How To Advertise on Quora Effectively

Quora Ads

Quora Ads are one of the myriad options for advertising online. Like eBay, Reddit, and LinkedIn, Quora is one of those Web 2.0 properties that feels like it should be dated, but remains surprisingly relevant.

In fact, while Quora is itself has been around since 2009, Quora’s self-serve Ad Platform only rolled out in 2016.

Quora has 300 million active users and some interesting reasons to advertise.

Why Use Quora Ads

First, you have access to both social data and search intent.

Like Pinterest and Reddit, you can reach people based on demographic and psychographic data AND you can reach people who are actively searching for answers OR you can layer both to run hyper-targeted campaigns to people who are both your target customer and actively researching.

Second, you have access to lots of qualified organic traffic. Quora has plenty of internal usage. But their organic search traffic is their secret weapon.

Due to their brand and enormous amount of content, they rank well in Google & Bing for highly qualified search terms. I’ve written how you can use Quora for “barnacle” SEO and content.

But – that approach requires work. With Quora Ads, you can pay to jump to the front of the line. Advertise on pages that rank well for target keywords.

Quora Ad Alternative

Third, you get to define best practices & deal with lower competition.

Every big brand and agency is on Google & Facebook. Best practices and budgets are well-defined. Quora requires more work and thought to succeed.

I’ll share my experience in this post, but my main takeaway is that there is no “right” answer. Quora is still wide-open and open for testing & experimentation. If you have more time / skills than budget, Quora is a great place to go.

How To Setup Quora Ads

Quora has done an excellent job with self-service. The platform is straightforward and comes with a surprisingly useful email course.

To get started, all you need is some basic business information.

Within your Ads Manager Dashboard, you can Manage Ads, setup a Quora Pixel, manage your retargeting audiences, and setup email reports.

Whether you setup an ad campaign or not, I highly suggest that you immediately implement your Pixel, dabble with Audiences and setup a couple curated Email Reports.

Quora has a the familiar menu of retargeting audiences. Standard setup is for Website Traffic.

In the next step, you’ll setup your Quora Pixel to tag visitors. You can pre-segment your Website Traffic to make retargeting a bit easier.

3 Quora Remarketing

If you have a lot of educational content on your site, I would start with that segment. Quora is a common research tool, especially with high-consideration purchases. If you can reach users doing intensive research across platforms, you’ll be less likely to lose them.

Additionally, once you’ve built an audience, you can create a Lookalike Audience.

This feature is huge because you can reasonably expand your reach across Quora to reach someone who you *know* is familiar with your brand.

Remember how I mentioned that Quora is hybrid social / search? This is where that power comes in.

For example, imagine you are recruiting entry-level engineers out of college.

You have the ability to tag visitors to your site, and then reach them throughout Quora whenever they are asking career related questions.

Plus – you’ll get insight into the types of questions that you your audience asks. This feeds back into a successful content strategy based on data that *only* you have access to.

Lastly, if you have permission, you can upload a list of current contacts to rebuild your existing customers within Quora.

It’s a lot of work, but for high consideration campaigns, it’s worthwhile.

Like any & all retargeting strategies – Audiences can be creepy, invasive, and sometimes illegal in the European Union without explicit consent.

Most people either consent or live in jurisdictions that do not require explicit consent. These tools do exist and are worthwhile for many businesses. Retargeting is here to stay. The key is to keep it classy. Time, thoughtfulness, and testing creates the best outcome for advertisers, publishers, and customers.

Email Reporting is straightforward. But I would set the settings you like so that you actually view the reports rather than automatically deleting them.

4 Quora Email Reports

Now you’ll need to set your Quora Pixel, which is the snippet that “fires” on your webpage to track website visitors.

The setup depends on your website, but you’ll need to place it wherever you have your Google Analytics tag.

5 Quora Pixel

Now you can get started on a campaign! Head to Manage Ads and select your objective.

6 Quora Ads Create Campaign

If you select Conversions, you’ll need to select a conversion type to pass to your Quora Pixel. You’ll also have to manually tag any actions (like Add to Cart).

Conversion Tracking is accurate and can be worthwhile. But unless you are running large campaigns, some of this Conversion Tracking might not be worth the effort.

8 Quora Ads Conversions

For my campaigns (and most advertisers), I use the Traffic objective. But I also tag all of my ads so that I can track conversions within my existing Google Analytics setup.

9 Quora Ads Objective

Once you’ve created your Campaign objectives, you’ll need to set up a new Ad Set.

Ad Sets each have their own targeting and bids. After setting up an Ad Set, you’ll write individual Ads for each ad set.

But Ad Sets are where the fun really happens.

You have 4 primary targeting methods. I’ll cover each below. But the short version is that you can do –

  • Topic Targeting – Target content that falls within a category regardless of user interest.
  • Question Targeting – Target specific questions on Quora regardless of topic or user.
  • Audience Targeting – Target your audiences everywhere on Quora (see above).
  • Interest Targeting – Target people who are interested in a topic regardless of content.

After that, you can choose several secondary targeting methods. You can focus your ads by Location or Device. You can also exclude specific questions or audiences (ie, people who have successfully purchased from your site).

10 Quora Ads Targeting

Topic and Question Targeting are my favorite options. They both target based on content not the user.

When you are looking to expand reach or target based on intent – this is the option that you should use. Topic Targeting lets you quickly target a bunch of questions quickly.

The key to Topic Targeting is to provide Quora with a relevant but broad set of keywords. There’s a bit of an art to it, but be sure to play around with different combinations before committing to a set of Topics.

Additionally, make sure you go and manually explore those Topics to vet the questions, the likely audience, and and related Topics that you are missing.

11 Quora Ads Topic Targeting

But if you have time, the best targeting option is Suggested Questions.

With this option, you can advertise with specific ads on specific questions.

From a purely data perspective, this targeting option is the only place to get Weekly Views stats for Quora questions, which can help your content marketing efforts separate from any paid campaigns.

13 Quora Question Ad Suggestions

Interest Targeting targets the user rather than the content that they are looking at. This option is great for casting a wide-net to reach your audience everywhere on Quora.

However, note that you’ll reach them even when they are looking at irrelevant questions. This option is great to layer with other options (like exclude questions). Be careful using it alone though.

12 Quora Ads Interest Targeting

There are also options for targeting an existing audience and also a Broad Topic option.

After selecting your targeting with exclusions and bids set, you’ll need to create your actual ads.

Quora provides lots of space and encourages “content-like” ads. They want complete sentences that are relevant to your targeting. They are not great for hard-sells, but pair *very* well with custom landing pages or educational content.

