How To Accept Credit Cards Online

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

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

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

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

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

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

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

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

Types Of Payment Processors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

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

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

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

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

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

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

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

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

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

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

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

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

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

Creating Online Invoices

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

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

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

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

Using Online Form Builders

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

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

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

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

Selling On Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling In Marketplaces

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

A few popular marketplaces include:

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

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

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

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

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

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

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

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

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

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

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

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

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

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

Begin Accepting Payments Online

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

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

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

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

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

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How To Choose The Best Products to Sell Online

Best Products to Sell Online

You’ve probably landed here on this beautiful wall of text because you’re wanting to start an online store and are wondering, “What are the best products to sell online?”

The short version – it depends 🙂

The long version – keep reading for specific ideas to find the best product for you to sell online.

There are hundreds of articles out there talking about trending products for [insert year here], the best all-time products, rising products, etc., but these resources are typically 100% based on what’s happening now.

So, how do you know what the best products are in general?

Again, spoiler alert: there is no such thing as a best product to sell online!

Sure, there are basic principles to stick to, such as

  • products with a high average order value
  • things that can be drop shipped / don’t require a high-touch in store experience
  • products that can be shipped cheaply and easily, etc.

But with that said, if you look at the brands that are killing it online right now, like Native, Dollar Shave Club, and Tuft & Needle… they break all of those “rules”. Native sells deodorant, Dollar Shave Club built an entire business on super-cheap razors, and Tuft & Needle sells mattresses (a product that typically requires a high-touch in-store experience with high shipping costs).

I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as the “best” anything — instead, I operate from “best for your skills, knowledge, resources, and goals”.

So when it comes to starting your online store, the key is to move out of the “best product to sell online” mindset and into the “best product for ME to sell online” mindset. And that’s a product that fits your skill set, knowledge, resources, timeline, and market demand.

There are several approaches to finding the best product to sell online for you… and that’s what I’ll be breaking down in this post.

How to Find the Best Products to Sell Online (For You)

The Product Research Route (Amazon scraping, Adplexity, etc)

Thanks to platforms like Amazon, anyone can sell something online — and luckily for you, there is a giant trove of product data just waiting for you on the Internet.

One way to figure out what to sell is by looking at other products that are performing well and weighing those against your own wants and needs.

The goal here is to collect data on what’s working already, then reverse engineer an ecommerce strategy to sell it.

For example, let’s say you’re looking on Amazon for bestselling dog toys. You could look at niches within dog toys to niche-down into subcategories, look at best-selling products within those subcategories, see top sellers to identify competitors — the opportunities are endless.

Amazon Bestselling Dog Toys

The bonus here is you don’t have to do this manually — and you’re not limited to Amazon’s data. Spy tools like Adplexity and Jungle Scout can aggregate product data across several ecommerce platforms and even show you competitor’s ads so you can reverse engineer a marketing strategy that works.

With that said, keep in mind that everyone has access to this data, which means you won’t be the only one reverse engineering a successful product. What’s really going to set you apart is choosing a successful product that fits your own criteria and knocking your marketing strategy out of the park.

The Persona Research Route

People are constantly searching for things online. Think about your own behavior — where do you go when you’re looking for the “best swimsuits for speed” or “most durable dog toys for puppies”?

As a business owner, you can use this data to figure out what people actually want and give it to them. In marketing, this approach is known as creating a persona (marketing jargon for a description of your ideal customer).

An effective persona defines what your ideal customer actually wants. Who are they? What problems do they have? How can you solve these problems.

Use tools like Facebook Audience Insights, Pinterest, Google Display Planner, Trend Hunter, and basic keyword research (see here) to create 2-4 personas that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, pay scale, main frustrations & problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some insight on what products will fit their needs (and to get some initial sales and feedback on those products so you can polish what you’re offering).

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

The Sell What You Know Route

Perhaps the most self-explanatory method for finding the best product to sell online is selling what you know. What are you good at? Passionate about? Experienced with? Use that experience, channel it into a need, and sell it.

Take Quad Lock, a bike mount designed by a biker who was unsatisfied with the mounts on the market, so he designed one he wanted and sold it. The founder used used his own experience (biking) and pain point (ineffective mounts for his iPhone) to create a product that others love too.

Keep in mind though, it isn’t just about the product. Quad Lock leveraged reviews and Facebook and Google ads to get the right people to the product. You’ll need to have a proper and realistic marketing funnel behind whatever it is you’re selling.

The Build an Audience Route

Traditionally, ecommerce business owners take a “build it and they will come” approach to product development and selling online. This method takes the opposite approach. Instead of creating a product and finding an audience to sell it to, you’ll first build an audience and bring them a product they actually want.

Both approaches have advantages — again, there is no blanket “best” way or “best” product to sell online. Once again, it depends on your goals.

Building your product first and selling it to an audience could bring in revenue faster (as long as you build a product that actually sells). However, you do run a higher risk of creating a product that doesn’t fit the market as well as it might if you were to build an audience first, learn about them, and give them what you want.

The tradeoff here is time vs. money. If you have the time to build out an audience, nurture them, and build a minimally viable product to get feedback on, this route can save you the headache of launching a product that no one wants (see The $100 Startup). However, if you need to generate revenue quickly, this path might not be the best option.

The Rapid Product Testing Route

If you’ve ever donated to a kickstarter campaign, or if you know anything about Tim Ferris and the 4-Hour Work Week, then you know how successful rapid testing a bunch of product ideas can be.

Ferriss did it with different ads, headlines, and even book titles until he found what worked, and you can take the same approach with your own product development. The goal here is to get a ton of data quickly. What are people clicking on? What are they signing up to learn more about? What’s sticking? Once you have that info, keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t.

Again, the tradeoff here is time and/or money. You have to give yourself enough of a runway to actually test and get the data, whether you’re starting a campaign on Kickstarter, offering email and social demos to find that one customer with a new idea, or running multiple Google Adwords campaigns to test which promotions get the most traction.

The Niche / Tailwind Route

Sometimes it’s worth sticking to what’s already working. Similar to reverse engineering products that are performing well and fit your criteria, you can also find a growing niche and/or company and build out products that complement them.

A classic example of this is the cell phone case industry. Before the iPhone blew up, cell phone cases were practically non-existent. But once the iPhone took off, an entire niche industry was born.

This is happening all the time. Think about Peloton — the at home spin bike that’s building an entire submarket that needs attention. There are constantly new opportunities to hop on board with what’s working and complement it with submarket products of your own.

The Supplier / Numbers Route

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to supply a product. Sometimes the best product to sell online could be one that someone else has created. In this scenario, you’d focus on building a killer marketing strategy for the product.

For example, let’s say you have a dentist friend who has a patented a new mouthguard that’s amazing, but he has no idea how to sell it. You could start an ecommerce business with exclusive access to the product at a price that makes sense. He’d be your supplier while you’d focus on getting sales.

Even if you don’t know someone directly who has an amazing product, you could always research suppliers on AliExpress or Alibaba, or connect to people who have great industry contacts in a niche you know well enough to navigate profit margins and create a marketing strategy that gets the products to move.

Alibaba

Either way, you’re removing yourself from the product definition. Instead, you’re looking at suppliers who have already created a killer product and need someone (AKA you) to sell it.

Next Steps / Takeaways

Finding the best products to sell online really has less to do with there being a “best” product and more to do with having a system and approach to finding a product that fits your own needs, skills, and means.

Instead of randomly brainstorming and endlessly searching online for that one big idea, take time to do an inventory of your own needs. Think about your skill set, knowledge, resources, and timeline to launch your product. Then, choose one of the methods above to find the product that best aligns with your defined criteria.

You also want to find the best way to sell – here’s how to choose the best ecommerce platform.

The post How To Choose The Best Products to Sell Online appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Should I Buy A Franchise & How Do I Start?

buying a franchise

Becoming a franchise owner is a career path some people look into when their life circumstances change. For example, recent retirees or veterans returning to civilian life often turn to franchising. But really, you don’t have to have any special circumstances or qualifications to become a franchisee. You do, however, need to know what you’re getting into before you make such a major decision.

While there are plenty of benefits to owning a franchise, there are some downsides too, and you’ll need to determine which things you can live with and which will be dealbreakers for you.

There are specific perks to purchasing an existing franchise, also sometimes called a “franchise resale,” as opposed to opening a new franchise location: you will start out with a cheaper initial investment and an established customer base, with minimal setup or hiring requirements, provided that equipment and employees are included in the sale.

However, when buying an existing franchise, you’ll also need to do careful pre-purchase research to make sure the franchise is a good investment—the owner could be selling because the franchise is underperforming due to a poor location, for example.

In this post, I’ll go over the pros and cons of buying a franchise to help you figure out whether you should make the leap of becoming a franchise owner. I’ll also give you some useful tips on how to start down the path of owning your own franchise business.

Pros Of Buying A Franchise

Buying a franchise is not for everyone. But there are some unique benefits to this career move, making it perfectly suited to the right type of entrepreneur.

1. Turnkey Business

A franchise can be considered a “turnkey business,” which means that it has pretty much everything you need to start operations immediately. All you need to do is “turn the key,” so to speak, to open up for business and start selling.

With a franchise purchase, the sale typically includes the facilities, equipment, and software systems (including the point of sale and accounting software), and even the (already trained) employees in most cases. Your raw materials suppliers, operating procedures, and advertising strategies are already in place as well, requiring only your capital investment and personal labor to get started.

