Shopventory VS Square For Retail


Let’s get right into things. Today we’re looking at Shopventory vs. Square for Retail. Why? Because if you need more inventory support than the basic Square Point of Sale app offers, they are your two best bets. Square (see our review) has been a pivotal force in the mPOS space since its beginning, but lately it has also been edging into the tablet POS market with an ever-growing number of features. Shopventory is newer, but it’s carved a niche out for itself as a supplement to not just Square, but also PayPal Here, Clover, and now even Shopify.

While Square dominates the mobile space as far as features, it lags behind tablet-based systems, particularly in terms of inventory. But now there’s Square for Retail. If you need more comprehensive inventory features, you’ll get them with an upgrade to Retail.

Shopventory is a monthly service that integrates with your Square account. While Square for Retail is a full-fledged POS, Shopventory is strictly an inventory-focused add-on for Square for Point of Sale. It replaces most of the in-app inventory management with its own web browser but it does keep the inventory lists automatically synced and generates reports.

A really quick disclaimer before we get onto the comparison: We’re not looking at the full Square for Retail app here (which I’ll also refer to as just “Retail” or “the Retail app”). We’re just focusing on how its inventory management tools stack up against Shopventory’s. It’s important to consider whether the cost of either service justifies its use. Retail offers many of the same features as Shopventory, but also includes employee management. However, it could be a more costly service given that the subscription is monthly per register. Shopventory offers monthly inventory management for three locations for less than the cost of one Square for Retail register subscription.

You don’t get everything that the standard Point of Sale app offers either, such as offline mode. In fact, the Retail app is more of a pared-down version of the POS app, but with more beefed up inventory and reporting. That’s not to say Shopventory offers all the inventory tools you could ever need, either. But it certainly seems to have the upper hand in terms of capabilities and pricing.

I think for the most part that either of this will do well. Although they might not be perfect, they’re both capable. But in the end, Shopventory has more features and more competitive pricing. I would test it out before upgrading to Square for Retail.

For more information, I encourage you to check out our full Shopventory and Square for Retail reviews. Otherwise, read on for our Shopventory vs. Square for Retail comparison and see how they stack up in the great battle for inventory management!

Features & Services

Winner: Shopventory

Both of these services offer enough that they merit full reviews in their own right. Our comprehensive reviews of Square and Shopventory explore the advantages and limitations of each. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on three core aspects of inventory management and see how they stack up: inventory tracking, reporting, and purchase order/vendor management.

Inventory Tracking

With both Shopventory and Square for Retail, merchants get the ability to count inventory and have each sale deducted from total stock numbers. Both offer location management as well. You’ll be working with Square’s standard item listings, which means you can include all of the following: product name, photo, SKU/barcode, item description, and item variants with the option to set different price points.

Shopventory Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Shopventory home page

Shopventory works by syncing with Square. It pushes its inventory data (item prices, bundles, etc.) into the POS app and pulls sales data from Square into its own dashboard reports and updates the inventory counts in real time. Once you get inventory set up, you manage everything inventory-related through Shopventory, NOT Square. It might take some merchants a while to get used to that, especially if they’re used to relying on the Dashboard.

Shopventory’s pricing plan, which I’ll cover in the next section, focuses on the number of locations you use, not the number of registers or products. And setting up multiple locations is actually very easy. When you log into Shopventory, the dashboard asks you to create a location and then add an integration (that is, link to your POS). It works a little bit differently for each software, but here’s what you need to know for Square.

If you have separate Square logins for each location, that’s fine and you can connect each Square account to each location. However, if you take advantage of Square’s free location management instead, Shopventory will ask you to select a location from your list of Square locations after you connect the POS. (That means you should set up your locations in Square before you setup Shopventory.) If you’re using employee management and device codes to run multiple registers, it doesn’t matter. Shopventory tracks everything at the location level.

After you’ve created your locations and linked your POS systems, Shopventory will ask you to enable two major settings: “sync items and variants” and “sync item quantities.” This will establish the connection and effectively make Shopventory your primary inventory service.

