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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The 5 Cs Of Credit: What Lenders Look For

You’ve heard the old adage “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” This phrase is more than just a To Kill A Mockingbird lesson on understanding where others are coming from — it’s also the key to securing the business loan you need.

By considering the loan process from the lender’s perspective and understanding what they’re looking for, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to increase your chances of being approved for a business loan.

That’s where the 5 Cs of Credit come in.

The 5 Cs of Credit is a system that lenders use to evaluate your business’s creditworthiness and ability to repay a loan. Lenders look specifically at your business’s character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions before making their lending decision.

In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about these 5 Cs, including how lenders evaluate each trait and how to boost your business’s 5 Cs so you can secure a business loan. Read on to learn more.

Character

Character refers to a business’s reputation and trustworthiness. Also sometimes called “credit history,” character often translates to how faithful you’ve been in paying off past debts on time.

Why Character Matters

For lenders, it all comes down to how the question: “Will I get my money back?” Lenders want to work with responsible, organized businesses that are likely to make their repayments on time.

How Lenders Evaluate Character

When evaluating character, lenders look at:

  • Credit report
  • Credit scores
  • Personal qualities
  • References

To analyze your credit history, lenders will often view your credit report and credit score. Lenders take both your business credit score and your personal credit score into consideration.

They tend to look at how long you’ve been in business as well. The longer you’ve been in business, the more stable you appear. For lenders, this again means less risk and increased likelihood that your business will be successful enough to cover loan repayments.

Sometimes, lenders also take a literal approach to the word “character” and analyze your attributes as a business owner.

They may conduct a personal interview or require references (some even go so far as looking at Yelp reviews of your business). Many online lenders make phone consultations a part of their application processes so that they can help you with any questions about the application while also getting a feel for you and your company.

How To Improve Character

If you’re looking to impress lenders with your personality or improve the character of your business, there are a few ways to do so. Here are fours tips for boosting character:

1. Raise Your Credit Score

Poor credit can be a deal breaker when it comes to loan approval. Taking the extra time to raise your credit score before applying for loans can help increase your chances of qualifying for the loan you want.

If you don’t know what your credit score is, then that’s the first place to start. Check out these top free credit score sites to learn where your credit stands.

2. Understand Your Credit Report

It’s also important to understand your credit report and be prepared to explain anything negative on your report. Some lenders may view your application more favorably if you are able to help them understand your business’s situation. Make sure to take action to correct any errors that may be affecting your credit report.

Learn more about how to check your credit report and dispute errors by reading 5 Tips To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

3. Be Professional

Whether interacting with a banker in person or applying through an online lender, put your best foot forward. Always be professional and kind. Also show the lender that you are knowledgeable about the loan application process and familiar with how loans work. This shows that you are responsible and experienced in business as well as being personable.

4. Establish A Relationship With Your Bank

If you are seeking a traditional business loan from a bank, establish a relationship with your banker. If the banker likes you and is familiar with your business, they may be more willing to vouch for you when it comes to loan approval time.

Capacity

Capacity is your business’s ability to pay back the loan. Also sometimes called “cash flow,” capacity is directly related to how much cash your business has available for loan use.

Why Capacity Matters

Not only do lenders want to see that you have a history of paying your loans on time, they also need to see that you actually have the cash to do so. They must look at your financial health to ensure that you can afford a loan in the first place, and then use this information to see how large of a loan amount they can offer you.

How Lenders Evaluate Capacity

Lenders may use the following tools to determine your business’s capacity to afford a loan:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Cash flow projections
  • Bank statements
  • Debt service coverage ratio (DSCR)
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

Most lenders require you to provide cash flow statements and bank statements when you apply for a loan. They also may require a cash flow projection to get an idea of what your cash flow will most likely look like in the future.

Some lenders may depend on more concrete measures of financial health, like debt service coverage ratios (DSCR) and debt-to-income ratios (DTI). The debt service coverage ratio measures the relationship between your business’s debt and income, while the debt-to-income ratio measures the relationship between your personal debt and income as the business owner.

Both of these ratios are used to determine the health of your business’s cash flow and demonstrate how much extra cash you have available for a loan. Ideally, lenders look for a DSCR of 1.25 or higher and a DTI ratio of 36% or lower.

How To Improve Capacity

The following are four tips for maximizing your business’s capacity; following these steps will demonstrate that your business can handle a loan and may also increase the size of the loan that you can realistically afford to make payments on.

1. Pay Down Past Debt

If you have a significant amount of outstanding debt, a serious chunk of change is going to paying those loans off each month — money that could be used to invest in a new loan instead. Try to pay old debt down or off completely. This will increase the amount of cash flow available for a new loan. This will also show a lender that you have the means to repay a new loan and that you have a history of successfully paying off debts.

2. Improve Your DSCR

The higher the debt service coverage ratio, the more cash you have to invest in your business and the more likely you are to be approved for the loan you want. To improve your DSCR, try:

  • Increasing your net operating income
  • Decreasing your net operating expenses
  • Paying off existing debt

Read Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR to learn more.

3. Lower Your DTI

While lenders usually place more emphasis on the debt service coverage ratio, your debt-to-income ratio is still important. And, if you’re self-employed, lenders look solely to your DTI ratio to determine if you can afford a loan.

Since the DTI percentage shows how much of your money is already committed to existing debt, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better. Here are the main ways to lower DTI:

  • Increase your monthly income
  • Pay off existing debt

Read Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower Your DTI to learn more.

4. Use Accounting Software

Not only can using accounting software help you balance the books, it can also help you prepare a strong business loan application. With the right accounting software you can:

  • Generate the cash flow statements and financial statements required by lenders
  • Use financial history to create cash flow projections
  • Keep track of operating expenses and income so that you can calculate DSCR and DTI correctly

Using accounting software can also show lenders that you are organized and financially responsible. Some lenders even require that businesses use accounting software for a certain period of time before being approved. If you want to make preparing your loan application simpler, understand exactly how much you can afford to borrow, and stay in control of your business overall finances, accounting software is a must.

Take a look at our top-rated accounting programs and our comprehensive accounting reviews for help finding the perfect software for your business.

Capital

Capital refers to how much money you (or you and your business partners) have invested in your company.

Why Capital Matters

In lenders’ eyes, the more money you personally have invested in your business, the less likely you are to default on your loans. Lenders see capital investments as a sign that you take your business seriously, and have something to lose if the business goes under.

It makes sense — if you have money personally invested in your business, you are much more likely to do everything you can to make that business succeed — which for lenders, translates into doing everything you can to pay your loans off.

How Lenders Evaluate Capital

When considering capital, lenders want to see:

  • How much of the owner’s capital is invested in the business
  • How the owner’s capital is invested

Lenders primarily look at the amount of owner’s capital invested in the business. Not only do they evaluate how much money you have invested in the business, they also check to see where you’ve invested that money. If they see that you’ve made smart investment decisions in the past, they can take comfort in knowing that you will most likely invest a new loan wisely.

How To Improve Capital

If you’re looking to present strong capital to a lender, here’s what you should do.

1. Increase Owner’s Capital

First off, make sure that you actually have money invested in your business. If you haven’t invested any money into your business, now may be the time to talk to a financial advisor about the best way to increase your owner’s capital and invest in business growth.

2. Highlight Investment Successes

Lenders like to know exactly how you plan on using the money they may potentially lend to you. If you’ve made successful investments in the past, like purchasing additional equipment that increased your sales revenue by 25%, and are planning on purchasing more equipment with the loan your applying for, be sure to tell your lender! It will demonstrate that you’re experienced in business and that you’re likely to increase your cash flow (which a lender hears as “we’re getting our money back”).

What If You Don’t Have Any Capital Invested In Your Business?

If you don’t have any capital invested in your business and aren’t in a financial place where you can do so, you’ll need to rely heavily on the other 4 Cs. If your character, capacity, collateral, and conditions are particularly strong, you may be able to offset the lack of capital.

Since lenders use capital to see that you’re committed to your business, show them your commitment in other ways, maybe by offering strong collateral or articulating a clear business plan and repayment plan.

Collateral

Collateral is an asset (or assets) that are offered up as insurance against you paying back your loan fully and on time. If you default on your loan, lenders will seize the collateral in order to make up for their losses.

Why Collateral Matters

Much like owner’s capital, collateral means you have something to lose if you default on your loans. The hope for many lenders is that the collateral will encourage business owners to work hard to repay their loan.

However, if your business does go under, collateral assures lenders that they won’t lose all of their money if you default on a loan.

How Lenders Evaluate Collateral

Every lender has different requirements when it comes to collateral.

Some require specific assets to be offered up as collateral. Others require a blanket lien, meaning they have the right to go after your assets in case of a default. Others still require a personal guarantee, meaning you the business owner will be held responsible in the event of a default.

Some examples of collateral include:

  • Property
  • Vehicles
  • Equipment
  • Savings accounts

It’s important to carefully evaluate each lender’s policy and requirements regarding collateral. This way, you can know exactly what is expected of you. And, more importantly, you can decide if you’re comfortable with the required collateral or if you’d rather look for a different lender.

To learn more about collateral, read Secured Vs. Unsecured Business Loans.

How To Improve Small Business Collateral

Each lender has their own way of evaluating collateral, so there’s no one right way to improve your business’s collateral. However, by carefully researching potential lenders, you can work to present strong collateral that meets their standards. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Know What Collateral You Have To Offer

Carefully evaluate your assets and their value so that you know exactly what your business can offer up as collateral. Many accounting software programs help you track your assets and their depreciation so you can know how much they are worth.

2. Decide What You’re Comfortable With

As we mentioned earlier, some lenders require a blanket lien or a personal guarantee to secure a loan. Neither of these agreements should be taken lightly and these arrangements are not right for every business.

Read our posts What Is A UCC Blanket Lien? and Should I Sign A Personal Guarantee? to decide if these forms of collateral are right for you.

3. Find The Right Lender

Required collateral varies from lender to lender. If you aren’t comfortable with something like a personal guarantee or don’t have much collateral to offer up, do some shopping around until you find a lender that is suited for your business.

If you need assistance in your search for the perfect lender, let us help you find a business loan.

Conditions

Conditions are considered in two parts: the conditions of the loan and the conditions of the economy.

Why Conditions Matter

Conditions such as interest rate and principal play an important factor in whether or not you can afford a loan and how big that loan can be. Factors such as the economy and your business’s market can also play a role in how likely your business is to succeed and be able to repay a loan.

How Lenders Evaluate Conditions

When considering if the conditions are right to approve your loan, lenders consider:

  • Interest rate
  • Principal
  • Economy
  • Your business’s industry
  • Your business’s competitors

The actual loan amount you are requesting is very important, but lenders will consider the principle, interest rate, and monthly payments to determine if you can feasibly take on that loan.

Lenders also carefully consider how you are planning on using the loan as the purpose of the loan can greatly affect whether your business will grow and profit from the investment.

The economy is also a huge consideration. If the economy is booming, businesses are more likely to flourish, meaning less risk for lenders. If the economy is taking a downturn, lenders may be more reluctant to lend money. When the economy is poor, lenders typically increase their minimum DSCR which means businesses have to have an incredibly strong cash flow in order to be approved.

Some lenders may look at your specific market and competitors to get an idea of how financially promising your business is. Certain lenders also have prohibited industry lists, meaning that they will not lend to business in specific high-risk industries. So before you apply, be sure that your business does not fall into that category.

How To Improve Conditions

You may not be able to control the economy, but you can control how strong your business and its loan application appears. Here are a few tips on how to put your best foot forward where conditions are concerned.