Besides having all the ingredients to start operations, as a franchisee, you open for business on Day 1 with a proven and successful business model. This helps undercut the risks of owning your own business, especially if you are new to business ownership.

2. Minimal Startup Costs

Aside from the cost to purchase the franchise, and sometimes the franchise transfer fee (you should try to get the selling franchisee to pay this if you can), there are negligible startup costs to get your franchise resale up and running, since, well, it’s already up and running!

You will, of course, have to start purchasing your own raw materials to keep operations going, though you will need to invest less startup capital overall than you would if you opened a franchise from scratch.

While business acquisitions have lower startup costs in general compared to new businesses, this is especially the case with franchise acquisitions, as the uniform nature of any franchise brand allows for few, if any, significant changes in operations from one owner to the next.

Note that when you buy an existing franchise, most franchisors will not have you pay a franchise fee—the costly fee required to open a new franchise—but they may require you to pay for initial training.

3. Built-In Support

Technical support, customer support, and other assistance is an inevitable and potentially costly part of just about any business endeavor. A big benefit of being a franchise owner is that you don’t have to figure these things out for yourself. The parent company typically provides training, marketing campaigns, assistance with management, and customer support. And when purchasing an existing franchise, support channels such as technical support, employee support, etc., will already be open and readily accessible, so all you’ll have to do is learn them.

Aside from an initial training fee when you join the franchise, the cost of training and other support channels is included in the royalty fees you pay the franchisor from your gross sales.

As a franchisee, can also easily access a network of support and advice from other franchisees online. Even if you just want to vent or relate to other franchise owners, there are plenty of websites and message boards where you can do this.

4. Brand Recognition

Everyone already knows your franchise brand and you already have tons of fans on day one. A well-known product advertises itself, meaning you will need to devote very little time and energy to marketing.

Though you will be required by the franchisor to spend some of your profits on advertising, you can rest easy knowing that your personal efforts will not be the only way people will find out about your business. In many cases, you simply pay the franchisor an advertising fee and do not undertake any marketing efforts yourself.

There’s also always a chance your franchisor will come up with a new product or viral national marketing campaign that could make your product even more popular, with no blood, sweat, or even tears required on your part.

5. Easier To Get A Loan

It is typically much easier to get a loan to buy a franchise than it is to get a loan to buy an independent business. A franchise is seen by lenders as less risky, as there is an established business model; with a franchise acquisition, there is an established revenue stream as well.

Many franchisors provide their own financing programs for franchise owners, and there are also alternative lenders who specialize in franchise financing. You might even be eligible to get a low-interest loan through the Small Business Administration if your franchise is listed in the SBA Franchise Directory.

For quick capital at somewhat higher interest rates, you will find plenty of alternative online lenders willing to help finance your franchise purchase or provide you with working capital or line of credit, should you need a loan later down the road.

Cons Of Buying A Franchise

Okay, so now that you know the upsides of buying a franchise, it’s important that you understand the pitfalls as well. Whether or not you can live with these downsides will determine whether becoming a franchise owner is right for you.

1. Fees & Expenses

Although there aren’t too many startup fees involved in a franchise resale, there are still significant fees and operating costs involved in franchise ownership overall.

It is a general rule in the franchise world that after various fees are taken out, about one-third of pre-tax profits go to the franchise. Some one-time and ongoing costs of franchise ownership include:

  • One-time franchise transfer fee (if the seller does not agree to pay it)
  • Initial training fee when you first start working for the franchise
  • Royalty fees, which allow you to use of the franchise’s logo and proprietary assets; often calculated as a percentage of gross sales, e.g., 5% of all sales, but may also be a fixed amount that is charged periodically, irrespective of sales
  • Advertising fees to support franchise-wide marketing campaigns (even if you don’t have any say over how your advertising dollars are spent)
  • Proprietary product costs—usually, you’ll have to purchase your products and/or raw materials from the franchisor or from their dedicated distributor, even though you might be able to find the materials cheaper elsewhere
  • Audit fees for periodic financial audits of your franchise
  • Renewal fee charged to renew your franchise contract once the current contract expires

All of these ongoing expenses cut into your margins, and if you’re not meeting your sales goals, it’s possible that your franchise will lose money and not be profitable, at least not right away.

Because of the various costs and fees associated with running a successful franchise, it’s important that you have some money saved or another source of income that you can live off of and use to help pay these costs until your franchise starts making decent money.

2. Competitive Threat

As a franchise owner, whenever a new location of your franchise opens in your area, you will wince and worry about how much of your business will be lost to the competing location.

Franchisors do maintain strict control over franchise territories to prevent market oversaturation, but they will err on the side of opening more locations in a territory to squeeze every last dollar out of that region, even if an individual franchise’s profit margins suffer.

Thus, every time a new franchise location opens in your territory, your market shrinks, and you have no recourse against your competitor; it’s not like you can just decide to move your franchise in a place of your choosing, or change up your product offerings, as you could with an independent business.

3. Less Control Over Business

Running a business where all procedures and policies are mapped out for you can be easier, in some ways. You don’t have to figure out how to run your business effectively because business-critical decisions have been decided for you, and are typically based on significant market research.

However, if you are a creative thinker or are used to managing a business on your own terms, franchise ownership might make you feel trapped and frustrated. Individuals who love coming up with innovative business solutions or who excel at finding more efficient ways of doing things will likely have more success as independent business owners.

4. Possibility Of Contract Terminations & Changes

One of the areas you don’t have any control over as a franchise owner is your business’s future as dictated by your franchise contract.

At the end of your contract term, the franchisor might cancel your contract if they’re not impressed with your franchise’s performance, or they could amend the contract to terms you don’t agree with. In such cases, you could be forced out of business or see reduced profits due to contract changes such as higher royalty rates, territory shrinkage, or others.

Although it is possible to negotiate the terms of any franchise agreement with the help of a franchise attorney, it is inevitably a David vs. Goliath type situation when going up against a big corporation with a lot of money and resources at their disposal.

5. Negative Press Can Hurt Sales

Yet another aspect you have little control over as a franchise owner is the company’s overall reputation. Consider how the following events could affect your business:

  • The company makes a tone-deaf advertising campaign that offends a lot of people
  • Employees at another franchise do something shocking/illegal
  • A company executive says/does something controversial or offensive

All of these are potentially newsworthy and hashtag-worthy events — you can probably think of several recent examples just off the top of your head.

Through no fault of your own, any bad press that attaches to your parent company in the public eye could hurt your franchise’s sales and even cause people to boycott your business.

Tips On Starting Your Franchise Journey

If you think you might want to buy a franchise, you can start with some simple tasks today or whenever you have some free time to do some research.

1. Be Strategic When Choosing Your Franchise Sector

Food —  particularly fast food — is typically the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about franchises, but there are plenty of franchising opportunities even if you don’t want anything to do with food service.

In addition to quick-service and full-service restaurants, other major players in the franchise industry include:

  • Gas stations & convenience stores
  • Clothing/shoe stores
  • Gyms
  • Beauty salons
  • Janitorial services
  • Hotels/motels
  • Real estate agencies
  • Car dealerships
  • Vision centers/optical goods
  • Private postal centers
  • Children’s services (e.g., daycare, preschool, kids’ sports)
  • Pet stores and services
  • Medical services

When determining which type of franchise you’d like to purchase, it’s important to consider market trends in addition to your own personal preference.

  • Which franchise sectors are growing, and why?
  • Which sectors are shrinking?
  • Which franchise brands have been doing well in recent years? Which ones are suffering?

These are just a few quick market research queries you can answer with some targeted Google searches.

2. Talk To Other Franchisees

Of course, you will want to talk to the owner of any franchise you’re considering buying and ask them why they’re selling and other pertinent questions. But it’s also important to get feedback from other franchise locations so you can get a well-rounded view of the particular perks and pitfalls of owning that type of franchise.

You can find the contact information for other franchisees in the Franchise Disclosure Document (I’ll talk more about that document in a moment) and also check message boards and blogs to find whatever “dirt” you can about the franchise. This way, you can know more about what you can expect and decide for yourself whether you’re willing to risk having a similar experience as other franchisees.

3. Determine Your Budget & Financing Options

Before you get too ahead of yourself, you need to know all the costs involved in purchasing a franchise and what you can afford.

Besides the cost of purchasing the franchise, startup fees, and working capital, you also need to factor in your personal expenses. According to the FTC’s Consumer’s Guide to Buying a Franchise (a must-read for any potential franchisee), it could take a year for your franchise to become profitable. Potentially, it could take even longer to turn a profit if the franchise was not profitable at the time of purchase. As a buffer, it’s important to have access to enough capital to ensure you will be able to survive even if your franchise doesn’t!

Once you have a rough idea of how much money you need, you can look into franchise financing options, if necessary. My posts on the best loans for franchises and how to get business acquisition loans are required reading if you’re researching loans to acquire an existing franchise.

4. What Is The USP?

When it comes to any business, the USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, is crucial in determining the business’s success. This is especially true with franchises, as the brand’s uniform nature makes it difficult to differentiate one franchise from the next. With that said, there are still important differences between different franchises within the same brand, and you need to figure out if the franchise you’re considering purchasing has something that makes it unique. Some examples include:

  • Prime Location: Is the franchise right off a popular freeway exit? How close is the nearest location of this franchise?
  • Added Features: For example, some McDonald’s restaurants have play structures and others do not.
  • Unique Building Or Business Space: A building’s age, design, and layout can all affect how attractive it is to patrons.

