for Visa, MasterCard and Discover; 3.95% + $0.12 for Amex; $0.25 + $0.12 (totaling $0.37) for ACH Direct Debit
  • Suitable For Low Volume: Yes
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: No

Alternative #3: PayJunction

PayJunction (read our review) is one of the most developer-friendly merchant account options. While its business model and product offerings aren’t exactly innovative, Payjunction does offer interchange-plus pricing with no additional fees if you process more than $10,000 per month. (Below that threshold, a $35 monthly fee applies).  The markup is a little high, but with no per-transaction fee and no other fees, it balances out and can still yield savings. And then consider that you get access to all of PayJunction’s developer tools and extra features at no additional cost.

One of the more interesting features PayJunction offers is the ability to capture signatures on emailed receipts. Customers need only open the email and they can sign the receipt on almost any device. This is a great option especially for businesses that accept orders via phone, social media, and other nontraditional channels. But more than that, you also get a virtual terminal with invoicing and recurring billing capabilities. PayJunction’s gateway, Trinity, integrates with a huge assortment of shopping carts as well as POS systems to give you an all-in-one setup.

PayJunction isn’t clear about its stance on high-risk businesses, but if you’re not qualified you’ll be told up front instead of after you’ve already set up your account and started accepting orders. In addition, the whole system is not quite as full featured as you get with Stripe, but it can handle all the essentials. Really, the account stability and pricing are the biggest perks of processing with PayJunction. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the company has an excellent reputation for customer service, either.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Merchant account
  • Pricing Model: Interchange-plus
  • Processing Costs: Interchange + 0.75%
  • Suitable For Low Volume: No
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: Not Stated

Alternative #4: Square

Probably the least-expected entry on this list is Square (read our review). What’s a mobile card reader and POS doing in an article about online gateways and developer platforms? But Square has expanded its platform to include eCommerce integrations and a developer platform for ecommerce, point of sale, and much more. It offers seamless advanced inventory management at no additional charge, plus online order management, a customer database, and very solid reporting tools.

Square doesn’t support in-app payments the way Stripe does, and its supported payment types are more limited; however, the biggest drawback is that Square is only available to merchants in a handful of countries whereas Stripe (and many of the other options on this list) have a much more global reach. In addition, Square is a third-party processor just like Stripe, meaning merchants can get set up quickly, but face a potential for funding holds and account terminations.

However, Square’s documentation and APIs allow you to build a system that can easily accommodate online and in-person sales, reporting, inventory, and more, using Square’s already robust tools. Square doesn’t match Stripe for number of integrations, but it does have many options and they span a huge assortment of merchant needs. Check out the app marketplace for a complete list.

It’s not exactly common to find service providers who work seamlessly with online and in-person sales. Square is one of the few that does it exceptionally well, especially when you consider the extras that get thrown in at no charge. The lack of iOS/Android support is disappointing, but not necessarily a deal breaker if you don’t have a native app.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Third-Party
  • Pricing Model: Flat-Rate
  • Processing Costs: 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions, 2.7% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions
  • Suitable For Low Volume: Yes
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: No

Alternative #5: PayPal

PayPal (read our review) probably comes to mind when most people think of online payments. The commerce giant has made itself a trusted household name among consumers. But the fact that online transactions redirect and are completed on PayPal’s site isn’t a great solution for every merchant in 2018. PayPal does offer hosted payment pages but they come at a cost of $30/month in addition to payment processing. Recurring billing also comes at a cost of $10/month.

PayPal does offer a suite of developer tools for businesses interested in a custom setup. In addition to providing access to Express Checkout and the Braintree SDK, PayPal’s APIs include tools for invoicing, mass payouts, and marketplaces. However, despite being the parent company of Braintree, it seems that PayPal and its infrastructure haven’t quite kept pace. For starters, PayPal’s marketplace tools are fairly new (introduced in 2017) and they are only available after you go through an application and vetting process. And while the developer tools exist, most of the chatter says they don’t match Stripe for quality.

On the plus side, PayPal also supports a wide assortment of integrations for merchants, including POS integrations. It’s easy to create an all-in-one setup that addresses in-person and online payments. However, the default structure is a little bit cumbersome and getting access to features such as a hosted checkout page will cost quite a bit, compared to other providers who offer them at no additional cost.