1. Have A Plan

Don’t just say you need $30,000 for your business. Lenders want to hear exactly what you’re planning on doing with the loan and how you plan on doing it.

Common reasons for requesting a business loan include:

  • Purchasing inventory
  • Purchasing property
  • Updating equipment
  • Hiring new employees
  • Expanding your business
  • Increasing cash flow

Let your lender know exactly how you’re planning on using the money with a detailed business plan. Increase their faith in your business by showing how the loan will benefit your business, whether by increasing production, doubling sales, expanding your business’s services, etc. The more specific you can be the better.

2. Time It Right

Often, small businesses seek a loan when they are in need of money. Makes sense, right? Wrong. Consider applying for a line of credit when the economy is good and your business is booming. You will be much more likely to qualify for a line of credit with favorable terms when things are going well. This way, you’ll have cash when you do need it.

If you wait until the economy is poor and your cash flow is stagnant you will be much less likely to be approved for a loan. And if you are approved, the loan rates may be steep and unfavorable.

3. Show Your Expertise

Be knowledgeable about your business and its market. You can’t control the economy, but you can control how you present your situation to a lender. If the economy is poor or your business’s market is stalling, show lenders how the loan you’re requesting will allow you to launch a promising new marketing campaign or expand into a new, profitable business vertical.

Demonstrating your expertise will build their faith and trust in you and your business.

4. Improve Your DSCR

If the economy is poor, another way to increase the likelihood of being approved for a loan is to increase your debt service coverage ratio. As we mentioned earlier, there are several ways to improve your DSCR, including:

  • Increasing your net operating income
  • Decreasing your net operating expenses
  • Paying off existing debt

Read our post the Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR to learn more.

Sealing The Deal

When it comes to loan applications, you don’t want to go in blind. Knowing what lenders are looking for and how they’re evaluating your application can be the key to securing the loan you need.

When it all boils down, lenders simply want to be certain that you will pay back your loan. The 5 Cs of Credit are how lenders can realistically evaluate how big of a risk you are.

It’s important to note that not all lenders evaluate each C the same way. Some place more emphasis on character, while others care more about your capital. Carefully researching each lender’s requirements and following our tips to master each of the 5 Cs of Credit can greatly increase your chances of sealing the deal on a loan.

In the end, it all comes down to establishing yourself as a trustworthy, credible borrower who can set lenders’ minds at ease. Start mastering character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions to impress lenders and secure the loan you want.

Ready to take out a business loan? Read through our comprehensive reviews of business lenders, put lenders side by side with our small business loans comparison chart, or check out three of our favorite lenders below:

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How To Advertise On Zillow Effectively

How to Advertise on Zillow Effectively

Zillow is one of the leading real estate websites. It allows owners or agents to list homes for sale or rent. On the other side of things, users can search listings and view approximate property values. These services are free.

You might wonder how Zillow offers so much valuable information at no cost. The company, which is owned by Zillow Group, an organization that also owns Trulia, RealEstate.com, Naked Apartments, hotpads, Out East and StreetEasy, charges for ad sales. Agents, brokers, lenders, property managers, builders or brand advertisers can advertise on Zillow. Here’s how to do it.

What Is Zillow?

Zillow is the chief rental and real estate marketplace. It’s essentially a database that works like a search engine for properties. It provides data on more than 110 million homes in the U.S., including homes that are for sale, for rent and not on the market. The company offers estimated home and rental values as well as other home-related data.

The company runs more than two dozen apps, which let users view properties based on their location. The company has experienced exponential growth in the past several years. Wikipedia reports that in 2011, Zillow had more than 24 million unique visitors per month. As of January 2014, Zillow reports having more than 70 million unique users per month.

Zillow has had a 52 percent year-over-year growth. Its audience has a median household income of more than $76,000, who have an average credit score of 722. In other words, it’s a desirable market for advertisers, especially if their companies are home or real-estate-related.

In fact, an independent study conducted by the WAV group found that Zillow’s click conversion is more than three times better than Google’s. Not only that, two-thirds of the total market share for online real estate is included in Zillow Group websites. In 2017, Investor’s Business Daily said that Zillow was in a position to dominate the internet real estate advertising market.

Some other statistics about Zillow Group’s audience include:

  • Zillow Group’s brands see 160 million visitors per month.
  • Half of all Trulia and Zillow visitors want to buy or sell.
  • Eighty percent of U.S. homes have been viewed on Zillow.
  • Thirty-two million rental visitors use the sites and apps every month.

Property Management, Rental And Brand Advertising With Zillow Group

You don’t have to work in real estate to advertise with Zillow. One of Zillow’s primary strengths is collecting data. Zillow Group identifies people who are actively looking to purchase or rent a home through its mortgage lead form and Home Buyers Guide. The company also tracks renters and identifies what stage in the moving process they’re in.

Why is this important? It can tell you a lot about what else these individuals are ready to purchase. For example, people who are moving into a rental property are 71 percent more likely to purchase an appliance than those who are already living in a home. They’re 22 percent more likely to buy technology.

What’s more, 84 percent of renters use the internet to search for a property. They spend about $2,400 on average for moving expenses.

Home buyers and renters aren’t the only people who use Zillow to make big decisions. Home improvement enthusiasts use Zillow Group’s websites to research options. Plus, 96 percent of people who move make some type of improvement to the property.

If you have a product or service that’s related to moving, home improvement or property maintenance, you can take advantage of this captive audience by advertising on Zillow.

Ad Products For Brands

You can reach these audiences across Zillow Group websites and apps. The ads are formatted to work seamlessly regardless of the platform. Here’s an example of what an ad might look like on a Trulia listing:

There are four places in which your ad product can appear:

  • Native search ads
  • Native property ads
  • Home expenses ads
  • Rich media ads

Search Ads

A search ad will appear as a box next to the property listings in the Zillow search results, like this Rooms to Go promotion.

The word “Sponsored” will appear at the top left, and a call to action to visit the website appears on the top right. You can include a photo, logo, header and subheader in your ad.

Property Ads

As prospective buyers narrow down their searches, they check out the property details, where they can view photos as well as specs for the home. Property ads appear here and look like this Liberty Mutual Insurance ad:

Home Expenses Ads

Advertisers can place themselves in another low-funnel location under the Home Expenses drop-down menu. This is where companies that sell necessary products and services, like internet and homeowner’s insurance, can advertise or offer coupons.

Rich Media Ads

The native search ads offer a rich media feature. Users can click on the ads to watch a video or expand the image. Within the expanded image, you can offer more details, like adding text when you hover over certain products. You can also include your logo and a link to your website or landing page.

Programmatic Ads

Programmatic ads let you promote your business throughout all of Zillow Group’s platforms. This type of advertising allows you to capitalize on Zillow’s audience data while letting the automated media buying technology put you in front of the right people at the best time.

As the advertiser, you create a deal through Triplelift and request a deal ID through the same platform. Then, your ad will automatically be shown to the people who you want to target across Zillow’s sites.

How does Zillow know who to place you in front of? The websites ask visitors to identify themselves. As these individuals browse the Zillow group websites, Zillow knows whether they’re home buyers, homeowners, home renters, home sellers, home improvement enthusiasts or real estate professionals.

Some of the benefits of using a private marketplace, or PMP, include:

  • Freedom to set your own budget
  • Flexibility to adjust bids depending on an ad’s worth to you
  • Control over where your money is going
  • Harnessing the power of Zillow’s data capture
  • Results from native ads, which tend to perform better than banner ads

Lender Advertising

Certain types of lenders can also advertise with Zillow. Zillow offers a Group Mortgages advertising program, in which you can create a lender profile, list yourself in the Lender Directory and receive email alerts when potential clients contact you via your personal profile. Like an agent, you can include customer reviews on your profile.

Creating a lender profile on Zillow is free. To start, click “Join” at the top right of the Zillow.com website.

In the next window, add your email address, and create a password. Select the box to check off “I am a landlord or industry professional.” Under Professional Information, select Mortgage Lender from the drop-down list. Then, click Submit.

On the next page, you’ll be asked to enter your NMLS ID. When you do, your name will automatically populate in the box below. After you submit that, you’ll be able to edit your profile.

The information that is stored here includes:

  • Profile page – Headshot, an About section requiring a minimum of 100 characters, screen name, company name, additional languages spoken, locations in which you’re licensed and sponsored
  • Contact info – Phone number, fax, website
  • Office info – Automatically populated from the NMLS Consumer Access pages

When you advertise, you’ll put yourself in front of thousands of potential customers. Zillow and Trulia give buyers the chance to request that a lender call them at a specific time.

Those contacts are sent to lenders who market through Zillow. You’ll get contacts instantly through the mobile platform, and you can connect with consumers as soon as they reach out to you.

Pricing is based on the number of contacts that you receive or the subscription package that you purchase, depending on the platform. Factors such as loan amount, loan type and credit score will affect the price too. You must deposit a minimum to start out.

To get started with advertising for loan officers, go to the Lender Resource Center advertising page, where you’ll find a phone number to call Zillow directly. The opportunities for lender advertising are limited. You’ll have to speak to a representative to find out if your market is still available.

Co-Marketing On Zillow

Co-marketing lets lenders join Premier Agent partners to get dedicated impressions when the agents advertise on Zillow Group channels. This is a budget saver because lenders and agents can share marketing costs.

To get started, a Premier Agent must invite a lender to share the advertising costs. The agent chooses the dollar amount that they want each lender to contribute. Up to half of a Premier Agent’s marketing costs can be shared by up to five lenders. Most Premier Agents choose to co-market with one or two lenders, though.

Lenders that co-market with Premier Agents may appear on:

  • an agent’s featured listings
  • the agent’s profile
  • the agent’s Premier Agent Website
  • email campaigns sent from Zillow

This program is only available for Premier Agents. If a lender is already working with an agent, he or she can ask that agent to become a Premier Agent and invite the lender to participate in this advertising program. When they participate in this program, lenders cannot refer business to agents or vice-versa if they receive a lead through a Zillow platform.

Premier Agent Advertising

If you do work in real estate, you might consider registering as a Premier Agent. Although there might not be anything as controversial as whether being a Premier Agent can really help increase your income, Zillow’s Premier Agent program accounts for 70 percent of Zillow’s revenue. People who are buying, selling and investing in homes continue to flock to Zillow.

Therefore, many real estate agents pay to become a Premier Agent on Zillow and Trulia.

Zillow allows anyone to list a home for free on the website, but it costs money to be a Premier Agent. Therefore, you might wonder why you would pay to become a Premier Agent.

My Agent

Premier Agents have their names and other information placed next to their listings. If you’re a Premier Agent and you submit a property as a seller’s agent, you’ll be the only agent endorsed on that page. That boosts your chances of getting the full commission for the listing. If you aren’t a Premier Agent, other real estate agents may show up on your listing.

The listing agent always shows up first whether that person is a Premier Agent or not. For example, Tim Carter is the listing agent for the property below. Because he is not a Premier Agent, other agents appear below his name on the webpage.

Those agents have several recent sales and great reviews. Someone searching for a property might be more likely to click on their names than the listing agent’s.

That gives the Premier Agents the chance to secure a million-dollar client, and the original listing agent will have to share the commission if another agent snags the listing.

In this next scenario, Ellen Phipps is a Premier Agent. Therefore, hers is the only name that appears on the listing detail page. There is a clear call-to-action button below her name and contact information, making it easy for someone to contact this agent.

Another reason to become a Premier Agent is to advertise on local listings. This way, even if you don’t have any of your own listings to promote, you can generate leads.

A Premier Agent purchases a particular share of visibility in a particular zip code. If you buy a 50 percent share of voice in zip code 90210, you’ll show up as a buyer’s agent 50 percent of the time for shoppers looking for listings in that zip code.

