Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce

selling internationally

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

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

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

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

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

PrestaShop

prestashop logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

WooCommerce

woocommerce logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magento

magento logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopify

shopify logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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Best Payment Processing Integrations For Accounting Software

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Are you ready to start accepting credit and debit cards from your customers? Do you want your customers to be able to pay their invoices directly online? You’ve come to the right place.

Here at Merchant Maverick, we know payment processing can be a tricky concept to wrap your mind around. Finding the best option for your business isn’t always easy. The good news is we’ve done the hard work for you. The even better news? Each of these payment processors integrates directly with your accounting software to make your life that much easier.

This post will discuss five of the top payment processors that integrate directly with accounting software. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is best for your small business. And we’ve even created a handy chart to help you compare all the payment processors that integrate with major accounting programs.

But before we begin, let’s cover a few basics about payment processing.

If you’re already a payment processing pro, feel free to skip this section and continue on to our top picks for best payment processing integrations. Or visit our merchant account reviews to see more payment processing options.

A Brief Intro To Payment Processing

There are two different types of payment processing companies — merchant accounts and payment service providers (or PSPs).

  • Merchant Account: A merchant account is an individual account that connects your business directly to a payment processor so you can accept credit cards and debit cards. When your customer pays with a card and the payment clears their banking institution, the transaction will be deposited directly into your bank account through your merchant account.
  • Payment Service Provider: A payment service provider also allows you to accept credit cards and debit cards. However, instead of creating an individual account, a PSP will lump all of your transactions into a shared account where multiple merchants transactions are stored.

So which one should you use? There are a lot of factors to consider, including your business type, the size of the transactions you’re processing, the number of transactions you process per month, and whether or not you are considered a “high-risk” merchant.

According to our merchant account expert, Tom DeSimone:

If you plan to process large transactions ($300 or more) or a sizeable monthly volume in card payments (about $10K or more, NOT INCLUDING cash and checks), you will want a merchant account to get the best rates.

On the other hand, he says this about PSPs:

While transactions fees might be a little higher than if you had your own merchant account, PSPs usually do not charge a monthly fee or other schedule fees. You just pay for what you use, which is ideal for businesses that only process sporadically.

It’s pretty simple, really. If you plan on processing large transactions or lots of transactions every month, a merchant account will probably be the way to go. If you’re a smaller business that doesn’t process much and needs a pay as you go option, a PSP might be a better choice.

There are other pros and cons to consider with each type of payment processing company, however.

We borrowed this handy chart from our Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing to help you better understand the differences between merchant accounts and PSPs:

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

There is one more important concept to cover before we move on. In addition to merchant accounts and PSPs, you might encounter payment gateways.

If you’ve ever bought anything online, you’re already familiar with this concept (whether you know it or not):

  • Payment Gateway: A payment gateway allows you to accept credit and debit cards online. Payment gateways use either merchant accounts or PSPs to connect your business and your customer’s banking institution so you get paid.

Payment gateways account for some of the most common accounting integrations (think PayPal and Stripe).

In order to integrate your accounting software to a payment gateway, you will need to establish an account with that gateway provider. Depending on the payment gateway you choose, you may need to set up a merchant account or PSP account. Your payment gateway may require that you use a specific merchant account or PSP of theirs, or they may offer a payment gateway and merchant account or PSP bundle.

I know this is a lot to take in, believe me, but it gets easier from here. Now you can sit back, relax, and learn about our top five favorite payment processing integrations for accounting software.

Fattmerchant

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Fattmerchant integrates with QuickBooks Online.

Fattmerchant (see our review) is a merchant account provider that was founded in 2014. This company sets itself apart by offering subscription-based pricing, making it competitive and potentially more affordable than other merchant accounts. Fattmerchant also offers 24/7 customer support and receives positive feedback from the majority of its customers.

Products & Services

Fattmerchant supports the following products and services:

  • Merchant account
  • Virtual terminal
  • Countertop terminals (pricing not disclosed)
  • Point of Sale (POS) integrations
  • Mobile payments
  • One mobile card reader ($75 for each additional reader)
  • Shopping cart integration
  • eCheck services ($29/mo + $0.25 per transaction)
  • Data analytics

The company does not have its own payment gateway, but Fattmerchant is compatible with Authorize.Net, Payeezy, or the TSYS Payment Gateway. It will set you up with a free gateway or integrate with your existing one.

Pricing

Fattmerchant offers two pricing plans that are paid monthly. There is no locked-in contract and no early termination fees for either plan.

  • Basic: $99/mo + $0.08 per transaction for retail ($0.15 per transaction for ecommerce)
  • Enterprise: $199/mo + $0.05 per transaction for retail ($0.10 for ecommerce)

If you’re looking for an affordable, honest merchant account, Fattmerchant is one of the best. This option is good for businesses looking for a predictable monthly subscription plan. Fattmerchant does not provide high-risk merchant accounts and may not be a good value for small businesses with low payment processing.

Read our full Fattmerchant review to learn more and see if this affordable merchant account option is right for you.

CDGcommerce

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

CDGcommerce integrates with QuickBooks Online.

CDGcommerce (see our review) is a merchant account provider with over 20 years of payment processing experience. This company is geared toward small to medium-sized business and also operates on a monthly subscription pricing model. A free payment gateway is included with every CDGcommerce merchant account. The company also sets itself apart with an impressive client retention rate and excellent customer support.

Products & Services

CDGcommerce supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • One credit card terminal (with a $79/yr insurance fee)
  • Mobile payments
  • POS systems
  • Optional security service
  • Data analytics and reports

CDGcommerce offers a free payment gateway. Users can choose between Quantum or Authorize.Net.

Pricing

CDGcommerce has two types of pricing: simplified pricing and advanced pricing. Simplified pricing rates depend on your business type and size.

  • Online: Interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Retail: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • POS: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Mobile: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Non-Profit: Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

Advanced pricing offers discounts for business with a processing volume of $10,000+ each month. There are no long-term contracts or early terminations fees for either pricing structure. Check out our complete CDGcommerce review for more pricing details. To learn more about interchange and interchange-plus pricing, read Trading Ease For Transparency With Interchange Plus.