In addition, like Stripe and Square, PayPal is a third-party processor and some merchants do run a greater risk of encountering a funding hold or account termination. PayPal certainly has most of the tools merchants need and a widely recognized name. It probably isn’t the best solution if you have extremely specialized needs, but if you want an all-in-one payments experience with some great add-ons thrown in, PayPal could be a good choice.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Third-Party
  • Pricing Model: Flat-rate
  • Processing Costs: 2.9% + $0.30 for online transactions; 2.7% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions
  • Suitable For Low Volume: Yes
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: No

 

Alternative #6: WePay

We Pay (read our review) isn’t built for merchants who want to accept payments online. It’s actually a payments service for platforms that want to build native payments into their apps or services. That means shopping carts that want to offer a seamless payment processing option, along with crowdfunding, event management, and SaaS products, as well as marketplaces. Even though merchants can’t sign up for processing directly, WePay makes the cut because platform payments is one of Stripe’s core offerings, too.

WePay supports both web-based and in-app payments for iOS and Android, and in addition to cards and ACH transactions, you can implement Android and Apple Pay for the Web, so you have more options for payment methods. You can also use WePay to create a white label mobile POS with the option for a branded card reader.

As with Stripe, WePay is a third-party aggregator, which means that not all merchants who are onboarded via one of these platforms will be approved and they may face sudden account holds or terminations. Also, pricing isn’t disclosed and it’s up to the platform builder to decide what sort of rates it wants to charge and whether it wants to take a cut of the processing costs.

  • Merchant Account or Third-Party: Third-Party
  • Pricing Model: Not Stated
  • Processing Costs: Not Stated
  • Suitable For Low Volume: No
  • Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: No

Final Thoughts

Stripe is a great option for many businesses. The fact that there are no monthly minimums makes it great for startups, and the number of supported countries, supported payment options and supported currencies make it a serious contender for global businesses in particular. The various features make Stripe especially well suited to high-tech businesses that aren’t satisfied with the standard fare in a payments processor.

But the other companies we’ve looked at are all great options, too. And in the end, they all have their benefits and their drawbacks. Stripe, PayPal, Square, and WePay are all third-party processors that put merchants at risk of account freezes and terminations. What’s right for one business may not be right for another.

That’s why you need to have a really good idea of which features are absolute must-haves. You don’t want to start the process of establishing an account and creating an integration only to find out that a processor lacks a key feature and there’s no workaround. You should also consult your developer, as they have hands-on that can help you make a decision.

And finally, you should consider what features you might need in the future as your business grows. Do you plan to expand your sales channels? Do you want to launch additional products or service plans? Think about where you want your business to grow in the future. If you find a processor that can handle everything you want now and in the future, you won’t need to worry about the hassle of switching processors.

As always, thanks for reading! Have questions? Experience using these processors? We’d love to hear from you so leave us a comment and weigh in with your thoughts!

The post Stripe Payments Competitors And Alternatives appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Stripe VS Braintree

Stripe VS Braintree
✓ Products & Services ✓
Fees & Rates ✓
✓ Sales & Advertising Transparency ✓
✓ Contract Length & Cancellation ✓
Customer Service & Technical Support ✓
Negative Reviews & Complaints ✓
✓ Positive Reviews & Testimonials ✓
Final Verdict  Winner
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Overview

If you need a tech-driven platform to power payments for your business, Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) and Stripe (read our review) should be at the very top of the list. In addition to very strong developer tools with support for multiple programming languages, both companies are global service that can reach customers all over the world. But does one company excel more than the other? In the Stripe vs. Braintree debate, which company comes out on top?

Here’s the good news: Because their core offerings are so similarly aligned, it’s really easy to draw direct, apples-to-apples comparisons. And in most regards, Stripe and Braintree are very similarly matched. They both cater to some very large and/or very innovative businesses with industry-leading tools for online and mobile commerce, global business, and subscription/billing management.

Before committing to either of these platforms, it’s important to understand that to make the most of them you need advanced coding knowledge or a developer. You can go it alone with minimal knowledge, but you’ll be unable to harness the full potential of Stripe and Braintree. If you’re not tech savvy, another solution may be a better fit.

Braintree differs from Stripe primarily in that it issues merchants with their own merchant accounts, whereas Stripe is a third-party processor that aggregates payments. That means Braintree has much greater account stability than Stripe. Braintree also provides its tools at no additional cost beyond its flat-rate processing, whereas Stripe will assess small fees for the use of select services. So Braintree could very easily become the more cost-effective solution.

However, Stripe has made a name for itself with industry-leading tools, and you’re particularly interested in marketplace or subscription tools, Stripe is the standout option.

Normally, a merchant account is suited to merchants processing more than $10k/month (though some work with merchants with volumes as small as $5k/month). Braintree has no minimum and no monthly fee and says that it works with businesses of all sizes. That’s quite a bit different. With its similar pricing, Braintree is just as attractive an option as Stripe for new and small-but-growing enterprises.