Be sure to add UTM parameters to your landing page URL to effectively track visits throughout Google Analytics.

 

14 Quora Ad CreationThat’s how you setup Quora ads. But keep in mind that the magic is in customized ads, landing pages, targeting and constantly improving each metric.

That said – how do Quora ads perform “out in the wild”? I’ve run a few campaigns for myself and for clients. Here’s the results of my most recent campaign.

My Experience with Quora Ads

Now – I almost exclusively use Question Targeting for my Quora ads. I also commit to spending probably too much time on research for my small campaigns (although some of that research gets re-used for content campaigns).

The campaign highlighted below was a fairly small content promotion campaign. I had a new piece of content that I wanted to promote without traditional, manual outreach.

I found several questions that aligned with the content. I devoted around $100 to promotion.

Quora Campaign Results

This campaign aligned with the common takeaways from my Quora campaigns.

  • The impressions were high for such a niche topic – and surprisingly consistent day to day.
  • The CTR was uncommonly high for online ads.
  • Conversions were solid.
  • Cost per click was a bit higher than expected, but nowhere near Google Ads territory.

Additionally, I did not have to filter or account for a lot of spam (I’m looking at you, Google Display and Facebook…).

My numbers in Google Analytics lined up perfectly with Quora. Engagement was high and as I’d hoped.

Quora Ads Experiment

All in all, this (and all my campaigns) go back to the same general takeaways for Quora Ads.

  • Quora Ads are hard to roll out “at scale” but are very effective with the right amount of time devoted to set up & research.
  • They are great for high consideration ads and great to reach new, smart audiences.
  • You have to have the right website content to provide good, engaging landing pages.
  • Often small campaigns are worthwhile simply for the data.

In many ways, they remind me of both Pinterest and Reddit Ads. They aren’t for everyone, but certainly a solid opportunity for the right advertisers.

Next Steps

Quora Ads are not for everyone. There’s not a ton of inventory. To do it well, you really need to spend some time on your research and ad setup.

However, in an increasingly crowded and expensive online ad market, the market represents a solid opportunity.

At the very least, you should go set up an account and grab the Quora Pixel to build an audience.

From there, you can reach you existing users on yet another platform. You can expand your reach based on small tests and the time you have to research interests.

If you found this article useful, please link, share or bookmark. Happy advertising!

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

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

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

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

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

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

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

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

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

And, of course…

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

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

1. Shopify

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

Pricing

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

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

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

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

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

Features & Add-Ons

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

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

Web Design

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

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

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

Customer Support

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

Who Is Shopify Best For?

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

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

2. BigCommerce

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

Pricing

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

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

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

Features & Add-Ons

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

Web Design

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

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

Customer Support

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

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

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

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

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

3. 3dcart

3dcart

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

Pricing

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

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

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

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

Features & Add-Ons

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

Web Design

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

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

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

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

Customer Support

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

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

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

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

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

4. Ecwid

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

Pricing

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

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

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

Features & Add-Ons

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

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

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

Ease Of Use

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

Web Design

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

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

Customer Support

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

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

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

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

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

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

5. Wix

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

Pricing

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

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

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

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

Features & Add-Ons

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

Web Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Support

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

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

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

Who is Wix Best For?

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

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

Quick Pricing Comparison

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

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

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

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

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

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

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

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

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

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19 Reasons To Get A Business Loan (And How To Get Started)

business loan reasons

There are so many good reasons to get a business loan that you probably haven’t even considered half of them. For example, have you ever thought about taking out a loan to hire a new employee or getting a loan for the sole purpose of building your business’s credit? Those are both valid reasons to apply for business financing, and there are many other reasons that might not have ever crossed your mind.

While many small businesses are debt-averse — afraid to apply for financing because they don’t think they have good enough credit, or unsure if they can afford repayments — it’s a simple fact that you need money to make money. In some ways, living debt-free can actually hinder your business’s growth or even its ability to stay afloat. You might also be surprised at the wide variety of financing products available for almost any type of business pursuit.

Even if you’ve never applied for financing before, a business loan is definitely something to think about if you are short on funds or are considering a new opportunity or investment that could advance your business.

Read on for a look at 19 reasons you might want to take out a business loan.

Or, skip down to the “Types of Business Loans” section to see if what type of loan you should pursue for your particular business need.

1. Start A Business

Want to get your brand-new business off the ground with a running start? A startup loan can help you do just that. A few startup-friendly lenders will lend to brand-new businesses with no time in business, while others will want to see that you have 6 months’ worth of revenue.

However, startup loans are not by any means easy to get for spanking new businesses lacking in experience, especially if your business is still in the “idea stage.” If this sounds like you, you might consider a crowdfunded loan or small business grant in lieu of traditional financing.

2. Increase Working Capital

Working capital—the money required for day-to-day business operations—is a big reason businesses might need to apply for financing. For myriad reasons, your business may simply be short on cash. Sporadic cash flow, business growth spurts, and seasonal sales fluctuations are just a few reasons businesses apply for a working capital loan.

In many circumstances, you might not know exactly how much money you need, but expect you’ll need some extra working capital in the near future. In such cases, you might be wise to apply for a short-term business line of credit that you can draw from as needed.

3. Purchase Inventory

Businesses new and old, large and small, commonly apply for financing to cover the cost of purchasing inventory or raw materials to make products. A healthy inventory allows you to have enough product on-hand to meet demand and keep customers happy.

Retail businesses, in particular, often require financing to replenish stocks, particularly is your store sees a big sales up-tick during certain seasons. For example, a company that sells a popular holiday gift might take out a short-term loan to purchase product ahead of the holiday season, and then repay that loan with the proceeds of their seasonal sales.

4. Purchase Equipment

Almost all businesses require equipment of some sort — especially businesses involved in manufacturing, as well as those in the food and service industries. Whether you need professional gym equipment or even a business vehicle, such assets can represent a major expense to a new, struggling, or expanding business.

Purchasing equipment may necessitate a business loan, or perhaps you’d rather charge it on your business credit card if your credit limit is high enough. One popular way to buy business equipment is equipment financing, as this type of loan typically does not require any collateral other than the equipment itself.

5. Hire New Talent

According to the National Small Business Association, data going back as far back as 1993 shows a strong connection between businesses’ ability to hire employees and their ability to get financing. Indeed, payroll is a significant expense businesses must contend with, including not just wages, but healthcare and other benefits, as well as employee training. In some cases, businesses even have to reduce their number of employees or scale back employee benefits if they don’t have sufficient access to financing.

While taking out a loan to hire someone is always a risk, it’s true that employees are a business’s greatest asset; if the employee is worth their salt, they will eventually justify the expense of the loan.

