14+ WordPress Website Examples for Inspiration

WordPress Website Examples

So you’re WordPress as your website software, and you’re looking for WordPress website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

WordPress powers more than 30% of the Internet. It’s famous for its versatility and ease of use (yes, there is a learning curve. No, it’s not insurmountable). In short, it’s an incredibly popular choice for your website software.

But before we dive into WordPress website examples in the wild, let’s talk about a few common misconceptions about WordPress.

WordPress is a content management system — web jargon for a place where you can log in to your website to create, edit, and manage your content.

It’s also “open-source”, which means a community maintains it. The software and open-source community live and function at WordPress.org. It’s where anyone can grab a free copy of the software. It’s also know was self-hosted WordPress, because you have to provide the server for the software to live on.

WordPress.org is like buying a house. You can make all the customizations you want, but you’re also in charge of the plumbing and electricity.

Learn how to set up a self-hosted WordPress site from scratch here.

And then there’s WordPress.com. This is a for-profit company and service that offers websites powered by their install of WordPress (the software). They bundle hosting, support, services, and software into a single subscription. WordPress.com is like renting an apartment. You can pay for upgrades, but really everything is up to your landlord… including maintenance.

To learn more about WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com and which you should use, check out my article here. 

So what does this have to do with WordPress website examples?

Think of looking for a website builder like looking for a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. A website’s design is simply some HTML and CSS. It can be created anywhere. However, the functionality are more dependent on things like hosting, integrations, features, plugins, etc.

We collected the following WordPress examples not just to show you how they look, but how WordPress websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid WordPress website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Remember, WordPress is known for its flexibility. It’s incredibly customizable, which means you can accomplish almost anything with the website.

The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company

Want to know just how prolific WordPress is? Even The Walt Disney Company has gotten on board. This website is a great example of a solid, clean layout for businesses. The navigation is clear, the Recent News grid gives visitors a taste of what’s going on with the company, and the stock information is a solid addition to inform consumers on the company’s financial health (keep in mind that you don’t have to be a publicly-traded company to do something like this. What other information could you display here to help visitors learn more about you?).

Now – obviously the rest of us might not have the budget of Disney. You are currently reading a webpage that lives on WordPress. My small personal site lives on WordPress. The point is that your website is not limited in any way by WordPress.

With that in mind, here’s a few more examples.

Trefecta

Trefecta

Not all websites need to be design masterpieces — but if you’re going for a more visual feel, Trefecta’s website is a great place to start for inspiration. The header image is a carousel (which means it’s changes automatically) and features a separate call-to-action for each image, giving visitors the opportunity to dive deeper on each slide. We also liked the breakdown underneath the header, which serves as another navigation point for visitors in addition to the main menu on the left side of the page.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes via my industry-specific roundups.

Wedding Website Example

Wedding websites are a great way to give guests information about the big day, show off your personality, and post updates / pictures / anything else you may want to share with those who are involved with your wedding. Given this website has a shorter lifespan than say, a business website, you’ll want something that’s easy to customize, edit, and manage. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a WordPress wedding website:

Tyler and Tayler

Tyler and Tayler wedding website example

Tyler and Tayler’s wedding website is a great example of how a simple theme can be transformed into a fun, personalized website without having to custom-build something complex. Their story includes fun illustrations, and further down the page, they’ve embedded their engagement photos for everyone to enjoy. These are all elements that make their website unique to them without having to spend time or money on something completely custom-built.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from ThemeForest.

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a WordPress website example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc). Here are a few examples of WordPress photography websites we liked:

Jeremy Chou

Jeremy Chou photography website example

What stood out about Jeremy Chou’s website was the balance of photography and copy. Yes, a photography website is about showcasing your work… but that doesn’t mean you can’t use good copy to help tell visitors what you and your work are all about. If you’re looking for a photography website that balances text and imagery, this is a great one to use for inspiration.

OANA FOTO

OANA FOTO

On the opposite of the spectrum is this website example, which puts the focus solely on the photography. The entire homepage is a carousel of photos, as is the portfolio section, which features a nice interactive scroll feature. OANA FOTO’s website just goes to show that there isn’t a right way to have a WordPress photography website — it all depends on your needs and how you want to communicate with your visitors.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop)

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Ecommerce Website Example

Ecommerce websites are all about their products. A good ecommerce website should have high-quality product images, be easy to navigate, and keep the focus on what you have to offer your shoppers! You’ll also want to include strong product descriptions and an easy check out process. Here are a few of our favorite WordPress ecommerce website examples:

House of Whisky

 

House of Whisky

A great ecommerce website comes down to a few main things: high quality product photos, easy navigation, and easy check out. This website from House of Whisky checks all of those boxes. What stood out to us especially was how straightforward the homepage is. As soon as you get to the page, you have two main options: learn more about House of Whisky, or start shopping. The navigation is so straightforward, it makes it a no-brainer for visitors!

The product page is also a great source of inspiration:

House of Whisky Product Page

The different filters provide a highly-customized shopping experience, and the high-quality product photos tie it all together, making this a great example of an effective product collection page.

Sodashi

Sodashi ecommerce website example

Sodashi is a great example of creating something unique. The skincare company is using a custom-built design on WordPress, which means they’ve created a design that fits their exact specifications. We particularly liked the clean look, easy navigation, and use of copy to explain what Sodashi is all about.

But here’s the great thing about WordPress:

Not only can you use a WordPress theme to get the exact look a website has, but you can also create something completely unique if you want. It all depends on your needs, your budget, and what your goals for the website are.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Artist Website Example

Need to showcase your art? An artist website is a great way to create a digital portfolio of your work. These websites should be easy to navigate, keep the focus on your artwork, and allow prospective clients / commissioners to contact you easily. Here’s an example of a great artist WordPress website:

Amy Paul

Amy Paul artist website example

 

Sometimes, less is more… and that’s exactly what makes Amy’s website so effective. The clean layout draws your eye right to her artwork, which is featured front and center. We particularly liked how Amy only shows one piece of art at a time on the homepage. This is a great example of a WordPress portfolio website that is a good fit for a DIY-er who just needs a place to showcase their work in an easily digestible format.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop)

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Music Website Example

Similar to artist websites, music websites are all about the music. Which means if you’re creating a music website, you’ll need a player so visitors can listen to your work on your site. You’ll also want to give people the opportunity to connect with you by listing social media channels, tour dates, and places they can buy your albums! Here’s a strong example of a music website created with WordPress:

7th Ave Band

7th Ave Band

What stands out about 7th Ave Band’s website is the music page. The copy before the music player is a great way to give an introduction to the band and what they’re all about. We also liked how the music player includes social sharing options, so fans can share the album on social media while listening to it on the website. Last but not least, the site includes multiple place for fans to buy the album, from the official store to the button on the music player. If you’re looking for a straightforward site to showcase your music, this is a great one of inspiration.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Business Website Example

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here are a few examples of strong WordPress business website examples:

Smart Chameleon

Smart Chameleon is a great example of a website that includes interactivity and is built around the brand. As a business that creates digital experiences, you’d expect their own website to be a great digital experience! From the interactive font, to the chat box in the bottom right corner, to the flip cards that showcase their projects, this site is great inspiration for those who want to implement more interactivity and creativity in their site (without having to build something completely custom — this website is built with a theme called Astra, FYI!

BS&A Software

BS&A Software

This WordPress business website is a great example of how to organize your content when you have a lot to offer your audience. BS&A Software has video tutorials, help documents, support, services, etc. Keeping all of that information organized in an intuitive way  is no small feat, and this layout does a great job of it. If you have a significant amount of content for your site and are looking at how other businesses organize theirs, start here for inspiration.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Personal Website Examples

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here’s an example of a WordPress personal website to use for inspiration:

Michelle Sanchez

Michelle Sanchez

It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your personality and creativity on your personal website. And while adding in some flair is fine, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Michelle’s website is a great example of a personal WordPress website that prioritizes getting the crucial information to visitors in a straightforward way. The headline is strong, the call to action is clear, and the navigation tells visitors exactly where to go for what.

Vladimir Strajnic

Vladimir Strajnic

We pulled Vladimir Strajnic’s website as an example of the versatility of WordPress. You can truly create anything you want — from a templated, easy to fill in website to a completely custom made, interactive website like this one. The key is to remember what your overall goals are. For Vladimir, a designer, he’d want to showcase his skills on his personal website. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for someplace to start blogging and sharing your thoughts with the world, you probably don’t need to create something custom. Define your needs first, then dive in.

Get WordPress hosting (w/ bundled themes & drag & drop).

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from JetPack.

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

Setup a self-hosted WordPress website step by step here.

Get a bundled WordPress.com subscription w/ free themes here.

If you feel like WordPress fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can explore WordPress templates from ThemeForest, StudioPress, Elegant Themes or JetPack – all providers that I use for my sites & clients.

Not sure if WordPress is a right fit? Explore other WordPress alternatives here.

The post 14+ WordPress Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It?

Venmo has earned its status at the top mobile wallet and P2P payments app, ranking along with PayPal and Square Cash as easy, free, and trusted ways to move money around and pay back friends or family.

Venmo launched in 2009 and was eventually acquired by Braintree and then PayPal. Despite being owned by PayPal, Venmo is hardly a PayPal clone. With an estimated 10 million users, Venmo combines a social element with its payments platform, publishing a record of the transaction (though not the amount) to its social feed, along with a note or comment (or sometimes just an emoji). If you want a more detailed look at Venmo, check out our Venmo review for more information!

This social network aspect is one of the ways Venmo sets itself apart from its competitors. The company has also more recently begun allowing merchants to accept payments through Venmo — though with some rather stringent requirements. If you’re wondering whether Venmo could be right for your business, you’re in the right place — we’ll talk about what the requirements are to implement Venmo as a payment option at checkout, and what kinds of businesses Venmo is best suited to.

How Do You Accept Venmo For Businesses?

Venmo is both painfully clear and annoying vague about what kinds of businesses are eligible for accepting Venmo payments. For example, there isn’t a list of prohibited businesses (like you’d find with PayPal, Braintree, and Square). However, Venmo also says that “Venmo can be used to purchase items directly from participating approved apps and online stores.”

Be aware that you can’t natively build Venmo acceptance into your website or app. Instead, you need to go through either Braintree or PayPal for payment processing to add this option. Braintree says that the following use cases are not permitted:

  • Selling goods or services in person.
  • Receiving payment for goods or services through the Venmo app.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer transactions between two Venmo users.

What does that all mean? Essentially it means you can’t use Venmo directly to accept payments. If you, for example, sell Pampered Chef, Scentsy, LulaRoe, or any other kind of product, your clients can’t just send you a payment via Venmo. If you sell something on Facebook, you can’t meet up with someone and hand them the item in exchange for a Venmo transaction. If you want to accept Venmo for payments, you need to follow the appropriate steps and build the payment option into your website or mobile app.

It also means that you can’t set up a service that says “You send us the money (plus a possible convenience fee) and we’ll send it to someone else for you.” It should be pretty obvious that is a no-no, but generally, those kinds of things need to be clearly stated for legal purposes.

The last requirement? You must be based in the US, which a major difference between Venmo and its global parent company, PayPal. Venmo currently isn’t available to users outside the US at all.

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s talk about how to you can actually implement Venmo payments.

Option 1: Accept Venmo Through Braintree

Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) is a merchant services provider with a special focus on online and mobile payments. The company, as I mentioned early, is owned by PayPal, and its offerings work pretty seamlessly with PayPal’s, but it is a fairly separate entity. For example, you do get a traditional merchant account. (PayPal is a third-party payment processor, which leads to a greater degree of account stability than merchant accounts.) Braintree is global friendly — even if that’s irrelevant in the case of Venmo payments — and it supports a huge array of payment types, both in apps and on the web. As a result, it will take a developer to implement Braintree payments and get the most out of the Braintree platform.