The best solution for a business isn’t immediately clear here. You’ll need to look at what features are must-haves; you’ll need to consider costs. And if you are leaning toward Stripe, it’s worth considering the tradeoffs that you’ll make regarding account stability. Ultimately, it’ll be down to you and your developer to decide whether Stripe or Braintree is right for your business.

Read on for a more in-depth analysis of these two online payment gateways! Got questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a comment!

Products & Services

Winner: Tie

First things first: both of these companies support all kinds of payments, from directly on a website to inside mobile apps. They both off a choice of pre-built and completely customizable payment forms. They also offer tools for businesses that operate on marketplace or subscription models. Differences between the two platforms really come down more to the nitty-gritty details. You can also find out more about each company and its offerings by checking out our complete Braintree Payments and Stripe reviews.

Braintree Payments

 

Braintree’s payment processing and gateway services support merchants in more than 45 countries, versus 25 for Braintree. However, merchants can reach customers all across the globe with support for 130+ currencies. One of the biggest draws is Braintree’s PayPal integration. Because Braintree is a PayPal owned company, it makes sense that the integration between the two would be seamless.

Braintree’s SDKs support both Android and iOS for mobile developers, as well as six other languages. And you’ll find support for major payment methods across the globe, as well.

Braintree Supported Programming Languages

  • Android/iOS
  • Java
  • .NET
  • Node.js
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Braintree Supported Payment Types

  • ACH Direct Debit
  • Credit Cards
  • PayPal
  • Venmo
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Amex Express Checkout
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • UnionPay

Braintree Core Features 

Braintree categorizes its core offerings into four services. I like the way they are grouped because it helps better explain what Braintree is capable of doing for different kinds of businesses.

  • Braintree Direct: If you want to sell directly on your own website, this is the solution for you. Direct includes subscription tools (see below for more information).
  • Braintree Marketplace: Braintree’s marketplace tools allow you to create your own platform and manage the sellers and payouts with automation.
  • Braintree Auth: “Auth” (assuming that’s short for Authorization) is Braintree’s platform for other service companies to integrate the Braintree gateway into their solutions. This allows these companies to securely access their merchants’ data and take certain authorized actions on their behalf. For example, an invoicing company could use Auth to create an integration with their platform and allow Braintree merchants to connect their accounts and populate invoices based on data from the customer vault. Auth is also the tool that lets businesses make it possible to onboard merchants and accept payments natively.
  • Braintree Extend: Formerly called contextual commerce, Braintree has expanded its offerings here. The merchant hosts the payment checkout and transaction data, but is able to share the transaction data with partners. This creates a seamless, frictionless commerce experience for customers and keeps them on your site. Extend would be the appropriate platform for booking sites (hotels, airlines, event tickets, etc.) and other businesses that want to empower merchants/partners to sell through their website or app.

Additional Braintree Features

  • Fraud Management Tools: Braintree separates its fraud management tools into two tiers: Basic, which includes control over AVS and CVV checks, as well as risk threshold analysis. Advanced fraud tools require more work to enable, but include a partnership with Kount, a fraud management service. Kount Standard is offered at no charge, but if you want more control over transactions and your risk management policies, you can implement Kount Custom. You must meet Braintree’s requirements and it will cost more. In addition to all of that, Braintree also supports 3D Secure for additional verification.
  • Multi-Currency Displays And Conversions: Braintree allows merchants to display prices in local currency rather than just the merchant’s default currency, which can help entice international sales. Braintree even automatically converts the currency for you. Global businesses with bases of operation in several countries can connect multiple bank accounts and help reduce processing costs by eliminating the need for conversion.
  • Recurring Billing And Subscription Tools: Braintree has some powerful recurring billing and subscription tools whether you sell software or physical goods. However, you will notice a shortage of some specific features, such as invoicing. Stripe’s suite of tools is more advanced in this regard. However, if invoicing is a concern, don’t forget that Braintree integrates pretty seamlessly with PayPal and so you can use PayPal or another integration as an extension.
  • Account Auto-Updater: Reduce failed transactions and canceled subscriptions with Braintree’s Account Auto-Update feature. Expired and re-issued cards from certain institutions will automatically update with new card data to ensure continuity.
  • Reporting: Braintree offers a smattering of default reports in its control panel, including transaction-level reporting. However, even the company admits that you’ll probably outgrow the standard reports. Braintree’s Reports API allows you to generate custom reporting based on criteria you set. And unlike Stripe, this feature costs nothing at all.
  • Integrations: Braintree does support a variety of integrations, including eCommerce shopping cart software. You can browse available integrations on Braintree’s site.