6. Expand Products/Services

Businesses in the growth stage, as well as stable businesses trying to increase revenues and/or stay competitive with peers, will need to expand their offerings from time to time. Regardless of how you’re going to achieve a product or service expansion, an installment loan or another type of business loan can help you make the necessary investments to keep your offerings fresh and relevant.

7. Open A New Location

Your business is growing fast and you need to open a new location. Expanding to a new location is a major undertaking requiring a lot of capital, but one that can pay off tremendously in time.

If you have at least two years’ time in business, you may be eligible for a long-term business expansion loan with low interest rates. Businesses purchasing real estate to open a new location be eligible for a commercial real estate mortgage such as those offered by the SBA through the  SBA CDC/504 program. There is even such a thing as real estate crowdfunding for businesses.

Or, say you own an online business and want to establish your first physical location, you might consider a startup loan to help get your new operations up and running.

8. Pay Taxes

Ideally, you will set aside enough money throughout the year to pay your business taxes when the tax man comes a knockin’. But alas, life doesn’t always work out that way, which is why small businesses frequently take out loans to pay taxes.

Rather than get in trouble with the IRS for not paying your taxes, you are much better off using a business loan or even a cash advance to pay your taxes.

9. Create A Safety Net

A safety net is a cash or credit “cushion” you can use to fall back on during slim times. Perhaps you own a seasonal business or simply have cash-flow problems from time to time; even though you don’t require any extra working capital at the present moment, you feel good knowing it’s available if and when you need it.

You’re probably especially aware of the need for a safety net if you’ve been caught without one in the past, and had to pay overdraft bank fees or get an expensive short-term loan to cover unforeseen shortfalls.

A revolving line of credit, working capital loan, or even a business credit card can all help provide a safety net for a future rainy day. If there are no rainy days on the immediate horizon, you will have some peace of mind knowing you’re prepared for anything.

10. Refinance Another Loan

While it may seem strange to take out a loan to pay off another loan, debt refinancing is a popular and sometimes necessary reason to take out a business loan. You might choose to refinance your business debt because you are offered a loan with better rates and fees, or you might choose to consolidate multiple loans into one loan.

If you’re considering refinancing a loan you are currently paying on, check out our Complete Guide To Refinancing Small Business Debt.

11. Buy A Business

A business acquisition loan, or a loan to buy a business, is another popular category of business loans. You can take out this kind of loan to expand your current business’s offerings with the purchase of another business, or to buy a business even if you don’t have an existing business (in which case you will probably need a startup loan).

Depending on your business credentials, the health of the business you want to purchase, and other factors, you may be able to get a business acquisition loan through a bank or the SBA. You might also finance your business purchase through a business expansion loan or a startup loan from an online lender. There are also franchise loans available to individuals looking to purchase a new or existing franchise.

12. Buy Out A Partner

business loan vs personal loan

Sometimes it just doesn’t work out with a business partner. But just because your partner agrees to be bought out doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have the money to do so. In these circumstances, you can get a business loan to execute a partner buyout.

There is not really a specific type of loan for partner buyouts but you can use many standard business loans for this purpose, including an SBA standard 7(a) loan.

13. Cover Construction Costs

Perhaps you want to expand or improve your physical business location(s) with renovations or improvements, or maybe you want to construct a brand-new building for your business. Either way, a commercial real estate loan—also called a commercial mortgage or commercial construction loan—is the type of financing you need.

You can use a commercial construction loan, typically obtained through a bank or credit union, to pay for construction costs such as labor, materials, and land development. Hard money loans are another option to pay for business construction.

14. Cover Unpaid Invoices

Businesses with a lot of outstanding invoices can free up pending earnings using a type of loan called invoice factoring.

The financer fronts you the money that your customers owe you, and then you repay them as the customers pay off their debts. With this type of financing, your business does not necessarily need to have good credit, as the invoice factor is more concerned with your customers’ credentials than with your business’s.

15. Buy Insurance

Insurance is a major business expense. Business insurance requirements vary by state and industry. Liability insurance, property insurance, employee healthcare insurance, malpractice insurance, and flood insurance are just a few types of insurance your business might need. For certain business loans, you even need insurance in order to get the loan in the first place. For example, you may need life insurance and various other types of insurance to qualify for an SBA loan.

While, ideally, insurance costs will be included in your budget as a percentage of your gross sales, a business loan or line of credit can help your business pay your insurance policy during times you cannot afford to do so.

16. Cover An Unexpected Expense

Remember that safety net we talked about earlier? Well if you don’t have it, you could have no choice but to take out a loan after-the-fact to cover an unexpected business expense that you didn’t budget for. This could be anything from replacing some expensive equipment that failed unexpectedly to making repairs after a natural disaster. Fortunately, an emergency business loan can help your business cover the expense of just about anything life can throw at ya.

17. Advertise Your Business

Marketing/advertising is a business expense that can cost a lot of money upfront but will hopefully pay off in the long run. SEO and online advertising, commercials, billboard advertising, radio ads, and promotional materials are all types of marketing for which you could need a loan, especially if you’re hiring a marketing agency to try to achieve big results.

18. Build Credit

A lot of small businesses don’t have much of a business credit history, even though the business owner herself might have good credit. Taking out a business loan is one way of establishing a business credit history rather than using your personal credit for your business. Building business credit will allow you to separate your personal and business credit profiles, and will also put you in a good position if you need to ask for a business loan in the future.

For more information on this and other ways to build your business credit history read my Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score.

19. Take Advantage Of A Business Opportunity

Every now and again, your business may be presented with an awesome opportunity that is just too good to pass by—even if you can’t afford the whole thing up front. Business success requires a lot of pragmatism and planning, but there is also some degree of risk-taking and, dare I say it, magic. Whatever that special something is, if you get a “spidey sense” that a certain opportunity will help take your business to the next level, it can pay off handsomely to trust your intuition and go out on a limb to make that investment.

Of course, going out on a limb in this case likely means taking out a business loan. Just make sure you’re not so focused on the opportunity that you rush things and say yes to the first loan offer you come across. It’s absolutely essential to compare multiple loan offers to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Types of Business Loans

I’ve discussed many types of business loans in this post, and it can be confusing to sort through all the different loan categories if you don’t know what you need. To help simplify things, I’ve made a chart with brief explanations of different loan types discussed, and below that, I included longer descriptions of some popular loans you should know about.

Resource Description

Startup Loan

Financing for businesses 6 months old or younger.

Crowdfunded Loan

Funds sourced from a network of backers or investors. 

Small Business Grant

Free funds granted to businesses, normally for a specific project. 