Braintree specifically says that in order to use Venmo, you must be using one of the following SDKs:

  • iOS v4
  • Android v2
  • Javascript v3 

What this means is you can build Venmo into iOS or Android apps, or into web/mobile web payments that use Javascript. Braintree, on the whole, supports several other programming languages as well. Braintree will also allow customers to save their payment information for subscriptions and recurring billing, including Venmo payments.

Finally, Braintree’s standard pricing applies for Venmo transactions, so most merchants will pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction unless they’ve already negotiated special pricing. Venmo transactions are settled according to the same terms as Discover card transactions, but you can identify them in your dashboard by looking for the Venmo logo in the payment type.

Option 2: Accept Venmo Through PayPal Checkout

If Braintree isn’t quite what you’re interested in, you can also implement Venmo Payments using PayPal Checkout (formerly known as Express Checkout). Checkout is PayPal’s recommended option if you are adding payments to an ecommerce shopping cart or offering PayPal as a supplemental option to another credit card processor. Keep in mind that PayPal (read our review) is a third-party payment processor and, as such, comes with an inherent risk of account instability — the potential for holds on funds or even an account freeze if PayPal’s system flags any suspicious behavior.

Also, this option still requires a developer and some code work. PayPal has upgraded its Checkout offering with “Smart” customizable payment buttons and contextual tools that will display multiple checkout options — PayPal, PayPal Credit, or Venmo — based on what it knows about a consumer. Currently, Venmo is only available on mobile devices, though that may change in the future. It’s also worth noting that PayPal Checkout doesn’t allow you to present Venmo as a stand-alone payment option. If you’d like this feature, you’ll need to go with Braintree instead.

With Venmo transactions, you’ll pay your standard PayPal rates, which will be 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most merchants. (Keep in mind that PayPal does have a micropayments option for merchants whose average transaction sizes are under $10.) PayPal treats them just like all other transactions; currently, they are not identifiable as Venmo transactions. Again, PayPal may change this feature down the line.

Finally, it’s important to note that because Venmo is owned by PayPal, PayPal’s Seller Protection policy applies to Venmo transactions. For buyers, Venmo has its own protection policy, which is the same as PayPal’s in many ways, though Venmo admits there are some differences. Venmo lays out its terms and conditions for merchants in the user agreement if you’d like to take a closer look.

Should You Add Venmo To Your Payments Set Up?

Venmo is a powerful tool. An estimated 10 million users make for a significant userbase that many merchants may want to tap into. But all the same, accepting Venmo for your business only makes sense in certain contexts. You can’t just use the Venmo app to accept payments directly — you can’t process any sort of in-person transaction, as a matter of fact. If you do sell online, adding Venmo only makes sense if you have a very strong mobile user base. For one, PayPal will only display Venmo as a checkout option for mobile devices. Second, there’s no sense in adding Venmo if your customers don’t even know what a mobile wallet is.

However, if you do have a mobile app and your audience is young, tech-savvy and social, adding Venmo as an option makes a lot of sense. It’s available on both Android and iOS, and if you go through Braintree you can present Venmo as a standalone checkout option rather than as a payment option that is linked with PayPal.

It’s pretty likely that we’ll see Venmo sinking more resources into its business platform in the coming year, so we could very easily see some changes to Venmo’s requirements for business. If you’re still on the fence about Venmo, there’s no rush! Familiarize yourself with the product and wait to see what else Venmo has in store before you make a decision.

Have questions or comments? We always love to hear from our reader base, so check out our comment guidelines and leave us your thoughts!

The post Venmo For Business: Is It Worth It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers

CBD oil

What are CBD oils? Perhaps you’ve heard of this new class of products, and you’re curious about what they are and what benefits they can offer you. Maybe you’re also interested in opening a business that sells CBD-derived products, and you’d like to know more about the special requirements you’ll need to meet in order to be successful. Well, we’re here to help! Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a substance (or phytocannabinoid, to be more precise) that’s derived from hemp (Cannabis sativa) plants.

Now, you’re probably already aware that marijuana is also derived from Cannabis plants. The major difference between CBD products and marijuana is that the former contain little or no THC or any of the other psychoactive ingredients that marijuana contains. In other words, CBD products won’t get you “high.” Despite this rather obvious distinction, CBD-based products have been illegal under Federal law until very recently. In fact, as of the time of this writing, they’re only legal under certain specific conditions.

Although medical marijuana and, by extension, CBD products are now legal in many US states, most banks and credit card processors have been extremely reluctant to approve CBD oil businesses for merchant accounts, and many such businesses have had their accounts suddenly closed without notice. In this article, we’ll update you on the current (as of January 2019) legal status of CBD products and recommend several merchant account providers that accept businesses selling CBD products.

Legal Issues In The CBD Oil Industry

Until just a few weeks ago, CBD-based products were still listed as Schedule I drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), effectively prohibiting their sale, transportation, or use under Federal law. However, many states (33 as of this writing) have passed medical marijuana laws which legalized the use of marijuana and CBD-based products for medicinal purposes. Several other states have gone even further, legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and removing all prohibitions against CBD-based products.

The recently-passed 2018 Farm Bill changes all of that. Under this legislation, which was signed into law on December 20, 2018, hemp-based products (defined as containing less than 0.3% THC) are now removed from the Schedule I list of controlled substances. However, you must be a licensed grower and comply with all applicable Federal and state laws to produce and sell your product legally. With so many variations in state laws, it’s well beyond the scope of this article to attempt to cover them all. We recommend that you look into the laws of your state and consult with an attorney or qualified consultant to determine the specific requirements that apply to your business.

Needless to say, selling a product that can potentially still be illegal under Federal law makes it very difficult to get approved for a merchant account. Only a small number of high-risk specialists accept CBD businesses, and in many cases, they’ll require you to obtain an offshore merchant account. Of the small number of providers that do accept CBD merchants, there are only a few that we feel comfortable recommending, and we’ll profile them below. Desperate CBD merchants have tried using PayPal or Square (see our review), but this strategy inevitably involves being dishonest about the nature of your business, and providers won’t hesitate to shut you down if and when they catch you.

Before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered it illegal to sell or transport CBD products across state lines. This made it nearly impossible to sell CBD products legally through a website, and many eCommerce-focused high-risk providers were reluctant to accept CBD merchants. The new law eases many of these concerns, so we anticipate that the opportunities for CBD merchants to obtain a merchant account will improve dramatically in the coming year. In the past, we’ve seen reports of banks and credit card processors suddenly deciding to shut down accounts en masse, leaving many CBD merchants in the lurch. This situation should improve considerably with the recent legalization of hemp-based products.

For the time being, we’re going to confine our recommendations to processors that we know already accept CBD merchants and that have a strong reputation for providing fair prices and honest service. As legal limitations on CBD products continue to be rolled back, CBD merchants should find expanded opportunities to get approved for merchant accounts. At the same time, you can still expect to be assigned a high-risk merchant account for now. Until the day arrives when CBD products are fully legalized in all 50 states, we don’t anticipate that low-risk merchant accounts will become available.

What Makes A Good High-Risk Merchant Account Provider?

Finding a good high-risk merchant account provider involves the same criteria as a low-risk provider – it’s just harder to find a provider that offers the right combination of reasonable prices, fair contract terms, and high-quality customer service.

  • Pricing: The bottom line here is that any high-risk merchant account is going to cost significantly more than a comparable low-risk one. Be prepared to have to accept a tiered pricing model (although some established businesses might be able to negotiate a more affordable interchange-plus model). You can also expect to be charged higher monthly and annual fees as well, although the difference in these costs isn’t as much as it is with processing rates. Another additional “expense” that most high-risk merchants have to contend with is a rolling reserve, where your processor withholds a certain percentage of your funds every month until the reserve is met. While you’ll eventually receive all your money, rolling reserves can create serious cash flow problems for a small or newly-established business.
  • Contracts: We really like month-to-month billing arrangements that don’t lock you into a long-term contract or force you to pay an early termination fee (ETF) if you close your account early. Unfortunately, CBD merchants (like any other high-risk merchants) will usually have to accept both a long-term contract (typically for three years) and an ETF. Also, be aware that if you have a long-term contract, it will probably also include an automatic renewal clause that extends your contract, typically for one-year periods at a time. If you don’t keep careful track of when your contract is scheduled to auto-renew, you might find yourself locked in for another year or longer.
  • Hardware: If you plan to sell CBD products out of a retail location, you’ll need either a dedicated countertop credit card terminal or a mobile processing system that uses your smartphone or tablet in conjunction with a mobile card reader. Your terminal should be able to accept both magstripe and EMV payments at a minimum, and we also recommend that you consider getting a terminal with NFC-based capabilities so that you can take payment methods such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. For some specific recommendations, check out our article, The Best Credit Card Machines And Terminals. We also highly recommend that you purchase your terminals outright rather than leasing your equipment. Leasing arrangements lock you into noncancelable long-term contracts, and you’ll wind up paying several times more in leasing fees than what your machine is actually worth.
  • eCommerce Support: Naturally, you’ll want to be able to sell your CBD products to as many customers as possible, and selling via a website allows you to do that. As we’ve noted above, there are still some significant restrictions on selling CBD products across state lines that you’ll want to be aware of before you launch your website. At the same time, the recent legalization of hemp-based products is going to open up eCommerce opportunities that weren’t there just a few months ago. All of our recommended providers can set you up with a high-quality payment gateway that will allow you to process transactions over the internet and significantly expand the reach of your business. As not all states have relaxed their marijuana laws, you’ll want to find a gateway that will automatically filter out customer addresses where CBD products are still illegal.
  • Customer Support: In researching dozens of merchant account providers, we’ve found that high-quality customer service is the true “secret ingredient” that separates the merely average providers from the truly outstanding ones. Customer support issues occur more frequently with CBD and other high-risk merchants, so you’ll want to pay particular attention to a provider’s reputation in this area.

Best Merchant Account Providers For CBD Oil

With the above factors in mind, here’s a brief overview of five of the best merchant account providers in the industry that accept CBD merchants:

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company provides merchant accounts for both low-risk and high-risk businesses, and is one of the few providers to advertise service for CBD merchants. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway. While you’ll have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, you’ll be set up with a domestic bank or credit card processor. They’re also one of the very few CBD providers to disclose their rates and fees on their website.

You will probably have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started. While we normally don’t approve of this kind of fee, it’s appropriate in this case given the more extensive effort required to underwrite a CBD account. Processing rates start at a flat 3.95% + $0.25 per transaction, although lower rates are available if your business meets certain monthly processing volume limits. There’s also a $29.99 monthly account fee, but this appears to include the use of the EPD Gateway. You can also expect a standard contract with a three-year initial term that automatically renews for one-year periods after that. One very positive feature about Easy Pay Direct’s contracts is that they do not have an early termination fee, even for high-risk businesses. While this isn’t quite the same thing as true month-to-month billing, it does make it much easier to close your account without penalty if you have to.

One helpful feature offered by Easy Pay Direct is called load balancing, where a business can divide its incoming funds among multiple merchant accounts. This is particularly helpful for high-risk businesses that often exceed the monthly processing volume limits imposed by the processor underwriting their account. Just be aware that you’ll usually have to pay separate monthly fees for each account, so it might not be cost-effective for some merchants. Also, be aware that you might not need this feature if you opt for an offshore account. Underwriting guidelines in some (but by no means all) foreign countries are more relaxed than they are in the United States, and you might not have a monthly processing limit imposed on your account at all.