It may also be possible to add your own USP to a franchise. When working within the confines of a franchise contract, it can be difficult or impossible to offer something unique in terms of your products or services. However, there are still ways you can make your franchise location outshine the rest.

For example, you can keep your gym franchise much cleaner than the other gym locations in your city. Or, if you read online reviews saying that the tax preparation franchises in your town have incompetent staff, you can take efforts to make customer service shine at your tax prep franchise. You may also be able to invest in structural improvements before your grand reopening, such as improved equipment or a new franchise point of sale system.

5. The FDD & Other Pre-Sale Due Diligence

Once you determine which franchise interests you, you’ll need to do various pre-purchase due-diligence, such as reviewing financial documents, performing a business valuation, and making sure the franchisor approves of the transfer (they may not approve in some cases). Assuming you don’t have a legal background, hiring a franchise attorney can help you with most of these pre-purchase tasks.

Another important part of the pre-sale process reviewing the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). This document contains important information about the entire franchise brand as well as individual franchise locations and franchisees. If you find out in the FDD that the franchise you want to buy has had a lot of owners in the past few years, this may indicate that the franchise location is not profitable or that the franchisor has not provided adequate support to this location.

Final Thoughts

Buying a franchise is not right for everyone. However, it might be right for you if …

  • You want to own a business but don’t necessarily have a specific skill or vision
  • Lack of control over how to run your business doesn’t bother you
  • You have savings or additional income to live on until your franchise opens and becomes profitable (for example, retirement income)
  • You are a hard worker by nature and good at following the rules
  • The franchise you’re considering purchasing is a successful one and/or you have something unique you can add to make it successful

If you follow all of the tips I’ve laid out in this post, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful franchisee.

Quickly compare franchise loan options:
Lender Borrowing Amount APR Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$2K – $5M

Varies

6 months

550

Apply Now

smartbiz logo

$30K – $350K

6.36% – 9.57%

2 years

650

Apply Now

applepie capital logo

$100,000+

Approx. 9% – 16%

N/A

N/A

Compare

$25K – $500K

7.4% – 36%

2 years

620

Compare

For more information on lenders that will help finance your franchise purchase, contact us and we’ll be happy to suggest a suitable lending service to help you get that franchise loan.

The post Should I Buy A Franchise & How Do I Start? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Tie

Accounting

Tie

Features

✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

User Permissions

✓

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Negative Reviews & Complaints

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✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Integrations

✓

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Final Verdict

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Review Visit

Review Visit

We all love a good underdog story. But when underdog Zoho Books takes on one of the biggest names in accounting, QuickBooks Online, can this lesser-known software give QBO a run for its money? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

Redesigned and relaunched in 2014, Zoho Books continues to only get better. The software offers ample features, the most beautiful invoicing out there (including the ability to send invoices in multiple languages), excellent customer service, and strong mobile apps.

QuickBooks Online has been around since 2004. With advanced accounting, an impressive feature set, almost 280 integrations, and a brand new lending feature, it’s easy to see why QuickBooks Online is so popular.

But which accounting software is better, Zoho Books or QuickBooks?

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: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks offer strong accounting. Each uses double-entry accounting and supports both accrual and cash-basis accounting. In terms of accounting features, both offer a customizable chart of accounts, ample reports, journal entries, and bank reconciliation.

Features

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

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✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✘

Depreciation

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✓

✘

Budgeting

✓

✓

Print Checks

✓

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✓

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Note: Feature availability varies by pricing plan.

Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are mostly on par in terms of features. Each offers beautiful invoicing templates and invoicing automation, as well as inventory, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and project management. While Zoho Books puts up a great effort, QuickBooks Online edges out the competition — but just barely.

QuickBooks Online offers several features that Zoho doesn’t, including budgeting and small business lending. In addition, QuickBooks Online has a much more developed time tracking feature and more tax support. QuickBooks Online gives users the option to add payroll to their software (for an extra cost), whereas Zoho Books has no payroll support.

One place where Zoho Books actually trumps QuickBooks is international invoicing. QuickBooks doesn’t allow you to send invoices in multiple languages whereas Zoho Books does. However, this unique touch isn’t enough to make up for the lack of budgeting and limited time tracking.

Pricing

Winner: Zoho Books

QuickBooks Online offers three pricing plans ranging from $15 – $50/month, with payroll support costing an extra $39 – $99/month (plus $2/month per employee). Zoho Books offers three pricing plans as well ranging from $9 – $29/month.

Zoho Books takes the cake as far a pricing goes, especially considering that you get nearly all of the same features as QuickBooks Online for almost half the cost.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online works with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection and are using one of the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Safari 6.1+

Similarly, Zoho Books is also cloud-based and compatible with nearly any device and works with these browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Both also offer mobile apps available for Apple products and Androids, although Zoho takes it up a level by offering mobile apps for Microsoft phones and Kindles as well. This, along with supporting Opera, is why Zoho Books wins in terms of hardware and software requirements.

Users & Permissions

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books’ largest plan offers 9 users plus one accountant; QuickBooks Online’s largest plan offers 5 users plus two accountants. Additional users can be added to each plan.

Zoho Books offers very limited users permissions, making QuickBooks Online the clear winner here. With QuickBooks Online you can set multiple user roles and control each user’s access to certain features. Because of this important distinction, QBO wins this category despite offering few users.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are relatively easy to use. Both have modern UIs that are well-organized and easy to learn. However, each software suffers from the occasional navigational difficulty. That being said, Zoho Books has far better customer support and fewer bugs and glitches making it easier to learn and navigate.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online offer strong mobile apps. Zoho Books receives 4.8/5 stars on iTunes and 4.5/5 stars on the Google Play Store. QuickBooks Online receives 4.7/5 stars on iTunes and 4.3/5 stars on the Google Play Store.

While both company’s apps are fairly close in ratings, Zoho Books’ mobile apps are full-featured and compatible with Microsoft phones and Kindles in addition to iPhone and Androids, making it the winner here.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books has the better customer support by far. In my experience, representatives respond quickly to emails and I have hardly ever been put on hold when calling their support team. Representatives are generally kind and informative. Additionally, Zoho Books has a well-developed knowledge base with tons of articles, videos, guides, and more — and it all can be accessed directly from within the software to boot.

In the past, QuickBooks Online had notoriously poor customer support and extremely long phone wait times. While the company has been remedying this over the last year or so, QBO still has a ways to go if they want to top Zoho Books in the customer service arena.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is one category QuickBooks Online should not want to win. QuickBooks Online has received many complaints. Most complaints revolve around poor customer service experiences, bugs, limited apps, and even a few unauthorized charges.

Zoho Books, on the other hand, has received far fewer customer complaints (granted Zoho Books has far fewer customer reviews in general, but the ratio of negative to positive reviews is smaller). The complaints that do exist revolve around the lack of payroll and limited integrations.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Zoho Books

While QuickBooks Online has a higher number of positive reviews overall, Zoho Books has a higher percentage of positive reviews, which is why it wins this category. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd. Users love that the software is easy to use, affordable, and updated frequently. They also like the mobile apps.

Integrations

Winner: QuickBooks Online

There’s no question here. QuickBooks Online offers around 280 integrations as opposed to Zoho Books’ 33.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online implement strong security measures. Each uses data encryption, redundancy, routing testing, and physical security measures to protect their data centers.

To learn more about cloud security read our posts Is My Accounting Safe In The Cloud? and What Is SSL? A First Look At Online Security.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books definitely gives QBO a run for its money. However, there a few areas where QuickBooks Online beats out its opponent. QuickBooks Online offers more integrations, more advanced features, better tax support, and payroll. The lack of payroll, or any payroll integrations, seriously rules Zoho Books as an option for many businesses, solidifying QuickBooks Online’s place as the winner.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses in need of strong accounting, so much so that we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses. The software offers strong accounting, decent mobile apps, ample integrations, and beautiful invoicing. QuickBooks Online also has a unique new lending feature, QuickBooks Capital, so you can potentially have your small business accounting and financing all in one place.

However, just because we named QuickBooks Online the winner, doesn’t mean that Zoho Books isn’t the better choice for your business. Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses looking for an easy-to-use accounting software with strong mobile apps and plenty of features. It’s also a great choice if you need international invoicing. If you don’t require payroll or budgeting, you could save a chunk of change by going with Zoho Books instead of QuickBooks — plus, you’ll get much better customer support.

Or, maybe after reading this post, neither option seems right for you. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting software reviews can help you find the perfect bookkeeping solution 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 QuickBooks Online reviews for more information. Be sure to take advantage of the free trials each software provides and feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

The post Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce?

If you know anything about web development, you know about WordPress. WordPress is now the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, powering over 31% of websites globally. In fact, WordPress is the software behind the very website you’re currently on!

As an everyday WordPress user myself, I can say with confidence that WordPress is a great CMS for many purposes, including online selling. The software is open-source and popular, meaning that it’s fully customizable and that there are plug-ins available to extend the functionality of the software.

While it’s true that WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, several eCommerce plugins make it possible to transform your website into a full-fledged online store. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three of the most popular eCommerce software systems that work with WordPress.

But first, let’s take a look at WordPress as a stand-alone software.

Is WordPress Easy To Use?

WordPress is a very learnable software. The software is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of things. However, this initial learning process may take some time.

This is particularly true if you are new to web development. As open-source software, WordPress is not exactly plug-and-play. In order to get your site online, you’ll have to find your own web host and then install WordPress on your hosting account. In addition, you will be responsible for maintaining your site’s security.