Working Capital Loan

Financing to cover daily operating expenses of running a business.

Business Line of Credit

A credit facility from which your business can borrow money at any time. 

Short-Term Loan

Usually a higher-interest loan that you pay back quickly, typically within a year. 

Business Credit Card

Credit card used for business expenses.

Equipment Financing

Self-securing loan to finance major equipment purchases.

Installment Loan

A standard type of business loan also called a term loan, repaid in regularly scheduled installments.

Long-Term Business Expansion Loan

Usually a large, low-interest loan, repaid over 5 or more years.

Real Estate Crowdfunding

Crowdfunded capital to purchase real estate for a business.

Merchant Cash Advance

Expensive but quick source of business financing for merchants who need fast funds.

Business Acquisition Loan

Loan to purchase a business.

Franchise Loan

Loan to open a new franchise or purchase an existing franchise.

SBA 7(a) Loan

Standard business loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Commercial Real Estate Loan

Long-term loan to purchase commercial real estate for a business.

Hard Money Loan

Shorter-term real estate loan similar to a mortgage, requiring the property you’re purchasing as collateral. 

Invoice Factoring

Service which converts your small business’s outstanding invoices to cash.

Emergency Business Loan

Fast loans to cover business funding emergencies. 

Installment Loan

Term loans, also called “installment loans” are a broad category of business loans. This type of funding is paid back in periodic installments, with interest. It may be a short- or long-term loan. Higher-quality term loans typically give you a longer amount of time to repay the loan, and let you pay via monthly installments (vs. weekly or daily installments with short-term loans). However, you will need at least 2 years in business, plus good credit and strong revenues, to qualify for a long-term business loan, particularly if you borrow from a bank; online lenders have less strict requirements.

Long- and medium-term loans are useful for established businesses making long-term investments in fixed assets like property or renovations, though they can also be used for working capital.

You can get term loans from a bank or credit union, though the lenders below offer reasonably quick installment loans as well:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

smartbiz logo

$30K – $350K 10 – 25 years 2 years 650 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies 6 months 550 Apply Now

$25K – $500K 6 months – 5 years 2 years 620 Compare

lending club logo

$5K – $300K 1 – 5 years 12 months 600 Compare

Short-Term Loan

Short-term business loans—installment loans that are repaid in 3 years or less, or sometimes in a matter of months—usually come in smaller amounts with higher rates when compared to long-term loans. Short-term loans also tend to require weekly or daily repayments. Although they are more expensive and less desirable than long-term loans in a lot of ways, short-term loans are relatively fast and easy to get and don’t have as stringent borrower requirements in terms of credit score, income, or time in business.

Because they have such a short repayment schedule, short-term loans are good for short-term problems, such as one-time expenses/investments.

The following lenders offer good terms and reasonable rates if you need a short-term loan:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$5K – $300K 6, 9, 12, 15, or 18 months x1.15 – x1.31 1 year 600 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

Merchant Cash Advance

Merchant cash advances are not technically loans; rather, they are advances on your future sales or revenue. With a cash advance, you’ll receive a lump sum, which you’ll then begin repaying out of your daily credit card sales.  The interest charged on MCAs is usually calculated in terms of a factor rate rather than interest rate—for example, you might have a factor rate of 1.3, which means you’ll have to repay 1.3x the amount you borrowed. A typical factor rate for an MCA is between 1.2 and 1.4.

An MCA is good for an emergency situation where you need a large sum of money quickly and/or have bad credit, but you have a healthy daily cash flow. It does not help you build business credit because it’s not actually a loan and these lenders don’t usually report to credit agencies.

Generally, we don’t recommend MCAs if you’re eligible for another type of financing, but the following cash advance providers are reputable:

Lender Borrowing Amount Min Credit Score Time To Funding Next Steps

$5K – $500K 550 1-3 Days Apply Now

$2K – $5M 550 1-2 Days Apply Now

$5K – $500K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

$5K – $250K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

Business Credit Card

Business credit cards are useful the same way personal credit cards are useful—they allow you to pay for large or small expenses even if you don’t have the cash on hand, while also earning you rewards and building your credit history. Of course, you can get yourself into trouble if you don’t pay off the balance in a reasonable amount of time. With that said, business credit cards are super handy for any type of business expense that doesn’t exceed your credit limit, particularly if you can find a card with a 0% introductory rate, like the ones below.

Credit Card 0% Introductory Period Next Steps
American Express Blue Business Plus 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months Compare
Chase Ink Business Unlimited 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months Apply Now
American Express SimplyCash Plus 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 9 months Compare

Even if you don’t have an expense looming on the immediate horizon, a business card is just good to have in case you need it.

Business Line of Credit

A business line of credit is an amount of money available for you to draw from as needed. You only have to pay back what you borrow (plus interest). Similar to term loans, you can get a line of credit from a bank or online lender. Not unlike a business credit card, a line of credit is useful to have just in case you need to make up for any type of shortfall or gap. An LOC can come in handy especially if you have a seasonal business or a business with occasional cash flow problems. Additionally, a line of credit, like the ones offered by the lenders below, can help you build business credit.

Lender Borrowing Amount Draw Term Draw Fee APR Next Steps

$6K – $100K 6 months None Starts at 13.99% Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies Varies Varies Apply Now

$5K – $5M 6 months 1.50% per draw 21% – 65% Apply Now

$1K – $100K 12 weeks None 12% – 54% Apply Now

Invoice Factoring

Invoice financing, sometimes called invoice factoring, is when you sell your business’s unpaid invoices to a credit facility. The facility fronts you the amount of the unpaid invoice (minus a percentage they charge as a fee), and you then repay the lender as your customers repay you. Note that you do still need to repay the lender even if your customer never pays you.

Invoice financing is a useful type of financing for businesses with a lot of unpaid invoices that want to free up some cash. The borrower requirements are usually pretty relaxed, as invoice finance companies are more concerned with your customers’ creditworthiness rather than your business’s.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is useful for the purchase of any type of equipment or machinery your company needs but can’t afford outright. This type of “self-securing” financing does not require any collateral other than the equipment itself, and you usually don’t need to have excellent credit or much else in the way of borrower credentials. If you default on the loan you could lose the equipment, but if you make all your payments, you will eventually own the equipment.

We recommend the following equipment financers:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Additional Fees Next Steps

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% Varies Visit Site

$5K – $500K 24 – 72 months Starts at 5% Yes Compare

Up to $250K 1 – 72 months Starts at 5.49% Varies Compare

Do You Need A Business Loan? Next Steps

If you’ve decided you need a business loan, it’s time to take the next steps to secure one.