I certainly think Braintree has everything most merchants will need. It does lack a few features that Stripe offers, but it’s a hugely capable system. And the seamless Payal integration could be a major draw from some merchants who have loyal PayPal customer bases.

Stripe Payments

Stripe is available to merchants in 25 countries at the time of writing this, including some betas. You can check out Stripe’s Global page for a complete list. However, regardless of merchant location, you can accept payments from all over the globe. Stripe actually supports 135+ currencies.

In addition, Stripe’s SDKs include support for Android/iIOS and seven other programming languages. Accepted payment methods depend on the merchant’s location, but Stripe supports many popular local payment methods in the EU and China in particular.

Stripe Supported Programming Languages

  • Android/iOS
  • Go
  • Java
  • .NET
  • Node.js
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Stripe Supported Payment Methods 

Stripe’s supported payment methods can be broken down into universal methods and local payment methods. Whereas Braintree focuses on universal payment types, Braintree has worked hard to add support for payment types common in markets such as the EU and China. Let’s start with universal payment types:

  • Alipay
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Amex Express Checkout
  • Masterpass by Mastercard
  • Visa Checkout
  • WeChat Pay

Local Payment Methods are only available in their regions where they are most popular, generally speaking:

  • ACH
  • Bancontact
  • EPS BETA
  • Giropay
  • iDEAL
  • P24 BETA
  • SEPA Direct Debit
  • SOFORT
  • WeChat Pay

Stripe Core Features

Stripe claims to offer more than 100 features, though it’s not exactly clear how it defines a “feature.” Still, you can do an awful lot with this company. Here’s a quick primer on what you can expect:

  • Payments: Stripe Checkout is a prebuilt form you can just drop into your site. But if you need something more customizable, Stripe Elements will let you design a form that suits your needs. You can build payments into your site or your mobile app.
  • Connect: Stripe’s Marketplace tools are definitely some of the most robust out there. Build and manage your own platform, including automated payouts to your merchants. Connect also facilitates connecting Stripe to other services (such as building native payments into eCommerce software) in the same way as Braintree Auth.
  • Billing: “Billing” now encompasses all of Stripe’s subscription, invoice, and recurring billing tools. Stripe’s subscription tools have always been powerful, but with the addition of invoice capabilities and the option for metered billing, it’s safe to say that you really can’t beat what Stripe has to offer.

Despite the differences in how these companies market and present their tools, the reality is, Stripe still has many of the same functions as Braintree. They’re just framed and presented in a different way.

Additional Stripe Features:

  • Sigma: Stripe offers an assortment of standard reporting tools in its dashboard. However, if you want more advanced reports, then you’ll need Sigma. For an additional monthly fee (based on volume, see the pricing section below for more details) you can generate custom reports based on SQL queries.
  • Radar: Stripe’s fraud monitoring tools include machine learning to identify and flag suspicious transactions. Merchants can review and override transactions they know to be legitimate, or set up custom rules for fraud transactions, all with far less fuss than you’ll see with Braintree. If you’re very comfortable with fraud management, this is definitely an advantage.
  • Multi-Currency Displays And Conversions: Stripe has spent a LOT of time billing itself as the platform of choice for global businesses. It should come as no surprise then that Stripe allows merchants to display pricing in local currencies and automatically handles the currency conversion. You can connect multiple bank accounts to save money on conversion costs, too.
  • Account Auto-Updater: Keep recurring transactions from failing when customers get new cards. Stripe will automatically update card data in your vault to ensure continuity of subscriptions.
  • Integrations: Stripe has more than 300 integrations with all kinds of other software and services a business might need. The sheer number of supported integrations could be a significant advantage for some merchants. You can browse integrations by categories on Stripe’s “Works With” page.

If everything is starting to sound really similar, it’s because these two companies really are evenly matched in most regards. it comes down to little details — like the fact that Stripe is a third-party processor while Braintree issues traditional merchant accounts. Or the fact that Stripe has far more ready-to-go integrations than Braintree.

Braintree has an advantage in that it’s available to merchants in 15 more countries, but both companies are evenly matched in the number of currencies accepted and their multi-currency displays. Also, Braintree’s pricing model (see below) is also far more straightforward and will save merchants money versus Stripe, which now charges merchants for access to many of its advanced tools.

My overall impression is that for the most part, Stripe is willing to give you more freedom with less oversight. The tradeoff, of course, is account stability.  For example, you have complete control over your fraud monitoring tools and which transactions are approved, but it’s quite possible to make a mistake and find yourself in hot water. Braintree offers a comparable set of features, but there will be a couple more hoops to jump through if you want the same degree of control over fraud management as you get with Stripe.