 

CDGcommerce is a scalable company with an impressive number of products and services. The free credit card terminal is also a huge plus. The only catch with this company is that it is limited to merchants in the US.

If you’d like to learn more about CDGcommerce, read our full CDGcommerce review.

Square

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Square integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Zoho Books, Kashoo, and Kashflow.

You’re probably familiar with the swipe-based payment processing system known as Square. Square (see our review) is one of the leaders in mobile processing. It offers great features including inventory, invoicing, and customer management features. And to top it off, Square has a ton of integrations.

Products & Services

Square supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Gift cards ($2 per card)
  • Shopping cart integrations
  • e-Invoicing
  • Inventory management
  • POS app
  • Customer management
  • Customer feedback
  • Advanced reporting
  • Email marketing
  • Appointments ($30-$90/mo)
  • Payroll ($25/mo + $5/mo per employee)
  • Event rentals

Pricing

Square offers standard fees with no interchange-plus pricing. There are no monthly fees, no locked-in contracts, and no early termination fees.

  • Standard Swipe Transactions: 2.75% per transaction
  • Square Register Swipe Transactions: 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Virtual Terminal Transactions: 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
  • eCommerce & Invoice Transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Square offers several add-ons and additional monthly services. Be sure to read our complete Square review for more pricing details.

If you’re looking for a mobile payment processor, this is one of the most well-known and developed options. Square is good for small businesses with low processing volumes and can be an affordable choice. However, Square is not meant for high-risk merchants or companies with a large processing volume as the company is known to hold funds and suddenly terminate accounts.

To learn if Square is the right payment processing option for your business, check out our full Square review or read our post: Is Square Right For Your Business?.

Authorize.Net

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Authorize.Net integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Zoho Books, FreshBooks (classic), and Microsoft Dynamics.

Authorize.Net (see our review) is a payment gateway that was founded in 1996; it has since supported over 400,000 merchants. Not only does Authorize.Net allow you to accept online payments from customers, it also has a checkout feature, recurring billing, contact management, and fraud protection. In addition, the company offers good customer support and key accounting integrations.

Products & Services

Authorize.Net supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Mobile payments app
  • Supports mobile card reader ($42-$98 per reader)
  • Simple checkout
  • Apple pay support
  • Fraud detection
  • Recurring billing
  • Customer information management
  • eChecks (additional cost)

If you have a merchant account, Authorize.net is designed to be compatible with your existing merchant account.

If you don’t have a merchant account, you can have Authorize.Net set you up with one. Or, you can choose a merchant account provider that partners directly with Authorize.Net. If you want to go this route, we recommend Dharma Merchant Services, one of our all-time favorite payment processing providers.

Pricing

Authorize.Net offers two pricing plans: a gateway-only plan and a gateway + merchant account plan. There are no-long terms contracts or cancellations fees (but this may vary depending on your merchant account provider).

  • Payment-Only: $25/mo + $0.10 per transaction
  • Payment Gateway + Merchant Account: $25/mo + 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Note: If you are using a merchant account provider that partners with Authorize.Net, your merchant account may lower or even waive certain fees. Read our complete Authorize.Net review for more pricing details so you can make sure you get the best deal.

If you’re looking for a payment gateway, Authorize.Net is a great option. It boasts excellent customer service and tons of features to cover most business needs. One important thing to remember is that Authorize.Net is not good for data exporting. Pricing can also be expensive if you sign up with Authorize.Net directly, so make sure you explore all of your options before deciding.

Read our full Auhorize.Net review for more information.

Braintree

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Braintree integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage One, FreshBooks (classic), and Saasu.

Braintree (see our review) offers both merchant accounts and payment gateways. This processing company was established in 2007 and offers impressive features, multiple currency options, and excellent customer support. Flat-rate pricing and ample integrations are also a huge plus.

Products & Services

Braintree supports the following products and services:

  • eCommerce integration
  • Mobile payments
  • Recurring billing
  • Fraud detection
  • Tax support
  • Developer tools
  • PayPal integration

Braintree comes paired with its own payment processing, but merchants can choose to use a different merchant account with the Braintree gateway for an added fee.

Pricing

Braintree has a simple pricing plan. There are no monthly fees, setup fees, gateway fees, or early termination fees. Instead, you’ll pay a competitive, standard rate:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

If you only want to use the Braintree gateway and not its payment processing, then you’ll have to pay a flat fee of $49 per month plus $0.10 per transaction instead.

We like Braintree so much that it even outranks PayPal and Stripe in our books. However, Braintree is not suited for high-risk merchants and certain types of businesses are prohibited from using Braintree.

Read our complete Braintree review for more details and to see if this merchant account and payment gateway provider is a good fit for your business.

Which Is Right For Me?

If you’ve learned anything from this post, it’s that when it comes to payment processing there are lots of options to choose from. The right payment processing provider for your business will depend on whether you’re looking for a merchant account or a payment gateway (or a combo of both), plus the number of transactions you process and the extra features your company requires.

One of the main things you should consider is which providers integrate with your accounting software. This will narrow down your decision quite a bit.

While we named some of our favorite companies above, there are several other common payment processing accounting integrations, including PayPal, Stripe, forte, and GoCardless. To make your search for the perfect payment processor easier, we’ve created a chart of the most common accounting programs and the payment processing providers they integrate with.