Once you’ve finished setting everything up, you will find that when it comes to daily operations, WordPress is very usable.

As you consider using WordPress for your online store, you’ll have to keep in mind the pros and cons of the software. Here’s a quick breakdown of those advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Open Source: Because WordPress is open source, you have the freedom to modify the software however you choose. In addition, you can choose to sell your modifications to other users!
  • Free: WordPress is free to download and use. However, you should note that operating a website comes with other expenses. Take a look at our “Cons” list for more information.
  • Large User Community: With so many bloggers, sellers, and developers using WordPress, you can expect to find lively community forums in WordPress’s support resources. Get help from fellow users or purchase plug-ins from a wide range of developers.
  • Reliable Software: You can depend on WordPress as a glitch-free CMS.
  • Lots Of Plug-Ins Available: WordPress and third-party developers alike have put out thousands of plug-ins that you can purchase and install to add features to your platform.

Cons

  • For Do-It-Yourselfers Only: When you use WordPress, you will be responsible for managing your web hosting and site security.
  • Some Experience Required: You either must have some experience editing HTML/CSS or you must be willing to learn.
  • Limited Technical Support: WordPress offers some support via email and live chat. However, for the most part, you’re on your own when it comes to technical issues.
  • Common Target For Hackers: Open source software is often the target of security attacks. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any new security patches.
  • Difficult To Estimate Total Costs: Although WordPress is free to use, you will still have to pay the typical costs of operating a website. You’ll need to pay for hosting, an SSL certificate, a theme, and any plug-ins you choose to use.

Now you know a bit more about the usability of WordPress, let’s start talking about our favorite eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress! All three of the following plug-ins are affordable, easy-to-use, and easy to integrate with any WordPress website.

Let’s get started!

WooCommmerce

WooCommerce is a free, open source eCommerce plug-in that is designed specifically to be used with WordPress. WooCommerce fits businesses of all sizes, from startup to enterprise. In fact, WooCommerce has been downloaded over 48 million times, making it one of the most popular eCommerce solutions in the world.

WooCommerce is easy to incorporate into your WordPress site. All you have to do is install and activate the WooCommerce app in your “Plug-ins” tab. Activating this plug-in turns your blogging back-end into an online store admin. Take a look:

In this dashboard, you can manage everything for your online store. For example, you can create products, access pending orders, adjust shipping setting, enter product information, and set up inventory tracking.

WooCommerce provides enough features to handle all the basic operations of online selling. Everything else is available as an extension. Here are a few of the features built-in:

  • Sell Digital & Physical Products
  • Inventory Management Features
  • Shipping Calculator & Shipping Options (Pickup, Local Delivery, Calculated Shipping)
  • SEO Features
  • Coupons & Discounts

WooCommerce offers lots of themes to choose from. Most of these are designed by third-parties; however, WooCommerce also creates its own designs called “WooThemes.” We recommend you stick with these WooThemes as they tend to work best with WooCommerce updates. For the most part, in order to change large aspects of these designs, you will be required to edit the HTML and CSS.

Like WordPress, WooCommerce offers very limited customer support to their customers. You are mostly on your own. Fortunately, WooCommerce does have a detailed knowledge base as well as a supportive user community to help you through any difficulties.

We love WooCommerce for its customizability, its scalability, and of course, its price. To learn more about WooCommerce, take a look at our full review of the software. Or, download WooCommerce today to test it for yourself.

Ecwid

Another plug-in you might consider using is Ecwid. Ecwid is an eCommerce software that lets you incorporate shopping cart widgets–such as buy buttons or a full online store–into any pre-built website. Ecwid is a perfect solution for small to medium-sized businesses that want a simple way to add an online store to their website. Over one million merchants currently use Ecwid for their online selling.

Ecwid is a SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that although you have to find hosting for your WordPress site, hosting for your Ecwid store is already included. Instead, you’ll just have to pay a monthly price to use the software. This price depends primarily on the number of products you plan on listing. Each step up in pricing also includes more advanced features. Take a look below for a quick breakdown of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 10 Products
  • Venture: $15/Month
    • 100 Products
  • Business: $35/Month
    • 2,500 Products
  • Unlimited: $99/Month
    • Unlimited Products

To add Ecwid to your WordPress account, sign for an Ecwid account at ecwid.com. Then, install and activate the app in your WordPress dashboard. Completing these actions will let you make changes to your Ecwid store from WordPress.

Here’s a look at Ecwid’s dashboard within WordPress:

Alternatively, you can choose to manage your store from Ecwid’s own dashboard. Since the two programs are now connected, every change you make in Ecwid will be reflected in your WordPress site. Here’s Ecwid’s dashboard:

We recommend using Ecwid’s dashboard to manage your online store. We think Ecwid’s dashboard is more intuitive and easier to use in general.

Using Ecwid will give you access to many of the necessary selling features. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Buy Buttons
  • Multi-Channel Selling
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Promotions & Discounts
  • Sell Digital Products
  • Mobile Management App

Ecwid supplies users with one Starter Site theme that you can use to develop your storefront using drag-and-drop tools. There are also third-party themes available as well as HTML and CSS editors for more in-depth customization.

As is typical with SaaS solutions, Ecwid provides technical support through several channels. Your pricing plan will determine how you are able to reach customer support, whether that is through email, live chat, or phone. Everyone has access to a knowledge base and community support forums. Remember, Ecwid can only help with issues related to their software. They do not provide WordPress support.

Ecwid is a great solution for any merchant who’s looking for a simple way to sell products on their website. The app is easy to use with WordPress, it’s affordable, and it works. For more information, read our full review or sign up for Ecwid’s free plan to try it out.

Selz

Selz, selz review

Selz is another SaaS shopping cart solution that plugs into any website. Like Ecwid, Selz offers users both ease of use and versatility. Selz gives merchants the option of adding eCommerce features to any website in a variety of ways. You can choose to add an online store to an established website, embed buy buttons for select products, sell directly on social media, or set up a fully hosted online store.

Selz is designed for startups, artists, writers, and musicians, and the platform currently serves over 100,000 merchants worldwide. Ease of use is Selz’s strongest feature, which is wonderful for many beginning merchants.

On the other hand, sometimes Selz’s ease of use can be a limiting factor for sellers who are looking to grow. Selz does not offer many advanced features or integrations. Nevertheless, many sellers find that Selz fits their needs perfectly.

As a SaaS solution, Selz charges a monthly fee for the use of their software. There are four plans to choose from. These plans are organized by the number of products you plan to list. Additional features are available on higher level plans. Here’s a quick overview of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 5 Product Maximum
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Lite Plan: $19/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Standard Plan: $29/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Pro Plan: $49/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee
    • No Transaction Fee If Using Selz Pay

To add Selz to your WordPress site, you’ll have to create a Selz account and then install and activate the Selz app in your WordPress dashboard.

Then, head back into your Selz dashboard. Using this dashboard, you can create products and discounts, process orders, and manage shipping settings. In order to test your setup with WordPress, you should add at least one or two products.

Now, you can decide how you’d like to add eCommerce to your site, whether that’s via buy buttons or an entire online store. When you make your decision, you’ll just have to follow Selz’s instructions to add products to your WordPress site.

During my testing, I decided to add my entire Selz store to WordPress. I looked into Selz’s instructions, but I had a bit of difficulty locating the correct buttons. I eventually figured out that WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor was complicating the process. Selz has not yet updated their support documentation to provide instructions for this new WordPress version. When I switched back to WordPress’s older Classic Editor, I was able to quickly integrate my store.

While both WooCommerce and Ecwid give you access to store management features within your WordPress dashboard, this is not the case with Selz. In order to add new products, process orders, etc. you will have to log back into your Selz dashboard.

Selz offers the basic features you need for online selling. Although Selz focuses mostly on the basics, they do include a few advanced features such as abandoned cart recovery and digital downloads. Take a look at a few of Selz’s features:

  • Sell Anywhere
  • Sell Physical & Digital Products
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Pay What You Want
  • Discounts & Coupons
  • Multi-Currency Capabilities
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery

When it comes to web design, Selz users are all set. There are 25 beautiful, image-focused designs to choose from, and they’re all free. Users can customize these designs by using the drag-and-drop editor or the HTML/CSS editors.

Support is available for all Selz users in the form of 24/7 live chat and email. There is also a Help Center full of useful documentation for users who prefer a do-it-yourself approach. As always, you’ll have to keep in mind that while Selz representatives love to help you use their software, they can’t help when it comes to WordPress difficulties.

Selz is a perfect solution for makers and startups who want to get their online stores started quickly. In particular, Selz works well for merchants who want to offer lots of digital products. If this sounds like you, head over to our full Selz review for more information. Or, you can take a look at Selz yourself.

Final Thoughts

So, is WordPress easy to use for eCommerce? We certainly think so, especially when you use the right eCommerce plug-in.

Take a deeper look at any of the three options we present above, and don’t be afraid to test out the plug-ins before you commit. All of these eCommerce solutions offer a free platform (or free download) so you can integrate the software with your WordPress site without paying a dime. And if you decide it isn’t a good fit for you, it’s easy to deactivate the integration. In fact, it just takes a few clicks.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to our reviews or sign up for one of these shopping carts and get testing!

The post Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Register Review

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They were one of the first give companies chosen by ICANN to participate in the initial test phase of the new competitive shared registry system, making them one of the oldest and most established domain registrar companies in the game outside of Network Solutions.