1. Compare the different types of small business loans discussed above and determine which type of loan best suits your need. Or, read more about common types of business loans.

2. Take a look at our free guide to small business loans.

3. Calculate how much you can afford to borrow.

4. Take a look at our favorite lenders.

Once you complete your initial research by taking these steps, you should have a very good idea of what to look for in a loan and which type or types of financing are best for your situation. You’re now ready to start applying!

To save time applying to multiple loans, you might consider using a lending matchmaker service like Lendio, which allows you to compare multiple loans tailored to your needs.

Final Thoughts

Applying for business financing can be daunting, given all the myriad types of loan products out there, and the possibility of being rejected for financing. You might also be worried about your ability to make payments on the loan.

However, if you have a good reason to apply for a business loan, there is a very decent chance that there is a lender willing to lend to you with feasible, realistic terms. With those funds, you’ll be able to address whatever needs your business has while building up your business credit profile with each repayment.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

$5K – $500K 13 – 52 weeks x1.029 – x1.1872 9 months 550 Apply Now

$5K – $300K 6, 9, 12, 15, or 18 months x1.15 – x1.31 1 year 600 Apply Now

$5K – $500K 3 – 36 months x1.003 – x1.04/mo 12 months 500 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% 6 months 550 Apply Now

The post 19 Reasons To Get A Business Loan (And How To Get Started) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review_ Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy

GoDaddy is one of the world’s largest “web services” companies. Although they were founded as a domain registrar, they provide a whole range of services from web hosting to website builders accounting to email to digital storage to online security and much more.

See GoDaddy’s Current Plans & Pricing…

Over the years, you’ve probably seen GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercials, GoDaddy girls all around the Internet, and most recently their “Helping Small Business” commercials. They have brand recognition if nothing else.

With the popularity of using WordPress for setting up websites, GoDaddy has made a big product push for their “WordPress Hosting” product.

Like any product, there will be tradeoffs, advantages and disadvantages – depending on your particular goals, preferences, and resources. However, this product not only competes with other competitors but also with GoDaddy’s own regular web hosting product.

So. Here are GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting pros, cons, how it compares to “regular” web hosting, and next steps.

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

GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting vs. Web or “Regular” Hosting

Here’s the thing. The entire industry move to “WordPress Hosting” services is kind of a weird, confusing, maddening mess. I’ve written an entire post on Web Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting, Explained – but here’s the short version.

  1. WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux server with PHP (aka “regular shared hosting).
  2. Again – WordPress can (and does) run just fine on web hosting.
  3. WordPress does use some server resources at an above average rate and others at a lower rate.
  4. WordPress also has very predictable problems & needs. It needs to be regularly updated. Some plugins create temporary security vulnerabilities.
  5. So – hosting companies saw an opportunity to create whole clusters of servers with only WordPress websites.
  6. Since they were all together, they could also provide dedicated support and some add-on services at a cost-effective rate.
  7. Hence, “WordPress Hosting” plans were created – which added a further opportunity for marketers & pricing specialists.

For some companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to increase revenue and decrease costs with little value-added. For other companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to create a huge value-add to differentiate from competitors and pass the cost savings to customers. For other companies – it was a mix. And in the end, it’s been thoroughly confusing for everyone.

But – the key takeaway is to identify your own needs & goals rather than going right for a company’s “WordPress Hosting” plan.

These pros & cons of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting will look at the tradeoffs between both GoDaddy’s web hosting plans and direct competitors in the WordPress Hosting space.

7 Pros of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

Here are the 7 big advantages that GoDaddy has with WordPress Hosting.

Sticker Pricing

Their plans start at $8.99/mo at renewal – and go up to $19.99/mo at renewal. Additionally, GoDaddy is always running sales & promotions, so you’re likely able to lock-in even cheaper pricing for over a year. Sometimes, you can even lock-in a $1/per month pricing.

Current pricing & promotion.

Even though GoDaddy’s specialty is not hosting (they started as a domain registrar) – they are using their capital and market presence to really push down on prices.

If you go with them, you won’t have to worry if you are paying too much. Their WordPress Hosting prices are somewhat fudged by total value pricing (see disadvantages) but if you are looking for the cheapest option to get started – you won’t find anyone cheaper in the short-term.

Key WordPress Hosting Features

One key pricing difference between regular web hosting plans and WordPress hosting plans is the pricing per visits vs pricing per features.

In other words, instead of looking at memory, databases, etc – companies simply promise to serve an estimated number of visitors.

GoDaddy Limitations

In other words – you are paying for results rather than features.

Like any subscription, you will be technically overpaying for the features you get…but that also assumes that you know how to use the features in the first place. There are tons of ways to speed up & make WordPress more efficient – but, there’s also a lot of value in letting someone else just do it for you.

For example, I once managed 10,000 visitors in a single day on my shared HostGator server with some heavy caching and lean plugin usage. I also routinely took this site past 50,000 monthly visitors on a regular shared InMotion Hosting server. I saved a ton of money using regular web hosting and adding a simple caching plugin like WP Super Cache or WP Fastest Cache…but I also like doing that kind of thing.

On the flip side, I have a client who cares exactly 0% about WordPress – but likes the platform and just wants to publish his content. He pays $$$ not just for WordPress Hosting but Managed WordPress Hosting at WP Engine – which charges a pretty penny.

Additionally, GoDaddy provides SFTP and staging areas on their upper plans. They also provide WordPress specific support. It’s nothing amazing (which I’ll cover in the disadvantages) – but they take care of the key features.

Backend & Usability

One of the *the* biggest hurdles for new website owners is the learning curve of a new setup. Running your own website can be daunting – and dealing with settings, drop-downs, and jargon only adds to the stress of actually running your website.

Backend design, usability, and “onboarding” help a ton with this problem. GoDaddy has made serious improvements in this area over the past 10 years. Even with a sprawling product line-up, they still make it pretty straightforward to shop, purchase and get on with your project.

Their WordPress Hosting product does away with some WordPress installation headaches on web hosting and provides a good setup to get on with your project.

The simplicity is a big advantage compared to their web hosting product and their design is a big advantage compared to their technically-oriented competitors.

Product Integration

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of buying your domain and email services separately from web hosting (ie, I use NameCheap for long-term domains & Google Apps for email hosting). It provides diversification – and allows you to choose providers that focus on a specific product.

But, having one company manage your domain name, email, and hosting can make things much more convenient. Several of my friends & clients do this – and it works well for them. Their domains are cheap and their email is straightforward. They have professional online security. GoDaddy even offers bookkeeping & accounting services nowadays.