Software Payment Processing Integrations
QuickBooks Pro BluePay, Durango Merchant Services, QuickBooks Desktop Payments
QuickBooks Online Authorize.Net, BluePay, CDGcommerce, Fattmerchant, Forte, Partial.ly, Payline, PayPal, WorldPay, QuickBooks Payments,    Square, Stripe, WePay, WorldPay
Xero Authorize.Net, Bill&Pay, Braintree, Forte, GoCardless, PayPal, Square, Stripe, WorldPay
Zoho Books Authorize.Net, Braintree, Forte, PayPal, RazorPay, Square, Stripe, WePay
Wave PayPal, Stripe, Wave Payments
FreshBooks (new)  Partial.ly, Payments by FreshBooks, PayPal, Stripe
FreshBooks (classic) Authorize.Net, Braintree, Forte, PayPal, Stripe
Sage One Braintree, PayPal, Sage Payment Solutions,
Stripe, WayPay, WorldPay
Sage 50c GoCardless, Sage Payment Solutions
FreeAgent GoCardless, PayPal, Payal Here, Square, Stripe
Saasu Braintree, eWay, PayPal, PayWay, PinPayments, Stripe
Kashflow GoCardless, Global Payments, PayPal, Square,
Stripe, WorldPay,
Kashoo BluePay, PayPal, Stripe
ClearBooks GoCardless, PayPal,  PayPoint
AND CO PayPal, Stripe

Note: The above integrations are always changing and may vary by country. Check with your accounting software directly for the most up-to-date information.

Remember that when you are choosing the perfect payment processor to integrate with your accounting solution, you can never do enough research. Be sure to check out our merchant account reviews to learn how each software stacks up in terms of features, value for your money, and reliability. If you’re interested in learning more about payment processing, you can also download our free Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing to learn to evaluate your options, negotiate a good merchant account contract, and more.

Best of luck, and stay tuned for more payment processing tips and tricks from the Merchant Maverick team. If you’d like to do more reading on the subject, the following articles will point you in the right direction:

The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway

Are You A High-Risk Merchant?

The 5 Best Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies

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10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. You Use Only One Shipping Carrier

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

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

USPS: Cheapest Option For Small & Light Packages

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

UPS: Guaranteed Express Shipping

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

FedEx: Saturday Delivery

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

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

3. You Don’t Use Shipping Software

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

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

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

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

4. You Don’t Give Your Customers Options

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

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

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

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

5. You Don’t Get Packaging Materials For Free

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

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

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

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

6. Customers Complain About Late Packages

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

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

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

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

7. You’ve Never Heard Of Last Mile Delivery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. You Don’t Include Branded & Promotional Inserts

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

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

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

10. You Spend Too Much Time Filling Orders

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses

small-business-credit-card-processing-app

Say you have a small retail business. You don’t have a lot of money to invest in a super-complicated POS, and you don’t want to deal with a multi-year processing contract. Frankly, the idea of trying to narrow down the options in both categories at the same time is a little bit daunting. But enter another option: an app for a tablet (or even a smartphone) that bundles payment processing and POS software all in one go, with no contract or commitment. A single app with all (or at least most) of the features a brick-and-mortar storefront could want. But what are the best credit card processing apps for small retail businesses?

Cost is definitely part of the consideration, but more than that you need to make sure any software you use actually delivers the features you need to run your business. Most processing apps tend not to be as full-featured as a full POS, but they are capable of delivering on core needs. After we go over which features should be a priority, we’ll get into the most promising apps that let you process credit cards and run your business together.

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

In addition to choosing apps based on the most useful features, we had two other criteria in choosing the apps: first, they had to be mobile apps for tablets (and preferably smartphones). Second, they must offer a bundled payment solutions. A couple of the options on the list allow you to bring your own processor if you want, but they do offer their own payment option as a default.

In no particular ranking, here are my favorite picks for retail-focused credit card processing apps:

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare does have a specialty POS app for retailers, called Square for Retail. That one doesn’t actually make the cut because it’s designed for larger businesses and it actually lacks many features found in the basic free app, Square Point of Sale.

Point of Sale has definitely come a long way from just a basic mobile POS app, and it’s absolutely a solution that will grow with your business. Its clear, transparent pricing strategy (2.75% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions) and robust app make it an attractive option for retailers. But then there’s the assortment of add-on services (email marketing, appointment scheduling, loyalty, payroll and more) that all integrate seamlessly. Combined with the huge assortment of supported phones and tablets, and the wide mix of supported hardware, and it’s hard not to see the appeal.

While Square does offer payroll and employee management, these features will cost you more — $5 per employee per month for each.

Something I do want to point out: Square does have many iPad-only features, but much of its hardware is equally compatible with Android devices as it is iPads, which is a major departure from most apps that favor the Apple ecosystem.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal is an obvious choice for a lot of retailers, especially those who sell online as well as in person. If you’re not interested in eCommerce, PayPal is still a good option because it does integrate with some very well known POS systems. PayPal also has its own credit card processing app, PayPal Here.

While PayPal Here is not quite as robust as the other options on this list (especially regarding inventory), it’s a very stable app with great pricing (2.7% per swipe/dip/tap) and a wide array of supported devices and compatible hardware. It’s the only app on this list to support Windows devices at all, and the phones on your tablet or phone doubles as a barcode scanner for both Android and iOS. Plus, you get up to 1,000 free employee accounts.

Plus, near-instant access to funds through your PayPal account is a pretty awesome deal, especially if you get the PayPal Debit card. Add in free sub-user accounts with restricted permissions (something Square will charge you monthly for), and you can see why PayPal makes the cut.

Shopify

Shopify started as an eCommerce offering but these days it’s added a powerful POS app that also works on smartphones as well as tablets. Everything syncs up nicely for a seamless experience whether you’re selling online, in a store, or even on the go, and while the smartphone version of the app is more limited, it’s still quite functional. Shopify’s features definitely line up more with a full-fledged POS than just a mobile POS.

Unsurprisingly, that means it’s a bit more expensive than the two previous options on this list. Shopify’s plans start at a very reasonable $29/month for its online store. If you want the countertop retail solution, that’s a $49 add-on per month, but you don’t need to purchase additional licenses to add more devices, which definitely ups the value.

You can also create staff PINs without creating staff accounts — which means if only a few of you need admin privileges but you do have a large staff and want to track who is running the register, you can get PINs without paying for additional accounts.

However, I do want to call attention to an underplayed solution Shopify offers: its Lite plan. For $9/month, you can sell on Facebook and other social media platforms, add a buy button to your blog, and use the POS app. The caveat is that you can’t add the retail package to it — which means while you have the app, you don’t have support for the receipt printer or cash drawer.