Aside from domain purchasing and management, Register.com offers a range of products, from marketing to hosting to web design. Their main pitch is that their services and solutions cover all ranges of business sizes and especially help small businesses build their web presence without the need for technical experience.

Given Register.com has a certain level of brand recognition and clout, I decided to try them out as a domain registrar. Here’s my Register.com review – structured with pros & cons based on my recent experience as a customer.

Skip to the conclusion & next steps here.

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.

Pros of Register.com

There are a lot of Register.com reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience and expertise. Just because one company is not a good fit for you does not mean it’s not a good fit for someone else.

Register.com is different. Their only pro is their brand name and corporate history. They do offer domain registration & web services, but they simply do not excel at providing any value beyond the assurance of their brand name.

Based on my professional opinion, they are a classic case of a company coasting on their name while other companies out-compete on raw value.

Even for “meh” companies, I try to pull out some reasons to choose them over others. But I really could not find a single reason to use Register.com over someone else besides their brand recognition and positioning. I liken Register.com to finding a McDonald’s at an Interstate exit in the middle of Kansas. Even if you dislike everything about McDonald’s, if it’s the only recognizable option and you’re hungry, you’d probably choose them.

But the Internet is not a highway exit in Kansas. There are so many other choices that are just a click away. Which means while Register.com carries corporate clout, that clout doesn’t outweigh the lack of value.

If you’re curious about the details, I’ll cover more in the cons section below. If not, you can skip to the conclusion and next steps for alternative options.

Register.com Cons

Convoluted Domain Buying Experience

The actual process of buying a domain from Register.com is pretty horrendous, especially compared to the big leaps in UX that other companies have made..

For starters, when you search for a domain, Register.com automatically adds it to your cart if it’s available without showing any pricing information. Even if I search for just the root of a domain and don’t specify the TLD, the .com version is still automatically added without me knowing the price.

There also isn’t pricing information for suggested domains. This complete lack of transparency with pricing is one of the company’s biggest flaws (more on that in a bit).

register.com domain registration process

Next, I tried to see my cart to view pricing info, but I was forced to create an account first. Personally, this makes me uneasy. I’m already feeling iffy with the lack of pricing transparency and the auto add to cart… now I can’t even review my cart without signing up with Register.com? No bueno.

register.com account sign up process

Once I was able to finally see my cart contents, I learned my domain would cost $5, but I have to pay an additional $11 for private domain registration. There appears to be a discount applied, but to get details you’ll have to click through for more information.

register.com pricing discount

However, with the information provided, I have no idea how much it will cost me to renew my domain each year.

Register.com Renewals

Aside from the pricing issues, the checkout process was also littered with upsells. Which brings me to…

Upsells

When a domain registrar offers complementary products (like hosting, website builders, etc.), I expect some upselling. It’s not inherently bad or annoying — it’s an option for customers who want complementary products but also keeps prices low for those who don’t.

So when I see a registrar is upselling, I try to pay special attention to how. Is it subtle and user-friendly? Or does it stall what I’m actually trying to accomplish?

Register.com does two things wrong with upsells. First, they appear at nearly every opportunity instead of only when I’m looking (AKA at checkout or in an upgrade section). Plus, the upsells in checkout impede my progress (there were at least two upsells I had to click through before I could enter my payment information).

Register.com Upsell 1 Register.com Upsell 2

Second, their messaging for many upsells is so oversimplified, it’s misleading. Take this messaging about my online effectiveness score…

Register.com upsell messaging

The combination of oversimplified and frequent upsells is both annoying and makes me wonder who they’re really looking out for.

Pricing

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest cons of Register.com is their lack of transparency in their pricing. I couldn’t find a full list of prices for TLDs, and when I searched for domains, none of the options provided had prices listed.

register.com pricing info for TLDs

Unfortunately, the complications don’t end there.

When I purchased my first domain, I could get a few basic TLDs (.com, .org, etc.) for $5 with a first-time discount that applied to my first three domains.

However, if you log back in during a new session, you’ll have to manually enter the promo code, and if you try to create a new account, you may not get the promo — it appears Register.com aggressively tag new users with cookies to prevent promotions.

After that promo was up, my next .com domain was $38 plus an additional $11 for privacy.

register.com pricing after promo

This is outrageously expensive for a simple domain. Even a big brand like GoDaddy will sell a .com domain at $11.99 and renew at $14.99, while more up and coming brands like Namecheap will sell at $2.98 and renew at 12.98 for .com domains.

Transparency (Or Lack Thereof)

All of Register.com’s cons can essentially be summed up into one glaring issue: a lack of transparency. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of domain pricing by TLD, nor could I find a comprehensive list of TLD options. I couldn’t check out without upsells, but it’s unclear which upsells I really need due to oversimplified messaging.

All in all, the experience made me very wary of Register.com. I’m all about information — I like to know what to expect and to compare options. When there’s such an obvious lack of information, it makes me wonder why that info isn’t provided.

Conclusion + Next Steps

Overall, I was throw by how bad Register.com was. I figured for a company that carries such brand recognition, surely there has to be some value… but I really couldn’t find anything besides their corporate name. If you are still sold on them, go check them out here.

But remember… this isn’t an interstate exit in Kansas with only one recognizable option! So with that said…

If you still want to purchase domains from a well-known brand but want some deep discounts, check out GoDaddy here.

If you prefer an overall excellent domain registrar with the best long-term pricing, then I recommend checking out NameCheap here.

And if you want to just get a domain with your hosting company to keep everything convenient, then take my hosting quiz to find the right company for you.

Register.com

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They offer domain registration and complementary products such as hosting and website builders.
Register.com Review
Date Published: 08/28/2018
Register.com is a classic example of a company riding on its name while getting outdone by other companies who are competing on raw value. Their lack of transparency and high prices make them a poor choice for a domain registrar.
1 / 5 stars

The post Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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ShippingEasy VS Ordoro

ShippingEasy VS Ordoro
✓ Pricing
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
✓  Customer Service & Technical Support
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Winner Final Verdict
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Compare

Every online seller knows that one of the best ways to keep your prices low is to keep your shipping costs low. And in order to do that, you need a robust shipping software that can help you find the best shipping rates every time.

ShippingEasy and Ordoro are two such shipping software apps. Both of these services are SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, meaning that they are fully-hosted programs that you can access through a monthly subscription. But the similarities don’t stop there. Both companies have headquarters in Austin, TX and both offer steep discounts on shipping rates. And most importantly, both software give merchants the power to easily generate shipping labels and purchase and print postage.

So, how do you choose between them?

In this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at both ShippingEasy and Ordoro to see what they have to offer in terms of features, ease of use, customer service, and pricing. Keep reading to learn how these two programs stack up again each other and discover which option is best for your business.

Pricing

Winner: ShippingEasy

Pricing for both ShippingEasy and Ordoro is based on the number of orders you ship per month. Pricing increases as you ship more orders. Moving up the pricing scale will also give you access to stronger customer support options and more advanced features.

Here’s a quick breakdown of ShippingEasy’s pricing scale:

Starter

  • $0/Month
  • 50 Shipments/Month

Basic

  • $29/Month
  • 500 Shipments/Month

Plus

  • $49/Month
  • 1,500 Shipments/Month

Select

  • $69/Month
  • 3,000 Shipments/Month

Premium

  • $99/Month
  • 6,000 Shipments/Month

ShippingEasy has an enterprise level plan for merchants with over 6,000 shipments/month. Enterprise is available for $149/month.

ShippingEasy also offers features for customer relationship management and inventory management at an additional monthly cost. These additional costs range from $3/month to $50/month for each service.

Ordoro offers their services in two forms: Basic and Pro. Basic includes features for shipping only. Pro plans include features for shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro has a free plan available that comes with only email support. Paid plans include both email and phone support.

Basic: Shipping Only

  • Free
    • 50 Orders/Month
    • 1 Sales Channel
    • 1 User
  • $25/Month
    • 700 Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users
  • $49/Month
    • 3,000 Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Logos On Shipping Labels
      • User Permissions
  • $129/Month
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Multiple Ship-From Locations

Pro: Shipping + Inventory Management + Dropshipping

  • $299/Month
    • 1,500 Orders/Month
    • 5 Sales Channels
    • 5 Users
  • $499/Month
    • 4,000 Orders/Month
    • 7 Sales Channels
    • 7 Users
  • Enterprise (Pricing By Quote)
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users

Pricing is comparable between the two apps, and they both offer similar features at similar price points. However, ShippingEasy is a bit more affordable when you consider the add-on features of customer management and inventory management. These features cost just a few dollars more with ShippingEasy compared to the minimum $299/month you’d have to pay to get these features on an Ordoro Pro plan.

Ease Of Use

Winner: ShippingEasy

With a name like ShippingEasy, I had high hopes that the software would be a breeze to use. Fortunately, ShippingEasy lives up to its name. I had no trouble at all learning to use the software during my initial trial.

Setting up my free 30-day trial was a simple process. When I connected my ShippingEasy account with my Shopify shopping cart, all my orders transferred over immediately.

To process orders, just click “Create Shipments.” Then, click on the “Shipments” tab and set up your shipping parameters. Those parameters include the carrier, postage rate, packaging, and weight. Once you’ve done all that, you can purchase and print your postage

On this page, you have to option to print a shipping label, a packing slip, or both.

Ordoro is similarly user-friendly. The dashboard is clean and simple.

When you link your account to your eCommerce platform, your orders will automatically import in. All new orders will transfer within an hour of the time they are placed.