GoDaddy offers the full gamut of services and ties them all in together well. There’s no pointing your DNS records or futzing with SMTP settings. It’s all there and it all works together. Big advantage to GoDaddy.

Scale & Resources

Like any large hosting company, they have issues with security. They represent a huge target to takedown…especially when political controversy erupts.

But – GoDaddy has the scale and resources to preemptively tackle security problems that smaller hosts simply can’t work with. This feature has to do with their huge scale (they have plenty of technology directed at thwarting spam and hackers), but also with GoDaddy’s restrictive policies (which will be a Con) but for now, it also keeps out spam and the attacks.

For example, when GoDaddy needed to beef up their online security product, they simply went and bought Sucuri – the go-to the web security company.

And scale has advantages too. When GoDaddy says that they can “increase your resources to deal with additional load” – yeah, they can actually do that. When a mass hack or DDoS attack happens – they actually have resources to throw at the problem.

For example, one of the largest exclusively Managed WordPress Hosting is WP Engine. They have 429 employees. They’ve been growing rapidly. GoDaddy has 6,000 employees and 17+ million customers. That can be a bad thing…but on the Internet, it can be a good thing.

Phone Support & Improved Down-Time

Some internet veterans will scoff at this (GoDaddy used to be absolutely notorious for support) but recently GoDaddy has greatly improved their customer service since the mid-2000s. They have improved even more so under their new CEO, and the new direction they set out in July of 2013.

And more importantly for many customers – they offer 24/7 phone support, which is not common among hosting companies – even those famous for customer service.

It’s not world-class, but for a huge corporate entity with super-discounted hosting… good support is a Pro in my book.

And they fulfill the *basic* duty of every web host… 99.9% uptime.

Brand Recognition & Stability

Yes. This is an advantage no matter what Internet hipsters say. Sometimes buying a big brand is an advantage even when a small upstart might be “better.” Big brands stick around and are stable. In an environment like the Internet where companies launch and fizzle daily, there’s an advantage to going with a company that has been around since the early days of the consumer Internet.

7 Cons of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

Here are the 7 big disadvantages that GoDaddy has with WordPress Hosting.

Total Value Pricing

 

GoDaddy WP Pricing

Like I said about the advantages of pricing, WordPress Hosting plans are a little different in that you are basically paying for a recurring service rather than anything tangible. That might be what you are looking for but if you are trying to get full value for your money, WordPress Hosting and GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting, in particular, is a very poor value.

On all of GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans, you are severely limited on the number of websites and the storage space you’re getting – not to mention all the other freedoms you’re losing compared to a similarly priced web hosting plan.

For example, on my similarly priced InMotion Hosting Business Hosting (ie, regular web hosting plan) – I’ve got 6 small, but decently trafficked WordPress websites plus a self-hosted RSS reader plus I use it to triple-backup a few special family videos (ie, several gigabytes right there). When priced out by dollars per storage or by dollars per website – it’s an incredible value.

And that is ditto compared with GoDaddy’s regular web hosting plans.

Additionally, even in the world of WordPress Hosting plans – GoDaddy’s plans are cheap…but a seriously poor value when you look at the features that you actually get.

For example, HostGator provides unmetered storage space and unlimited email accounts on their WordPress Hosting plans. Not technically a “WordPress feature” – but still higher feature value.

And if you look at InMotion Hosting’s WordPress Hosting plans or SiteGround’s WordPress Hosting services – you’ll see that they both provide actual WordPress Hosting features that add value beyond their standard web hosting plans. They both provide built-in NGINX (a very advanced way to speed up WordPress) and built-in SSLs. InMotion even provides a staging environment at the lowest-priced tier.

Customer Protections & Politics

Remember the whole black out the Internet back in January of 2011 because of SOPA and PIPA? And remember when that same issue has come up again and again and again?

Yeah – everyone in favor of Internet Freedom was against those bills…except GoDaddy.

They eventually became against it…but only after customers transferred thousands of domains to competitors because of it.

Most of us will never forgive GoDaddy – especially because…

EDIT: This point is still true. GoDaddy is still exhibiting behavior that indicates they do not respect privacy or ethics (recent story here). They are a big brand that many argue can do things simply because they are the big brand. They are aware of this perception – which is why they recently took preemptive action on the Daily Stormer, but they don’t have a super-consistent protocol.

Branding, Marketing & Company Culture

GoDaddy has built their brand with odd market positioning and weird “talk about me” ad campaigns.

And weird in a bad way. For example, their CEO shoots elephants. And they use blatantly sexist advertising. All this among other just bad controversies.

GoDaddy has recently sanitized their site and said that their 2017 Super Bowl commercial would not revolve around sex. Their new campaign is to be the “champion of small business.”

However, they still want to maintain their “edgy” brand. That’s all an improvement, but I’m still wary of companies who do tons of interruption-style advertising over focusing on their product.

I don’t know how this brand & positioning transfers to their company culture but I personally don’t see it as a positive in the “doing business with companies that I love” category.

Hosting Feature Limitations

As mentioned in the Total Value Pricing section – GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans have surprisingly tight limits on features – even compared to direct competitors in the WordPress Hosting space.

Then again, I’ve also noted how they have hard & low limits on their web hosting compared to both big brands like Bluehost – but also to independent brands like InMotion and SiteGround.

Additionally, they are notorious for their own proprietary setup which can lead to email & hosting issues that are unique to GoDaddy. They have plenty of seemingly random caps on databases and bandwidth that you never really encounter until you really need to break those caps.

Account Lock-in & Diversification

This con relates to #1 above…but deserves its own spot.

Mainly because when you choose a web host – it’s a pretty big time commitment. You’ll be investing a lot of energy into your website – assuming that the host is doing their job.

And even though moving web hosts should be simple…there’s a lot of little things that can make it go wrong. GoDaddy isn’t famous for helping its customers leave. That’s a con.

EDIT: Yes, as of 2018…this is still true. It’s a bit easier since it is WordPress after all, but their domain transfer is needlessly interrupted with annoying upsells and obstacles. I recently did a client site redesign and scoped the project to migrate to another host. But – since my client had had email, domains and hosting there for years, the move simply wasn’t worth the hassle.

Upsells & Cross-sells

I mentioned this in my comparison of both GoDaddy’s native website builder product and their domain registration services – but wow, they are masters of upsells and cross-sells.

On one hand, it’s fine. They do own and operate a ton of complementary products. And it is convenient to keep all your services under one umbrella. But at a certain point, you’re not sure what you’re being pitched and what you’ve bought – and wow, you just want to get on with it.