Although Easy Pay Direct doesn’t get as much attention as other, better-known processors, it’s a solid choice for merchants selling CBD products. We particularly recommend the company for eCommerce merchants due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • No early termination fee
  • Load balancing feature allows higher monthly processing limits
  • High-quality proprietary payment gateway

Cons

  • $99 account setup fee
  • Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause

Check out our full review of Easy Pay Direct for more information.

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

SMB Global is a new high-risk provider that was spun off from one of our favorite providers, Payline Data, in 2016. Headquartered in South Jordan, Utah, the company specializes in providing merchant accounts to high-risk and offshore businesses. Using a variety of backend processors, they’re able to approve a merchant account for almost any high-risk business, including those selling CBD oils. They have an excellent reputation for fair prices and top-notch customer service.

As a newly-established business, SMB Global is still a little rough around the edges, lacking a mobile processing system and credit card terminals for retail merchants. At the same time, they offer a full range of services for eCommerce merchants, including a choice between the NMI Gateway and Authorize.Net (see our review).

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any specific pricing information. Processing rates, account fees, and contract terms will all vary widely depending on which backend processor is handling your account. While we highly recommend that you request an interchange-plus pricing plan, be prepared to have to accept a tiered plan instead, particularly if you haven’t been in business for very long. Likewise, you can also expect to have a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee if you close your account early. As a CBD oil merchant, you should be prepared to have a rolling reserve included in your account agreement.

SMB Global requires a minimum processing volume of $50,000 per month for an offshore merchant account, which can present a formidable barrier to a newly-established CBD business. The company will occasionally waive this requirement if your business has a very strong financial history. Offshore accounts support multi-currency processing, allowing you to avoid cross-border fees. They also feature dynamic currency conversion, letting your customers pay in either their local currency or the currency in which you bill them. SMB Global appears to accept CBD merchants only through offshore accounts at this time, although this could change quickly with the recent deregulation of hemp-based products.

Pros

  • Accepts CBD businesses through offshore merchant accounts
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • Requires minimum $50,000 monthly processing volume for offshore account
  • No mobile processing system at this time
  • No information available about credit card terminals or POS systems

For a more detailed look at SMB Global, be sure to check out our full review.

PaymentCloud

PaymentCloud review logo

PaymentCloud is headquartered in Sherman Oaks, California, and has been in business since 2010. The company specializes in placing high-risk businesses (including CBD oil merchants), relying on a network of third-party processors and acquiring banks both in the United States and offshore to get you approved for an account. While they can’t place every merchant for one reason or another, they have a higher success rate than many of their competitors in getting merchants approved for an account. Best of all, they do the extra work required to accept a high-risk account without charging you any application or account setup fees.

Like almost all high-risk specialists, the company doesn’t disclose its processing rates or account fees, so you’ll have to get a quote from their sales team and do a little negotiating to see how their offer stacks up against other providers. For retail merchants, they’ve de-emphasized expensive credit card terminal leases and now offer a “free” EMV-compliant terminal with each account. Note that in this case, “free” means you’re free to use it for as long as you maintain your account, not that you can keep it even if you later close your account or switch providers. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty good deal if you’re a small CBD business owner who only needs one terminal.

PaymentCloud also offers Authorize.Net as their payment gateway, although their system is compatible with other third-party gateways as well. Additionally, they provide a free virtual terminal with each account. While their line-up of products and services isn’t as robust as some other providers, they offer all the essentials you’ll need for a small or medium-sized CBD oil business.

The company doesn’t have a BBB profile, and we’ve found almost no complaints against them on the internet. Feedback from our readers has been overwhelmingly positive – something that’s quite rare in the processing world.

Lastly, PaymentCloud is now recommended by one of our favorite low-risk providers, Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). Dharma recently decided to stop accepting high-risk merchants themselves, and now refers inquiries from businesses in the high-risk category to PaymentCloud. To us, a recommendation from a company as highly respected as Dharma carries a lot of weight, and we give PaymentCloud a strong endorsement as well.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • “Free” credit card terminal with each retail account
  • Dedicated account manager for customer support

Cons

  • May require offshore account for CBD merchants
  • No online knowledgebase

Be sure to read our full review of PaymentCloud for more details.

eMerchant Broker

eMerchantBroker logo

Los Angeles, California-based eMerchant Broker has been in business since 2011 and is one of the few reputable high-risk merchant account providers that was deliberately marketing to the CBD oil industry before the recent deregulation of hemp products. Although the company has a reputation for charging above-average processing rates and account fees, we’re very impressed with their efforts to educate CBD oil merchants on the ins and outs of high-risk processing. Many CBD merchants are also new to running a business, so the information that eMerchant Broker provides, particularly about chargebacks, is very educational. Even if you don’t sign up with them, we highly recommend that you take a look at the eMerchant Broker website for detailed information about high-risk processing in general, as well as specific issues unique to the CBD oil industry.

eMerchant Broker offers a reasonable lineup of products and services that you’ll need in addition to a high-risk merchant account. Their proprietary eMB Payment Gateway offers an impressive set of features, and they also support Authorize.Net and other popular third-party gateways. The company mainly supports eCommerce and doesn’t appear to offer any credit card terminals or mobile processing systems. They should, however, be able to integrate their processing system with third-party products if you need them.

Don’t expect to save money with eMerchant Broker. They appear to mainly use tiered pricing plans, although interchange-plus pricing might be available to some merchants. The only rate they advertise – 2.99% — represents the lowest available qualified rate. In most cases, your actual rate will be much higher. You can also expect to be saddled with a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee. Fortunately, they don’t charge application fees, setup fees, or annual fees. Be sure to review your contract thoroughly before signing up, so you’re clear on the assortment of fees you will have to pay.

eMerchant Broker has a good reputation with the BBB and a low complaint volume. Reports from our readers have been mixed, with some praise for their ethical, well-trained sales staff, and some criticism for their customer service department. All in all, eMerchant Broker rates as an above-average high-risk provider, and we’re comfortable recommending them for your CBD oil business.

Pros

  • No application or account setup fees
  • No annual fee
  • Good sales practices

Cons

  • Expensive tiered pricing processing rate plans
  • Long-term contract with early termination fee
  • Some complaints about customer service

For more information about eMerchant Broker, check out our full review.

PayWize

PayWize logo

Another company you should consider in your search for a CBD oil merchant account provider is PayWize. This very small provider is based in Costa Mesa, California and has only been in business since 2017. However, they’re affiliated with Payment Depot (see our review), one of our top choices for low-risk businesses.

At the moment, PayWize offers just a simple, one-page website. However, it does include some significant disclosures that help to set it apart from other high-risk providers. The company markets primarily to medical marijuana dispensaries and CBD oil merchants, so they have more specialized knowledge of the unique issues affecting this industry than many of their competitors.

PayWize offers predictable flat-rate pricing, although they don’t disclose specific rates. Flat-rate pricing is popular among merchants who want to always know in advance how much they’ll pay to process a transaction. At the same time, this pricing model can become very expensive for a large business that has a high monthly processing volume (typically over $5,000 per month). The company also claims not to impose any rolling reserves, which is a real plus for a business that’s just starting up. PayWize offers several credit card terminals and a payment gateway, but discloses very little information about them. Their gateway integrates with a large number of popular online shopping carts, including Shopify, WooCommerce, and many others.

We haven’t produced a full review of PayWize yet, but based on their association with Payment Depot, we’re willing to recommend that you check them out and compare what they have to offer against any quotes from other providers that you obtain.

Pros

  • Predictable flat-rate pricing
  • Appears to offer month-to-month billing
  • Extensive compatibility with third-party online shopping carts

Cons

  • New company with little online feedback from merchants

Final Thoughts

With the very recent deregulation of hemp products by the Federal government, 2019 is shaping up to be a breakout year for the CBD oil industry. Your chances of getting approved for a merchant account have never been better, and it should get even easier as acquiring banks and credit card processors adjust their underwriting guidelines to reflect the diminished risk associated with CBD oils – and cash in on a booming new industry. At the same time, we don’t expect that CBD oils will be treated as a low-risk business any time soon. With products such as diet pills and nutritional supplements still firmly in the high-risk “nutraceutical” category, CBD merchants can expect to have to pay the extra cost of maintaining a high-risk merchant account for the foreseeable future. The only way we see this situation changing is if the Food and Drug Administration ever formally backs up the claims CBD merchants make as to the medicinal value of their products.

In addition to opening the floodgates so more high-risk merchant account providers can accept CBD merchants, the recent deregulation should make it easier to obtain a domestic merchant account rather than having to take on the additional risk and expense of an offshore account. Unless you specifically need to get around monthly processing limits imposed by your provider for a domestic account, we don’t recommend offshore accounts. The added expense and the risk that you might never receive your funds make them a poor choice for most merchants. However, if you do need an offshore account, check out our article The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers for some recommendations.

Of the five providers we’ve covered in this article, Easy Pay Direct and SMB Global have the best overall reputations for fair pricing and quality service. However, we recommend that you obtain quotes from several providers and compare them closely before deciding which one to sign up with. Also, remember that the CBD oil industry is changing very rapidly now, so there inevitably will be more providers offering merchant accounts to CBD merchants in the coming years than just the ones we’ve profiled here. Finally, if you’re a CBD oil merchant and have had any experience working with the companies listed in this article – or other providers – be sure to tell us about your experience in the Comments section below. Thanks!

The post The Best CBD Oil Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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11+ Wix Website Examples for Inspiration

Wix Website Examples

So you’re considering using Wix as your website builder, and you’re looking for Wix website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

Wix is one of the biggest names in the website builder product space. It’s a drag-and-drop website builder, which means users can “drag” different elements around  and “drop” them where they want to create a site that looks the way they want. It makes nice designs incredibly accessible for DIY-ers while leaving the heavy-lifting (AKA hosting, functionality, coding) to someone else.

But before we dive into examples of what Wix websites look like in the wild, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. We collected the following Wix examples not just to show you how they look, but how Wix websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid Wix website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, Wix works incredibly well for DIY-ers who want an easy-to-use website that they can throw up on their own without having to worry about the inner-workings. However, be aware that with this comes trade-offs (i.e. you give up some control, functionality, customization, etc.)