Shoppers can choose whatever buyer they want. They’ll be more likely to contact you over the others if you have a strong profile, rave reviews and more past sales.

Premier Agents are given the most desirable placement in Zillow and Trulia’s directory of agents. They’ll show up as Featured Agents in the Agent Finder. This does not cost an extra fee.

Premier Agent Concierge

Concierge allows busy real estate teams to maximize their ROI by managing high lead volumes for them. The Concierge team can respond to leads so that you don’t have to. They can transfer the leads to you immediately or set an appointment for you to speak with them.

Concierge works seamlessly with My Agent. As an agent, if you respond to a live Concierge transfer, you’ll show up as the only buyer’s agent for that lead for the next 30 days. If you confirm the connection via the Premier Agent app, you’ll lengthen that time frame.

This means that a buyer who connects with you via Concierge will see you as the buyer’s agent for every listing in your zip code(s) that they view. This is only relevant for buyers who submit the leads through Zillow or Trulia and are transferred live via Concierge.

Your client can decline or terminate the connection at any time.

You can get started with Premier Agent Concierge by working with a Zillow business consultant.

Premier Agent Direct

One of the benefits of being a Premier Agent is having the capability to advertise on Zillow Group websites.

Premier Agent Direct combines the data and targeting abilities of Facebook and Zillow Group. When you sign up for this feature, you’ll be able to create ads on Zillow search results pages, such as the sponsored ad that we showed you when discussing the brand advertisers. These may be video, profile or branded listing advertisements.

You’ll also get to create customized Facebook ads that target the same audience as the Zillow ads. This captures active home shoppers as they scroll through Facebook. Your Facebook ads can show featured listings, completed sales or photos from your Zillow profile.

It doesn’t take any extra work to set up a Facebook ad from your Zillow information using Premier Agent Direct. Buyers who click on your ad will end up at a branded landing page.

Creating ads using Premier Agent Direct is different than simply advertising on Facebook on your own. First of all, when you sign up for Premier Agent Direct, you get a professionally shot video to include in your profile, ads or emails. Perhaps more importantly, Premier Agent Direct chooses your target audience based on Zillow’s buyer data, which can keep you in front of the most relevant leads.

Seller Boost

Seller Boost connects Premier Agents with seller leads. When someone goes to sell a home, they often start by checking the estimated value of the property on Zillow or Trulia. When they do, they have the option of claiming their home to receive a more accurate Zestimate.

At this time, Zillow captures their information and ensures that they’re an interested seller. The platform then presents the individual with lead capture forms that urge them to consult with a Premier Agent.

Seller Boost is an add-on to Premier Agent advertisers. Any Agents that have opted for this will receive leads from the program.

Free Websites

Premier Agents can get free websites created through Zillow. These websites can be completely customized through a user-friendly editor and have a custom URL.

Some of the advantages of setting up a Premier Agent Website through Zillow include:

  • Integrated MLS
  • Free designs
  • Customizable and easy-to-use editor
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Fast setup

*Editors note – I (Nate) have personally never used the platform. Like any website builder, there will be upside and downsides.

How Much Does Premier Agent Cost?

The cost of Premier Agent depends on the number and quality of zip codes in which you appear as well as the number of impressions that your advertisement gets.

Zip Codes

When you become a Premier Agent, you purchase a predetermined number of online impressions up front. When you do this, you choose the zip codes in which you want to appear.

This isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Some zip codes have a waiting list. These are usually the more desirable zip codes with higher-priced properties. For example, a zip code with a median home price of 2 million dollars will be more expensive to advertise in than one with homes that cost $150,000.

Agent competition affects the price of advertising too. When a large number of agents wants to advertise in a particular zip code, that zip code becomes more expensive.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the higher-priced zip codes are the best ones to advertise in, though. If so many agents are advertising in a particular area that your voice would be limited, you might consider paying less to advertise in a nearby zip code.

Consider this example: You have a client that’s looking for a property in the most expensive zip code Brooklyn. While that area may be their first choice, they may be willing to look at homes in the neighboring zip codes, even if prices are a little lower there. What’s great for you is that they’ll probably seek out the highest priced homes in those areas. If you advertise in the zip codes that border the more expensive ones, you’ll still tend to close high-priced sales, but you’ll pay less to advertise in them.

To view the pricing at the zip code level, follow the steps below:

1. Log into your Premier Agent account.

2. Click on My Ads.

3. You can view and compare zip codes here by clicking on zip codes on the map or using the Add New ZIPs search.

Impressions

You pay for your advertising based on the number of impressions that each advertisement gets. The cost per impression changes for each zip code. The cost is calculated as a cost per 1,000 impressions, or CPM. For example, if Zillow charges $0.05, that’s the equivalent of $50 CPM.

How To Calculate Your ROI

Let’s say you pay for 4,800 impressions per month at a cost of $0.16 per impression. You’ll end up paying $300 a month. If it takes 500 impressions for one person to click and become a lead, you should get about 9 to 10 leads per month.

Divide the total amount that you pay per month by the number of leads that your advertising generates to get the price that you pay per lead. In this scenario, $300/10=$30. You pay $30 per lead.

At that point, it’s up to you to convert a lead into a purchase. If you have selected the most expensive zip code in which to advertise, but you don’t know much about the homes there, you won’t be able to provide the best service to your clients. Some people recommend choosing your own zip code, where you can provide local market knowledge and serve your clients well. You’ll position yourself to get more leads and pay less for each one.

After you have advertised and analyzed your metrics, you can calculate your ROI. Your ROI is your gross income from those sales divided by your total Zillow spend.

One of the perks of advertising on Zillow is that you can roll those sales into reviews and listing histories. When potential clients see that you’re successful, they’ll be more likely to click on your ad in the future. The more leads and sales that you get, the more leads and sales you end up generating in the future.

How To Generate Leads For Free Using Zillow

You don’t have to pay for a Premier Agent account to take advantage of Zillow’s lead-generating opportunities. Creating a free agent account gives you a chance to showcase your listings and stand out with a comprehensive profile.

To create a free account, go to Zillow’s Premier Agent page, and click Sign Up Now.

Enter your information to create a free profile.

You don’t have to be a real estate agent to create a profile here. Select from one of the following professions from the drop-down menu:

  • Real estate agent/broker
  • Mortgage lender
  • Home improvement services
  • Property management & other real estate
  • Landlord
  • Photographer
  • Home builder
  • Home inspector
  • Property manager
  • Real estate marketplace investor
  • Other real estate professional

After you fill out this form, you can do one of the following:

Optimize Your Profile

Many agents create free accounts on Zillow without completing their profiles. At minimum, your profile should include a photo, your license number and other information. However, you’re competing with many other real estate professionals.

Your profile will stand out more, and you’ll have a better chance of creating a connection with your leads, if you include a video. The leads from your profile are do-follow leads. Therefore, adding links to your website will boost engagement and enhance your site’s SEO. Don’t forget to add links to your social media profiles too.

Zillow makes it easy to do this by tracking how complete your profile is. Aim to reach 100% if you want to maximize your profile.

Add Sold Listings

While it’s vital to have beautiful, comprehensive and descriptive listings of the current properties that you’re selling, it’s important to show the homes that you’ve sold in the past. Buyers want to know that you’re able to make good on your promises. The best way to demonstrate that is by showing a strong history.

Get Great Reviews

If you were about to choose whether to work with an agent that has 30 five-star reviews or no reviews at all, which would you be more likely to click on? Most people would choose the agent with more reviews. It’s crucial to have reviews on your Zillow profile.

One way to get the reviews that you need is to ask your best clients. Chances are, you have worked with some people who had wonderful experiences and connected with you on a personal level. Those people would probably love to share their home-buying experiences.

All you have to do is ask. Whether or not you close a deal with a client, you should ask them if they would be willing to leave you a review on Zillow. You can do this easily by sending them an email with the request and a link to your Zillow profile page.

They can leave a review by clicking on the Review section of the profile. They must be logged in or leave a valid email address and phone number in order to do this. That’s because Zillow authenticates the reviews to make sure that they were left by legitimate customers.

Don’t Hesitate

There are so many real estate agents using Zillow that clients are likely to contact more than one agent during their home search. You should reach out to potential leads immediately in order to have the best opportunity to connect with them. You can do this using the Concierge service.

You can also use the Premier Agent app to set up an auto-responder. You need to be able to respond to leads from wherever you are. If you use a third-party customer relationship manager, make sure that you can access it from a mobile device so that you don’t waste any time.

Sending a personal message as soon as possible is also a good practice to get into. This lets potential clients know that you’re interested in working with them and have attention to detail. Customize these messages by referring to something specific about the property that they’re interested in. You can even let them in on some similar listings.

Asking questions in these personal emails encourages the client to respond. Creating a real connection is one of the best ways to secure new clients.

Zillow Agent Toolkit

Zillow offers plenty of free resources for those in the home and property markets. Its Agent Toolkit includes scripts, templates and handouts that can help you run your business.

The toolkit also contains free courses, webinars and trainings on subjects such as:

  • Growing your brand
  • Converting online leads
  • Using Premier Agent

Take advantage of this free wealth of knowledge to learn as much as you can about positioning yourself as visibly as possible on Zillow Group’s sites.

Zillow offers coaches and Business Consultants to work with you if you’re ready to advertise. The best way to learn more about advertising with Zillow is to contact Zillow directly.

Next Steps

Zillow represents a solid opportunity for anyone looking to reach homebuyers. Your specific strategy will be different depending on your business, but Zillow’s sheer scale and reach are make it worthwhile to explore the platform.

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

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Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders

webbased

As a reviewer of website builders, you might say I have a vested interest in promoting the main idea undergirding the DIY website builder: The notion that anybody, given access to inexpensive online editing tools, can create a perfectly functional website for their business or for themselves. However, there are plenty of reasons why a prospective website owner might seek to go another route. Perhaps you want more functionality out of your website than Squarespace or Wix can provide. Or maybe you simply have more pressing business or personal priorities than personally creating the website you want.

An obvious alternative to using a website builder is to hire a web designer to create your site. Sadly, this option is out of the reach of anybody who doesn’t have thousands of dollars (or more) on hand to spend on a website. That’s where intermediary web companies like Webbased.com come in. Webbased.com is a company that offers a variety of web services, including web design, SEO, support, and marketing. It’s meant to be kind of a one-stop shop for getting your website created, marketed, and monetized. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.

Webbased.com: Services Offered

Here are the service packages webbased.com has to offer:

  • Web design services
    • 5 to 15 unique page designs
    • $99/month to $249/month
  • Local search engine optimization
    • Get found by local clients
    • $299/month to $999/month
  • National search engine optimization
    • Boost your search rankings in Google, Yahoo, and Bing
    • Get a marketing dashboard with stats
    • $698/month to $2978/month
  • Pay-per-click management (eCommerce)
    • ECommerce PPC management — best for businesses with products with SKUs
    • $158/month to $298/month
  • Pay-per-click management (local)
    • Increase brand exposure in a specific geographic area
    • $218/month to $1480/month
  • Pay-per-click management (national)
    • PPC management services
    • $478/month to $3198/month
  • Pay-per-click management (retargeting)
    • Boost your ROI by re-engaging previous users
    • $158/month to $398/month
  • Animated video explainer
    • Boost your conversion rates with explainer videos
    • $199/month to $529/month
  • Video production services
    • Get videos made for any marketing purpose
    • $249/month to $625/month
  • Social media management
    • Social media team manages your social media presence
    • Detailed auditing and reporting
    • $199/month to $999/month
  • Logo design services
    • $299 (one-time charge)
  • Landing page design
    • $229/month
  • WordPress maintenance and hosting
    • Get maintenance, security, and updates for your WordPress site
    • $44.99/month to $99.99/month
  • WordPress optimization and performance tuning
    • $99/month to $369/month
  • WordPress support and help
    • Get updates and maintenance on your WordPress website
    • $59 (one-time charge)
  • Merchant services
    •  Better rates than PayPal and Square
    • Fully integrated into your site
    • $20/month

Additionally, if you have an existing business website, webbased.com will analyse your site, free of charge, and send you a report assessing your site based on a number of metrics: speed, security, page views, conversion rate, mobile-compatibility, and SEO.