With their WordPress Hosting plan – they promise “thousands” of free themes…when those are WordPress.org themes available to anyone, anywhere – but then upsell premium themes and even custom web design packages. They build in security to your WordPress website…but then pitch their upsell online security product. They promise “free SEO plugins” (which BTW, I’ve done a tutorial on here) while upselling marketing services.

It’s a bit exhausting – especially compared to other competitors.

Conclusion & Next Steps

GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans are an interesting option for anyone looking to build a WordPress powered website. They offer brand-name stability, core features, and affordable pricing.

If you are looking to build a single site, want to save money, and really only care about simplicity and results, then go get GoDaddy’s current WordPress discount here.

If you are looking for a WordPress Hosting plan with better support, features, and performance, then I’d recommend InMotion’s WordPress Hosting plans here.

If you aren’t sure, then check out my Buzzfeed-esque quiz on WordPress Hosting here.

And if you are simply looking for a guide to setup & install WordPress on a regular web hosting plan, check out my step by step guide here.

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting is GoDaddy's hosting product focused exclusively on WordPress websites.
GoDaddy WordPress Hosting
Date Published: 10/22/2018
GoDaddy WordPress Hosting is an affordable, brand-name option for anyone with a single site who doesn't need advanced hosting features.
3 / 5 stars

The post GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Do High-Risk Merchant Accounts With Instant Approval Exist?

Instant approval

It all started with the telegraph. Invented in 1837, this technological advance enabled nearly-instantaneous communication across vast distances for the first time ever. Its introduction into commercial use disrupted a courier system that had been the only available method of communicating from one distant place to another for thousands of years. In 1861, the completion of a telegraph line connecting the west and east coasts of the United States rendered the fledgling Pony Express obsolete practically overnight.

Today, of course, we take instantaneous communication for granted. Thanks to computers and the internet (and the fiber optic cables that actually connect them), we can send huge amounts of data anywhere in the world in practically no time at all. Given all this wonderful technology, if you’re a high-risk merchant, you might be wondering why it takes so long to get approved for a merchant account. You might also be sorely tempted by claims of “instant approval” from merchant account providers who advertise directly to the high-risk community, especially if you’re running an eCommerce business and you absolutely need to be able to accept credit cards. In this post, we’ll explain what “instant approval” really means and why it’s usually not a good idea, no matter how desperate you are to get a merchant account. We’ll also delve into how the high-risk merchant account approval process works and what you can do to make it run a little smoother – and faster. Finally, we’ll recommend a few reputable high-risk specialists that can get you set up with a stable and fairly priced merchant account.

What Is “Instant Approval”?

We get it. It’s no fun trying to run your business with an “In God we trust; all others pay cash” sign posted next to your cash register because you can’t get a merchant account. It also means disappointed customers and lost sales. Under these circumstances, the temptation to sign up with the first provider who will actually accept your business can be pretty overwhelming. Unfortunately, it’s also a really bad idea.

The simple reality is that it always takes longer to obtain final approval for a high-risk merchant account than it does for a low-risk business. While traditional low-risk businesses can expect to be approved within a day or two, high-risk merchant accounts require a minimum of three to five business days to be approved, and this process can sometimes take as long as three to five weeks. Why so long? Approving a high-risk business requires a far more extensive investigation into the credit history of both the business and the business owner. Poor personal credit on the part of the owner is one of several reasons why a business might be classified as high-risk in the first place. You’ll have to submit far more documentation and wait far longer for this process to be completed than a low-risk business would.

So, how can some providers even claim to offer “instant approval”? Well, for one thing, it’s not really instantaneous at all. If you see a provider advertising “instant approval,” there’s usually some fine print included with the offer specifying that approval actually takes 24-48 hours. While that’s a lot faster than the normal time-frame, it’s still not exactly “instant.” What these providers aren’t telling you is that approval for your merchant account is actually a two-step process. First, you must be approved by your merchant account provider. Second, you must be approved by the acquiring bank or backend processor that is actually going to underwrite your account and process your transactions.

Getting approved by your merchant account provider is actually pretty easy, but not for good reasons. The truth is that your merchant account provider’s business model is based on signing up as many merchants as possible in order to generate a profit. They’re also quite eager to have you sign a long-term contract, guaranteeing that you’ll be on the hook for three years or even longer. And if you close your account or go out of business, they’ll usually collect a hefty early termination fee (ETF). Because these early termination fees can run into the hundreds of dollars, it’s possible in some circumstances that your provider will make more money from the ETF than they will from your processing fees. High-risk businesses tend to fail at a higher rate than low-risk enterprises, and most of these providers will not hesitate to charge you the full ETF even if you’re going out of business. Although more and more providers are now offering month-to-month billing with no early termination fees to low-risk businesses, it’s still very unusual not to be required to sign a long-term contract – with an ETF – if you’re a high-risk business. Even the most reputable high-risk specialists almost always impose these terms, so be prepared for it and be sure to review your contract documents very carefully before you sign up for an account, even with a reputable provider.

The second step of the approval process, getting your acquiring bank or processor to approve you, is where the delays and difficulties come into play. The risk departments at these institutions really don’t like to approve high-risk merchant accounts due to the increased chance that you’ll run into problems later on. Every processor has their own criteria for determining whether you’re high-risk, and their own documentation requirements you’ll need to meet before they’ll even consider approving you for an account. While your merchant account provider is highly motivated to approve your account, your processor has every reason in the world not to approve it. Getting approved for a high-risk merchant account is an uphill battle, and the chance of being turned down is very high. Fortunately, there are some really good providers out there who specialize in getting high-risk accounts approved, and they’ll work with you to get your paperwork in order and find a bank that can approve you for an account.

Unfortunately, providers offering “instant approval” sometimes take some shortcuts with this process so they can get you on the hook for that long-term contract (and usually that ETF as well). What they advertise as “instant approval” (or being “pre-approved”) in most cases really means that they’re approving your account – and getting you to sign your contract – before your acquiring bank or backend processor has completed all the necessary steps to determine whether to approve your account. In some cases, your merchant account provider won’t even complete a credit check before approving your account.

This practice is all fine and dandy as long as your processor eventually approves your account. However, there’s a high chance that they won’t approve you, and by the time they make that determination you may very well be up and running with your credit card terminal or payment gateway. If this happens, you may suddenly find your account frozen and your funds being withheld. Even worse, you may have your merchant account closed altogether. (Note that in this case, you usually won’t be liable for an early termination fee since you aren’t the party deciding to close the account). In some cases, depending on the reason for your processor closing your account, you may even find yourself being placed on the Terminated Merchant File (TMF, also known as the MATCH List). Getting put on this list is really bad news, as it can completely prevent you from getting approved for a merchant account, even with another provider, for up to five years.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we highly recommend that you avoid any merchant account provider claiming to offer “instant approval” of your high-risk merchant account. This approval process is incomplete and can easily lead to your account getting shut down shortly after you start using it. No matter how inconvenient it is to wait for the approval process to run its course, in the long run, it’s a worthwhile trade-off to get a fully-approved account that will be stable and reliable.