Bentop Events 

Bentop Events Website

Bentop Events’ website is a great example of how visual a Wix website can be. For businesses that rely on portfolios, the card layout is an easy way to organize and showcase your best work without making the page overwhelming. The website also allows visitors to “learn more” by clicking on a button over the image, which takes you to a full page on that specific project. If you’re needing a straightforward visual portfolio with basic click-through functionality, use this example for inspiration.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Integra

integra website

While the visual design of this site is rather simple, it’s part of what it so effective. Not all websites need to be a design masterpiece. Instead, this site focuses on what matters: copy that describes what the company is all about, and a video that showcases the service in action. If you’re looking for a basic website where you can throw up some text and basic images/video, this template should serve as a good example of what’s possible.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Wedding Website Example

Wedding websites are a great way to give guests information about the big day, show off your personality, and post updates / pictures / anything else you may want to share with those who are involved with your wedding. Given this website has a shorter lifespan than say, a business website, you’ll want something that’s easy to customize, edit, and manage. Here’s a great example of what you can do with a Wix wedding website:

Mary and Bill

Mary and Bill wedding website

Mary and Bill’s wedding website is a great example of how a simple theme can be transformed into a fun, personalized website without having to custom-build something complex. Their “getting there” page has a cool designed map image, directions, and fun fonts and colors — all elements that make their website unique to them without having to spend money on a custom designed website that you’ll only update for a year or two.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Photography Website Example

Photography websites are all about the portfolio of work. When looking for a Wix website example to serve as inspiration for your photography, pay special attention to the layout options for your work. You want to be sure you’re showing off your photos in a creative way without sacrificing the user experience (AKA fast photo load speed, easy to navigate, high quality images, etc). Here are a few examples of photography websites we liked:

Louiza Photographe

Louiza Photography

When you implement video into your photography services, showcasing that work on your website is crucial. That’s exactly what sets Louiza Nouari’s website apart from others. The homepage features a B-Roll style video, while each individual service page showcases work in the traditional portfolio style. It’s clean while still being multidimensional by incorporating different mediums.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Drew Sturge

Drew Sturge Website

What makes this Wix website a great example for photographers is the layout of the portfolio page. The use of a carousel of photos at the top of the portfolio page and grid style underneath give the website a unique interactive feel without overloading the functionality or making it too difficult for visitors to navigate. Drew’s given visitors an easy way to view his work in a way that’s sleek, visually coherent across the board, and is easy-to-use — all hallmarks of a great website.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Ecommerce Website Example

Ecommerce websites are all about their products. A good ecommerce website should have high-quality product images, be easy to navigate, and keep the focus on what you have to offer your shoppers! You’ll also want to include strong product descriptions and an easy check out process. Here are a few of our favorite Wix ecommerce website examples:

Wild North Kids

A great ecommerce website comes down to a few main things: high quality product photos, easy navigation, and easy check out. This website from Wild Kids North checks all of those boxes. What stood out to us especially was how straightforward the homepage is. The header image is a carousel that showcases the products, and new arrivals are listed immediately below. The collection page itself is also straightforward and clean:

Wild North Kids Collection page

Shoppers can sort by color and size, and each product is easy to see and click through too for adding to cart and checking out.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

The Jomu Co

The Jomu Co

The Jomu Co’s website stands out for a few reasons. First is the carousel at the top of the homepage. The use of the carousel to feature different products / categories is a great way to give visitors a quick look at what’s available on the site and dive deeper into those products.

Next is the blurb underneath the carousel and breakdown of product categories.

The Jomu Co website products

The Jomu Co does a great job of introducing what its shop is all about, which is crucial for first time shoppers who may not know what you’re actually offering. After introducing the brand, they then feature a breakdown of their product categories, giving shoppers several different ways to navigate all they have to offer. Plus, the chat in the bottom right hand corner of the page adds a layer of customer service that is perfect for ecommerce sites!

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Artist Website Example

Need to showcase your art? An artist website is a great way to create a digital portfolio of your work. These websites should be easy to navigate, keep the focus on your artwork, and allow prospective clients / commissioners to contact you easily. Here’s an example of a great artist Wix website:

Aly Dalrymple

Aly Dalrymple artist website

Sometimes, less is more… and that’s exactly what makes Aly’s website so effective. The clean layout draws your eye right to her artwork, and the simple navigation at the top of the page makes it easy to find exactly what you need on her website. This is another great example of a Wix portfolio website that is a good fit for a DIY-er who just needs a place to showcase their work in an easily digestible format.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Music Website Example

Similar to artist websites, music websites are all about the music. Which means if you’re creating a music website, you’ll need a player so visitors can listen to your work on your site. You’ll also want to give people the opportunity to connect with you by listing social media channels, tour dates, and places they can buy your albums! Here’s a strong example of a music website created with Wix:

Dan Bettridge

Dan Bettridge music website

What stands out about Dan’s website is how the structure keeps the focus solely on the music — which, for a music website, is crucial! As soon as you get to homepage, you have the option to play or buy his newest album. You can also scroll down to check out other updates and videos. The music page also has a great layout. It lists all of the songs on the newest albums, then has smaller modules for older albums below that link out to iTunes.

Dan Bettridge Music Page

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Business Website Example

A strong business website showcases your services, gives customers the opportunity to contact you, and builds social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here are a few examples of strong Wix business website examples:

Books Covered

bookscovered website

What stands out about Books Covered’s website is that while it uses a typical grid-style layout, the brand colors and imagery make this website look and feel completely unique. This site is a great example of how to take a simple website layout and make it look polished, professional, and creative without having to create something entirely from scratch.

Booth Harrington & Johns

Booth Harrington & Johns website

Have you ever been on a business’ website and felt frustrated because you couldn’t figure out how to contact them? This is something that Booth Harrington & Johns’ website does really well. There are multiple places where you can see contact information (i.e. at the top of the page and on the sidebar). It’s also easy to find where you can learn more about their services, which is another crucial component of a business website!

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Personal Website Examples

Personal websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume / portfolio website you use to get booked or a blog you use to create content, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. Personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here’s an example of a Wix personal website to use for inspiration:

Meghan Kreidler

Meghan Kreidler website

It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your personality and creativity on your personal website. And while adding in some flair is fine, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Meghan’s website includes the right balance of both. The navigation changes the main box content, making it easy to read about who she is, what she does, and what she’s done. If you’re looking for an easy way to put your work and experience out into the world, this layout does the trick.

Explore Similar Wix Templates!

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing your website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

If you feel like Wix fits the design and functionality needs you have for your website, you can explore more Wix templates here.

Not sure if Wix is a right fit? Explore other Wix alternatives here.

The post 11+ Wix Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Domain Names, Explained

Domain Names

Domain Names are human-readable words (e.g., amazon.com) that directs Internet browsers to specific files on a specific server.

As an analogy, a domain is like a physical address but on the Internet. Like a physical address, they don’t really do anything on their own, but they are critical to understand when you are building an online project.

That’s the short version. But there’s more to domains & domain registration than the definition. I’ll cover common questions like –

  • What is a Domain Name?
  • What is DNS?
  • What is Domain Privacy?
  • How Domains, DNS & Privacy Work Together
  • How Much Does A Domain Name Cost?
  • Can You Just Buy A Domain Without Hosting?
  • I Bought A Domain, Now What?
  • Popular Domain Name Registrars & Next Steps

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is a Domain Name?

The Internet is nothing but a bunch of connected devices with IP Addresses (usually a series of numbers like 192.168.0.1). IP Addresses are not only hard to remember, but they change frequently.

A domain name is a human-readable series of letters that gets matched with an IP Address so that a person operating a browser will find the device (usually a server with files) that they want to find.

In the physical world, the analogy is that Addresses are to Domain Names what Geo Coordinates are to IP Addresses.

Now – you can take this analogy pretty far, and it answers quite a few common questions. For example, like physical addresses,

  • Domain Names are mainly for convenience and memorability. You don’t have to have one…but it makes finding your work *much* easier.
  • Domain Names can have prestige based on neighborhood. Everyone knows 5th Avenue in New York City. But 5th Avenue only has prestige from the businesses that exist there.
  • Domain Names are regulated and structured by a central governing entity.
  • Domain Names are partly determined by country and availability.

Now, the central governing entity in this case is ICANN. They manage the structure of the domain name system while delegating responsibility for individual domain names to registrars.

ICANN has also approved a series of Top Level Domains (TLDs) that are meant to pair with specific devices / websites. Many are country pairs but many are also industry related. Domain Name Registrars literally register and lease your domain name on an annual basis for a fee.

We’ll get to providers & what to look for in a moment.

But what actually connects a domain name to a device / files / website? Well now we are talking about the Domain Name System (DNS).

What is DNS?

The Internet Domain Name System (DNS) is the protocol that translates a domain name request to an actual IP address request.

Every domain name requires you to set name servers. Name Servers do the work of the DNS. These name servers then allow you to define “records” for where each request will go.

You can tell a request for incoming email to look in a folder. You can tell website requests to look in another folder, etc.

Your domain name does not work at all without an attached DNS name server. It simply exists. And a DNS name server does not work with a domain name.

Now, access DNS name server is usually included when you buy a domain name or when you buy hosting (a place to put your website files). But it’s important to know that you don’t have to have your DNS name server in any specific place.

Namecheap DNS Setup

It’s usually simplest to set your name servers with your hosting company (rather than your domain registrar) since they are the ones actually routing your traffic to folders. However, if you are technically adept, many people use a DNS provider like Google, Cloudflare or others separate from their registrar and hosting company.

But the key part here is that no matter where your DNS name server lives, you still have to set it at your registrar. They are the ones who control all your registration data – and your privacy.

So let’s briefly touch on Domain Privacy and the products around that.

What is Domain Privacy?

Domain Privacy is a product that a domain registrar is authorized to sell under certain regulations. Under the ICANN license agreement, you *must* provide correct contact information with your domain name registration. Your contact information is stored in the public WHOIS database.

This requirement is to correct spam, abuse, and technical issues that can arise with domain names & DNS operation.

The side effect of a public WHOIS database is, well, you can probably guess. This is the Internet after all.

Scrapers, spammers, stalkers, and salespeople have a habit of helping themselves to the public contact information and misusing it. Although sometimes you can use it to find the spammers yourself 🙂

Public WHOIS

Domain Privacy is meant to solve that issue. Basically you pay for your registrar to act like a middleman in public. They publish their contact information in place of yours and promise to pass along any important information to you.

Domain Privacy comes at a cost, even though many registrars are starting to bundle it for “free” (i.e., including the base cost in the total cost).

Hover Bundle

Either way, it’s a good idea and a worthwhile upgrade, if only to reduce spam and random phone calls.

How Domains, DNS & Privacy Work Together

Here’s how all this works out in a real life example.

  1. This site’s domain name is shivarweb.com.
  2. The domain name is registered at NameCheap with the DNS name servers pointed to my host, InMotion Hosting.
  3. InMotion’s DNS name servers are set to direct web traffic to a folder on my VPS Hosting server that will deliver my website files (like this page, all of its images and design). They will also deliver any email sent to [email protected] onward to Google, where I receive my email.
  4. My registration information lives at NameCheap, where I have WHOIS Privacy Protection. NameCheap can get in touch with me, but no one else can.

That’s how a domain name, DNS, and WHOIS privacy all work together.

But there are still quite a few questions that come up. Here’s how I answer them.

How Much Does A Domain Name Cost?

A domain costs a flat annual fee depending on several factors including the base cost of the top level domain (TLD), the status of the domain, and your registrars’ business model & markup.

In other words, it depends 🙂

You can expect to pay $10 to $30 per year for an inactive generic top level domain (e.g., a .com, or .org domain that is not currently registered).

If you are buying a country TLD (e.g., .co.uk or .ca or .tv) or premium TLD (e.g., .ninja or .wedding or .movie) then you can expect to pay a base cost plus the registrar’s model & markup.

If you are buying a domain that is currently registered, then you will have to negotiate a private party price or wait to buy it at auction when it expires. Most big registrars either have their own marketplaces or participate in a domain marketplace.

GoDaddy Auctions

The quickest way to see how much a domain name costs is to simply search for it. Most of my readers use NameCheap (for their low annual renewal prices and user experience), so I’ve embedded their search tool below.

Find a domain starting at $0.88

powered by Namecheap

But you can also use the search tool at domain registrars like GoDaddy (cheap upfront) or Hover (focus on support) or even direct at hosting companies who usually offer a free domain (like Bluehost or InMotion).

Now, the big wild card with domain costs are your registrar’s business model and markup. I’ve written many reviews of different registrars. There is no “best” registrar. But there is one (or several) that match your goals.

Every domain registrar is out to make a profit. But they aim to make a profit in different ways. Your job as a consumer is to find one that matches your goals, and remember that if something is too good to be true, then it’s not true. If you get a super cheap domain upfront, then you will pay for it over time. If a company overpromises the world for an expensive domain…you’re probably going to just get an expensive domain.