Here’s webbased’s full list of services, detailing everything that’s included in their product packages along with pricing.

Customer Service & Support

Webbased.com provides a plethora of ways to get in touch with a company rep. In addition to the standard email contact form, there’s a phone support line and live chat. There’s even a chat room you can join between the hours of 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM Pacific in which you can chat with Webbased’s developers about any issues you might have with your website.

Reviews Of Webbased.com

On its website, webbased.com actually directs users to review their services on both Google and Yelp — a sign of confidence in its products. The reviews posted by customers on these two sites are almost entirely complimentary, with users praising both the services offered and the customer support they received. One user’s opinion is fairly representative:

They provided creativity, valuable feedback, analysis and guidance in designing our logo, website, SEO optimization and producing our live company video.

The users with complaints get replies from the company — it’s always good to see companies responding in good faith to the complaints of their users.

Final Thoughts

Not everybody has the time and/or patience to build a website on their own, and it’s not easy for the layperson to personally negotiate with individual web designers over the particulars of services and pricing. Services like webbased.com help give aspiring webmasters the ability to select from a menu of services to get exactly what it is they need in a website. If you feel like passing on the heavy cyber-lifting to a team of experts, webbased.com is worth investigating.

The post Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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3dcart VS Volusion

3dcart-vs-Volusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both platforms are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

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

Pricing

Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

V1 Pricing

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

V2 Pricing

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

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

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Ease Of Use

Winner: Volusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use tutorial videos to quickly learn your way around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features

Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

And here are features for V2:

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

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

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

Web Design

Winner: Volusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

We’re giving the category to 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

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

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

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

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

3dcart

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

Volusion

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

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

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

3dcart

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

Volusion

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

Final Verdict

Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

Get Started With 3dcart

Get Started With Volusion V1

Get Started With Volusion V2

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

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The Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies

Business owners today know that it’s more important than ever to be able to accept credit cards. Customers carry less cash, and rely on credit and debit cards for the majority of their purchases. If you’re an eCommerce merchant selling online, taking “plastic” is just about your only option. Unfortunately, you can’t accept credit cards unless you have a merchant account, and merchant accounts aren’t free. In fact, they can be very expensive – especially for a small business – if you choose the wrong provider.

The credit card processing industry can be very bewildering, especially for a first-time business owner. There are dozens of companies providing processing services, and each of them offers different processing rates, fees, and contract terms. A provider that’s a good deal for a very small business might be prohibitively expensive for a larger one, and vice versa. Naturally, merchants want to cut through the confusion and get a quick answer to the question “Which one is the cheapest?” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save money, especially for a new business that has to count every penny. However, if you look up “cheap” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you’ll note that while cheap can mean “charging or obtainable at a low price,” it can also mean “of inferior quality or worth.” If you’ve ever been disappointed with a product purchase when you thought you were getting a good deal, you know that these two definitions often go together.

Here’s a quick look at some of our favorite low-cost credit card processors. Some are free to use. You just pay for the transaction you process. We don’t cover all of these in-depth in this post, but you can check out our complete reviews for all the details. 

The Overall Cheapest Credit Card Processing Companies for 2018

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Best Choice For Small-ticket, Canada, Mobile, eCommerce  All businesses, Mobile, Retail eCommerce, Mobile Canada, Restaurants Large-ticket, All-in-one, Recurring billing
POS and Other Features Included Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Rate Matching/ Negotiable No Yes No Yes Yes
Pricing Structure Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Flat Rate Interchange-Plus Subscription
Retail Rates 2.75% 0.30% + $0.10 2.70% 0.20% + $0.10 0.00% + $0.08
Basic Monthly Fee $0 $0 $9 $9.95 $99

Before we delve into specific processors, there are two important points that you need to understand:

  1. The company offering the lowest processing rates or fees isn’t necessarily the cheapest. The total percentage of your credit card sales that you’ll have to fork over to your merchant account provider isn’t an easy thing to calculate in advance with any precision. Variable processing rates and hidden (or at least unanticipated) fees can easily result in you paying much more than you thought you were going to for processing. Companies offering flat-rate pricing fare much better in this regard, as their simple pricing structure makes it relatively easy to estimate your monthly processing costs.
  2. The “cheapest” processor isn’t necessarily the best one for your business. While you naturally want to be able to accept credit cards while paying the least amount of money for the privilege, companies offering the lowest rates often cut corners in other aspects of their service to make those low rates possible. Poor customer service, for example, is a common problem among the least-expensive processors. If you want the best overall, you might also check out our top picks for small business credit card processing.

Types Of Providers

With the advent of new, low-cost providers, there are now two broad categories of companies providing credit card processing services. These include traditional (or full-service) merchant account providers, and payment services providers, who offer credit card processing, but without some of the features of a full-service merchant account. It’s very important that you understand the difference between the two.

Payment service providers (PSPs) can process your credit card transactions, but they don’t provide you with a unique merchant ID number for your business. Instead, your account is aggregated together with other merchants. This lowers the cost of things like monthly account fees and PCI compliance, but it also means that your account is much more vulnerable to being suddenly frozen or shut down for the slightest hint of fraud. Getting your account working again is complicated by the fact that most PSPs provide little in the way of one-on-one customer service. For a very small business, a PSP may very well be more affordable than a full-service merchant account, especially since you won’t have to pay so many recurring fees just to keep your account open. Be aware, however, that you’ll constantly be running the risk of suddenly losing access to your account and not being able to accept credit cards at all with a PSP. If your business processes a high number of credit card transactions on a daily basis, the loss of business you’ll incur if your account is frozen is quite high. Popular PSPs include PayPal, Square, and Stripe.

Traditional merchant accounts include a number of features you won’t find with most PSPs. The primary distinction is that you will be assigned a merchant identification number that is unique to your business. This number automatically identifies you to processors, issuing banks, and credit card associations. While it might not sound like much, having a unique merchant ID number helps to lower the risk of fraud and improves the stability of your account. While you still might have to endure a hold on funds for an unusually large transaction, the chances of your account being completely frozen for no apparent reason are much less than they are with a PSP. Merchant account providers also offer a host of ancillary services, including PCI security scans, customizable payment gateways for online payments, support for ACH (eCheck) payments, and many others. These bells and whistles don’t come cheap, of course. You’ll pay more in monthly fees than you will for an account with a PSP. However, you’ll also pay lower processing rates, especially if your merchant account provider offers interchange-plus pricing. For many medium-sized and larger businesses, a full-service merchant account will actually be less expensive than a PSP.

How We Chose

We used a number of criteria to determine which processors offered the lowest overall costs and the best service in most situations, including the following:

  • Pricing: Since we’re profiling the cheapest processors in the industry, it should come as no surprise that pricing would be our top criterion. It isn’t that simple, however. Pricing can be very complex, and there are a lot of variables to analyze in making a cost comparison between one provider and another. Fortunately, flat-rate pricing is relatively easy to analyze, as there’s usually little or no variability in the processing rates. Interchange-plus pricing, on the other hand, is very complex, as there are a bewildering number of possible rates charged under the “interchange” portion of the processing rate formula. To get a better idea of just how complicated processing rates can be, check out our Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees.
  • Contracts: No one wants to be stuck in a long-term contract with an expensive early termination fee if you close your account early, but that’s what many traditional merchant account providers will offer you. All the companies profiled here – including both PSPs and full-service merchant account providers – offer month-to-month contracts. You can close your account and switch to a different provider any time you want, and with no penalty.
  • Hardware: Unless you’re running an eCommerce-only business, you’re going to need some equipment to process your customers’ credit cards. Most of the companies profiled here offer a variety of EMV-compliant credit card terminals, POS systems, and mobile card swipers. Equipment is offered for sale at competitive prices – sometimes it’s even free! You can also buy your own equipment and have it reprogrammed to work with your provider’s service. Note that Stripe is eCommerce-only and PayPal only offers a mobile payment solution through their ancillary service, PayPal Here.
  • eCommerce support: Buying online continues to overtake traditional retail shopping, and all our profiled providers offer support for eCommerce. This includes both a payment gateway to send payment data to the processor and a virtual terminal to allow you to enter transactions on your computer or mobile device. Each provider also offers options for integrating your website with online shopping carts and developer tools for customizing the interface between your site and their services.
  • Customer support: While every provider offers customer support and service, some do a much better job at it than others. We looked for vendors that provided 24/7 telephone support, as well as an online knowledgebase that allows merchants to troubleshoot common problems on their own. As we’ve noted, some PSPs don’t provide very good customer support at all. That’s one of the trade-offs you’ll have to be aware of if you want to go with the “cheapest” option for credit card processing.

Remember, there isn’t a single processor out there that can offer the lowest costs to every merchant. What might be a very inexpensive solution for you might not be such a good deal for someone else. Also, paying the least amount of money for processing won’t be of much use to you if you have to worry about your account suddenly being frozen or shut down, or if the customer service behind your account isn’t adequate to solve technical problems for you when they arise. That said, here are our six top choices for the cheapest credit card processing companies:

Square Payments

Everyone has heard of Square (see our review) by now. With its free Square Reader, app-based payment system, and simple pricing structure, it’s one of the most popular processing services on the market for small businesses. Square’s pay-as-you-go system allows businesses that ordinarily couldn’t afford a merchant account to accept credit cards.

Retail businesses love Square for its low-priced card readers, which replace traditional credit card terminals with a smartphone-based system that’s both affordable and mobile. In addition to a card reader, you’ll need the free Square app, a smartphone, and an Internet connection. Square’s original card reader is free and you’ll receive one when you open your account. However, it can only read magstripe cards and requires a headphone jack to function. Most users will want to shell out a few extra bucks for a newer, EMV-compliant reader. The Square reader is only $49.00, and supports both EMV and NFC-based payment methods. It also uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or tablet – no headphone jack required.

 

Cheapest Mobile Credit Card Processing Company

The Essentials:
✓ $0 monthly fee
✓ 2.75% for all card-present transactions
✓ Exceptional POS app included free
✓ Free credit card reader available
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Mobile app
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
• API for custom solutions
Visit the Square website
Read our Square review

Square’s pricing structure is about as simple as it gets. There are no monthly fees whatsoever for a basic account, and none of the types of “hidden” fees that traditional merchant account providers like to tack on. While some advanced features require a monthly subscription, these are entirely optional, and most businesses probably won’t need them. Square’s processing rates are also very simple:

  • 2.75% for all card-present transactions (including magstripe, EMV, and NFC)
  • 2.90% + $0.30 for all invoices and eCommerce transactions
  • 3.50% + $0.15 for all virtual terminal and keyed-in transactions

That’s it! You don’t have to worry about non-qualified transactions, batch fees, or anything else. Funds are deposited into the user’s account within 1-2 business days in most cases. Billing is month-to-month, so you don’t have to worry about long-term contracts and early termination fees. You can quit anytime you want without penalty.