You can then select any pending orders (individually or in bulk) and start processing. When you select an order, you’ll be presented with a shipping and return label generator on the side of your screen.

Then, you can select a carrier, a package type, and a shipping method to create a shipping label.

Try out Ordoro for yourself with a free 15-day trial. You have to hand over some basic information and a credit card number to sign up, but you’ll only be billed in you stay beyond your first 15 days. Don’t forget both ShippingEasy and Ordoro also have free plans that you can sign up for instead.

While both of these shipping programs are very user-friendly, I prefer ShippingEasy’s dashboard. I think it’s just a little more intuitive.

Features

Winner: Ordoro

All ShippingEasy users have access to shipping features. Customer management and inventory management features are available at additional cost.

Shipping

  • Low Rates: ShippingEasy partners with the USPS to provide savings up to 46%.
  • Multi-Channel: Manage orders from multiple sales platforms in one dashboard. Upload orders in bulk using a pre-built integration or using CSV files.
  • Automatic Emails: Send automatic emails when orders ship. Include your branding in those emails.
  • Shipping Rules: Automate your order fulfillment process with shipping rules
  • Batch Order Processing: Generate and print multiple shipping labels with one click.
  • Returns: Send scan-based return labels or email out return labels upon request.
  • Customs Forms: Ship internationally with automatically generated customs forms.

Inventory Management & Customer Management

If you subscribe to a plan that grants you inventory and customer management, you’ll have access to a few more features. Set low stock alerts, create purchase orders, enable multichannel customer management, and utilize email marketing.

In the same way, all Ordoro users can use the shipping features. Dropshipping and inventory management features come at an extra expense.

Shipping

  • Batch Printing: Process hundreds of orders at once.
  • Discounted Rates: A partnership with USPS provides discounts of up to 67%.
  • Multi-Channel Capabilities: Manage everything in one place.
  • Shipment Tracking: View tracking information and forward tracking numbers to your customers when their orders ship.

Dropshipping & Inventory Management

Ordoro’s dropshipping features let users dropship through multiple suppliers with ease. Inventory management features let you sync inventory, set stock thresholds, and create purchase orders.

Ordoro’s dropshipping features get a whole lot of love from their user base. Merchants who use Shopify as their shopping cart are especially fond of those features.

We think Ordoro’s dropshipping features give them a slight advantage over ShippingEasy. Ordoro is the winner here!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

ShippingEasy and Ordoro both integrate with eCommerce’s most popular software. You can find pre-built integrations to the leading shopping cart software, accounting software, and shipping carriers.

These solutions include the following:

eCommerce Platforms

  • Shopify
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • BigCommerce

Accounting

  • Xero
  • Intuit Quickbooks

Carriers

  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • DHL

ShippingEasy and Ordoro also both have APIs that your developers can use to build any connection that the software does not already include.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: ShippingEasy

ShippingEasy offers customer support through a variety of avenues. While the free plan only allows access to self-help support, every paid plan includes personalized support via phone and support tickets. ShippingEasy’s self-help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, and a blog. Users say representatives are helpful, friendly, and quick to respond. My own experience lines up with these reviews.

Ordoro also offers support via self-help resources in addition to phone and email. While I’m glad Ordoro provides various ways to contact support, I was a bit disappointed by some of the pages in their documentation. I found that a few articles and videos were out of date. Fortunately, Ordoro users report that the company’s support reps are top notch.

This category is closely matched, but ultimately we’re awarding the category to ShippingEasy. All of their documentation is up to date with the current software version.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both ShippingEasy and Ordoro get plenty of praise online. Review boards are full of positive reviews of both software; however, neither service gets many negative reviews. Here’s what the very few negative reviews I’ve found have to say about each software.

Users on ShippingEasy complain that there is a slight learning curve to getting started with the software. In addition, they say some features could be improved or adjusted to make workflow smoother.

A few of the cons I personally encountered with Ordoro include the outdated documentation I mentioned earlier as well as the limited features included in the software’s basic plans. In order to access dropshipping, kitting, and inventory management features, you have to be on at least the Pro plan at $299/month. While it is true that you must pay to access these features on ShippingEasy as well, they are much cheaper with ShippingEasy (the highest price for customer management and inventory management is $50/month each).

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

As I’ve said, reviews of ShippingEasy and Ordoro are overwhelmingly positive.

Users of ShippingEasy love that the software is easy to use and that it integrates with lots of popular platforms and marketplaces. They also praise ShippingEasy’s support team for their excellent and speedy assistance.

Merchants who ship with Ordoro are fans of both the support team and of Ordoro’s multiple integrations. In addition, users love Ordoro’s dropshipping features, especially in connection with Shopify.

How can you choose a winner for this category? We’re calling a tie.

Final Verdict

Winner: ShippingEasy

In the end, ShippingEasy emerges the victor of this matchup. This app’s stellar customer service, ease of use and pricing make it a formidable opponent in any comparison. To find out if ShippingEasy could work for your unique business, take a closer look at the software with our full review or by signing up for a trial yourself.

And while you’re at it, you might as well look into Ordoro as well. Ordoro matches ShippingEasy in many areas, only barely falling behind in our comparison. They also offer a free trial so you can test out the software before you commit, or you can read our full review.

Whatever you choose, we hope these shipping software solutions help you move product more efficiently and profitably!

The post ShippingEasy VS Ordoro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Mint VS Quicken

Managing personal finances can be hard, and choosing the right personal accounting tool can seem even harder. That’s why we’re here to compare two of the most popular personal finance management tools out there: Mint and Quicken.

Mint is a cloud-based, easy to use finance tool that’s been around since 2007. The software was acquired by Intuit in 2009 and today it features expense tracking, investment tracking, budgeting, planning, and more. Mint also offers well-developed mobile apps, so you can easily check your spending on the go. The icing on the cake? Mint is completely free.

Quicken has been the big name in personal accounting from the beginning. Created in 1988, this software was also run by Intuit until 2016 when it was acquired by H.I.G. Capital. Quicken offers an incredible number of features and amazing customer support. Although Quicken is a locally-installed software, there are still mobile apps available.

But which software is better? And more importantly, which is right for you? That’s what we’re here 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 put Mint and Quicken head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Mint VS Quicken
Features ✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

✓

Ease Of Use

✓

Mobile Apps
Customer Service & Support ✓
Negative Reviews & Complaints ✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Integrations ✓

✓

Security

?

And The Overall Winner Is… ?

Features

Winner: Quicken

Mint Quicken

Expenses Tracking

✓

✓

Transactions Imported Automatically

✓

✘

Income Tracking

✓

✓

Spending Trends

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✘

✓

Manage Bills

✓

✓

Online Bill Pay

✘

✓

Budgeting

✓

✓

Savings Goals

✓

✓

Property Management

✓

✓

Investment Tracking

✓

✓

Reports

✘

✓

Credit Score

✓

✓

Debt Reduction Planner

✘

✓

Print Checks

✘

✓

In many ways, the programs are similar. Each offers income and expense tracking, bill management,  budgeting, credit score checks, and investment tracking. However, while Mint offers a ton of great features, Quicken’s features are far more developed.

For example, Mint only allows you to create one budget and it has to be for the current month, while Quicken allows you to create multiple budgets for the current month, next month, quarter, or year. Quicken also offers additional features like bank reconciliation, reports, a debt reduction planner, and online bill pay.

Pricing

Winner: Mint

Mint is completely free to use. There are no monthly payments or hidden fees. The software makes money by advertising credit cards, Turbo Tax, and investment accounts to users.

While you can’t beat free, Quicken is still an affordable option. Quicken offers three pricing plans that range from $34.99 – $74.99/year. The company also often sells the software at a discount. Still, Mint is the cheapest way to manage your personal finances.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Mint

As cloud-based software, Mint is compatible with nearly any computer, so long as you have an internet connection.

Quicken has more specific software requirements as the program is locally-installed onto a single computer. Quicken is compatible with:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 10
  • Macs with El Capitan 10.11+

Mint wins this category since its requirements are less strict, making it accessible for nearly any user.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Mint

Mint is the clear winner here. Mint has a beautiful, modern UI that is easy to navigate. The features are intuitive and well-organized, and the software offers time-saving automations as well. Quicken is also well-organized, but the UI is a bit more dated and some features are unitive and difficult to figure out.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Mint

Both Mint and Quicken have mobile apps for Apple and Android products. However, Mint’s mobile apps receive much more positive attention from customers, and Quicken’s apps receive low ratings on both iTunes and Google Play. If mobility is one of the key factors in your personal accounting software decision, then Mint is the clear winner.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Quicken

Quicken not only has better support but also has far more support options. Quicken offers phone support, in-software help, tons of guides, a help center, a community forum, and live chat. In my experience, phone wait times were short and most representatives were knowledgeable and helpful.

Mint, on the other hand, offers very few customer support options. And if you need to talk to an actual person, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to make do with live chat and FAQs. It’s easy to see who the winner is here.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Quicken

This is one category Quicken should not want to win. Quicken has far more customer complaints. Most complaints are from long-time users who don’t like Quicken’s new subscription pricing structure. Though there are complaints about glitches, issues loading transactions, and limited mobile apps as well.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Mint

While both programs have many satisfied users, Mint has more positive reviews and a higher percentage of positive to negative reviews. Mint users love the software’s usability, price, feature set, and mobility.