Once you’ve set up Shopventory, you’ll continue to use Square POS as usual. Just make sure that you log into Shopventory to pull inventory and sales reports. This is especially important if you’re using the Shopventory-specific inventory features like bundles. Everything is synced in real time so you can log in and check whenever.

Here’s a quick run-down of Shopventory’s features:

  • Bundles: Square doesn’t support bundling, but this feature allows you to track raw ingredients, deduct gift basket items from main inventory stock and even keep track of goods sold at wholesale versus retail. It also allows for tracking of items by partial quantities (yards of fabric or goods sold by the pound, etc.) The bundling feature even includes bundle variants. None of this is currently supported by Square for Retail.
  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item, so you know when it’s time to reorder something.
  • Automatic Restocks On Refunds: You’ll have to enable this feature, as it isn’t turned on by default. It also doesn’t work on partial refunds in Square.
  • Multi-User Access: Shopventory also allows you to create multiple accounts with different permissions. Enable your managers and staff to better manage store inventory while ensuring accountability.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Is one location out of a product while another has too much of it? Use the Shopventory dashboard to keep track of internal transfers of merchandise.
  • Inventory History: Shopventory keeps a log of your inventory history, including when counts go up or down. When you manually adjust stock counts you can add a note to indicate why (theft, damaged goods, etc.). We’ll get a little bit more into some related features when we talk about reporting.
  • Inventory Reconciliation Tools: If you’re a bit old-fashioned, Shopventory does offer an easy downloadable reconciliation sheet for inventory. Just the basic details that you need, not a lot of extra information, which you can download via printable PDF or spreadsheet. However, Shopventory has also introduced a barcode scanner mobile app for inventory reconciliations. Each Shopventory user can download the app and scan and update inventory counts through the app, and Shopventory will keep a record of when and who was responsible. This is actually a pretty awesome tool.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Shopventory lets you chose from a Dymo or Brother label printer, as well as computer printing on Avery label sheets.

Square For Retail Inventory Tools

Screenshot of Square for Retail home page

Square for Retail works pretty similarly to Square Point of Sale. Everything is controlled from the Square Dashboard or the app, though the dashboard gives you the most functionality. Even though the app (or at least parts of it) will look very different from the free version, your dashboard should look pretty much the same and the data entry process will be the same.

If you have a lot of inventory (and if you’re looking at this article, you probably are), the odds are good you don’t want to create each inventory item one by one. That’s where Square’s Bulk Upload feature comes in. You can download the spreadsheet template, populate it with your inventory, and upload your item library all at once. Likewise, you can also export your library to a spreadsheet if you need that data elsewhere.

Your item descriptions are nearly identical to the standard Square offering. Even though Square for Retail doesn’t display photos in the app, you can upload them for viewing the back end. Check out Square’s how-to video for creating items manually.

Technically, Square for Retail gives you access to the Inventory Plus features, but these are really (mostly) reporting tools or PO/Vendor management. So some of these features are actually just Square’s inventory features.

  • Low-Stock Alerts: You can set a custom threshold for each item so you know when it’s time to re-order something. (This is a standard Square feature.)
  • Employee Management: Square includes employee management at no additional charge with a Square for Retail subscription. So if you have a lot of employees this could end up being a good deal for you. You can set different user permissions, track time, and more.
  • Inventory Transfers Between Locations: Square initially required you to manually add or subtract inventory at different locations to record transfers, but that’s no longer the case with the Retail app. Now you can record merchandise transfers in the app.
  • Inventory History: Another feature that wasn’t present at Square for Retail’s launch, inventory history will show you all your sales, transfers, received shipments, etc. to show why your inventory count is what it is.
  • Barcode And Label Printing: Like Shopventory, you can choose to use one of two select label printers (A Dymo or a Zebra) or print from a computer onto standard Avery labels.
  • Vendor Library: All items associated with a particular vendor (as well as their prices) are stored in each vendor’s data file.