This all sounds great – and it is – if you’re a small business that has to watch every penny and can’t afford to shell out a significant amount of money every month just to have a merchant account. For a larger business, however, Square’s pricing actually isn’t the best deal available. Flat-rate pricing is deliberately on the high side because it has to pay for all the other services that most providers bill you separately for. At a certain point (roughly $10,000 per month in processing volume), you’re actually better off going with a full-service merchant account provider that offers interchange-plus pricing. Yes, you’ll have to pay those pesky account fees, but your processing rates will be so much lower that you’ll save money overall.

Besides high processing rates, Square has a few other drawbacks as well. We’ve already mentioned that your account is much more likely to be frozen or terminated unexpectedly, but what makes this situation worse is that Square’s customer service isn’t so great. The company didn’t even have telephone support for several years after it launched, but it does now. Unfortunately, it’s only available during business hours, and the large number of complaints about it suggests that the quality of support you’ll receive if you call in with a problem is inconsistent at best.

But is it really the cheapest way to go? Well, it depends. For a very small business that doesn’t have a high processing volume, Square’s lack of account fees and predictable pricing can make it very affordable. On the other hand, a larger business with a high processing volume will end up paying much more under those flat-rate prices than it would with an interchange-plus pricing plan.

Square keeps costs low by aggregating accounts together rather than issuing each user a unique Merchant ID number. Because of this, you won’t get a true full-service merchant account. The trade-off is that there’s a much higher chance that your account will be frozen or terminated without notice if fraud is suspected. This might be a minor inconvenience to a retail business that mostly deals in cash and only occasionally takes credit cards, but it’s catastrophic to an eCommerce business where cash isn’t an option.

PROS:

  • No monthly account fees
  • Low-cost EMV-compliant card readers available
  • No long-term contracts or early termination fees

CONS:

  • Not a full-service merchant account; no unique Merchant ID number
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for larger businesses

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

Payline Data

Payline Data (see our review) covers all the bases for small business transactions, from mobile and online payments to in-store sales. They offer easy-to-understand pricing plans that are very affordable, especially for low-volume sellers. However, the company’s website fully explains all of the extra features and their associated costs, so you know up front what you’ll have to pay. Payline also stands out from the crowd for their corporate philosophy of charitable giving and support for non-profits through discounted pricing and their “Commercial Co-Venture” program.

 

Cheapest Merchant Account Provider

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Outstanding $0 monthly fee option
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
Proprietary software suite includes:
• Excellent mobile processing app
• Easy integration API for customization
• Virtual terminal
• Billing management
Visit the Payline website
Read our Payline review

For brand-new or mobile businesses, Payline Start is the most affordable plan. There’s no monthly fee, and pass-through markup rates are set at 0.30% + $0.10 per transaction. In addition to the free virtual terminal, you’ll also receive a free Ingenico GX5 card reader and the Payline Mobile app to go with it. If you’re looking for value, but want better equipment and lower rates, the Payline Shop plan might be right for you. This plan includes the same features as the Payline Start plan, but lowers your processing rate. The plan costs $10 per month, and markup rates are set at 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction. Mobile businesses and small to medium retailers will benefit the most from this plan.

For more information, see our complete Payline Data review.

CDGcommerce

No account setup fees. No PCI compliance fees. No gateway fees. No monthly minimums, either. There’s a lot of things that CDGcommerce (see our review) doesn’t charge you for, making them a very affordable option for small businesses and those just getting off the ground. They also offer month-to-month contracts with no early termination fee, so in the unlikely event that you aren’t happy with their service, you can close your account without penalty.

So, what do you pay for? Besides processing charges, you’ll only have to pay a $10.00 monthly account fee. This gets you both a full-service merchant account and a payment gateway. You can select either CDG’s own proprietary Quantum gateway or Authorize.Net. Either way, there’s no fee for using the gateway, and no additional per-transaction processing fee. While this is a great deal, you also have the option of adding the cdg360 security package for an extra $15.00 per month. It comes with customized security alerts, PCI-DSS vulnerability scans, and $100,000 in data breach/theft protection. It’s well worth paying a little extra for, especially for eCommerce merchants.

Good Option for Online Payment Processing

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Free payment gateway option with activation within an hour
✓ Exceptional ecommerce shopping cart compatibility
✓ Over 20 years with excellent reputation
Proprietary fraud prevention suite includes:
• Automatic high-risk order detection
• Dialverify phone order verification
• Cardholder authentication (VbV/MSC)
• Chargeback defender
• Easy integration and API for customization
Visit the CDGcommerce website
Read our CDGcommerce review

We don’t recommend leasing a credit card terminal, but CDG has a program that’s very different from traditional leases, and is actually a good deal. For only $79 per year (for terminal insurance), CDG will provide you with a terminal and keep it updated. This works out to $6.58 per month, a fraction of what most terminal leasing companies will charge you. If you need a wireless terminal, you’ll also have to pay $20.00 per month for wireless data and an additional $0.05 per transaction in processing fees.

You won’t need to negotiate with CDG to figure out your processing rates. All their rate plans are interchange-plus and are fully disclosed on their website. The company offers a choice between Simplified and Advanced pricing plans, with Simplified pricing being designed for merchants processing less than $10,000 per month, and Advanced pricing being for those processing $10,000 or more per month. Here are their current rates:

Simplified Pricing:

  • Online: interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Retail (swipe or POS): interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Mobile: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Non-profit: interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

With very low account fees and competitive interchange-plus processing rates, CDGcommerce offers a great combination of price and value. If you’ve been using Square or PayPal and want to upgrade to a full-service merchant account, they’re an excellent option.

PROS:

  • Interchange-plus pricing
  • Month-to-month billing with no long-term contracts or early termination fees
  • Free payment gateway with virtual terminal
  • Excellent customer service

CONS:

  • Only available to US-based merchants

For more information, see our complete review here.

Dharma Merchant Services

Headquartered in downtown San Francisco, California, it should come as no surprise that Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) is far more socially responsible than just about any other merchant account provider in the industry. For you, that enlightened corporate philosophy translates into fair and transparent pricing, reasonable contract terms, and excellent customer support.

Because they don’t try to squeeze extra money out of struggling small business owners, you won’t have to pay an account setup fee or an annual fee. There’s no monthly minimum, either. You will pay a $10.00 monthly fee and a $7.95 per month fee for PCI compliance. Other fees (most of which are per-occurrence, such as chargeback fees) are fully disclosed on their website. Like many of our other favorite processors, Dharma doesn’t have long-term contracts, either. Billing is month-to-month, and there’s no early termination fee if you close your account.

Dharma Merchant Services review

Good Option for Nonprofits and B2B Payments

The Essentials:
✓ Provides discounted rates for nonprofits
✓ Exceptional customer service
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pass-through pricing
✓ Proven track record with nonprofits
Free MX Merchant Software includes:
• Level 2 and level 3 data for lower interchange rates on B2B processing
• Virtual terminal
• Invoicing/billing
Visit the Dharma Merchant Services website
Read our Dharma Merchant Services review

The company uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively and lists their rates right on their website. Here’s their current processing rate information:

  • Storefront: interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Virtual: interchange + 0.35% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Restaurant: interchange + 0.20% + $0.07 per transaction

If you need a terminal, Dharma will sell you either the First Data FD-130 or Verifone Vx520. They’ll also reprogram your existing terminal, if you have one. Need a POS system? Dharma offers the Clover Mini, and will sell it to you outright rather than leasing it. If you need a mobile payments system instead, Dharma offers the Clover Go for $99.00, plus a $10.00 monthly fee. For $139, you can upgrade to the Clover Go Contactless, which connects via Bluetooth instead of your phone’s headphone jack.

Dharma doesn’t have a minimum monthly volume requirement, but they do acknowledge that their fees and rates aren’t the lowest on the market for businesses that process less than $10,000 per month. You’re still free to sign up if you need a full-service merchant account, but they recommend either PayPal or Square if you don’t.

PROS:

  • Transparent interchange-plus pricing
  • Minimal account fees
  • Full range of services and equipment for both retail and online businesses
  • Great customer support

CONS:

  • Not a good fit for low-volume (less than $10,000 per month) accounts

For more information on Dharma, see our complete review here.

Helcim

Headquartered up in the Great White North, Helcim (see our review) provides outstanding service and affordable prices to both Canadian and US-based merchants. They offer interchange-plus pricing exclusively, and their website features one of the most detailed and transparent explanations of their rates and fees that you’ll find anywhere.

Transparency and honesty are major themes with Helcim, which is something you won’t often find with many other providers. Reading their website will give you a quick education on all the sneaky, misleading tricks that other companies use to squeeze more money out of their merchants. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about this kind of behavior with Helcim. Not only do they fully disclose their processing rates, account fees, and contract terms, but they also provide all their services at fair, competitive prices.

 

Good Option for Canadian Businesses

The Essentials:
✓ No early termination fees
✓ Transparent interchange-plus pricing
✓ Exceptional reputation in Canada
✓ High-quality all-in-one payment platform
✓ Great educational material
Proprietary Helcim Commerce solution includes:
• Point of sale software
• Inventory management
• Billing and invoicing
• Virtual terminal
Visit the Helcim website
Read our Helcim review

Unlike many of their competitors, Helcim encourages merchants to buy their credit card terminals outright rather than leasing them. The company offers a number of popular models, most of which are EMV-compliant. For a little extra cash up front, you can also get an NFC-capable terminal that supports Apple Pay and other similar mobile payment methods. If you already have a terminal, they’ll reprogram it to work with their system for free. Unfortunately, Canadian EMV-compliant terminals are not designed to be transferred or resold, so Canadian customers will have to use the rental option or buy a new machine. Renting on a month-to-month basis (which is not the same as leasing) is usually the best choice for Canadian merchants.

Helcim offers three basic pricing plans: a Retail Plan, an eCommerce Plan, and a combined Retail + eCommerce Plan. The Retail Plan costs a flat $15.00 per month. This fee covers PCI compliance, and there are no account setup or statement fees. There’s also no monthly minimum. All swiped transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.25% + $0.08 per transaction.

Helcim’s eCommerce Plan works the same way, but it costs $35.00 per month. This gives you access to the company’s proprietary Helcim Payment Gateway, which includes support for recurring billing, a customer information storage system, shopping cart integration, and a customizable payment gateway API. The plan also includes a virtual terminal that allows mail order or telephone order businesses to key in transactions on any computer. All online (i.e., card-not-present) transactions are processed at a rate of interchange + 0.45% + $0.25 per transaction.

The Retail + eCommerce Plan includes all features of the other two plans, and costs $50.00 per month. Processing rates are the same as for the other two plans.

There are few downsides to Helcim’s services. One way they’re able to keep costs so low is to exclude high-risk merchants from signing up. This policy lowers the company’s overall risk profile, but it also means you’ll be out of luck if you meet their high-risk criteria. Because they charge a monthly fee (albeit a very reasonable one), they’re also not quite as affordable as Square, PayPal, etc. if you’re processing below $2,500 per month. We’re also still waiting for the company to introduce an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. They currently offer a basic, magstripe-only reader that requires a headphone jack to communicate with your smartphone or tablet.

PROS:

  • Extremely transparent fee structure
  • Very competitive rates for businesses processing over $1,500 per month
  • Excellent customer service and support

CONS:

  • Not suited for very small businesses processing less than $1,500 per month
  • Not available for high-risk merchants
  • Mobile card reader isn’t EMV-compatible

For more information, see our complete review here.