You’ll also find that Stripe’s subscription tools are far more advanced than Braintree’s. However, an integration (though more costly) could but Braintree on a more even keel here.

All in all, Braintree and Stripe are pretty evenly matched, and it’s hard to call one superior to the other. So much depends on what features you need and what payment methods you want to accept.

Rates & Fees

Winner: Braintree

Baseline pricing for Square and Stripe is pretty simple, and similar. However, because Stripe has started charging for access to some of its features, merchants will find themselves paying more with Stripe than they will with Braintree.

Let’s start with transaction rates:

  • Card Transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per card transaction for both Stripe and Braintree
  • ACH Processing: 0.75% for Braintree, 0.8% for Stripe (both capped at $5)

If you’re wondering, the $5 cap for ACH transactions would kick in at $625 for Braintree, and about $665 for Stripe transactions. However, Stripe says the $5 cap starts at $625. However, I imagine for many merchants the wibbly-wobbly space between $625 a $665 won’t be much of an issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that with Braintree, you can accept PayPal and PayPal Credit transactions. Those process at the rates determined by your PayPal account, but for the most part, you can expect them to be 2.9% + $0.30.

Both Braintree and Stripe allow you to accept cards from outside your home country. Those will cost an additional 1% per transaction; if the transaction is processed in one currency and settled in another, another 1% fee also applies for both companies.

Discounts and Alternative Payment Plans

I want to point out that Braintree does offer alternative payment plans for some merchants:

  • Interchange-Plus Pricing: Available in Europe as well as to high-volume merchants (more than $80,000/month) in the US.
  • Nonprofit Discount Rate: 2.2% + $0.30  (Amex processed at 3.25% + $0.30)

Braintree doesn’t offer its own micropayments plans, but you can integrate Braintree with PayPal and use PayPal’s micropayments plan (5% + $0.05) instead.

Stripe also offers discounts as well:

  • Volume Discounts: Stripe doesn’t specify the threshold for enterprise pricing/custom discounts. It also doesn’t indicate anywhere easily found whether those custom discounts include interchange-plus pricing.
  • Nonprofit Discounts: Stripe mentions that 501(c)(3) nonprofits may be eligible for custom discounts. It doesn’t disclose what those rates are. In addition, the wording used on Stripe’s website sounds more like “we’ll see if we can work something out,” so it’s safe to assume not all nonprofits will qualify.
  • Microtransactions: Stripe says its sales team will work with merchants who want to implement micropayments, but it doesn’t specify what the cost is.

You’ll notice a trend here, I hope: a lack of disclosure. All of these pricing features are available, but Stripe fails to mention them. This likely indicates that the pricing isn’t consistent from one business to the next (usually volume and industry are two of the biggest contributing factors). It’s not a red flag, but it’s disappointing when you look at Braintree with its disclosures.

Additional Fees

Both Stripe and Braintree assess a $15 fee per chargeback incident, which is industry standard.

Braintree will refund your processing costs in the event you issue a full refund to a customer (it will not return fees on partial refunds, however). This is very nice, and it isn’t universal across all processors. PayPal, for example, keeps the $0.30 per-transaction fee but will refund the percentage fee.

Stripe does not refund processing fees for refunded transactions. This is (somewhat surprisingly) stated very clearly at the bottom of Stripe’s pricing page.

Generally speaking, Braintree charges absolutely nothing for access to all its features and tools. However, you may incur additional charges for using 3D Secure depending on your rate plan. Using Kount Custom as part of your advanced fraud monitoring will also incur additional costs.

Stripe has modified its pricing to include additional fees for its subscription, marketplace, and reporting tools.

Stripe Billing (including all of the formerly free subscription tools) now assess a small percentage charge. Pricing is lumped into two tiers:

  • Starter: Free for first $1 million in transactions; afterward, 0.4% in addition to processing costs
  • Scale: 0.7% in addition to processing costs; includes additional features and discounted processing costs.

If you used Stripe’s subscription tools before April 5, 2018, you are grandfathered out of these costs and can use Stripe Billing at no additional charge. That’s actually quite nice — and somewhat unexpected.

Sigma, Stripe’s reporting tool, is priced on a sliding scale based on volume. I’ll admit this is a fair way of pricing a service like this — it’s better than tiered packages that are divided by the amount of info available or the number of queries you could generate. This way small businesses get a very fair price for advanced business info.