I’ll cover different providers’ business models below.

Can You Just Buy A Domain Without Hosting?

Yes – you can absolutely buy a domain without buying hosting. In fact, there are a few good reasons to buy a domain without hosting.

  1. Your project is not ready, but you want to claim your domain name now.
  2. You want to redirect your domain name to an existing project (ie., on Facebook, Medium, Amazon, elsewhere).
  3. You want to speculate on a domain name idea. This practice is not as lucrative as in the past, but it is a thing.
  4. You want to protect trademark of phrasing.

There are of course plenty of other good reasons, but that is up to you. The point is that you can buy a domain without hosting. You’ll just need to pay the $10 to $20 per year to keep it registered.

I Bought A Domain, Now What?

Once you’ve bought a domain, there are a few things that you can / should do.

If you are setting up a new website, then you’ll also need hosting / website builder / ecommerce platform depending on what you are building. For diversity sake, I like to get hosting separate from domains. But, if your domain provider has a good deal (or you want convenience) then you can just follow their onboarding).

Once you’ve bought hosting / website builder subscription, then you’ll need to point your DNS to your hosting company / website builder.

Namecheap DNS Setup

After that, all the remaining steps will happen at your hosting company / website builder.

If you are setting up an email setup or other Internet project, then you can set DNS settings with the DNS nameservers that should be bundled with your registration subscription. You can set MX records for email (ie, Google Suite) or @ records to point to a live project.

If you need to redirect visitors to an existing project, then you’ll set the 301 records to the target with UTM parameters for tracking.

If you ware just leaving it alone for a while, then you can place limited advertising or a parking page.

Popular Domain Name Registrars

There are a lot of domain registrars on the Internet. They range from Big Brands like GoDaddy to hip upstarts like Hover to companies that do registration as a complement (like hosting or website builder companies).

They all have tradeoffs. I’ve listed a few of my favorites with a buying guide here. I’ve also reviewed many individually here and compared the two biggest brands here.

But the key to shopping is to ask yourself what you really prefer. Do you want a cheap first year only to pay more on subsequent years? Do you want phone customer support or is chat fine? Do you want an established brand or small upstart? Do you want a simple user experience or lots of complementary products? Do you want a wide TLD selection or no? Do you plan on buying a lot of domains or a single one? Do you want the convenience of buying a domain & hosting from one company or do you want the control of buying them separately?

My domains are hosted at either NameCheap (almost all of my long-term personal domains), GoDaddy (for quick ideas & some clients), or Google Domains (for experiments). But I have clients who use Hover (review) and bundle domains / hosting somewhere like Bluehost or InMotion or Shopify or Wix.

They all work fine in their own way, but you should find the one that fits you.

Next Steps

Domain names are very interesting. In many ways, they are a core ingredient to a successful website. In other ways, they don’t really matter (see thefacebook.com, basecamphq.com and all the other terrible original domains of now big businesses).

But if you have an idea, a project or a need for an online presence, then go grab your domain name and put it to use!

The post Domain Names, Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
  • Shopify: $79/mo.
  • Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
  • Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

  • Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
  • Pro: $249.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
    • add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

  • Startup: $19/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Basic: $29/month (sell up to $100K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79/month (sell up to $200K/yr.)
  • Pro: $229/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
  • Enterprise: Custom

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

  • Business Basic: $25/month (20GB storage)
  • Business Unlimited: $30/month (35GB storage)
  • Business VIP: $40/month (50GB storage)

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

  • Available features
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Payment processing discounts
  • Shopify’s commission per sale

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue
  • Number of products
  • Number of staff accounts

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS Squarespace

Shopify VS Squarespace

Pricing

✓

Tie

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Tie

✓

Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

✓

Ease Of Use

✓

Features

Web Design

✓

✓

Integrations & Add-Ons

✓

Payment Processing

✓

Customer Service & Technical Support

Negative Reviews & Testimonials

✓

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Security

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Review

Compare

Right away, Shopify and Squarespace both score points in my book for their names. Shopify is all about helping you build an online store where customers can shop — “shop-ify-ing” a regular website, as it were. Squarespace, by comparison, is a more traditional website builder, allowing you to create a literal “square space” (or series of square spaces) where people can view your content and images on the internet.

Thank you, Shopify and Squarespace. Your names actually make sense.

Indeed, Shopify is a household name in the world of shopping cart software, whereas Squarespace is well-known for its attractive and modern site design capabilities. Squarespace is more than just a pretty face, though. In the last few years, this platform has added ecommerce functionality at a surprising level of sophistication.

If you’re here for an epic cage match between Squarespace and Shopify, I’m guessing you’re thinking about both of these platforms in terms of ecommerce. You’re in luck, because this is the precise focus of our comparison. How does Squarespace’s ecommerce functionality and design measure up to the ecommerce powerhouse that is Shopify? How do they compare in terms of pricing, customer service, and payment processing? Keep reading for our take on these and other key facets of Shopify and Squarespace.

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

 

Pricing

Winner: Squarespace

Both Shopify and Squarespace offer free 14-day trials with no credit card required, and neither charge setup or cancellation fees. From there, the two platforms begin to diverge. Here’s how the differences play out:

Shopify

  • Price Range: Choose from $29/month (Basic), $79/month (Shopify), or $299/month (Advanced) plans. There’s also a $9/month plan (Lite) for selling in-person, for embedding little “buy” buttons on other sites, and for selling on Facebook — but you don’t get an actual online store at all, so we’re leaving this plan out of our comparison for the most part.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: Save 10% when your subscription is paid annually upfront, or 20% if you pony up for two full years. For example, the Basic Plan becomes $26 or $23/month, and the Shopify Plan becomes $71 or $63/month.
  • Subscription Structure: All Basic ($29/month) plans and above include unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth. Higher subscription levels add a few features and additional staff accounts. Subscription levels also affect your Shopify transaction fees and your payment processing fees. Which leads us to…
  • Additional Transaction Fees: If you choose Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as your payment gateway, you are not charged any separate transaction fees. As an added bonus, you also see a gradual decrease in your payment processing fees with Shopify Payments as you climb the subscription ladder. However, if you use an alternative payment processor and not Shopify Payments, Shopify does charge extra transaction fees, beginning at 2.0% on the Basic plan. Thankfully, these fees gradually decrease to 1.0% and 0.5% as you increase your subscription.

Squarespace

  • Price Range: For ecommerce capability, you must skip over the $16/month plan and start at the $26/month (Business) level. However, merchants who’d really want to take advantage of Squarespace’s ecommerce features in a manner that’s comparable to Shopify are likely opting for the $30/month (Commerce Basic) or $46/month (Commerce Advanced) plans.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: The Business plan drops to $18, Commerce Basic to $26, and Commerce Advanced to $40 per month when paid upfront in one annual lump sum. You also qualify for a free domain registration for one year when you pay your main subscription annually.
  • Subscription Structure: Similar to Shopify, features are added as you increase your Squarespace subscription level. Bumping up to Commerce Basic or Advanced will eliminate separate Squarespace transaction fees.
  • Additional Transaction Fees: A 3.0% fee (above your gateway fees) is incurred by Squarespace on every purchase if you’re on the Business Plan. This additional transaction fee is eliminated, however, on Commerce Basic and Advanced.

For a direct comparison with Shopify, use the smaller print, month-to-month figures for Squarespace (Commerce Basic $30 and Commerce Advanced $46). Shopify promotes month-to-month figures ($29, $79, or $299).

Confusing enough for you? With all these pricing components, you can’t actually perform a true apples-to-apples comparison of cost. In truth, both Shopify and Squarespace offer a fair market price for their services. I will say that the transaction fee issue is problematic with both companies, especially since many competing platforms have eliminated these extra charges altogether. The good news is that each platform at least offers some way out of these fees.

In the end, I’m primarily basing my pricing verdict on one key factor: Squarespace offers its complete arsenal of features for only $46/month ($40/month if paid annually). In contrast, Shopify reserves its premium features for sellers with much deeper pockets (six and a half times deeper, to be exact). The big question is: does Squarespace offer enough ecommerce features at that $46/month level? The answer will depend on your business needs, but you can keep reading to develop a clearer picture of each platform.

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Winner: Tie

Your Shopify or Squarespace store will be fully-hosted. No need to download and install either one locally.

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

Both platforms allow unlimited bandwidth and products, but Shopify is better at accommodating a wider range of business sizes and product catalogs. In addition, Shopify provides a natural growth option via Shopify Plus, whereas Squarespace offers no enterprise-level plan at this time. On the other hand, if you happen to sell a handful of very expensive products (and that’s what makes your business “big”), Squarespace could still work swimmingly for you.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

Since Squarespace and Shopify are both SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, you only need a computer, an internet connection, and an up-to-date browser to use either service. Both also provide Android and iOS apps for managing and editing your store.

Regarding supported browsers, Squarespace edges out Shopify by offering Chrome and Safari support on Linux operating systems, while Shopify only works with Windows and Mac. Meanwhile, Shopify stores are optimized for Samsung Internet in addition to Chrome and Safari browsers when viewed on mobile. Depending on your point of view, these finer points may or may not make a difference, so I’m still calling it a draw in this category.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

With both platforms specializing in general ease of use, we really need to examine Squarespace and Shopify in terms of usability for ecommerce.

Neither platform has a dedicated setup tutorial inside the dashboard, but both have documentation and instructional videos handy. If you’re accustomed to using or testing popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace will definitely have its own learning curve. Once I got the hang of it, though, I could operate the backend quite smoothly.

When you create a trial account with Shopify, you’re taken to the main admin panel. Shopify’s admin is structured like most ecommerce dashboards I’ve seen. Although you can preview your storefront at any time, your backend functions are kept separate from the storefront.

Shopify Dashboard:

With Squarespace, however, you must choose a theme (you can change it later) before you even get to see your admin panel. Once the admin opens, your dashboard is actually a combination of your backend control panel on the left, and your storefront preview on the right.

Squarespace Dashboard:

Although I can vouch that both platforms are very easy to use in the grand scheme, I find navigation of Squarespace’s backend to be slightly trickier than Shopify’s. The Squarespace UI is structured so that there are more dashboard layers to dig through — and then dig back out of again. Additionally, the left control panel menu changes (or even disappears) depending on what layer you happen to be in at the moment, which can be disorienting. This is in contrast to Shopify’s menu, which remains a fixed anchor point for admin navigation.

Take a quick look at the following screens from each platform to see what I mean:

Add A Product — Shopify:

You can see above that my main menu remains fixed on the left side of the dashboard as I enter my product details.

Add A Product — Squarespace:

With Squarespace, I’m already a couple of dashboard layers in, my left sidebar is gone, and I must dive one more screen deep from here to even enter my price. Also, what is not shown above is that you can’t just jump right in and start adding products with Squarespace like you can with Shopify and other online store builders. Even with Squarespace’s ecommerce-friendly templates, you must create a separate product page for your website first. I admit I had to resort to Squarespace’s documentation to figure this out, since I’m accustomed to ecommerce dashboards that make adding your first product a completely frictionless process.

Adding and managing inventory is just one piece of running an online store, but it remains a reliable ease of use test case. While you can list unlimited products with Squarespace, I think the backend interface is better designed for sellers offering a relatively small number of aesthetically-oriented products. Merchants with a large inventory will appreciate Shopify’s clear menus, efficient navigation, and the way in which product data is ultimately organized.

Features

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the deserving winner in the features category. With solid out-of-the-box functionality and a rich add-on ecosystem, the blunt truth is that Shopify has spent much more time and resources cultivating features specifically for online sellers.