Popular (But Less Reliable) Inexpensive Options

PayPal

Everyone has heard of PayPal (see our review). And just about everyone uses it. With an active user base of almost 200 million customers in 200 markets around the world, it’s a good bet that most of your customers use it, too. But can the company fill all your processing needs? The short answer is yes. PayPal has all the features you would need to run a business – either retail or eCommerce – using just their payment processing services and equipment. But would this be cost-effective? Here’s where it gets complicated. While the company offers flat-rate pricing and no monthly fees for its basic accounts, those flat-rate prices are kind of on the high side. Also, if you need features such as a virtual terminal, your account isn’t free. Instead, it’s $30.00 per month, plus your processing charges.

PayPal doesn’t offer true, full-service merchant accounts. Instead, they function as a payment service provider (PSP), which keeps costs relatively low, but also means that they’re quick on the trigger to freeze your account if they suspect that fraud has occurred. Like most PSPs, they don’t have long-term contracts and don’t charge early termination fees. Billing is month-to-month, and an account that doesn’t have a monthly fee is good for a business that only processes credit card transactions occasionally.

PayPal’s basic rate for online transactions is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. International payments and transactions processed through their virtual terminal cost more, while registered charities and mobile payments get a discount. PayPal fully discloses their rates on their website, so you’ll always know in advance what you’ll be paying.

While PayPal is designed primarily for eCommerce businesses, the company also supports retailers through integration with numerous third-party mobile POS systems and their own mobile payments system, PayPal Here. The latter now includes a Bluetooth-enabled EMV card reader. While many companies offer a free virtual terminal, but charge a monthly fee for the payment gateway needed to use it, PayPal does just the opposite. Their PayFlow Payment Gateway comes with no monthly fee, but if you also need a virtual terminal, you’ll pay $30.00 per month for it. There’s also a small additional per-transaction processing charge.

While these are all great features, there are also some not-so-great things about PayPal that you should be aware of before you sign up. Customer support through their telephone support line is very inconsistent. Some customer service representatives are quite knowledgeable and helpful, while others are not. Fortunately, the company provides an online knowledgebase that should help you solve common problems on your own. As we’ve mentioned, sudden account holds or terminations are also a possibility. If you simply can’t afford to lose access to your account temporarily, consider a different option.

For some businesses, PayPal is really all you need. If you don’t need a virtual terminal or any of the other features of the $30 PayPal Payments Pro plan, you can avoid monthly fees altogether and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. For larger businesses and those with more specialized needs, PayPal makes an excellent secondary payment option on top of your regular merchant account.

PROS:

  • No monthly fees (for standard account)
  • Transparent flat-rate pricing
  • Most customers have a PayPal account

CONS:

  • High flat-rate processing charges
  • Frequent account freezes, holds, and terminations
  • Inconsistent customer support

For more detailed information about PayPal, see our complete review here.

Stripe Payments

Stripe logo

Just like Square is popular with small retail businesses, Stripe (see our review) is the darling of the eCommerce world. The company functions as a payment service provider (PSP), aggregating accounts and keeping costs low for their clients. There are no monthly fees, and their flat-rate processing plan is extremely simple.

Stripe is so focused on eCommerce that they don’t offer much of anything to retailers. There are no credit card terminals, POS systems, or even mobile payments systems for your smartphone or tablet. So, if you’re a retailer, you can skip right on ahead to the next company profiled below. Stripe is not for you.

eCommerce-only merchants, on the other hand, will find a very robust variety of services to help them sell online. Integration is the name of the game at Stripe, and their payments processing service works with just about every online shopping cart on the market. They also have a vast library of APIs that allow businesses to customize the interface between Stripe and their websites. If you’d like to sell your products through your own app as well as on your website, they offer an impressive in-app purchasing capability.

So, how much does all this techy goodness cost? The short answer is not much – at least under certain circumstances. Since all your transactions will be processed online without a physical card being swiped or dipped, Stripe charges a flat 2.9% + $0.30 for all credit and debit card transactions. eCheck (ACH) and Bitcoin payments are charged a mere 0.8% per transaction. This is the same rate that Square and PayPal also charge for online transactions. There are no additional account fees, although you will be charged $15.00 for each chargeback. Chargeback fees are unavoidable with any processor, but unlike most companies, Stripe will refund your money if the chargeback investigation comes out in your favor.

You also won’t have to worry about long-term contracts or early termination fees, as Stripe bills on a month-to-month basis. This is a useful feature for a growing eCommerce business, as Stripe’s flat-rate pricing suffers the same flaw that plagues Square and PayPal: for a high-volume business, their flat-rate pricing is actually more expensive than what a full-service merchant account can provide through interchange-plus pricing.

While Stripe has some very impressive features, it also has a few serious drawbacks. Like other payment service providers (PSPs), account holds and terminations occur frequently and without notice. Stripe uses a machine learning-enabled algorithm to scan accounts for possible fraud, and it’s definitely programmed to err on the side of caution. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could call up a human customer service representative on the phone and resolve the situation. Unfortunately, you can’t – Stripe doesn’t offer telephone support at all. Instead, you’ll have to contact the company through email and wait for a response. Judging from the many complaints about Stripe’s customer service, the quality of those responses leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite its shortcomings, Stripe is a good choice for a new eCommerce venture. You’ll enjoy pay-as-you-go service with no monthly fees, and you won’t have to worry about long-term contracts. The company’s extensive library of developer tools can offer you options that you might not be able to find with other providers. Just be aware that when your business grows beyond a certain point, you’ll need the security and reliability of a full-service merchant account. You’ll also save money on processing charges by switching to interchange-plus pricing.

PROS:

  • Simple flat-rate pricing structure
  • No additional fees or long-term contracts
  • Huge API library for developers

CONS:

  • Flat-rate pricing is more expensive than interchange-plus for high-volume merchants
  • Frequent account holds and terminations
  • No telephone customer support

For more information, see our complete review here.

Final Thoughts

As you’ve probably noticed by now, pricing for credit card processing is a ridiculously complicated subject. With dozens of interchange rates and a wild assortment of fees, trying to figure out how much accepting credit cards is going to cost your business inevitably comes down to guesswork. While you can make a reasonable estimation based on your processing history and your business type, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to come up with a precise figure. Fortunately, the companies we’ve profiled here fully disclose their processing rates and fees, making your job of estimating your costs much easier.

We’ve only listed six of the most popular and most affordable processors here, so be aware that the cheapest processor for your particular business might not be one of them. There are plenty of other providers out there who are also competing for your business, so check them out, too!

Here are a few very general rules of thumb regarding merchant account pricing:

  • If your business has a low processing volume, you’ll want to find a provider with low monthly and annual fees. One of the most appealing aspects of Square or PayPal is that they don’t charge any monthly fees. This is a great feature if your business is seasonal or you only occasionally have a need to accept credit cards. Processing rates won’t be as important for low-volume merchants.
  • If your business has a high processing volume, fees aren’t as important, and you’ll want to get the lowest processing rates you can find. Paying one or more monthly fees for a merchant account is an insignificant expense for a larger business, but higher processing rates can make a serious dent in your profits.
  • Carefully analyze both the percentage rate and the per-transaction processing fee when evaluating rates. While you’d ideally like them both to be low, which one is more important will depend on your average transaction size. If you process a lot of smaller transactions, a $0.30 per transaction fee can add up quickly. On the other hand, if your transactions are usually larger, you won’t need to be as concerned with the per-transaction fee, and should try to get the lowest percentage rate you can find.

While all the companies we’ve profiled here provide excellent service at an affordable cost, some are better suited to particular types of businesses than others. Square, for example, works best for very small retail businesses. PayPal and Stripe, on the other hand, are a better fit for small eCommerce merchants. Full-service merchant account providers like Helcim, CDGcommerce, and Dharma are more well-rounded, but CDG is a better fit for smaller businesses, while Helcim and Dharma work better with larger ones. For a side-by-side comparison of some of the companies listed here (and a few other excellent providers), please see our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Best Choice For Small-ticket, Canada, Mobile, eCommerce  All businesses, Mobile, Retail eCommerce, Mobile Canada, Restaurants Large-ticket, All-in-one, Recurring billing

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Shopify VS 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Web-Hosted Or Licensed

Both services are web-hosted.

Hardware & Software Requirements

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

Pricing

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

Here’s a quick overview of plans:

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

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features

Winner: 3dcart

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

Front End Features

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

Back-End Features

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

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

Front End Features

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

Back-End Features

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

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

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

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

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

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

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

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

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

Payment Processing

Winner: 3dcart

Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways.

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

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

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

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

The winner here is 3dcart.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

Another tie here, folks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

The two platforms tie in this category as well.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

Get Started With Shopify

Get Started With 3dcart

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

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5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada

best canada ecommerce platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on for more details about each eCommerce solution.

Shopify

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

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

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

Pros

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

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

Cons

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

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

Canada-Specific Features

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

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

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

Read our full Shopify review

Visit the Shopify website

LemonStand

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

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

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

Pros

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

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

Cons

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

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

Canada-Specific Features

Here’s how LemonStand supports Canadian merchants:

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

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

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

Read our full LemonStand review

Visit the LemonStand website

PinnacleCart

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

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

Pros

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

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

Cons

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

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

Canada-Specific Features

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

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

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

Read our full PinnacleCart review

Get Started With PinnacleCart 

Magento

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

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

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

Pros

Take a look at the advantages that come with Magento:

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

Cons

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

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

Canada-Specific Features

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

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

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

Read our full Magento review

Zoey

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

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

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

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

Pros

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

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

Cons

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

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

Canada-Specific Features

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

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

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

Read our full Zoey review

Get Started With  Zoey

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses 2018

Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses

You can’t run your business with an empty wallet. In life, money isn’t everything, but in business, cold hard cash is what makes the world go round. It’s what lets you continue your sales operations, pay your employees on time, manage your operating expenses, and turn a profit.

But what do you do when cash is running low or not coming in as quickly as you like? One option is to take out a business cash flow loan.

Not sure which type of cash flow loan is right for you, or where to find the best cash flow loan lender? We’ve got you covered. The article discusses the top seven cash flow loans for small businesses.

Let’s start by taking a look at this quick comparison chart of cash flow lenders.

StreetShares OnDeck LoanBuilder
Products Offered • Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Contract financing
• Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Short-term loans
Best For Small- to medium-sized businesses looking for a working capital loan or line of credit. Small- to medium-sized business looking for fast funding. Small businesses looking for a short-term loan with weekly repayments.
Required Time in Business 12 months 12 months 9 months
Required Revenue $25,000 /year $100,000 /year $42,000 /year
Required Credit Score 620 500 550
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site  Visit Site  Visit Site
Fundation BlueVine Fundbox
fora financial logo
Products Offered • Term loans
• Lines of credit/td>
• Lines of credit
• Invoice factoring
• Lines of credit
• Invoice financing
Best For Established businesses looking with good credit looking for installment loans or lines of credit. Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow. Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow.
Required Time in Business 12 months 6 months N/A
Required Revenue $100,000 /year $120,000 /year N/A
Required Credit Score 600 600 N/A
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site  Visit Site  Visit Site

There are more details about each lender below. Read on to learn which cash flow solution is right for you.

Best Types of Loans For Cash Flow

There are several types of loans that can be great options for increasing cash flow:

  • Installment loans
  • Short-term loans
  • Lines of credit
  • Invoicing financing

We’ll go over each type of loan so you can know exactly what to expect and choose which type fits your business’s needs best.

Installment Loans

Installment loans, also called term loans, are loans in which the borrower receives a lump sum of money that is paid back in regular installments. Interest is charged throughout the duration of the loan. Many times, you can save money by paying the loan back early (so long as your lender doesn’t charge a pre-payment penalty).