  • <500 Transactions: $0.02/charge plus $10 infrastructure fee
  • 501-1,000 Transactions: $0.018/charge plus $25 infrastructure fee
  • 1,001-5,000 Transactions: $0.016/charge plus $50 infrastructure fee
  • 5,000-50,000 Transactions: $0.014/charge plus $100 infrastructure fee

Beyond that point, your business moves into enterprise-level pricing and you’ll get a custom quote. You can test out the pricing tool for yourself on the Stripe website.

Costs for using Connect, Stripe’s marketplace tools, are laid out on the website pretty clearly, which is nice to see given how little other information is out there.

Also, merchants who are on a custom payment plan will pay an additional $0.04 per transaction

One final point of consideration: With Stripe, you can’t access the gateway separate from the company’s processing services. But you can do that with Braintree, for $49/month + $0.10 per transaction. That’s a bit pricey for a gateway fee, but it could easily be worth the cost to access to all of Braintree’s tools.

All in all, Braintree is the winner here simply because it offers most of its features at no additional charge beyond processing costs, and that translates to savings for merchants.

Contract Length & Cancellation

Winner: Tie

With both Stripe and Braintree, merchants have no multi-year contracts. Everything is pay-as-you-go, so if you find a better service you are free to leave at any time. This is always good to see. But what’s even better is that both companies will help you migrate your data (customer database and card vault) securely to ensure seamless continuity. And that’s not just good, it’s awesome.

Sales & Advertising Transparency

Winner: Tie

I’m always happy to say when any processor is fair, honest, and transparent. In this case, I am extra happy to say both companies fit the mark. You won’t find any deceptive sales tactics, misleading quotes, or pushy sales reps here.

You’ll pay exactly what you’re quoted with both Stripe and Braintree, which is awesome. I like that both companies use flat-rate pricing by default. It’s hard to compare that number to interchange-plus models, which are usually the most cost-effective; however, you know exactly what you’ll pay for every transaction regardless of card brand. Flat-rate pricing is far more transparent than tiered pricing models, too.

You’ll find both companies are great at pushing out information about new features and how to use them, as well, and they’re upfront about matters such as customer service channels, integrations, and more.

Perhaps the only mark against Stripe is that while its terms of service spell out that an account can be terminated at any time for any or no reason, plenty of merchants seem to gloss over this or forget it entirely…until it happens to them. Stripe is a third-party payments provider, which means that the company doesn’t do extensive underwriting or investigation into your company when you apply for an account. The tradeoff to getting your account set up quickly is that you will face more intense scrutiny after the fact. Stripe has been known to terminate merchants with no warning, whether it’s for too many chargebacks or the company’s risk assessment team identifying a pattern of high-risk transactions. When this happens, there’s no appeals process to reinstate an account. You just need to move on and find a new processor.

To be fair, Braintree seems to exhibit some of this same behavior, despite the fact that it isn’t a third-party processor. When you sign up with Braintree, you do get a traditional merchant account. However, while I have seen complaints about this behavior, the overall volume is incredibly low, especially for a company as large as Braintree. So my honest assessment is that while it can happen, it happens only rarely with Braintree users. Account terminations are more common with Stripe because of its third-party processing model — but again, an account termination is an exception to the rule, rather than the norm. Most importantly, you should be aware that this is a possibility but you can take steps to protect yourself.

First, make sure you check out Stripe’s Prohibited Businesses list and then also look at Braintree’s Acceptable Use Policy. Both of these documents outline what kinds of merchants they won’t work with, so make sure your business isn’t on the list.

You can also check out our resources, including our guide on how to avoid holds, freezes, and account terminations.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Braintree

One of the most difficult parts of assessing customer support is that experiences vary so much from one merchant to the next. With some notable exceptions, it’s fairly common to see at least one negative review focusing on customer support for every good review that praises a company’s customer support. So as a reviewer, I look for patterns that can clue me into what, if anything is going on. But it’s also important to look at what support channels are offered and how they serve merchants. Being able to talk to a real, live person in real time is such an important aspect of good service for many merchants.

Braintree is a clear winner in this category. It likes to tout its “white glove service”; even ignoring the marketing buzz, when you take a look at the options and availability, it becomes clear that Braintree has worked hard to cater to merchants’ needs.