That said, there are a few features Squarespace offers that even Shopify lacks. Another thing to keep in mind is that Squarespace’s comparatively small feature set may still be just right for certain sizes and types of companies.

Key features of both platforms include:

  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Sell physical or digital products
  • Shipping & accounting integrations
  • Inventory & order management
  • Offer gift cards
  • Create discounts and coupons
  • Checkout on your domain
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout & customer accounts
  • Real-time, carrier-calculated shipping
  • Analytics & reports
  • SEO tools

I’d say the Shopify versions of some of the above features are stronger or more versatile than the Squarespace versions. For example, the discount engine is much more flexible with Shopify.

Now, here are a few features that differentiate the two platforms:

Shopify

  • App store with thousands of integrations
  • Point of sale integration (Shopify POS or third-party POS)
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Proprietary shipping platform (Shopify Shipping) for carrier discounts and label printing
  • Extensive dropshipping capability
  • Enterprise expansion available via Shopify Plus
  • Abandoned cart recovery at cheaper plan level

Squarespace

  • Unlimited staff contributors on all ecommerce plans
  • G Suite integration (full year free)
  • $100 Google AdWords voucher
  • Free domain for a year if you pay annually
  • Customizable checkout forms
  • In-dashboard product image editing
  • Third-party calculated shipping rates at cheaper plan level

Web Design

Winner: Squarespace

Both platforms offer elegant, modern templates that are fully mobile responsive. Here’s a quick comparison of template stats:

Shopify Themes

  • 67 total templates, most with 2-4 style variations
  • 10 templates are free and supported by Shopify developers
  • Remaining third-party themes cost $140-$180

Squarespace Themes

  • 90 templates organized into 21 template families
  • All templates are free and supported by Squarespace developers

Within these themes, both platforms facilitate the adjustment of fonts, colors, and layouts without any coding experience. In fact, I’d say both services offer more flexibility in this area than the average ecommerce store builder. If you still run into design limitations or simply want to alter the code, each site builder makes it relatively easy to customize your store with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

The overall web design winner is a tough one to call, because that decision really depends on the type and number of products you intend to sell, with Squarespace catering to smaller catalogs with visual interest. If we were deciding strictly based on the variety of pre-made templates designed for stores selling lots of stuff, Shopify would snag the win.

That said, here are some ways Squarespace stands out when it comes to design:

  • All templates are free, and all are created and supported by Squarespace.
  • Offers a more versatile drag-and-drop editor for page layout customization.
  • Allows you to edit your product images from within your dashboard.
  • Uses a common templating language (JSON), versus Shopify’s own invented language (Liquid).

Was this category too close to call? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

Shopify has an impressive app store with around 2500 integrations — more than the vast majority of SaaS ecommerce platforms at large. While add-ons can certainly increase your monthly expenditure with Shopify, there’s no denying that your choices are plentiful. Plus, since a huge community of developers and merchants interact with Shopify apps, you also have access to thousands upon thousands of detailed user reviews.

Squarespace takes a completely different approach to integrations. No app store is offered, but Squarespace spins this as an advantage. Any pre-built integrations (about 70 in total) are already incorporated into your dashboard and fully tech-supported by Squarespace. Aside from payment providers (Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay) and shipping carriers (UPS, USPS, and FedEx), there are just a small handful of official Squarespace integrations specifically related to ecommerce. Here are a few key add-ons:

  • ShipStation: Order fulfillment
  • Xero: Accounting
  • MailChimp: Email marketing
  • Zapier: Workflow automation, multi-app connector

Just like many Shopify apps, several Squarespace apps have monthly subscription fees of their own. And, just like with Shopify, you can always build custom integrations if you have those skills or can hire someone who does. To put things in quick perspective, however, Squarespace has one official shipping/fulfillment app in ShipStation. Shopify has over 280 choices in its “Orders & Shipping” category, and over 600 results pop up if I simply type “shipping” in the app store’s search bar.

The win in this category goes to Shopify, the reigning monarch of ecommerce integrations. Besides keeping decision-making overload at bay, the trick with Shopify add-ons is to always check the quality (including quality of developer support) and ongoing cost of each integration.

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

Shopify wins at payment processing for one primary reason: flexibility. Consider the sheer number of gateway options with Shopify — over 100. With Squarespace, Stripe and PayPal are your only choices. More gateway options means availability in more countries and currencies, more ways for your customers to pay, better odds of finding the perfect processor for your specific needs, and even the opportunity to customize your own pricing model and rates in some cases. With Shopify, you can also accept cryptocurrencies or set up manual payment methods like cash on delivery, money orders, and bank transfers.

This is not the end of the story, however. Factor in the additional transaction fees that may be charged by either platform depending on your situation, as well as Shopify’s payment processing discounts with Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe), and the comparison becomes more nuanced.

As we examine these complications further, keep in mind that the going rate to process ecommerce transactions with most gateways these days is 2.9% + $0.30.

Here’s how your processing will work with Squarespace according to your subscription level:

Squarespace + PayPal and/or Stripe

  • Business ($26/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 3.0% Squarespace fee = 5.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Commerce Basic ($30/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Commerce Advanced ($46/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30

Those are the only potential processing costs you’re looking at with Squarespace. That additional 3.0% Squarespace fee on the Business plan is pretty brutal, but as soon as you upgrade to Commerce Basic for an extra $4/month, it disappears. For this reason, I don’t think the Business plan is a sustainable option for most ecommerce stores.

Now, let’s take a quick look at Shopify, remembering that using Shopify Payments as your gateway provides two perks: 1) no extra Shopify transaction fee on any plan, and 2) decreased payment processing fees as you upgrade your overall Shopify subscription.

Shopify + Shopify Payments

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.6% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.4% + $0.30

Shopify + Alternative Gateway (Generic Example)

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 2.0% Shopify fee = 4.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 1.0% Shopify fee = 3.9% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.9% + 0.30, + 0.5% Shopify fee = 3.4% + $0.30

Another twist is that Shopify Payments is currently only available for businesses located in 10 countries, so you’re stuck with an alternative gateway and that pesky Shopify transaction fee if your country isn’t included. (Squarespace at least doesn’t punish you for something you can’t control — your location.) On the flip side, if you are in one of the supported countries, you could opt to use Shopify Payments in addition to any of the other gateways Shopify offers to increase your customers’ payment options.

In a perfect world, both platforms would let you pick your own processor from among many, and never penalize you with extra transaction fees for any reason! Both Shopify and Squarespace have their own flaws in this regard.

So, what does this all mean for your business? The short answer is math. To determine the real winner in this category for your own company, you must consider your monthly subscription cost to either platform, your average number of transactions per month, and your average transaction size — not to mention the countries and currencies involved. Because the best platform and subscription level for your business depends on these and other factors, I award Shopify the payment processing win for at least making things interesting!

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

In terms of overall quality of customer support, both Shopify and Squarespace receive mixed user reviews. That said, Merchant Maverick’s own experiences with customer service and technical support would award Shopify the victory in this category. We’ve had better luck contacting the Shopify support team through the available channels — even when they’ve been unaware that we are software reviewers on the prowl.

Shopify also has more available support channels and more open-hours. Take a look:

Shopify

  • Phone: 24/7
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: 24/7

Squarespace

  • Phone: None
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: Monday-Friday, 4AM-8PM

Squarespace publishes a whole manifesto on its website explaining why no phone support is offered if you’d like to read it for yourself. Although they don’t come right out and say it, the bottom line is that this helps keep overall costs down. Meanwhile, not being able to contact a live person (even via live chat) after 5pm Pacific time is pretty brutal if you’re running an online store. Squarespace should know better — ecommerce never sleeps:

One final note in this category: both platforms provide several self-help resources — community forums, blogs, video tutorials, webinars, knowledgebase articles, and the like. However, note that Shopify resources are 100% geared toward ecommerce, whereas you’ll have to wade through other topics to find ecommerce resources at the Squarespace site.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Squarespace

When comparing user reviews for these platforms, it’s important to keep in mind the difficulty in teasing out feedback on Squarespace that is specifically related to ecommerce. Despite its growing ecommerce capability, Squarespace typically ends up in the generic website builder category on most review sites, with users discussing traditional website building issues.

Those caveats aside, here are some of the most common issues that come up for each platform:

Shopify

  • Extra transaction fees when not using Shopify Payments
  • Costly add-ons
  • Poor customer support
  • Frustration with Shopify Payments

Squarespace

  • Glitches & bugs
  • Poor/limited customer support
  • Limited theme customization

Of course, traditional website builders tend to get raked over the coals for the slightest theme customization limitations. We’ve already said Squarespace’s design capability is quite good overall, particularly when compared to a lot of shopping cart builders. When customers do criticize Squarespace specifically on ecommerce, there are no consistent patterns emerging so far. For this reason, I award this category to Squarespace based on a “no news is good news” argument. We’ll keep checking back for patterns.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Shopify and Squarespace tend to rate highly for overall customer satisfaction on user review websites. On top of that, both platforms are known for their ease of use and elegant templates. And, along with all the negative review of customer support both software programs have received, users of both platforms have been known to also sing praises for customer support. The combination of these factors led me to call this one a draw.

Once again, we’re faced with the dilemma that there’s not a whole lot of feedback about Squarespace’s ecommerce offerings. I have definitely seen several generic comments, such as “good for ecommerce!” Honestly, I think people are mostly pleased (and perhaps a bit surprised) that there’s some solid ecommerce capability available with Squarespace at all. I haven’t come across many users directly comparing their experiences with the two platforms.

Security

Winner: Shopify

Our combatants are quite close in this category. Both offer PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, a free SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate for your site, two-factor authentication for logging in to your account, a CDN (Content Delivery Network), and even provide methods for complying with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws implemented by the EU in 2018.

The main difference I can see is that Shopify’s checkout pages are covered by an industry-standard, 256-bit shared SSL certificate. Squarespace’s checkout pages are covered by a less-robust, 128-bit certificate. My understanding is that while 128-bit encryption may end up working slightly faster, it’s technically less secure.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

Squarespace put up a good fight in several categories, but Shopify emerges victorious as the better ecommerce website builder. Shopify’s pricing, core feature set, and vast app store can serve budding sellers on the Lite plan, all the way up to enterprise clients using Shopify Plus. Meanwhile, ecommerce was quite literally an afterthought for Squarespace. The platform’s developers have done an admirable job adding features for online selling, but they just can’t compete with Shopify’s dominance here.

As we’ve said time and again in this comparison, Squarespace still provides an interesting option for sellers who’d like to feature a small number of products with aesthetic appeal. Especially if you’ve already been using Squarespace to develop your company story and brand, I’d definitely recommend fully exploring the ecommerce feature set — perhaps by bumping up your subscription for just month or two — before completely abandoning ship for Shopify or another dedicated shopping cart builder.

I’ll offer one more interesting twist before you head off to test Shopify and/or Squarespace for yourself. Some users have actually used the two services in combination. How? By integrating those “buy now” buttons from a $9/month Shopify Lite plan into an existing Squarespace website. It’s a roundabout option, to be sure, but it also gives you access to in-person selling with the Shopify POS app. At any rate, take that as some final food for thought, and best of luck in your search for the perfect ecommerce platform.

The post Shopify VS Squarespace appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS Wave

ZohoBooks-vs-Wave

Zoho Books VS Wave

Accounting

✓

✓

Features

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

✓

Users & Permissions

Ease of Use

✓

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Integrations

✓

Security

?

Final Verdict

?

When you think of accounting software, you usually think of big names like Xero or QuickBooks. But what about the programs that are designed specifically with the small business owner in mind? In this post, we’re going to put two of the top small business accounting software programs face to face: Zoho Books and Wave.