ShopKeep

Like Shopify, ShopKeep is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile unit. But unlike Shopify, it’s not an eCommerce solution. It’s an iPad POS targeting all kinds of small businesses: retailers, yes, but also restaurants and quick-service environments. ShopKeep specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses, whereas many of these solutions are happy to tout that they work for businesses of all sizes.

ShopKeep’s user interface is highly intuitive, but also feature-rich, which is a major contributor to its popularity. In addition to its advanced inventory tracking tools, you get employee time-keeping, customizable reporting, and more. It also has a record for excellent (unlimited) customer support via email or live chat.

Sadly, there’s no smartphone app support for processing, but ShopKeep does offer integrated payments. Merchants get an interchange-plus plan based on their volume, which is pretty awesome considering there’s no contract involved, either. Everything is on a month-to-month basis. There’s also an additional $69 monthly charge per register.

Honorable Mention: SumUp

While SumUp has a few limitations — it lacks, for example, the ability to process simultaneously on multiple devices — it is overall a solid credit card processing app. The app supports a solid item library and variants, plus convenient tax settings. While there’s no offline mode and no invoicing, SumUp does have an interesting feature in its SMS payments. The app allows you to send a text message to a phone, with a link embedded. Customers can open the link, enter their payment information and complete the transaction.

Pricing is identical to Square for retail transactions: 2.75%. There is no keyed entry option within the app, but the low-priced virtual terminal (at 2.9% + $0.15, even below Square’s rate) is a workaround, though not one you should use for the bulk of your processing.

While new to the US market, SumUp has been operating in Europe for a few years, so it definitely has experience in the processing industry, and so I expect it to see fewer growing pains than other new solutions.

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

It’s safe to say what app features a business needs tends to vary from one business to the next. But there are definitely commonalities — solid inventory management or the ability to print receipts, for example. Check out our comprehensive comparison chart below to see how these systems compare to one another. 

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Shopkeep SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes (other options available) Yes
Processing Rates (for Most Swiped/Dipped Transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $69 per register $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month) 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple Apple, Android
Smartphone support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android N/A Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Email Only Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN Bluetooth, Ethernet Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Barcode Scanner Yes (Bluetooth for iPad only; USB for Android) Yes (USB for windows, device camera for iOS/Android) Yes (Bluetooth) Yes (Bluetooth) No
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes (Check store credit) Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Counts Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Create Item From App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

It’s worth mentioning that many of these systems have FAR more features that we don’t cover in this chart (think: virtual terminals, eCommerce support, supported integrations, etc.). If you really want to learn what a system is fully capable of, I recommend checking out our complete review of each credit card processing app.

Processing with Square or PayPal Here? Up Your Inventory Game with Shopventory

With retail environments, inventory is usually a major concern. Shopventory is a monthly add-on that works with Square, PayPal Here, and the Clover system (except Clover Go). It allows for inventory tracking and reporting, bundling, variants, and more. The biggest difference will be that you’ll no longer be using your credit card processing app for inventory reports or management. Everything will be done through Shopventory’s dashboard. Check out our Shopventory review for more information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software and processing, there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution for merchants. Every business’s needs are unique, so what works best for one business may not be good for another. Many of the credit card apps we’ve listed here have no monthly fees, and others offer free trials or a free pricing quote. They are all top-rated offerings, as well. The biggest difference you’ll find is the feature sets and little differences in the user interfaces.

If you’re on the fence about which to choose, I recommend checking out our full reviews of each product. Got questions? We’re always here to help, so please leave us a comment!

As always, thanks for reading!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Quick-Serve Restaurants

It’s time to upgrade the POS for your coffee shop, but you haven’t got a clue what to look for. Maybe you’re not sure you need a full-fledged POS, or you’re worried about the cost — or you don’t want to be locked into a multi-year credit card processing contract. Where do you even start looking for the right solution?

As far as technology needs go, quick-serve businesses like bakeries, cafes, and ice cream parlors straddle the line between retail shop and restaurant. What POS features work for a retail business won’t quite cut it, but there’s no need for many of the features found in a full-service restaurant POS. Credit card processing apps combine the convenience of a POS and a merchant account into one single solution, with the convenience of a flexible (even mobile) setup.

We looked over the options for quick-serve businesses and put together a list of the best options. But first, a few criteria!

Choosing the Best Apps for Quick-Serve Businesses

A lot goes into choosing a credit card processing app — the cost, of course, as well as features. Our primary criteria, the non-negotiable elements, were that the app was a true app, something available on a tablet (and ideally a smartphone), and that it had a built-in payment processing option offered by default. A couple apps on this list do allow you the choice of integrating your own processor, though you should make sure the rates are competitive if the app charges any additional fees.

Additionally, we narrowed down the options based on whether the apps offered features essential for quick-serve businesses like cafes and ice cream parlors to function. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are some core themes to look out for. Check out feature comparison chart below for more information, or read on for our top picks for credit card processing apps!

Toast POS

toast pos reviewToast is an award-winning POS targeting all sorts of restaurants, including quick-serve businesses. It runs exclusively on Android tablets, with an intuitive user interface. It’s definitely feature-rich, with several add-on programs you can opt for (inventory, loyalty, online ordering), making Toast even more functional.

Toast only allows you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary. Plans start at $79/month and allow you up to 2 registers; with higher-tier plans (starting at $99/month), you get unlimited registers. It’s also worth noting that Toast, like Square and PayPal, requires you to use its processing services, and your rates will vary.

Breadcrumb POS

Whereas Toast is entirely Android-based, Breadcrumb POS is an iPad-exclusive system that works as part of Upserve’s larger restaurant management ecosystem. Feature-rich and designed to accommodate many types of businesses, Breadcrumb even integrates with GrubHub for online ordering and delivery.