Integrations

Winner: Quicken

Both Mint and Quicken connect with thousands of banks and online lenders so that you can track your spending and upcoming bills. However, in terms of additional add-ons, Quicken offers seven, while Mint only offers two.

Security

Winner: Mint

This category is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. With a locally-installed software like Quicken, you are responsible for keeping your data secure. Quicken does use data encryption for the data involved in its online features, and the software offers password protection for your Quicken files, but other than that, you’re on your own.

As a cloud-based software, Mint has security built-in from the beginning. We figure that for most people, the convenience of having security taken care of for you outweighs all of the extra efforts of securing your locally-installed software.

And The Overall Winner Is…

Winner: Quicken

Quicken Review

With advanced features, good customer support, and affordable pricing, Quicken is ultimately the better software. However, I still have a hard time naming this tried-and-true program the absolute winner. Unlike most software comparisons we do, in this case, it’s not about which software is better. It’s about what type of person you are.

For people looking for a detailed way to actively manage every aspect of their finances, Quicken is a great choice. It is ideal for users who are used to QuickBooks or who enjoy the complexity of locally-installed software.  If you want to create multiple budgets, track savings goals, and run reports, Quicken has far more to offer than Mint.

For people who want a simpler way to keep their spending in check and manage the basics of their finances, Mint is the winner. It is ideal for users who like cloud-based software and strong mobile apps that can keep up with a mobile lifestyle.

In the end, it all comes down to the level of detail you want and what type of software you’re more comfortable with.

More Accounting Options:

Compare Top Accounting Software

See All Accounting Reviews

The post Mint VS Quicken appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application

Improve Business Loan Application

The loan application process can seem overwhelming at times. But keep in mind that all lenders want to know is that you can pay back the loan. Your application is the perfect place to prove that you can and will repay your loans successfully. Filling out a loan application is about being prepared and putting your best foot forward. It’s important to “sell” lenders by convincing them that your business is reliable, profitable, and going places. According to Entrepreneur, potential borrowers should:

Think of your loan application as a sales tool, just like your brochures or ads. When you put together the right combination of facts and figure, your application will sell your lender on the short- and long-term profit potential of lending money to your business.

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best tips, tricks, and practices for improving your business loan application. By knowing how to optimize your loan application, you can improve your chances of getting the loan you want. Here are 20 practical tips for nailing the loan application process and increasing your chances of securing a small business loan.

1. Have A Plan

Lenders want you to demonstrate that you have a clear purpose and an actionable plan for your business loan. If you simply say you need $50,000 without giving a reason, most lenders will shoot you down right then and there. Instead, be as specific as possible about your plans for the loan. Explain that you need $50,000 to purchase a new piece of equipment that will double your production efficiency, for example.

Here are some common reasons that small businesses give when they apply for additional funding:

  • Business expansion
  • Purchasing inventory
  • Updating equipment
  • Hiring or training new employees
  • Increasing cash flow

In short, when filling out your loan application, be sure to give a reason why you need the loan and discuss how the loan will benefit your business in detail.

2. Choose A Realistic Borrowing Amount

For your application to be successful, it’s vital to be realistic about how much cash your business needs. Don’t ask for too much, and don’t underestimate expenses or costs and ask for too little.

Don’t guess, in other words. Sit down and crunch the numbers. If you need a loan to purchase new equipment for your business, research exactly how much that equipment costs, including tax, shipping and handling, implementation, and/or any training required to use it.

Lenders want to work with realistic, responsible borrowers who know, to the cent, how much money they need to achieve their goals and grow their business.

3. Calculate Your Monthly Payments

A lender’s biggest question is always “can you pay back the loan?” If you can’t satisfactorily prove that you can repay the loan, you’re out of luck.

Lenders evaluate whether you can afford monthly loan repayments by using the debt service coverage ratio and the debt-to-income ratio. Both ratios are used to determine how risky your business is and if you can afford to pay back the loan or not.

  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): Measures the relationship between your business’s income and debt. Since the DSCR measures how much excess cash your business has after meeting its financial obligations, the higher your DSCR, the better. A DSCR of 1.25 or higher indicates that you have enough cash flow to run your business, while still having money left over to take on new debt.
  • Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI): Measures the relationship between your personal income and debt as the business owner. Since the DTI indicates how much of your income is designated to debt, the lower the DTI, the better. A DTI ratio of 36% or lower is ideal as it shows that you can afford to comfortably take on loan repayments.

Note: Most lenders rely predominantly on the debt service coverage ratio to judge small business loan eligibility. However, sole proprietors and freelancers are not separate legal entities, so lenders will use your DTI to determine your creditworthiness.

These ratios provide a good indication that you can (or can’t) take on more debt. Before turning in your loan application, calculate your own DSCR and DTI scores. Making sure your DSCR and DTI ratios are ideal will increase your chances of impressing a lender. You can also use these ratios to find out exactly how much you can afford to repay each month, which can help you be realistic about your borrowing amount.

Read our posts Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR and Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower Your DTI to learn more.

4. Find The Right Type Of Loan

All loans are not created equal. To improve your chances of securing a loan, make sure you’re applying for the right kind of funding for your business.

Here are the most common types of business loans:

  • Installment Loan: An installment loan, or term loan, is issued in one lump sum and paid back in regular intervals or installments, plus interest.
  • Short-Term Loan: A short-term loan is issued in a lump sum and paid back in regular intervals over a short period of time. Instead of earning interest, short-term loans have a fixed fee that is added to the repayment amount.
  • Line of Credit: With a line of credit, a lender grants you a certain amount of money that you can draw from as needed.
  • Merchant Cash Advance: While not technically a loan, a merchant cash advance is a type of financing in which businesses sell their future receivables for immediate cash.
  • Invoice Factoring: While not technically a loan, invoice financing is the practice of selling unpaid invoices at a discount in return for immediate cash.

Carefully choose which small business lending method is right for you. Don’t waste your time filling out applications for loans that aren’t suited for your business. Improve your chances of getting approved by applying for the right type of loan.

To learn more about the pros and cons of each loan and to decide which is right for you, download our free Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans.

5. Find The Right Lender

Finding the right lender can make or break your chances of being approved for a business loan. Each lender offers different types of loans and has different borrower requirements. Some only lend to established businesses, while others lend to startups. Some only work with businesses that have good credit, while others care more about your annual income. You get the picture.

Carefully researching each lender and their requirements can help you know if you qualify for a loan before putting in all the effort of completing an application.

If you aren’t sure which lender is right for you, check out our small business loan comparison chart or read through our selection of small business loan reviews.

6. Understand The Loan Process

Lenders want to work with responsible, experienced borrowers. Increase their trust in you by having a good understanding of how loans work. Not only does this show that you know what you’re doing, it makes the application process go more smoothly. According to Forbes:

The more educated you are about small business lending options and procedures, the more likely you will be successful in obtaining a loan.

If you’re asking a lender what an interest rate is or to explain the difference between a term loan and a line of credit, it’s time to go back to the basics. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans.

7. Have A Strong Business Credit Score

Another key to a strong loan application is having a healthy credit score. Lenders use credit scores to determine that your business is trustworthy and able to pay its loans on time. Having strong credit will not only increase your chances of being approved for a loan, it can also qualify you for better loans with more favorable terms and rates.

Read our Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score to make your credit score — and loan application — even stronger.

8. Don’t Forget Your Personal Credit Score

Lenders don’t just look at your business credit score; they also look at your personal credit score when applying for a loan. Lenders want to establish your character as a borrower to see if you are trustworthy and pay your debts on time. This is especially true if you are required to sign a personal guarantee.

Improve your loan application by having great business and personal credit scores. Improving your personal credit may take some time, but will be more than worth it when applying for a loan. Read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score to master your credit score and wow potential lenders.

9. Know What’s On Your Credit Report

When applying for a loan, be sure to know your credit report forward and backward. Lenders will look at your credit report to evaluate your credit history before approving you for a loan. If you know there’s negative activity on your report, explain it to your lender in your application. This may not always make up for the poor credit report, but it might make lenders understand your situation better.

10. Pay Off Existing Debt First

We know you’re probably foaming at the bit to get business funding, but paying off existing debt before applying for a loan could be the key to securing a loan in some situations.

If you already have substantial debt, a lender is far less likely to approve your loan application for fear that you won’t be able to keep up with the repayments. Not only will paying off existing debt show lenders that you mean business and have a good credit history, it will also increase your debt service coverage ratio and lower your debt-in-income ratio, leaving you with more cash to use on a new loan.

11. Increase Your DSCR

Paying off your existing debt isn’t the only way to increase your debt service coverage ratio. If you want to increase your DSCR and show lenders that you have plenty of cash to afford a loan, here are some additional tips:

  • Increase your net operating income
  • Decrease your net operating expenses
  • Decrease your borrowing amount

Finding ways to cut back on operating expenses and increase your sales income will boost your DSCR. In some cases, your DSCR may not need a boost. If your operating income and expenses are already optimized, or if you don’t have time to implement changes before applying for a loan, consider decreasing your desired borrowing amount. Maybe you can’t afford payments on the $100,000 loan you need to replace the entire company’s computer systems, but you can afford payments on a $50,000 loan to replace the equipment for your executives and sales team. Lenders will only approve loan applications for loans when they know that you can afford the payments.

12. Offer Up Collateral

Many lenders have specific collateral requirements. If you don’t have the assets to meet those requirements, you’re much less likely to have your loan application approved. Be sure to carefully research your lender’s borrower requirements to see exactly what collateral they require. Some may require specific assets, while others may simply require a blanket lien or personal guarantee. Be sure that your business can meet these requirements and feels comfortable in doing so.