Redesigned in 2014, Zoho Books is a scalable, full-featured accounting software that even gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. The software has only improved over the years. It features beautiful invoicing, strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, and decent integrations. It also gives users the unique ability to send invoices in over 10 different languages.

Wave is free accounting software that has only gotten better as time goes on. The software has grown to support over 3.5 million users and offers a robust feature set with unique additions like lending, scheduling recurring invoices by timezone, and a brand-new light ecommerce tool. The software also offers professional bookkeeping services and supports personal and business accounting.

But which service comes out on top? And more importantly, which is right for your business?

Read on to find out.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong accounting features. Each software uses double-entry accounting and offers both cash-basis and accrual accounting. Both support accounting reports, a customizable chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, and fixed asset management.

The two are almost neck and neck in this area, although Wave sets itself apart by having recently added an additional bookkeeping service called Wave+ where users can purchase additional accounting help from professional bookkeepers. Wave also has built-in personal accounting tools.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books Features Wave

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

✘

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✘

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

eCommerce Checkouts

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✘

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✘

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Zoho Books and Wave have a lot of similar features. Both offer expense tracking, invoicing, contact management, and more. The difference is the depth and functionality of these features.

While Wave has a strong feature set and unique additions like a lightweight ecommerce tool and lending, Zoho Books’ features are far more advanced. Zoho Books offers some of the best invoicing on the market with 15 different templates and international invoicing. The software also offers project management (which Wave lacks entirely), better inventory, better time tracking, and better reporting, making it the clear winner here.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Zoho Books offers three scalable pricing plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Wave is completely free. The only additional costs are payroll, payment processing, and Wave+.

When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free. And unlike most free software, Wave doesn’t put artificial limits on features like invoicing and estimates. You get complete access to fully-functioning features for $0/month. Another point in favor of Wave is that the software actually offers payroll. The service may cost extra, but in contrast, Zoho Books doesn’t have any payroll support or payroll integrations.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, both Zoho Books and Wave work with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Zoho Books

Depending on your plan, Zoho Books supports between 1 and 10 users, although you can purchase additional users for an extra cost. The software offers very basic user permissions. Wave is designed for the small business owner, meaning there are no additional users. You can technically invite “collaborators” who can have “view-only” or “view & edit” access to your Wave account, but the features they are able to access are limited, making Zoho Books the winner here.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Wave

Both Wave and Zoho Books are easy to use. They each have a modern UI that is well-organized, and setup is quick. However, because of Zoho Books’ sheer number of features, the software is a bit harder to navigate and get used to. Wave, on the other hand, is easy enough for anyone to use, no matter what their accounting background (or lack thereof) looks like.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

It’s no question that Zoho Books is the winner here. Zoho Books has always been known for strong, fully-featured mobile apps. Their Android and iPhone apps receive high ratings across the board, and the company supports smartwatch, Microsoft, and Kindle apps as well.

Wave’s mobile apps could stand improvement. Right now, there are two separate apps, one for invoices and one for receipts. Existing Wave users complain that they want one, full-featured app.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers the most excellent customer support by far. Zoho Books’ phone support has hardly any wait times, and in my experience, representatives are friendly and helpful. The company also has an expansive help center, email, live chat, videos, and more.

While Wave does offer good resources like a well-developed help center and strong blog, you can only contact Wave support by email (unless you purchase payroll or credit card processing, in which case you get phone and chat support). Wave’s email response times often take over a day.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave receive mostly positive customer reviews from satisfied customers. They have a similar ratio of negative to positive reviews, resulting in a tie for this section.

The few complaints Zoho Books users have are about the lack of payroll and limited integrations. Complaints about Wave revolve around poor mobile apps, limited integrations, and limited features.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave have many satisfied customers and high customer ratings. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd, while Wave receives 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd and 9/10 stars on TrustRadius.

Zoho Books users appreciate the software’s ease of use, strong mobile apps, affordable price plans, and constant updates. Wave users praise the software for its ease of use, free price, personal accounting, and feature selection.

Integrations

Winner: Tie

Zoho Books offers 33 integrations while Wave only has 3 integrations. However, both Zoho Books users and Wave users complain about a lack of integrations. Each software’s saving grace is that they both connect with Zapier, an integration that connects them to 1000+ other third-party apps.

Security

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong security. Each uses 256-bit SSL encryption, regular data backups, and 24/7 data monitoring. We gave Zoho Books the victory in this section because Zoho Books is far more forthcoming about their security information so users can be 100% confident that their data is protected.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS Wave

Wave is powerful software that puts up quite the fight, but it just doesn’t have the features and capabilities of Zoho Books — at least not yet. A more robust feature set, strong mobile apps, more integrations, forthright security, and excellent customer service give Zoho Books the advantage.

Zoho Books is ideal for small to medium businesses in need of strong accounting that want the capabilities of QuickBooks Online without having to pay the price. Zoho Books is an affordable QBO alternative with a robust feature set and some of the best invoicing on the market, which is why we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Invoicing. Zoho Books’ invoicing features make it ideal for business in need of international invoicing. The only drawback is the lack of payroll, which could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.

If your business does need payroll or if you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave might be the better choice for your business. Wave is ideal for small business owners looking for easy bookkeeping software to manage their businesses with. There’s a reason we’ve named it the Best Free Accounting Software. Wave has an impressive features set — particularly for a free app — and offers a few key additions that Zoho Books lacks(payroll, lending, and the brand new eCommerce checkouts tool). It also has a strong Etsy integration, making it ideal for Etsy sellers.

Maybe after reading about Zoho Books and Wave, neither option seems like the perfect fit for your business. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the best software for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and Wave reviews for more information. Take advantage of Zoho Books’ free trial or start a free account with Wave to get a feel for each software, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

The post Zoho Books VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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FreshBooks VS Wave

Freshbooks-vs-Wave

FreshBooks VS Wave

Accounting

✓

Features

✓

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Tie

Users & Permissions

Tie

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Integrations

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Final Verdict

?

ReviewVisit

ReviewVisit

Choosing the right software for your business isn’t easy, especially when you have two great choices to pick from like FreshBooks and Wave.

FreshBooks has been helping small business owners with their invoices and expenses since 2003. The software offers strong mobile apps, excellent customer service, and good customer reviews. A recent redesign has made the software easier to use than ever.

Wave is completely free accounting software that has grown to support over 3 million users. The app offers strong accounting with ample features including project management, invoicing, and a basic ecommerce tool. Wave is also the only accounting software besides QuickBooks Online to offer lending services.

But which software is better? That’s what we’re here to tell you.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. So to make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put FreshBooks and Wave head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to. Read on to see which software is best for your business.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

This one’s easy. Wave wins by default because FreshBooks is not accounting software. While FreshBooks does offer a few basic bookkeeping tools, it does not use double-entry accounting. It also has no bank reconciliation features, no accounts payable, and no customizable chart of accounts.

Wave, on the other hand, uses double-entry accounting and offers both accrual and cash-basis accounting. The software offers bank reconciliation, journal entries, a detailed chart of accounts, and basic reporting,

Features

Winner: Wave 

FreshBooks Features Wave

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Client Portal

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✘

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart of Accounts

✓

✘

Accounts Payable

✓

✘

Inventory

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

Journal Entries

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Multi-Currency

✓

✘

Lending

✓

The two programs are pretty on par in terms of invoice template choices, time tracking, importing/exporting, and multi-currency support. However, Wave’s features are more developed than those of FreshBooks. Wave offers 5 more reports than FreshBooks, better project management, and better inventory. Wave also offers key features that FreshBooks is missing like bank reconciliation, vendor management, accounts payable, and a brand new ecommerce tool called Checkouts.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

You can’t beat free. Wave costs $0/month — no gimmicks, no tricks, no limitations. The only thing you have to pay for is adding payroll, payment processing, or bookkeeping help from a professional Wave advisor. FreshBooks costs $15/month – $50/month. FreshBooks is more expensive and offers fewer features, so businesses get a lot more bang for their buck with Wave.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

As cloud-based software, both FreshBooks and Wave are compatible with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Tie

Neither FreshBooks nor Wave shines in the “additional users” department. With FreshBooks, each pricing plan only comes with one user. You can add additional users for $10/month each, but you can’t set any user permissions. Wave was designed for the small business owner, meaning it’s not possible to have additional users. You can add “collaborators” who can view or view and edit your Wave account, but there are no permissions available here either.

If you’re looking for multiple users and strong users permissions, take a look at Zoho Books, QuickBooks Online, or Xero instead.

Ease Of Use

Winner: FreshBooks

Both Wave and FreshBooks have attractive interfaces that are well-organized and easy to use. However, FreshBooks has better customer support which helps you learn to navigate the software faster.

Mobile Apps

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks is well-known for its strong, full-featured mobile apps. Wave, on the other hand, has separated its apps into Receipts by Wave and Invoices by Wave. Neither app is full-featured and many users complain that they want a single, all-encompassing Wave app instead.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: FreshBooks

When it comes to customer support, FreshBooks can’t be beaten. FreshBooks offers great phone support with hardly any wait times. Representatives are generally friendly, helpful, and well-informed. In addition, FreshBooks offers a detailed help center, email support, and a comprehensive blog. Wave only offers phone support for payroll and payment processing users, leaving regular users a well-developed help center and email support. Most emails are responded to within a day, but it’s harder to get a quick response than with FreshBooks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave are loved by customers. Each software receives mostly positive reviews, with a few negative complaints thrown in. For FreshBooks, users call for more features, better invoice templates, and true accounting. Wave users complain of limited mobile apps, lack of integrations, and occasionally slow servers.

Positive Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

FreshBooks and Wave have a similar ration of positive to negative complaints. Most users seemed thrilled with both programs and each software receives high marks across popular review sites. FreshBooks users love that the software is easy to use, offers professional invoicing, and has great customer service. Wave users love the software’s features, ease of use, and, of course, its price.

Integrations

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers 70+ integrations as opposed to Wave’s four, so if add-ons are important to your business, FreshBooks is clearly the way to go.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave offer strong security. They each use 256-bit SSL encryption, redundancy, and regular backups, and they each host their servers with trusted security providers.

And The Winner Is…

While FreshBooks reputation for ease of use is well-earned, the software doesn’t always live up to these high expectations. First of all, despite its advertising, FreshBooks isn’t true cloud accounting software.

Wave, on the other hand, offers true accounting software and an incredible number of features for $0/month. In addition to the basic tools you’d expect from an accounting software, features like lending and Checkouts set the software apart and allow Wave to give even QuickBooks Online a run for its money. For small businesses looking to save money, you can’t beat Wave. The software is also ideal for Etsy users and ecommerce businesses.

That being said, businesses that don’t need the accounting capabilities or a large number of features may find FreshBooks to be a good choice. The software has better mobile apps and customer service than Wave. However, FreshBooks is far more expensive than Wave and your money only goes a short way with the software.

Perhaps, after reading this, neither option seems like the right choice for you. Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you explore all of your options so you can choose the perfect software for your business.

Check out our full FreshBooks and Wave reviews for more information.

The post FreshBooks VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide to PayPal’s Fees, Rates, and Pricing

As a consumer mobile wallet, PayPal is darn-near ubiquitous. But with more than 17 million merchants worldwide calling PayPal their payments processor, it’s also a massive force in the merchant services industry. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get set up with credit card payments, whether for a POS system or online, PayPal is probably going to be on your radar, and with good reason.