Breadcrumb’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans for merchants: you’ll pay interchange rates plus a $0.15 fee per each transaction. For very small-value tickets, this could wind up being more expensive than a percentage-based transaction, which is worth taking note of. However, an interchange-plus plan on a month-to-month contract is a good deal.

Breadcrumb’s monthly service fee might make to think twice compared to some of the other options on this list, but the value of the features you get is absolutely worth considering. The Core plan will start you at $99/month, with the mid-tier plan starting at $249.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare‘s free mPOS app, Point of Sale, remains hugely popular with all kinds of businesses. But with its inventory management and reporting, as well as custom tipping features, it has the core features most bakeries, cafes, and other quick-serve businesses need to thrive — plus multiple add-ons (such as loyalty and payroll) to make management even easier. The eCommerce integration even allows people to place orders online and pick them up in person, and there’s a delivery system through Caviar.

Without a doubt, one of Square’s biggest draws is its clear, transparent pricing. A solid 2.75% per swipe is very reasonable and the lack of a per-transaction fee keeps the costs down for businesses with low ticket values. There are no mandatory monthly fees, either — you pay only for the transactions you process, and any add-on services you opt into.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal’s mPOS solution, PayPal Here, isn’t quite as robust as the full-fledged POS systems that PayPal also integrates with. But it’s a highly mobile app available on multiple platforms, including Windows devices. The app doesn’t have a glut of features the way Square does, but it has all the essentials, from tipping to discounts.

Like Square, one of the big draws — especially if you have a small average ticket size — is its pricing: 2.7% per swipe, with no monthly fees. PayPal’s easy integration with all sorts of eCommerce services and instant access to funds also tend to be big draws for merchants.

ShopKeep

Rather than build a solution that appeals to businesses of all sizes, ShopKeep opted to tailor its POS software to small and medium-sized businesses, a decision that continues to define its capabilities. However, the company does cater to small and medium businesses in a variety of industries, including quick-serve businesses.

Feature rich and highly intuitive, ShopKeep even offers advanced inventory and timekeeping at no extra charge, which definitely adds to the value.

ShopKeep’s payment processing arm offers interchange-plus plans based on your monthly volume, which means possible per-transaction fees. ShopKeep charges $69/month per register, but has no contracts or other monthly fees, all of which are a great deal for merchants.

Must-Have Features for Quick-Serve Businesses

Apart from being a tablet app with integrated processing, I looked at some other features in creating my list. Menu creation is important — and while variants are great, the presence of categories and add-ons was more important. Tipping, kitchen receipt printing, and location management also merited consideration. Check out the table below for detailed information.

Toast Breadcrumb reviewBreadcrumb Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopkeep
BASIC TECH
Integrated Processing Yes Yes (other options available) Yes Yes Yes (other options available)
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) varies interchange + $0.15 2.75% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume
Monthly Fee $79 and up $99 and up $0 $0 $69 per register
Number of Devices 1-2 for base plan, unlimited for higher plans 1 ($50/additional) Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month)
Tablet Support Android Apple Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple
Smartphone support N/A N/A Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows N/A
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email Only Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only
Receipt Printer Connectivity LAN Wi-Fi, Ethernet Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, Ethernet
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Offline Processing Mode Yes Yes Yes No No
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (free) Yes (free) Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (free)
Tips by $ or % No (By % only) No (By % only) Yes Yes Yes
Add Tip after Signing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Kitchen Ticket Printing Yes Yes Yes (iPad only) No Yes
Multi-location management Yes Yes Yes No Yes
MENU
Bulk Item/Menu Upload No Yes Yes No Yes
Item Counts With Inventory add-on Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-Ons/Modifiers Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo No No Yes Yes No
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Grouping/Sub-categories Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

You can also browse our restaurant POS software and mobile payments categories for more solutions!

Final Thoughts

There’s never one right answer to the question “which software is right for me?” The best we can do is say “This is a good choice for lots of businesses” and explain the caveats. As far as credit card processing apps for quick-serve businesses, you need to have a firm number in mind for how much you’re willing to pay, and know which features or abilities the app must have, and go from. Our top picks — Toast, Breadcrumb, Square, PayPal Here, and ShopKeep are all targeted at the industry and so they do have some similarities and core capabilities. But you’ll also find major differences in costs and some features (inventory being a noteworthy one). So know what you need and make sure the system you choose fulfills those basic requirements.

As always, thanks for reading! If you’ve got questions, we’d love to help you out. Check our comment guidelines and leave us a comment!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Quick-Serve Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses

mobile-card-payment-app-service

Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.

We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).

While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Payline Mobile SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes Yes
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3% 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $0 / $9.95 $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Smartphone Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Yes Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN No Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) No Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Tipping by $ or % Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Multiple Tax Rates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjust Tax Rates In-App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Virtual Terminal Yes Yes (monthly fee) No Yes Yes
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes No No
Item Counts Yes No Yes No No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-ons Yes Yes No No No
Item Categories Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.

Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.

In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.

Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal Here is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.

You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.

You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.

Shopify

Shopify started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.

Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.

Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.

For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.

Payline Mobile

Payline is one of our favorite merchant account providers, and we like their mobile solution because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.

The app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.

Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with no monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.

Spark Pay

Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.

It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.

That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.

SumUp

SumUp has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.

You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.

However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.

The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.

There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.75% per transaction, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.

Final Thoughts

I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive.

The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!

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The Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees

Are there days when you wonder if it’s even worth it to accept credit cards at your business? Do those days happen to correspond with the days you receive your monthly card processing statements? Hmm…interesting coincidence.

We know that accepting plastic is usually worth the cost in the end, whether or not you occasionally fantasize about the good ol’ days of all cash. Still, there’s no denying that card processing fees add up fast. It can be hard to determine where they are all coming from and why they are being charged. Some fees are automatically charged monthly, while others are charged consistently on a per-transaction basis. Still others are charged on a per-transaction basis but only under certain circumstances. Is your head already spinning?

Fortunately, Merchant Maverick has great resources on all things related to card processing costs. I’ll direct you to these as we go along. As you may have caught from the title, this post will focus specifically on credit card transaction fees. (Okay, we’ll throw debit cards in there too). Let’s begin by defining what we mean by “transaction fees.”