Braintree Support Options

  • Email: Email support is available from 5 AM to 12 AM US Central Time, Monday-Thursday and 5 AM to 8 PM, Friday. It’s nice to see the extended weekday hours, but the lack of any sort of weekend hours is a bit disappointing.
  • Knowledgebase & Documentation: In my experience, Braintree makes it much easier to find information about particular features and how to use them than Stripe does. The self-service knowledgebase includes extensive guides so that even merchants who aren’t technically inclined can make sense of Braintree’s features without having to wade through the documentation. And generally speaking, developers seem to approve of Braintree’s documentation and the available resources. The company seems to have made some major strides forward and is up there along with Stripe in terms of documentation quality.
  • Phone support: Hours for Braintree’s phone support are 8 AM to 7 PM US Central Time, Monday-Thursday and 8 AM to 5 PM, Friday. Again, I think the lack of weekend support hours is disappointing, but it’s nice to see extended weekday hours.

I do want to point out that Braintree does make one additional promise about its customer support:

Of course, we offer emergency support via email 24x7x365, and have support reps and engineers on-call at all times.

So it’s nice to know that in an emergency you’ll at least know someone is there to answer your questions and help your business running again. But I have no data about whether this emergency support is effective (or even necessary).

Stripe Support Options

  • Knowledgebase and Documentation: I personally haven’t found Stripe’s self-service knowledgebase to be very informative. It’s quite basic, and if you want to learn more about all of Stripe’s features or understand how they fit together, you’ll need to look at the documentation. However, I will say this: Stripe’s documentation is the gold standard. So developers will have no trouble here.
  • Email: Stripe doesn’t offer a turnaround time for emails, just that the company will “get back to you as soon as we can.”
  • Freenode IRC Chat: Stripe’s developers apparently spend their time in the #stripe channel if you need technical assistance. Unsurprisingly, most developers seem to like this aspect of support.

Stripe doesn’t offer phone support, and it doesn’t offer any information as to when its team is on call to respond to questions, all of which is a bit disappointing. But it’s the quality that counts, right? Except, reports suggest Stripe’s customer support isn’t always awesome, either. Check out the next section, “Negative Reviews & Complaints,” for more information.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Braintree

The overall quantity of complaints is only one factor we use to evaluate a merchant because you also need to consider the overall size of the business.

Braintree doesn’t publish current numbers for its merchants, and Stripe is vague about it. All we know is that the number exceeds 100,000, which is a good number for any merchant services provider. But we do know that both Stripe and Braintree are enormous companies that handle billions of dollars each year. Part of that is because they both serve some very large, high-profile clients. But you’ll certainly find plenty of smaller businesses and startups using these platforms, too.

On the whole, Stripe has far more complaints floating around than Braintree does. This isn’t too surprising because third-party processors, including Stripe, tend to have a high number of complaints overall, usually for 1 major reason:

  • Holds and Terminations: Third-party processors or aggregators can’t offer the same sort of stability that you get with a traditional merchant account because the onboarding process for new merchants doesn’t include the traditional in-depth analysis of the business and underwriting. That means accounts are more likely to face termination for suspicious behavior after they get up and running. This is absolutely the pattern we’ve seen with Stripe and it is one of the two biggest complaints about the company.

The other major complaint about Stripe is:

  • Poor Customer Service: One of the biggest gripes in the customer service department is the lack of phone service. When something is not right, merchants want to talk to a real, live person. When companies that provide core services like payment process don’t offer that, it leaves merchants upset. That’s what I’ve seen with Braintree. However, other customer service complaints say that support is unresponsive and unhelpful. This is particularly true in the account of funding holds or terminations. I don’t see many complaints about the quality of support for everyday sort of issues.

And then there’s Braintree. Braintree overall has far fewer complaints scattered across the web. (Considering this is a PayPal-owned company, I continue to be absolutely flabbergasted by this fact.) However, you will see some similarities to Stripe complaints:

  • Account Terminations: I want to make it clear that references to merchants who have had their accounts terminated are few and far between. They aren’t the majority of Braintree complaints, and even if they were, they would still be uncommon. From what I can tell, an account termination usually occurs when a business is deemed high risk. Whether this is a flaw in the screening process or a determination made by analyzing processing history or particular transactions, I don’t know.
  • Poor Customer Support: Complaints in this category seem to center on slow response times for email support, as well as inconsistent answers from support reps. However, I do see other merchants praising Braintree for the quality of its customer support, too.
  • Long Setup Times for Accounts: Some complaints focus on the fact that it can take a while to establish an account with Braintree. I know we live in the age of instant gratification, but sometimes vetting can take time.

All in all, it’s easy to call Braintree the winner in this regard. You’ll likely deal with fewer headaches and hassles with Braintree, and you’ll certainly see far greater account stability.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Stripe is a media darling, for sure. There’s no shortage of articles about the company’s co-founders, the Collison brothers, or about how massive the company is, the way it disrupts payments technology, etc.