Once you’ve decided on what collateral your business can offer up, prepare a document outlining each asset offered. Include this in your business loan application to show lenders that you take your business seriously and have something to lose if you default on the loan. Lenders aren’t evil monsters, lying in wait for you to default so they can steal your assets — they just need an assurance that they won’t lose all of their money if you can’t repay your loan. The hope is that you will be more likely to pay your loan back with your collateral at stake.

To learn more about collateral, check out these resources:

  • Secured Vs. Unsecured Business Loans
  • Should I Sign A Personal Guarantee?
  • What Is A UCC Blanket Lien?

13. Prepare The Proper Documents

To complete your loan application, lenders require certain documents to verify your business’s financial history and validity. The documents required vary by lender, but here’s an idea of types of things they might ask for:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Bank statements
  • Income sheet
  • Profit & loss report
  • Statement of owner’s equity
  • Tax returns
  • Collateral documentation
  • Business licenses and registrations
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Commercial licenses
  • Franchise agreements
  • Business history and business owners’ history
  • Owners’ resumes or background

Your lender may not require all of these, but having the above documents prepared before applying for your loan can help the application process proceed more quickly. Gathering these documents ahead of time can also help you have a better understanding of your business’s financial state — always good information to have before seeking business funding!

14. Create A Cash Flow Projection

Lenders don’t just analyze your business’s financial past; they also want to see that you have a promising future. One of the best ways to promote faith in your business’s future is to add a cash flow projection to your loan application.

A cash flow projection, or cash flow forecast, is an estimation of your business’s future operating income and expenses. The best way to create a cash flow projection is to realistically predict your future expenses and sales. Use your past cash flow statements as a jumping-off point so you aren’t just winging it.

To learn more about how creating a cash flow projection can benefit your business, read our article How To Calculate And Analyze Business Cash Flow.

15. Use Accounting Software

Before applying for a loan, you need to have a solid understanding of your business’s financial state and a firm grasp on managing cash flow. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using accounting software. Accounting software will track your income and expenses so you can know exactly how much you’re spending and how much is left to use on a loan.

In addition, accounting software can help you run the reports required by lenders, such as the income statement, profit and loss, and cash flow statements. If you need help finding the perfect accounting software for your business, check out our comprehensive accounting software reviews and compare our top favorite accounting software programs.

16. Create A Business Plan

While not always required by lenders, a business plan can earn you a gold star and shows a lender that you are organized, prepared, and responsible. A strong business plan also allows you to further demonstrate why you need a business loan and exactly how it will benefit your business.

Additionally, a business plan lets you present realistic repayment plans, which assures lenders that you have thought of a strategy for repaying your loan. Many business loan specialists recommend making a repayment plan as well as multiple backup plans, just in case.

17. Be Professional

This should go without saying, but here’s a friendly PSA: Being professional in all of your communications with a potential lender is incredibly important. Whether you’re interacting in person, over the phone, online, or through your loan application itself, be sure to put your best foot forward. This is the difference between being a C student and an A student, which in the business world equates to getting a loan or not getting a loan.

As we mentioned earlier, lenders care about character. Show a potential lender that you are professional, kind, and put together. Always spellcheck your work and ensure that every section of your application is filled out properly. Have all of the required documents ready for when your lender needs them.

And, don’t forget that honesty is one of the most important aspects of a strong character. It’s easy to fib to try and make your business’s situation sound better, but this will only hurt you in the end. Lenders aren’t stupid. They can tell if you’re lying and can easily see when the financial statements don’t add up. Don’t ruin your chance of getting approved for a loan. Instead, be honest and trust that your character and business expertise are enough.

18. Wait Until The Market Is Good

This may seem backward, but don’t wait until you are in dire need of money to try to get a line of credit. Apply for a line of credit when the economy is booming and your business is successful. This way, when you do need to draw on a line of credit, you’ll already have the funds available.

You are much more likely to be approved for a loan if your business is healthy and has excess cash flow — and you’re more likely to get favorable rates and better terms to boot.

19. Don’t Ignore Social Media

For many lenders, it isn’t all about the money. They also want to know that you and your business have a good reputation. For this reason, many lenders review your business’s social media platforms and sites like Yelp before approving your loan. If they like what they see — good customer service, positive reviews, an effort to respond to and correct poor reviews — they can trust that your business has good character. If they see any red flags, they may decline your application altogether.

Treat others like you want to be treated using your social media, and lenders may be that much more likely to “treat you” to a business loan.

20. Seek Extra Help

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

If you are still worried about your loan application or want a second opinion, you can always seek professional assistance. Organizations like SBDC and SCORE are designed specifically to offer small business advice; your local chapter may be able to assist you in bettering your loan application. You can also have an accountant view your loan application and financial documents. They can help make sure everything is in order and raise any potential red flags that lenders would be concerned about.

Note: Some lenders actually require you to have your loan application reviewed or audited by an accountant. Make sure you know your lender’s policy before submitting your loan application.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered twenty practical steps you can take to improve your business’s loan application. Now, when you finally send in your application, you can rely on more than crossing your fingers. Don’t guess or trust to luck. By optimizing your loan application and knowing exactly what lenders are looking for, you significantly increase your chances of getting approved.

If you are still looking for the right lender, check out our top-rated lenders. Best of luck!

The post 20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Advertise on Yelp Effectively

How to Advertise on Yelp Effectively

Word of mouth has always been one of the most powerful tools businesses have at their disposal to increase business. But, since word of mouth is as much a phenomena as it is an actual method for driving sales to your business, it’s always been difficult or impossible to achieve at scale.

As a business that strives to provide exemplary service to your customers, it’s not uncommon for you to develop a loyal following that’s eager to share your business with their friends and family. Unfortunately, this advocacy can only take you as far as that person’s network.

This is where Yelp comes in. In a nutshell, Yelp is like a megaphone for word of mouth. Your business’ page on Yelp provides essential information about your business, including real reviews from your customers.

Now, what people are saying about your business can extend far beyond their network, and everyone viewing your page on Yelp will be able to say what your customers are saying about you.

This can be an exceptionally powerful tool for you to leverage. But, succeeding as an advertiser on Yelp isn’t quite as simple as claiming your business page and paying for ads. Before jumping in, there are several things you’ll need to consider.

Today, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about Yelp, how it relates to your business and the different ways you may be able to use Yelp as a tool to drive new business through your doors.

Over 74 million people use Yelp on their computer each month, with another 70 million accessing Yelp from their mobile site. Yelp also has over 30 million monthly users of their app.

Virtually every business, from restaurants and eateries to mechanics, salons, doctors, dentists, boutiques and more have a page on Yelp.

A businesses Yelp page features basic contact information such as the business’ phone, address, and website as well as user-generated content that includes reviews, photos, and more.

Through organic growth and acquisitions of businesses like Qype and CityVox, Yelp has bolstered their worldwide presence, and it’s become a popular service throughout Europe and Asia, in addition to North America.

According to Yelp, two things make their platform particularly appealing to businesses of all sizes. First, Yelp users are actively engaged in the buying cycle when they visit Yelp. They have already decided on what they need, and are now trying to find the business who can best provide it to them.

People rarely use Yelp to conduct research or learn more about a product or business. Instead, they use Yelp when they’re prepared to make a purchase. So, the people viewing a business’ Yelp page are generally more likely to make a purchase. In fact, 82% of Yelp users use the site or app when they’re intent on making a purchase, and over 89% of them make that purchase within one week.

The other aspect of Yelp that’s so attractive to businesses are the demographics of Yelp users. About 50% of Yelp users have an income greater than $100k per year, and over 75% have at least some college background. Over 70% of users are age 18-54. For most businesses, this represents an ideal customer: they’re young, wealthy, and looking to spend money.

The thing that drives Yelp’s growth, and continues to keep people coming back to the site are the quality reviews of all kinds of businesses. Yelp currently has over 155 million reviews, and that number grows each day.

Whether a Yelp user is looking for a new restaurant to try in their neighborhood, an honest mechanic, or cool things to do on vacation, they turn to Yelp because they trust the reviews to steer them in the right direction.

New York City locksmith, who was able to grow his small locksmithing business from very humble beginnings into a thriving business thanks in part to customers who saw his ads on Yelp.

In general, high ROI businesses like home service professionals, doctors, and dentists offices tend to have the highest potential for success when advertising on Yelp. A single service from one of these businesses could net hundreds or thousands of dollars for the business. So, if Yelp advertising brings even a single new customer each month, they’re already in the black.

While any business may be able to benefit from using Yelp ads, there are some businesses that may be better off avoiding the platform altogether.

customize their ads as part of both the self-service and full-service advertising programs. This new feature allows business owners to select the photo and review snippet that will accompany their ads, instead of leaving it up to Yelp’s algorithms.

recent study suggests that 30% of consumers consider a businesses response to reviews as a key factor in their decision making process. One way to engage is to offer a response to each Yelp review you receive. If it’s a positive review, a simple thank you is more than enough.

For negative reviews, it’s important to offer a thoughtful response without being argumentative. Even if the review comes from a disgruntled customer with an ax to grind, there’s no way you’ll come out on top if you respond angrily or blow off the customer’s issue.

potential to bring you new customers organically as well as through advertising.

Familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of Yelp and their dedicated community of users is the best way to ensure that Yelp is working for your business, instead of against it.

The post How To Advertise on Yelp Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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