A broad definition of “transaction fee”

When most people think of “credit card transaction fees,” I’m pretty sure they’re thinking of the following definition: anything you are charged on a per-transaction basis. If you want an introduction to all of these various fees, this article might not be for you. Please see our Complete Guide to Rates and Fees for more generalized rate and fee information first. If, however, you are looking at your processing statement and want to figure out what some of the specific “nickel and dime” transaction fees mean, read on!

A more precise definition

In the payment processing industry, the term “transaction fee” can actually mean something a bit more specific. We often limit the use of the term to fees charged as a flat dollar amount per transaction. These are the fees we will examine in this post. We will not be looking at percentage-based fees here. Percentage-based fees are often referred to as processing “rates” rather than fees.

Why am I charged flat per-transaction fees?

Per-transaction fees are usually less than one dollar. Sometimes, they are even fractions of one cent. So why do they even exist, especially if you’re already getting charged a percentage of each sale? Is this just another excuse for “The Man” to squeeze you dry, $0.0001 at a time?

I find it helpful to think of these fees as what you pay for the privilege of using pieces of the processing system each time you run a card. Whatever costs are involved in transmitting, encrypting, storing, looking up, verifying, authorizing or otherwise handling the transaction and card data ought to be covered by flat per-transaction amounts. After all, data is data, no matter if the transaction was $5 or $5,000. We’re just moving electrons around in either case. In contrast, costs based on the percentage of the volume of the transaction cover the relative risk involved in handling different amounts of money.

Why should I keep a close eye on transaction fees?

Here are a few reasons transaction fees deserve your attention:

  • They are often “small” — sometimes even fractions of a cent — but can add up quickly
  • There are lots of different types
  • They tend to have odd or vague names and abbreviations
  • The names and abbreviations are not necessarily standardized across the industry
  • It’s hard to decipher exactly what function each one serves
  • It’s easy for merchant account providers to sneak in extra, unnecessary ones
  • It’s easy for providers markup existing, legitimate ones

How are transaction fees labeled on a statement?

Honestly, the nomenclature for transaction fees is all over the map. We’ll dive into some of the specific names and abbreviations for individual fees as we go. Fortunately, most statements will at least divide any percentage of volume charges and any per-transaction fees into two separate columns. Here are some common headings for flat per-transaction charges:

  • Item rate
  • Item fee
  • Sale item fee
  • Per item
  • Per item rate
  • Per item fee
  • P/I
  • Disc P/I
  • Tran fee
  • Trans fee

When you match up the main column heading to the individual name or abbreviation of each charge along the left-hand side of a statement, you should have a good idea of what the fee is and how much you’re charged each time. Pay attention to the number of transactions that incurred the fee too. This will often help clarify the fee’s identity and purpose.

Where will I encounter transaction fees?

1. Interchange Rates

The interchange rates (a.k.a., interchange reimbursement fee, wholesale rate, or discount rate) are decided upon by the card networks. Interchange rates differ depending on card and transaction type, but most are composed of a percentage of volume rate and a flat per-transaction fee. Interchange costs are considered non-negotiable for merchants.

2. Your Processor’s Markup

Depending on your pricing model (e.g., tiered, blended, interchange-plus, subscription), your processor’s markup will be handled differently. The markup over interchange may already be lumped in with your overall rate, or interchange may be charged separately from the markup. In other words, whatever is quoted as your “processing rate” may or may not have interchange already included. If you’re not sure which pricing model you have, check out our complete rate and fee guide. What you need to know going forward is that your rate — whether it’s just your provider’s markup or a blend of their markup and interchange — may include a percentage fee and a flat per-transaction fee component. And, depending on the pricing model, it may include just one or the other type of charge.

3. Card Brand Fees

These fees are collected by card networks — Visa, MasterCard, etc. — and most of them are charged on a transactional basis. Like the interchange costs, they’re considered non-negotiable, pass-through costs by your merchant account provider, so watch out to make sure they don’t get marked up! Card association fees may involve a percentage of volume or a flat, per-transaction charge, depending on what the fee is supposed to cover (catching a theme here?).

Dharma, one of our preferred merchant account providers, maintains a handy list of card brand fees. I’ll list just a few examples below. Each card brand tends to have fees that cover the same kind of things, but with frustratingly different names, just to annoy us all. As you might expect, Visa and MasterCard’s fees line up more closely than the other card brands.

  • Assessments: This is the main card brand fee. In fact, sometimes people just use “assessments” as a blanket term for all card brand fees. Visa charges 0.13% + $0.0195 per transaction for all your Visa credit card sales, for example. We might call the second piece — the $0.0195 — a “transaction fee” by our working definition. Sometimes, that flat per-transaction bit is separated out and called the Acquirer Processing Fee (APF). For MasterCard, the flat per transaction part of the assessment is called the Network Access and Brand Usage Fee (NABU). Note that some blended pricing plans may already incorporate these assessment costs into your rate quote.
  • Fees for Transaction Problems: Some card brand transaction fees only kick in if something out of the ordinary happens, such as when there’s been a mistake, mismatch, or omission in the way the transaction was processed. This includes fees with exciting names such as the Zero Floor Limit Fee, Misuse of Authorization Fee, and Transaction Integrity Fee.

4. Authorization & Authorization-Related Fees

All transactions require some kind of authorization. If the card is accepted, the authorization turns into a full-blown transaction. If the card is declined, then an authorization procedure has taken place without a transaction ultimately occurring. This means that you can potentially have more authorizations (and authorization fees) than transactions that actually go through.

So how do processors cover authorization costs? Well, some providers bake any authorization costs into the flat per-transaction fee that comes with your rate quote. In my mind, that’s exactly what any flat per-transaction fee charged by your processor should cover. Nevertheless, the technical difference between a transaction and an authorization is part of the reason why you’ll often see them broken down into separate categories and fees.