Braintree doesn’t get quite as much press, but its parent company, PayPal does.

But press coverage doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Most of Stripe and Braintree’s big success stories come from household names. Big companies that you’ve probably heard about. You can see a shortlist of logos from prominent Braintree clients on its homepage; you can find a longer list on the Merchant Stories page.

However, what I like best is that Braintree actually has case studies for how these different companies have used Braintree to build successful businesses and process payments. These case studies aren’t exactly common, so it’s nice to see them — and so many, at that.

Stripe’s client list is no less impressive than Braintree’s though. You can find a shortlist on the homepage as well, but a more in-depth list on the Customers page. It offers only brief snippets instead of case studies, but the page does showcase the ways you can use Stripe.

But what do everyday merchants have to say? What do developers say?

Both Stripe and Braintree are popular with developers, and the consensus is that they both offer good documentation, extensive libraries, and powerful features.

Braintree’s merchants also praise the company’s customer support — at least, the customers who don’t have a problem with the customer service praise it. It appears the customer service excels on both the technical/developer side and the merchant side.

I also see Stripe get a lot of compliments for its well-designed website and the intuitive user interface in the dashboard.

Let’s call this one a draw.

Final Verdict

When two options are as similar in appearance as Stripe and Braintree, it can be tempting to say “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo!” and point to one and roll with it. But I hope you’ve got a slightly better understanding of where Stripe and Braintree align and where they are very different.

Obviously, the stability of a merchant account can be a major draw, and some businesses won’t want to sacrifice that even if it means spending a bit more on integrations to get features they need.  On the other hand, Stripe has several best-in-class tools that some businesses may find absolutely essential, such as its Billing tools. The risk of an account termination is relatively small so long as your business model is sound, you’re not on the list of prohibited business types, and you take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of fraudulent transactions and chargebacks.

Both of these companies integrate with some major shopping cart software options, so if you’re looking primarily for an easy way to take payments, you can certainly go that route. But having a developer will really make it possible to harness the full capabilities of both companies.

It’s important that you sit down, make a list of must-have features and a list of “Would be nice” features. If you can’t make a choice based on those criteria, have a discussion about the account stability issue and decide how much risk you’re willing to tolerate. Also consider the customer support that each company offers and the fact that you may end up having to pay more for using some of Stripe’s best features.

Don’t forget to check out our complete Braintree review, as well as our Stripe review, for good measure.

Thanks for reading! I always love to hear from readers, so if you have questions or comments, please leave them below! We’ll be happy to help you!

The post Stripe VS Braintree appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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International Shipping: Global eCommerce Rates And Shipping Carriers

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

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

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

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

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

How To Ship Internationally (From The United States)

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

Select Your Destination Country/Countries

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

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

Evaluate Shipping Regulations

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

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

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

Learn To Manage Customs Forms

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

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

Decide On A Shipping Carrier

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

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

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

International Shipping Costs To Consider

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

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

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

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

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

International Shipping Rates By Carrier

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

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

Public Carriers: USPS & International Carriers

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

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

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

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

Private Carriers

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

Here are the three most popular private shipping carriers:

FedEx

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

UPS

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

DHL

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

A Great Alternative: FBA Export

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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Stripe VS Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Products & Services

Winner: Tie

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

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

Square Tools and Services for Online Merchants

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

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

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

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

Additionally, Square offers the following tools:

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

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

Stripe Tools and Services for Online Merchants

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

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

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

Stripe’s additional tools include:

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

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

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

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

Fees & Rates

Winner: Tie

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

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online card transaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contract Length & Cancellation

Winner: Tie 

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

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

Sales & Advertising Transparency

Winner: Tie 

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

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

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

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Square

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:

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

For Square, there is one other common complaint:

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

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

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading!

The post Stripe VS Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools

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

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

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

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

How Do Shopify Designs Work?

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

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

Types Of Shopify Templates

Free Shopify Templates

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

Here are a few of our favorite free Shopify templates:

Premium Shopify Templates

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

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

Buying Shopify Templates

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

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

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

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

Available Design Tools

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

Easy-To-Use Tools

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

Advanced Customization Tools

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

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

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

Shopify Template Designs & Best Practices

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

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

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

Shopify Store Templates

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

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

Prioritize Site Navigation

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

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

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

Focus On Images

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

Keep Information Above The Fold

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

Shopify About Us Templates

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

Connect With Customers

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

Tell A Story

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

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

Consider Including Alternative Media

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

Shopify Blog Templates

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

Post Regularly

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

Write Relevant & Useful Information

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

Shopify Thank You Page Templates

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

Think Upsell

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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