How To Expedite Approval Of Your High-Risk Merchant Account

Get your merchant funds fast. Image description: Clock with money underneath it

While the approval process is unavoidably a lengthy one, there are steps you can take as a merchant to move things along a little quicker. These actions mainly serve to avoid the kinds of problems that might lead to delays in getting your account approved. Here’s what you’ll want to do:

  • Work With A Reputable High-Risk Specialist: The signup process can be sped up by ensuring there is a good chance of approval beforehand. This means working with a partner that has a proven track record and experience in your industry. High-risk specialists such as Durango Merchant Services will work with you to ensure that your paperwork is in order and can also work with a network of acquiring banks and processors to find one that will approve your business.
  • Have Your Paperwork In Order: You’ll need to provide far more information when applying for a merchant account as a high-risk business owner. If you can present all of this information with your initial application, it will save a significant amount of time during the approval process. We recommend that you scan all required documents as PDF files so you can simply email everything you need to your provider as part of your application. See below for a discussion of specific documentation requirements.
  • Be Completely Honest About Your Business: Are you selling medical marijuana (in a jurisdiction where it’s legal)? Do you have a personal bankruptcy on your record? Have you previously had a merchant account shut down by your provider? High-risk merchants who are desperate to get approved for a merchant account are often tempted to misrepresent these and other facts that might lead to them being disapproved for an account. Don’t do it! Intentionally failing to disclose important information or getting caught in a lie will almost always lead to you being turned down for an account — or having your account closed immediately once the processor discovers your dishonesty. You’re much better off being completely honest about your background. In many cases, you can still be approved for an account despite a little negative information.

As we’ve mentioned above, there’s a lot of paperwork involved with getting approved for a high-risk merchant account. While specific requirements vary from one provider to the next, here’s a generic list of the most commonly requested information:

  • Completed Merchant Account Application (from your merchant account provider)
  • Résumé or CV of business owner
  • Photo ID or Passport
  • Business Plan
  • Personal Utility Bill (used to verify your address)
  • Processing statements for at least the last three months (if you’re switching providers)
  • Copies of supplier’s agreements (for retail merchants)
  • Copies of your personal banking statements (usually for the last three months)
  • Personal reference letter from your bank
  • Copies of your business bank account statements (usually for the last three months)
  • Articles of Incorporation (or sole proprietorship documentation)
  • Articles of Association (if applicable)
  • Screenshot of your business website’s home page (if applicable)

Final Thoughts

If you’re a high-risk merchant, we understand that merchant accounts are not easy for you. Okay, they’re not easy for anyone, but high-risk factors make them even more complicated (and expensive) than they are for everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to get turned down a few times and start feeling like you have to sign up with any provider who will take you. Also, the inevitable delays in getting your account approved can make the possibility of “instant approval” seem very tempting. Resist that temptation. Instant approval isn’t what its promoters claim it is, and it’s a good way to set yourself up for much more serious problems down the road.

The difficulties that high-risk merchants encounter in getting a merchant account have, unfortunately, created a market opportunity for unscrupulous providers who use the lure of “instant approval” (or, sometimes, “guaranteed approval”) to lock you into a prohibitively expensive long-term contract with high fees, high processing rates, and an onerous early termination fee to discourage you from canceling your account on your own. Do a Google search for “high risk merchant” account, and you’ll quickly find ads from plenty of predatory merchant account providers looking to take advantage of your desperation.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are reputable providers who specialize in working with the high-risk community and will go out of their way to get you fully approved for an account. While their prices and contract terms won’t be as great as what a low-risk business could obtain, they’re still reasonable and backed up by top-notch customer support. We’d also note that none of the high-risk specialists we’ve found offer “instant approval.” Instead, they’ll work with you and help you to get your documentation squared away so you can be approved by one of their partner processors for a stable account that won’t get shut down the moment you actually try to use it.

Of all the high-risk specialists we’ve reviewed, we’ve found Durango Merchant Services and Easy Pay Direct to be among the best of the best. They both have strong track records of providing high-quality service at reasonable prices. For more recommendations, check out our post The Best High-Risk Merchant Account Providers or see the chart below.

Durango SMB Global Host Merchant Services Soar Payments

Review Visit Site Review Visit Site Review Visit Site Review Visit Site
Specialities International, Offshore, Credit Repair, Bad Credit, Vape/E-cigarettes, Fantasy Sports, Forex International, Offshore, Travel Businesses, Nutraceuticals, Multilevel Marketing, Kratom, CBD Oil Debt Collection, Life Coaching, Airlines, Loan Modification, SEO Services Antiques & Collectibles, Credit Repair, Debt Consolidation, Firearms & Ammunition, Precious Metals

The post Do High-Risk Merchant Accounts With Instant Approval Exist? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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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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How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively

How to Advertise on Pinterest Effectively

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

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

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

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

What Is Pinterest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Pinterest Advertising Works

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

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

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

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

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

Types Of Pinterest Advertising

There are several types of Pinterest ads, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Things To Do Before Advertising On Pinterest

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

1. Register For A Business Account

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

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

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

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

2. Claim Your Website

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

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

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

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

3. Install A Conversion Tag

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

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

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

4. Upload Your List

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

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

Click on Ads > Audiences.

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

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

5. Pin Some Content

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

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

Vertical Pins

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

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

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

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

Rich Pins

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

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

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

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

Buyable Pins

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

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

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

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

How To Set Up A Pinterest Ad

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

1. Create The Ad

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

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

2. Set Your Goals

You’ll begin by selecting your campaign objective.

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

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

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

Finally, click “Create campaign and continue.”

3. Set Up An Ad Group

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

Understanding Ad Groups

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

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

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

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

4. Create A Target Audience

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

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

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

5. Create Your Maximum CPC Bid

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

6. Select Your Promoted Pin

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

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

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

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

The Quick Way To Promote A Pin

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

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

Tips And Tricks For Optimizing Your Pinterest Advertising

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

Promote The Best Pins

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

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

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

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

Add Text To Your Pins

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

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

Consistently Monitor And Analyze Your Ads

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

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

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

Focus Your Keywords

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

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

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

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

Add Value

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

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

Group Boards

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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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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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

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