If you’re on a pricing plan that has no per-item flat fees, you can bet that authorization costs have been covered by a higher percentage of volume charge, or by some other piece of your plan’s overall fee structure. Meanwhile, there are definitely a few authorization and authorization-related costs that are commonly charged separately:

  • AVS Fee: The Address Verification Service is accessed as part of every keyed-in transaction to provide an additional layer of fraud protection. The card’s billing address is requested and verified before authorization is given. eCommerce and telephone-order businesses must use this service every single time they authorize a transaction. Consequently, many quoted rates for eCommerce and card-not-present transactions already have an AVS charge included as part of the flat per-transaction fee. But some don’t! If you run mostly card-not-present transactions, you’ll definitely want this matter clarified up front. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar merchants will only see an AVS charge on the odd occasion that they must manually key-in the customers’ card info.
  • Gateway Fees: Payment gateways are used to authorize transactions that occur via the internet only. Since not every business needs one, gateways are often separate add-ons to merchant accounts, with separate fees. Gateway fee structures usually involve a monthly fee, and sometimes a flat per-transaction fee as well. You can see how costs could add up quickly for an eCommerce business if there was gateway fee, plus an AVS fee, plus a main transaction fee, plus a separate authorization fee! Thankfully, many eCommerce payment providers will charge a gateway fee in lieu of the AVS fee, or just charge one main “transaction fee” that covers everything. The important thing is to know the exact set-up for your account.
  • Voice Authorization Fee: This is a telephone dial-up service for transaction authorization. When a transaction is outside the normal range of a particular customer’s purchasing behavior, a voice authorization may be triggered. The customer will need to provide additional information over the phone to verify he or she is, in fact, the cardholder. Occasionally, merchants use this service as a backup if their terminal, internet connection, or software isn’t working to authorize transactions. Most businesses will rarely need this service, but it’s typically a per-transaction, flat fee if you do.
  • Other Authorization Fees: You’re gonna hate me for saying this, but there are lots of other authorizations that could be charged in addition to the regular “transaction fee” that’s part of a normal rate quote. Many of these charges come from the large processor behind the scenes of a merchant account, such as First Data, Elavon, or TSYS. This means your smaller merchant account provider might consider them as “pass-through” from their perspective, providing a convenient little excuse not to bring them up. The authorizations are usually named for the way the authorization is communicated, such as over a toll-free number, a “wide area telephone service” (a.k.a. WAT or WATS), a local phone number (LOC), digital data over voice, a dial-up point of sale device, carrier pigeon, stagecoach…you get the idea. So, if that’s the way your transactions are normally processed, you could get charged the corresponding fee every single time.

Final Thoughts: How can I keep my transaction fees under control?

You can’t avoid the fact that when it comes to card processing, multiple entities will whittle away at your profit, one tiny piece at a time. (You were tired of having money anyway, right?) The good news is that with a little time spent educating yourself on transaction fees, you can begin to spot any that are suspiciously high, and perhaps some that shouldn’t be there at all.

Here are a few actions steps, as well as questions to ask your merchant account provider about your transaction fees:

  • Know your pricing model. You should know what type of pricing model you have and which non-negotiable fees (i.e., interchange fees, card brand fees) are already blended into your rates.
  • Before you sign up for a merchant account, ask for a sample processing statement. If they agree to give you one (most good providers will), it may not have every possible transaction fee represented. However, you can still begin to familiarize yourself with their terminology, abbreviations, and categories for fees. It helps to have something concrete in front of you that you can ask questions about. Plus, you’ll have a baseline for spotting unexpected fees later.
  • Ask specifically about transactions fees and authorizations. Don’t be afraid to press your merchant account provider about transaction fees. “Will the transaction fee that’s part of the processing rate I’ve been quoted be the only transaction fee I’ll be charged? Are there any other separate authorization fees I should expect to see on the bulk of my transactions?” POS-WAT or POS-WATS is one that comes up a lot as an extra authorization charge for brick-and-mortar merchants, so you could even ask about that one as an example. If your sales rep can’t adequately answer these questions, ask to be put through to someone who can.
  • Card-not-present merchants: be especially aware of AVS and Gateway fees. All eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions will need to access the Address Verification Service to complete the authorization. This means eCommerce merchants should specifically ask if this fee is already included in your normal transaction fee, or if it will be a separate charge. eCommerce merchants should also inquire as to whether an additional gateway per-transaction fee is part of the pricing plan or if it’s already covered by the main transaction fee in your rate quote. Knowing whether these fees are already included in your rate will also help you better compare costs between providers.
  • Carefully review your statements. Even though this is the Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees, we couldn’t possibly cover every authorization, strange abbreviation, or totally made-up term your provider may use to identify each of the fees on your statement. Sneaky merchant account providers may mark up card brand fees, or invent tiny transaction fees that add up over time. Then, they’ll name their fees in confusing ways to cover their tracks. If you’re not sure about a certain interchange or card brand fee on your statement, you can usually look it up to see if 1) it’s a valid fee in the first place, and 2) the established price is what you’re being charged. If these wholesale costs were supposed to be blended into your rates, you should still keep an eye out for extra transaction fees charged separately. Compare what you were told when you signed up with what you see on your statement.
  • Watch out for multiple authorizations. Really, you shouldn’t be charged multiple times to authorize one transaction. At most, there may be an extra security step and fee involved (like in the case of AVS for eCommerce transactions). But even in that case, good providers will either charge you one flat per-transaction fee to cover authorization costs, or fully disclose additional fees like AVS, Voice Authorization or a backend processor’s pass-through authorization if it’s charged separately. The most exasperating fees are extra authorizations you were never told about, but that occur on pretty much every transaction. The only way to catch these is to scan your statement carefully for those flat per-transaction charges.

The post The Complete Guide to Credit Card Transaction Fees appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 5 Project Management Apps for 2018

That New Year feeling is slowly starting to wear off as we make our way towards the end of January. But the time for new beginnings is not yet past; after all, it is never too late to start again. Maybe you are in the midst of setting up your company, making a brand new product about which you are passionate. Or maybe you have been in this game for years and are looking for something to put the pep back in your business’s step. Whatever your business situation, a new project management app might be the thing you need to unlock success in 2018 (you certainly don’t want to be caught using last year’s project management pick).