Installment loans are paid back in regular installments, usually on a monthly basis. Each payment goes to paying a portion of the principal (the borrowing amount) and the interest (a fee based on a percentage of your remaining principal). Most installments loans have term lengths between 1 and 25 years.

Installment loans can be used for multiple business needs, including short-term cash flow and long-term business growth plans. Common uses for installment loans include:

  • Working capital (or everyday expenses)
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Equipment
  • Business expansion
  • Business acquisition
  • Debt refinancing

Because of the longer term lengths, installment loans are considered higher risk than other types of loans, and young and unstable businesses might have trouble qualifying. These loans are best for established businesses that want a longer period of time to repay their debt.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is a lump sum of money granted to a borrower and paid back in frequent, regular installments over a short period of time. Unlike an installment loan, a short-term loan does not have an interest rate; instead, this type of loan has a factor rate — a multiplier used to calculate a fixed fee that is added to your loan. The fixed fee is only calculated once and is repaid in along with the principal.

Short-term loans are paid back in regular fixed installments on a weekly, or even daily basis. For this reason, short-term loans are ideal for businesses with enough cash flow to afford these payments. Most short-term loans have term lengths between 3 and 18 months (with some up 24 or 36 months).

Short-term loans can be valuable for multiple types of business needs. Common uses for short-term loans include:

  • Working capital
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Equipment purchasing
  • Business expansion
  • Hiring or training new employees

Short-term loans are considered low risk and are generally known for low borrower requirements, fast funding, and no specific collateral. This type of loan can be ideal for businesses in need of extra cash who have the existing cash flow to make frequent repayments.

Lines of Credit

Unlike short-term loans and installment loans, lines of credit aren’t lump-sums of money handed to you all at once by a lender. Instead, when you are approved for a line of credit, a lender gives you access to a credit line with a certain amount of money that you can draw from at any time. 

Any draws made on a line of credit are paid in regular installments. Most lines of credit are revolving — as soon as you pay off the amount you used, it’ll be added back into the total available on your credit line. This means you can keep using the same funds again and again without reapplying for a loan.

Lines of credit are great for short-term, everyday business need, making them a great cash flow solution. Lines of credit also are a great cash cushion for unexpected expenses and emergencies. Common uses of a line of credit include:

  • Working capital
  • Payroll
  • Overhead costs
  • Seasonal expenses
  • Inventory purchasing
  • Unexpected expenses

Lines of credit are fairly easy to qualify for because they are offered by such a wide variety of lenders. They are ideal for nearly any type of business in need of a cash flow solution or looking for peace of mind regarding unexpected expenses. The only downside is that if you use up all of your credit line at once, you may not have access to the cash you need until you pay some of it back.

Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a cash flow solution in which you sell your unpaid invoices to an invoice factor in exchange for immediate cash. The tradeoff is that the invoice factor keeps a portion of the cash from the invoice on reserve until your customer pays. Once paid, the factor will grant you the rest of the reserve, minus a small fee.

Contract lengths, and the invoices eligible for factoring, vary by lender.

Invoice factoring allows businesses to receive cash faster than they normally would. The money received from invoice factors can be used to meet various business needs:

  • Working capital
  • Payroll
  • Inventory purchasing

Invoice factoring is a great solution for businesses that suffer from slow paying customers and are in need of immediate cash. You do lose a small portion of your invoice sale to the factor’s fees, but this can be more than worth the cost for many businesses that rely heavily on invoices.

The Best Cash Flow Loan Lenders

StreetShares

Best For…

Small- to medium-sized businesses looking for a working capital loan or line of credit.

Products Offered

  • Installment loans (or term loans)
  • Lines of credit
  • Contract financing

Founded in 2013, StreetShares is a peer-to-peer (P2P) lender created by veterans for veterans, although now any eligible merchant can access funding. This lender offers installment loans, lines of credit, and contract financing (similar to invoice factoring). StreetShares boasts no prepayment penalties, an easy application process, and excellent customer service.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $25,000 per year (sometimes StreetShares will make exceptions for high-earning businesses at least 6 months old).
• Must have a personal credit score of 620 or above.
Visit the StreetShares website
Read our StreetShares review

Here are the rates for StreetShares installment loans and lines of credit:

Borrowing amount: Up to $100K
Term length: 3 – 36 months
Interest rate: About 6% – 14%
Closing fee: 3.95% or 4.95% (installment loans)
1.5% draw fee (lines of credit)
APR range: 7% –  39.99%

These are the rates and fees for StreetShares’ contract financing:

Credit facility size: Max $500K per invoice
Advance rate: Up to 90%
Discount rate: Varies
Max overdue account: 180 days
Additional fees: None
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums/maximums: None
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Non-recourse
Notification or non-notification: Notification

How To Apply For A StreetShares Loan

To apply for funding from StreetShares, you’ll need to fill out an initial questionnaire. If approved, you’ll be asked to provide additional information, and then StreetShares will come back with an offer (or offers). The whole process takes between two and seven days on average.

Takeaway

StretShares offers competitive installment loans, lines of credit, and contract financing to eligible small and medium businesses. If you have fair credit and a need for additional cash flow, StreetShares is a great business financing option.

OnDeck

Best For…

Small- to medium-sized business looking for fast funding.

Products Offered

  • Short-term loans
  • Lines of credit

One of the first online lenders, OnDeck offers fast approval for lines of credit and short-term business loans. Although OnDeck’s fees can get a little pricey, the service is a convenient and quick way for businesses to access cash. Eligible OnDeck applicants usually receive funding 24 to 48 hours after their initial application.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 500 or above.
• Must not be in one of OnDeck’s restricted industries.
Visit the OnDeck website
Read our OnDeck review

Here’s what to expect from an OnDeck short-term loan:

Borrowing amount: $5K – $500K
Term length: 3 – 36 months
Fixed fee: x1.003 – x1.04 per month
Origination fee: 0% – 4%
APR: Approx. 7% – 98%
Collateral: UCC-1 blanket lien, personal guarantee

And here’s what to expect from an OnDeck line of credit:

Borrowing amount: $15K – $100K
Draw term length: 6 months
Draw fee: None
Maintenance fee: $20/month
APR range: 13.99% – 39.9%
Collateral: Personal guarantee

How To Apply For An OnDeck Loan

To apply for OnDeck financing, fill out an application online and OnDeck will let you know if you’re approved (usually in less than 24 hours). You may then need to provide additional documentation before receiving your funding. Typically, the loan can be approved and funded within one to two days.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for quick cash to cover working capital expenses or expand your business, OnDeck could be a great option. While the fees may get a bit spendy, the convenient, quick approval and low borrower requirements are more than worth it for some small business owners.

LoanBuilder

Best For…

Small businesses looking for a short-term loan with weekly repayments.

Products Offered

  • Short-term loans

Acquired by PayPal in 2017, LoanBuilder is a lending service offering short-term business loans to both PayPal users and non-PayPal users alike. LoanBuilder offers low borrower requirements and fairly reasonable rate and fees.

Borrowing amount: $5K – $500K
Term length: 13 – 52 weeks
Flat fee: 2.9% – 18.72%
Origination fee:  N/A
Effective APR: Learn more
Collateral: UCC-1 blanket lien

How To Apply For A LoanBuilder Loan

LoanBuilder allows potential borrowers to investigate their potential loan before applying. You simply enter some basic contact information and use their tool to check your eligibility, and then you can finish your application online.

Takeaway

With low borrower requirements and competitive rates, LoanBuilder can be a great option for small businesses looking for a short-term loan. Unlike some short-term loans, LoanBuilder offers weekly repayments instead of daily repayments which may make this loan more manageable.

Fundation

Best For…

Established businesses looking with good credit looking for installment loans or lines of credit.

Products Offered

  • Installment loans
  • Lines of credit

Founded in 2011, Fundation is an online lender that offers competitive installment loans and lines of credit without the long, complicated process of applying for a bank loan. Fundation also offers strong customer support and has very few negative complaints.

fundation logo
Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months and make at least $100,000 annually.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Must have at least three full-time employees (yourself included).
Visit the Fundation website
Read our Fundation review

These are the terms and fees for Fundation’s installment loans:

Borrowing amount: $20K – $500K
Term length: 1 – 4 years
Origination fee: Up to 5%
APR: 7.99% – 29.99%
Collateral:  Personal guarantee, UCC-1 blanket lien

Here’s what to expect from Fundation’s lines of credit:

Borrowing amount: $20K – $100K
Term length: 18 months
Additional fees: $500 closing fee
2% draw fee
APR: 7.99% – 29.99%
Collateral:  Personal guarantee, UCC-1 blanket lien

How To Apply For A Fundation Loan

The Fundation application process includes filling out an online application, documenting your business’s ID and finances, and speaking with a representative directly to see if you’re a good fit for a Fundation loan. After speaking to a rep, your application will go through to underwriting and you may hear back in as early as 24 hours.

Takeaway

Fundation is a great option for established businesses looking for rates and fees as competitive as bank loans, without the long, complicated application process. Because of the more stringent borrower requirements, Fundation is not ideal for startups; but, if you do qualify, this financing option is well worth looking into.

BlueVine

Best For…

Small businesses looking for a line of credit or invoice factoring for consistent cash flow.

Products Offered

  • Lines of credit
  • Invoice factoring

Founded in 2013 on the idea that small business financing should be easy, BlueVine offers lines of credit and invoice factoring for small businesses. The company is known for revolutionizing the invoice factoring world and helping business owners get quick cash for unpaid invoices. With relaxed borrower requirements, BlueVine may be ideal for young businesses.

bluevine logo
Invoice factoring borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 3 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 530 or above.
• Business must be B2B and invoice customers.
Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 6 months with a revenue of $120,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Lines of credit are not available in all states. See full review for details.
Visit the BlueVine website
Read our BlueVine review

Here are the rates for BlueVine’s lines of credit:

Credit facility size: $6K – $5M
Term length: 6 or 12 months
Interest rate: 0.3% – 1.5% per week
Draw fee: 1.6% – 2.5% per draw
APR: 15% – 78%
Personal guarantee: Yes

Here are the rates for BlueVine’s invoice factoring:

Credit facility size: $20K – $5M
Advance rate: 85% – 95%
Discount rate: 0.3% – 1% per week
Max overdue account: 13 weeks (91 days)
Additional fees: $15 wire transfer fee (no charge for ACH transfers)
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums: No
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Recourse
Notification or non-notification: Both (see below)

How To Apply For A BlueVine Loan

To apply for BlueVine funding, you’ll need to answer a few basic questions about yourself and your business. You’ll then speak with a representative who will ask several additional questions. Typically, you’ll hear back in about 24 hours.

Takeaway

With relaxed borrower requirements and an easy application process, BlueVine can be a great choice for small businesses looking to increase their cash flow with invoice factoring or a line of credit. Be sure to check that BlueVine lines of credit are supported in your specific state before applying.

Fundbox

Best For…

Microbusinesses looking for invoice financing or a line of credit to increase cash flow.

Products Offered

  • Lines of credit
  • Invoice financing

Similar to BlueVine, Fundbox is an invoice financing solution created to help small businesses have more consistent cash flow. Since its inception in 2013, Fundbox now offers lines of credit as well. Fundbox offers relaxed borrower qualifications, making it ideal for less established businesses, and there are no additional fees.