But should you choose PayPal as your payments processor, and what will it cost? The good news is that PayPal offers transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing with no monthly fees, no account termination fees, or other hidden costs. You can predict fairly well what you’ll pay with PayPal, and all payment processing fees are deducted before PayPal deposits funds in your account.

The one major drawback is that PayPal is a third-party processor, also referred to as an aggregator. That means the company essentially onboards merchants as sub-users of one, giant merchant account that includes the entirety of PayPal’s merchant base. This means that the company does minimal underwriting before approving an account. You don’t need to provide much info beyond confirming your identity to open an account. However, this does mean you face a greater amount of scrutiny after opening an account, and PayPal can terminate your account or place a hold on funds with no notice to you.

That sounds worrisome, but the reality is it only happens to a small percentage of merchants. You can also take steps to protect yourself by recognizing the common red flags that processors look for and avoiding them. Check out our article on how to avoid merchant accounts holds and terminations to learn more.

PayPal obviously isn’t the right choice for everyone. There are restrictions on the types of products merchants can offer, and it doesn’t support certain business models. High-risk businesses should look somewhere else for a merchant account. However, most merchants should be fine with a PayPal account for payment processing.

Read on for a closer look at what you can expect to pay with PayPal as your business’ credit card processor! You can also check out our PayPal and PayPal Here reviews for a focused look at the products and services.

Payment Processing Fees

The major concern for most merchants who use (or are considering using) PayPal are the payment processing costs, so we’ll start there. PayPal offers predictable, flat-rate pricing for all merchants. You don’t have to worry about higher interchange for American Express cards, or MCCs, or qualified vs non-qualified transactions. Your exact rate will depend on the type of transaction.

Merchants who use PayPal’s mPOS app, PayPal Here, or integrate with one of PayPal’s POS partners (such as Vend), will pay the following for in-person transactions:

  • 2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped transaction
  • 3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction

For online transactions, including monthly subscription charges, donations, and digital invoices, PayPal charges the following:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction

That’s it. Really. The simplicity of PayPal’s pricing is one of the biggest draws for merchants. You can predict fairly easily what your pricing will be and, because PayPal deducts its fees before depositing funds in your account, you don’t have to worry about an end-of-the-month invoice or going over a limit and incurring additional fees.

What About Alternative Payment Processing Rates?

If you’re wondering whether PayPal offers any sort of alternative payment plans, the answer is yes. Merchants with an average transaction size under $10 can opt for the micropayments plan. PayPal also offers a nonprofit discount for online transactions to qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

  • Micropayments Plan: 5% + $0.05 per transaction. (Note: This rate applies to all transactions, even those above $10)
  • Nonprofit Discount (Online Only): 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction

If you integrate with one of PayPal’s partner POS systems, such as Vend or TouchBistro, you may be eligible for special discounts  (presumably volume-based) or other promotions. However, these offers aren’t clearly disclosed, just advertised on the POS software sites.

Other PayPal Fees For Payment Processing

While PayPal does charge a few extra fees relating to payment processing, they aren’t many. But these are what you might come across:

  • 1.5% Cross-Border Transaction Fee: For US merchants who accept online payments from buyers out of the country, or in-person transactions involving a card from outside the US, PayPal charges a 1.5% cross-border fee. That means, for example, that a US merchant accepting a Canadian card at a POS terminal will pay 4% of the transaction value to PayPal.
  • 2.5% Currency Conversion Fee:  If PayPal has to convert the currency before it deposits the funds in your account, you’ll pay another 2.5% conversion fee. Whether you have to pay the conversion fee depends on the customer’s bank and whether it will handle the currency conversion (usually at a cost to the customer).
  • $20 Chargeback Fee: Chargeback fees are pretty standard, and if a customer files a chargeback against you, PayPal will assess a $20 fee in addition to withdrawing the funds to cover the transaction amount.
  • Refund Fee: In the event of a refund, PayPal will refund the percentage-based fee from the transaction to you, but keep the fixed fee. For most in-person transactions that means you’ll pay nothing. However, refunds on keyed transactions mean you’ll pay $0.15. Refunds on online or invoiced transactions will cost $0.30. PayPal can be a bit confusing about how this works in its transaction summaries, but be aware that you will pay a fee for most refunded transactions, albeit a small one.
  • 1% Instant Transfer Fee: If you’d like to move your PayPal balance to a bank account immediately, you can do that — for a fee. PayPal charges merchants 1% of the transfer value, capped at $10 per transfer, but your funds will be available typically within 30 minutes (s0 long as your bank’s system isn’t incredibly slow). You’ll have to connect an eligible debit card to support instant transfers as well. However, if you prefer to have instant access to funds without paying a fee, don’t forget that PayPal offers a business debit card that’s linked to your PayPal balance, too.

Software Fees

One of the big draws for PayPal is the lack of software fees. Instead of paying a monthly fee for PayPal’s ecommerce features, you pay only the payment transaction costs (in most circumstances — but we’ll come back to this in a moment). While you’ll need to arrange for your own domain and web hosting, you can implement PayPal’s “buy” and “donate” buttons with no additional costs. You can send digital invoices for free and only pay the transaction cost when the invoice is paid.

Likewise, access to PayPal’s mPOS app, PayPal Here (read our review) is also free. However, if you opt to integrate PayPal into a POS app, invoicing software, or another platform, you’ll be responsible for those software costs. PayPal doesn’t charge anything for use of the integration.

Also, take note: PayPal doesn’t charge merchants any PCI compliance fees, account maintenance fees, customer service fees, or termination/account closure fees.

However, PayPal does offer a couple of advanced software options that come with additional costs:

  • PayPal Payments Pro: The “Pro” plan from PayPal has two advantages. One, it includes a virtual terminal to accept payments over the phone by keying in a card from a browser window.  Two, it allows merchants to keep the checkout process on their own website rather than redirecting to PayPal to complete a transaction. This does come with a couple of concerns. For one, you’re not automatically PCI compliant and you’ll need to take additional steps to handle your PCI compliance. Two, $30/month for a virtual terminal is pretty pricey considering you’ll still pay higher rates than swiped/dipped/tapped transactions. Square and Shopify both offer free virtual terminals. Also, opting for PayPal Payments Pro and the Virtual Terminal will mean a few different transaction fees to worry about:
    • 3.5% American Express Fee: Any Amex cards will process at the higher 3.5% rate if you’re on the Pro plan.
    • 3.1% + $0.30 Virtual Terminal Fee: Any transactions processed through PayPal’s Virtual Terminal process at 3.1% + $0.30, plus the international transaction fee if applicable.
  • Recurring Billing: If you’d like to sell subscriptions (software, gift boxes, etc.), PayPal does offer a set of recurring billing tools. Recurring payments are available with PayPal’s Express Checkout Option at no additional charge, but if you have PayPal Payments Pro and want advanced tools, they’ll cost you $10/month. This doesn’t apply to “Donate” buttons, which have their own option for donors to choose between a one-time or recurring donation.

  • Mass Payouts: If you need to distribute funds to multiple parties, PayPal’s Mass Payouts feature might be an appealing option. You have two options here: using PayPal’s API to handle the command, or uploading a spreadsheet. Which method you choose affects how much you pay — if you opt to upload a spreadsheet through PayPal’s website, you’ll pay 2% per transaction, capped at a maximum $1 USD, which is pretty reasonable. If you opt for the API, you’ll pay a flat fee of $0.25 USD per payment. This is a great way to distribute payments to contractors, for example, or manage marketplace payments if you use PayPal’s platform.

PayPal Hardware Costs

Unless you’re integrating PayPal with a POS system or using the free mPOS, PayPal Here, you won’t have to worry about hardware costs. But if you do, you’ll have a few options for card readers:

  • Chip & Swipe Reader: PayPal’s entry-level chip reader sells for $24.99. In addition to EMV capabilities it supports magstripe transactions, but no contactless payments. However, it does connect to phones and tablets via Bluetooth and comes with a convenient mounting clip.
  • Chip & Tap Reader: To get a credit card reader that supports magstripe, EMV, and contactless payments, you’ll need the Chip and Tap reader, which sells for $59.99. We’ve already reviewed this reader as well as the optional charging dock ($30 separately, or bundled for $79.99), with a very positive rating. Again, the Chip and Tap reader connects via Bluetooth. In addition to the charging dock, it comes with a convenient mounting clip.
  • Chip Card Reader: The Chip Card Reader was the first EMV-enabled card reader PayPal offered, and it’s still the only hardware option for merchants who want to integrate with one of PayPal’s POS partners. It sells for $99 on the PayPal site, with an optional charging dock. Given the price point, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this all-in-one reader connects via Bluetooth.

  • Mobile Card Reader: PayPal used to offer its entry-level swipe-only reader for free, but now it sells for $15 because PayPal, like most processors, really wants you to start accepting EMV. Use of the mobile reader comes with limitations on accounts, so if you do a decent volume of credit card transactions and don’t want to encounter any holds on your funds, you should avoid the mobile reader at all costs:

*Key-in transactions and sales over $500 in a 7-day period made with the Mobile Card Reader are subject to an automatic 30-day reserve where funds are held in your PayPal account to cover the high risk associated with these types of transactions. For increased protection from fraudulent transactions, we recommend using a chip card reader. All PayPal accounts are subject to policies that can lead to account restrictions in the form of holds, limitations, or reserves. Additional information about these policies can be found in the PayPal User Agreement.

Apart from the cardreaders, PayPal doesn’t offer any proprietary hardware. If you need a countertop register setup, you can choose from an array of tablet stands, receipt printers, and cash drawers. A few select models are confirmed to work, while many others are “unofficially supported” in that they’re likely to work in most cases. The PayPal Here app doesn’t officially support any external barcode scanners (it supports in-app scanning using the device’s camera), but Bluetooth-enabled scanners may work with your setup.

Is PayPal Actually a Good Value?

We’ve talked pretty extensively about the cost of using PayPal, but we haven’t really talked about value. Because value is so much more than just the actual, physical cost. Value encompasses convenience, customer service, and other extra factors that could easily justify paying more than the absolute lowest prices.

PayPal isn’t the absolute cheapest processor out there — especially not for businesses that handle more than $10,000/month in credit card transactions. Larger businesses may be eligible for merchant accounts with volume discounts. For low-volume businesses, PayPal often does offer more competitive pricing because of the lack of monthly fees. The flat-rate pricing, especially for in-person transactions, can mean cost savings over interchange-plus.

But the real value in PayPal is the massive consumer trust and convenience. Just about everyone recognizes the PayPal name, and with 200+ million consumer users around the world, it’s safe to say a lot of people have PayPal accounts. The barriers to entry are minimal — you don’t need a huge amount of technological experience to implement PayPal for in-person or online payments. As long as you aren’t using PayPal Payments Pro, you don’t even have to worry about PCI compliance. PayPal handles it for you, at no additional cost.

Apart from the issue of account terminations or funding holds, the only other consistent complaint about PayPal is its customer service, and reports vary. Some merchants say they’ve never had a problem with customer service. Others say that their support reps have been downright unhelpful when they’ve called in. Fortunately, PayPal offers extensive self-help resources so you should be able to deal with most technical issues without having to contact PayPal directly.

I can’t say unequivocally that PayPal is right for everyone. It’s not. But it is a really good option for a lot of merchants, especially low-volume businesses that are just starting out. For a closer look at PayPal and all its services, we recommend checking out our PayPal and PayPal Here reviews.

If you’re not sure PayPal is right for you, I suggest looking at our Square vs. PayPal article, as the two companies are fairly similar in their business models and offerings.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you, so please drop us a comment!

The post The Complete Guide to PayPal’s Fees, Rates, and Pricing appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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