If you are in the market for a new project management solution, you have come to the right place. Compiled here is a list of this year’s top five most exciting, innovative, and interesting project management apps.

Squidhub

One of the simplest, silliest, and cheapest apps I reviewed last year, Squidhub (read our review) is all about one thing: simplicity. There is only one screen to worry about, with a pane for tasks, files, and messages. While it definitely feels under-featured compared to some of the other options I will discuss in this post, it might suit your needs if timesheets, reports, and complex scheduling are not among your requirements.

When I say simple, I mean simple. There really is not much more to this app than the three-feature setup I described above. You can create different workspaces, and within each, you have a task list, file storage area, and a communication tab. Tasks are as simple to create as typing them out and hitting the enter key, and the communication features will seem familiar if you have used Facebook’s Messenger tool or Google Hangouts. Everything about Squidhub is easy to use.

If that wasn’t positive enough, Squidhub is the most affordable app I reviewed this year: it is free!

Streamtime

Streamtime (read our review) launched a radically re-branded version of their venerable project management app. With an eye for bucking trends and breaking expectations, the new Streamtime makes an effort not only to aid your business’ efficiency but also to be fun. With an impressive set of features and a still-growing list of integrations, Streamtime might be a good choice for you whether your business is large or small.

Streamtime offers a pretty standard range of project management features, though they re-name some of them for branding reasons. “Projects” are “jobs,” and “milestones” are “items.” Despite that, Streamtime manages to be pretty intuitive and easy to use. Adding tasks to your task list is as easy as it should be, and you can set a “budgeted time” for each one. As you finish each task, you click-and-drag each task to the “done” tab in the interface. It is a satisfying way to complete your jobs!

While not as cheap as Squidub (not much is…), Streamtime is pretty affordable at $15/user/month. There is also a free trial, allowing you to give Streamtime a try before you decide to buy.

Binfire

Binfire (read our review), besides sporting one of my favorite names in the project management world, is aimed mostly at teams with remote or mobile members. This being the case, Binfire comes with a pretty impressive array of collaboration tools, including internal messaging, group chats, and a digital whiteboard that allows for organic collaboration and brainstorming even when participants are hours apart. Binfire’s Agile capabilities are impressive as well, with Gantt charts, burndowns and more.

Binfire is one of those apps that just makes sense as soon as you look at it. Each project is fully customizable with different “bins” for you to file tasks under, allowing you to decide project-by-project how you want to organize your work. As I mentioned above, Binfire’s real party trick is collaboration, not only in terms of the digital whiteboard, but also when it comes to the group chat feature. My favorite part of this instant message-style chat is that it stays with you as you navigate through the program. This allows you to look at your work as you communicate with team members, rather than clicking back and forth between screens.

Binfire is a bit more expensive than some of the other options we are exploring here today, with plans starting at $30 and continuing up to double that figure. However, if your business is such that you have remote team members, the cost could well be worth it.

Trello

Trello (read our review) is one of those project management apps I never have trouble recommending. It is available for free, has a cute sense of humor (try activating the Pirate upgrade and you will see what I mean), and is very easy to use. What’s more, Trello is responsible for the increasingly popular Card View that has been catching on in project management community.

To summarize, card view is a project management style in which you create digital “cards” that can be used in a number of ways. From simple drag-and-drop task completion to more complicated setups, card view is able to handle it all. Think of it like sticky-notes on steroids. Make no mistake, this is a simple program, but if you are used to folders and Post-Its, it should feel familiar.

Trello goes for the low, low price of zero dollars a month. However, if you want to unlock integrations and other “power-ups,” you can pay up to $20/user/month. This will get you extra security, priority support, and more.

Asana

best ecommerce apps

It is all well and good to talk about how simple is best, but sometimes you need just a bit more than programs like Trello and Squidhub can offer. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on good looks. Asana (read our review) manages to be both attractive and easy to use and offers a more robust feature set than some of the more basic project management apps. It is usually at its best in a small business but can scale well for larger teams as well.

Asana’s best features are its organizational capabilities. Work is divided between organizations, teams, and projects, but Asana continues by letting you split projects into sections and fill each section with tasks. Tasks can be organized into items you can complete “today,” ones that are “upcoming,” and ones to work on “later.” Asana also provides templates for both projects and tasks.

Asana costs a very reasonable $9.99/month. Honestly, you can’t get much more project management for that price anywhere in the industry.

Final Thoughts

There is no time like the present when it comes to maximizing the efficiency of your business. If you spent any part of 2017 wondering whether there was something you could do to help improve employee cohesion, reduce turnaround time, and ensure that all members of your team know just what they should be doing, then a project management app might just be what you have been looking for. Though there are many options out there that could prove effective, the five examples outlined above are almost sure to meet your needs. In 2018, make the kind of choice that starts this year off right.

The post Top 5 Project Management Apps for 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Does Shopify Work?

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

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

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

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What Does A Shopify Subscription Include?

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

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

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

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

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

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Shopify?

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

How Do You Make Shopify Work For You?

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

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

How Do You Start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Best of luck and happy researching!

Liz Hull

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

Liz Hull

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7 Ways To Make Your Business Website Better

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

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

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

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

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Join The 21st Century (Be Mobile Responsive)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update, Update, Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provide Accurate & Complete Information

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

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

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

Avoid Grammar Mistakes

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

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

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

Write Engaging Copy About Your Products/Services

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

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

  • Detail
  • Utility
  • Appeal

Let’s take them one by one.

Detail

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

Utility

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

Appeal

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

Use Original Images

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

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

Website-quality photographs and images should be:

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

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

Maintain A Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Further Reading

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

Starting From Scratch?

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

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

Looking To Improve Your Current Site?

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

Want Tips On eCommerce?

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

Need Help With Social Media For Your Business Website?

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

Julie Titterington

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

Julie Titterington

Julie Titterington

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