Borrower requirements:
• No revenue or time in business requirements, but must use compatible accounting or invoicing software for at least 3 months, or a compatible business bank account for at least 6 months.
• No specific credit score requirements.
Visit the Fundbox website
Read our Fundbox review

Here are the rates for Fundbox’s invoicing financing (called Fundbox Credit):

Credit facility size: Up to $100K
Advance rate: 100%
Advance fee: 0.4% – 0.7% per week
Term length: 12 or 24 weeks
Additional fees: None
Contract length: N/A
Monthly minimums: No
Factor all invoices: No
Recourse or non-recourse: Recourse
Notification or non-notification: Non-notification

Here are the rates for Fundbox’s lines of credit (called Direct Draw):

Borrowing Amount: $1K – $100K
Term Length: 12 weeks
Borrowing Fee: 0.5% – 0.7% per week
Draw Fee: None
Effective APR: 12% – 54%

How To Apply For A Fundbox Loan

Fundbox’s application is a bit unique. To apply, you simply create an account and hook it up to your existing accounting software or bank account. Fundbox then uses the information to determine whether you qualify for a loan. This process is extremely quick and most applicants will receive a funding decision in minutes.

Takeaway

Fundbox can be a great financing solution for small businesses in need of low borrower qualifications and quick cash. Fundbox’s borrowing amounts may be too small and the rates too steep for larger businesses, but for less established businesses that don’t qualify elsewhere, Fundbox can be a cash flow solution.

Which Cash Flow Loan Is Right For My Business?

With seven great options, it can be hard to know which is right for your business. When choosing a cash flow loan, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the purpose of the loan?
  • Which type of loan is best for my business needs?
  • What’s my credit score and monthly/yearly revenue?
  • How much do I need to borrow? (And especially, how much can I afford to borrow?)
  • How quickly do I need the funding?

All of these factors will play a role in deciding which lender you should go after. If you need additional help or want to see even more financing options, check out our comprehensive small business loan reviews.

The post Best Cash Flow Loans For Small Businesses 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Strategies To Improve Cash Flow

10 Strategies To Increase Cash Flow

If you’re reading this blog, then you already know how important cash flow is. Cash flow is the mainstay of your business. Positive cash flow means you can successfully run and grow your business, and negative cash flow — well, that’s bad news.

But what do you do when you have negative cash flow? How do you increase your positive cash flow and get your business where it needs to be?

Cash flow is affected not just by bringing in more cash inflows, but also by limiting your cash outflows. This means you have to manage your expenses just as much as your sales. Read on for ten practical tips to help you improve your cash flow and get your business on the right track.

1. Send Invoices Right Away

Sales and invoices are the lifeblood of a small business. You can’t get paid if you don’t send invoices. Simple as that.

Make sure you stay on top of invoicing your customers. The quicker you send invoices out, the faster the cash comes in. If your current invoicing process is tedious, consider switching to a cloud-based accounting software with attractive, easy to create invoices. Software like QuickBooks Online and Zoho Books both offer great invoicing capabilities which can help you speed up your invoicing process and increase your cash flow.

Our comprehensive accounting software reviews cover QuickBooks products, Xero, Freshbooks, Sage, and more of the top cloud-based and locally-installed accounting solutions on the market today. If you want a quick peek at the top contenders, check out our accounting software comparison chart.

Using an old version of QuickBooks Pro? Save $100 when you upgrade to QuickBooks Desktop 2018.

Purchase QuickBooks Desktop Pro 2018 Now

2. Get Customers To Pay Invoices On Time

Another key to increasing your cash flow is getting your customer to pay their invoices on time. We know this is easier said than done, but there are plenty of practical strategies to increase the likelihood of getting paid faster. Here are some of our top invoicing tips:

Follow Up With Invoice Reminders

Make sure you remind your customers when their invoices are due. Send email reminders a few days before the invoice is due, the day the invoice is due, and a few days after. If they still haven’t paid, give them a call and continue sending reminders. Many accounting programs have built-in invoice reminders that you can automatically send to late paying customers.

Give Your Customers Incentives

Consider offering a discount to customers who pay their invoices before a certain time. If your invoice terms are Net 30 (due 30 days after the invoice is sent), but you really want your customers to pay their invoices in the first week they receive the invoice, offer a small discount. Customers looking for a deal will be more likely to pay their invoices faster, which means you get cash faster.

Charge A Late Payment Penalty

Another key to successful invoicing is having a strong invoicing policy. Choose a consistent time when invoices are due (ex. due upon receipt, Net-15, Net-30, etc) and stick to it. Have a late payment penalty in place for customers who exceed the due date. Not only will this help increase your chances of getting your money, it will also set you apart as a professional.

When it comes to late payment penalties, be upfront about the penalty, when it will be charged, and how much will be charged. You can often include this in your terms and conditions section on your invoice. Do some research on what a normal late penalty policy looks like for your industry before implementing.

Consider Invoice Factoring

If the above strategies don’t work or you need cash right away, another option is invoice factoring. Invoicing factoring is the process of selling your unpaid invoices to a company in exchange for immediate cash. The factoring company takes a small cut of the money you earn, but the payoff is that you aren’t stuck waiting on customers.

Invoice factoring can be a great cash flow solution, as can invoice financing. Check out one of our favorite invoice factors, BlueVine, to learn more. Or take a look at Fundbox, an invoice financer, for an alternative solution.

3. Increase Prices

If you are hurting for cash flow, it may be time to consider increasing the prices for your products or services. Ask yourself:

  • What are my competitors charging?
  • Have the prices for equipment or inventory increased?
  • How much manpower does my inventory assembly or services require?
  • Do my prices outweigh the time put into my creating my products?
  • Are my prices too low? Do my products come off as cheap or valuable?

You want to strike a balance between keeping your prices competitive and fairly compensating the hard work you and your employees do. At the end of the day, you want to make sales, but you also want to make a profit. If your prices are too low, you may be selling yourself short. In some cases, lower prices can also make your company seem less qualified.

4. Expand Sales Market

Another solution to increasing positive cash flow is to brainstorm new sources of income. Get the dream team together, sit down with some coffee, and consider new ways to expand your sales market. Here are a few new sales possibilities to get the ideas rolling.

Add New Services Or Products

Think about the current items or services you offer and consider if there are other items or services you think would be a good addition to your business. Think outside of the box and consider alternate ways to earn income as well.

Maybe your coffee shop starts offering homemade lemonade for the summer; maybe your event planning service adds a cleaning service to maximize on business; maybe your office rents out its large outdoor space for parties and events on the weekends when it’s not in use. Whatever it is, get creative about new ways your business can generate income, which will in turn and increase cash flow.

Create A New Marketing Strategy

Maybe the products you offer are spot on, but your marketing could be expanded. Think of new ways to get the word out about your business. Consider if there are any other groups of people that could benefit from what your business offers. Bringing in more customers is a great way to bring in more cash flow.

Encourage Customers To Buy More

Another great way of improving cash flow is getting your existing customers to spend more. There are two great ways to do this:

  • Bundle Items: Sell similar items together to encourage increased spending.
  • Advertise Related Products: If you use an eCommerce platform, advertise additional products that the buyer “may be interested in” or that “others also purchased.”

Both of these can be great ways to expand your existing sales (rather than having to expand a whole sales market). If you want to start advertising related products or selling your products online, check out our top eCommerce recommendations.

Don’t Forget Your Loyal Customers

Another great way to expand your market is by letting happy customers do it for you. Encourage loyal customers by offering discounts to loyal customers or implementing rewards programs, like stamp cards, for multiple purchases. Also, consider implementing a referral program. This way you can encourage your loyal customers to grow your business for you through word of mouth.

5. Reevaluate Operating Expenses

Managing cash flow isn’t just about getting more cash to come into your business. It’s also important to reduce the cash going out of your business as much as possible. Here are five tips for reducing your business’s operating expenses, so you have more cash to spare.

Cut Out Unnecessary Expenses

Take a careful look at your cash flow statement and analyze your company’s business expenses. Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are these expenses necessary?
  • If they are necessary, is there a cheaper alternative?

Carefully consider your current expenses. Cut out any that are unnecessary and try to minimize the necessary expenses as much as you can. It may seem difficult to do, but you (and your wallet) will feel much better knowing that you’re managing your cash flow and expenses effectively.

Streamline Your Business Processes

Another important aspect of managing your cash flow is making sure your business is running as efficiently as possible. Focus on cutting time, not just costs. Analyze all of your current business processes and judge how efficient the current process is, and if there’s any way to speed up that process.

Maybe that means implementing accounting software to send invoices faster or rethinking your employees’ inventory assembly process. By using time efficiently, you can get more done, spend less on wages, and avoid excessive overtime pay (which can put a huge dent in your business’s cash)

Purchase More Efficient Equipment

One way to increase your company’s speed and efficiency is to purchase better, updated technology and equipment. While it may cost a bit to purchase the equipment initially, you will save time which cuts back on wage expenses. This may also lead to increased production or the ability to take on extra projects, which leads to more incoming cash.

Looking for equipment financing? Check out our comparison of the top equipment financers for small business.

Ask Suppliers For Bulk Inventory Rates

Some vendors, especially those with whom you have a good relationship, may offer discounts for buying inventory in bulk. These can definitely be worth taking advantage of, so don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers if they have any deals.

Consider Leasing Equipment

If you don’t have the cash to flat out buy equipment or you don’t qualify for a working capital loan, it might be worth considering leasing equipment. You lose the advantage of having the equipment as a fixed asset for your business, but you gain lower monthly payments, which may be what you need to keep your cash flow in check.

6. Liquidate Old Inventory

Inventory is one of the largest business expenses you might encounter. You need inventory to make a profit, but you want to make sure the inventory you’re buying is actually selling. Carefully consider which products sell well and which you have a hard time turning over. Take a look at your sales patterns to see when your busy and non-busy sales times are and order inventory accordingly.

If you have any old inventory that you’re having a hard time getting rid of, consider liquidating the items. Any money coming in is better than no money.

7. Pay Vendors At The Right Time

Be strategic about when you pay your vendors. If your vendor offers a discount for paying early, be sure to pay in the time required time to save some money. If the vendor doesn’t offer a discount, pay when is most favorable for your business.

Say your bill is due on the June 1st. Your cash flow statement records show that May is a slow month for your business, but June has a history of higher sales. Pay your bill the last day it’s due so that you can report a positive cash flow for May.

If you need even more time to pay off bills, you can also consider paying with a business credit card. This way you can pay off the expenses over a period of time rather than all at once. Take a look at our business credit card reviews to find the right card for you.

8. Open A Business Savings Account

If you don’t have one already, open a business savings account where you can earn money on interest. This is a simple way to generate a bit of extra cash and it’s a smart way to ensure you always have a cash flow cushion for your business.

9. Consider A Cash-Back Business Credit Card

Using a cash back business credit card can be a strategic way to earn cash on your expenses. As long as you use the card wisely and can afford to make regular (if not full) payments each month, a cash back credit card is easy money. There are several great cash back rewards cards out there. Here are some of the best cash back business cards for small businesses.

10. Take Out A Small Business Loan

Another option to increase cash flow is to take out a short-term loan or line of credit. With a short-term loan, a lender gives you a lump sum of money that is paid back in regular installments over a short period of time. With a line of credit, a lender grants you a max borrowing amount that you draw from any time you need cash; payments are made only on the money used.

While the prospect of owing money may make you squeamish, there are several great reasons to take out a cash flow loan:

  • To expand your business
  • Purchase inventory
  • Take on a new, profitable project
  • Purchase new equipment
  • Unexpected expenses
  • To cover off-season slumps

If a loan sounds like a good cash flow solution for your business, check out our top small business lenders to find the right loan for you.

All of these tips can help you manage and increase your cash flow. Whether you decide to focus on increasing your sales, decreasing your expenses, gaining capital — or a mix of them all — you’re well on your way to increasing your cash flow and running a more successful business.

The post 10 Strategies To Improve Cash Flow appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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