Note the lack of bundling features here and all that this entails: no bundles, no raw ingredient tracking, no partial ingredient tracking. This is one of the biggest limitations to Square’s inventory.

However, Square also doesn’t offer any sort of inventory reconciliation. You could download your inventory for export and modify the spreadsheet, but it’ll take a bit of work on your end to make that happen.

But that’s just for inventory management. We’ve still got to talk about reporting and purchase orders/vendor management.

Reporting Tools

First of all, Square’s reporting tools, overall, are pretty robust. (Check out the list of reports.) Shopventory’s reports exist mostly as an extension of Square’s, not a replacement for them. This makes sense given that Shopventory is an extension of Square, not a standalone app. In addition to some identical reports, Shopventory offers several reports that Square doesn’t — and a couple that Square for Retail doesn’t, either.

Square’s inventory reports are somewhat lacking. Specifically, something that merchants have been clamoring for is cost of goods sold (COGS) reporting. Square for Retail finally offers this feature, but thus far it hasn’t impressed. Editing the item costs isn’t easy to begin with, and the information isn’t available at key points in the Retail app experience. And all of that’s left merchants understandably upset. However, you can also keep a record of additional costs associated with a purchase (such as shipping or handling fees) that are added to your COGS tracking. That’s helpful.

In addition to COGS reporting, Square for Retail introduces a profitability report and an inventory by category report that lists the value of the items, projected profit, and profit margins in each category. This last report is more a combination of several other reports, but it’s nice to see.

On the other hand, Shopventory’s COGS reporting is a bit more advanced. Accessing pricing information seems a bit easier than with Square for Retail. Shopventory also tracks lot costs in addition to default costs. For advanced users, Shopventory has a cost averaging feature.  You can even back-fill lot costs using the default cost feature.

But apart from cost and profitability reporting, there’s another feature I like that Shopventory offers: a dead inventory report. You can print off a list of every item that hasn’t sold recently, and specify just how “recently” you want — whether it’s a week, a month, six months, etc. This is pretty handy because “slow” for one business isn’t slow for another.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Shopventory outclasses Square for Retail in terms of reporting — it offers everything that Retail does, plus more. I’ve found that Shopventory and Square dashboards are both fairly intuitive and easy to use, so they’re evenly matched in that regard.

Purchase Order & Vendor Management

Since the upgrades to inventory and reporting tools are relatively small in Square for Retail, it’s nice to see that the additions in this category are actually pretty big game-changers. With the Retail app, it’s now possible to create purchase orders from within the Square dashboard and send them via email. You can also receive inventory from within the Square for Retail app.

If I’m being honest, Square for Retail and Shopventory are well matched in this category. There are a few differences — for one, with Shopventory you can only receive inventory through the web dashboard, not the app. But I think that, overall, their feature sets are pretty similar.

Square PO & Vendor Management

While you’ll need to use the Square dashboard to create purchase orders, you can receive stock from a PO directly in the Square for Retail app, which is nice. With Shopventory, everything has to be done from the dashboard, which is a major trade-off. However, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

A few other features from Square that I like: You can create a new vendor listing from within a purchase order, whereas with Shopventory you must have all of your vendors already entered. You can also edit and cancel purchase orders as needed, and Square keeps an archived file.

I mentioned previously that Square does have an item library associated with a vendor, but I don’t think it’s the most effective display. When you add an item to the PO it is added to the vendor’s item library, but you can’t browse the item library while creating a PO. Instead, you need to search for the items you want in a drop-down menu. I know that some merchants have been frustrated that Square can’t auto-populate a PO using low inventory items. Others are also frustrated that they can’t see how many of an item are in stock. Instead, these merchants wind up flipping between tabs or screens to formulate a list of what is needed.

Shopventory PO & Vendor Management

Shopventory has a handle of the same shortcomings that Square for Retail does in this regard. Namely, you can’t auto-populate a PO based on low inventory, and you can’t view stock levels in the PO.  However, you can clearly browse every item associated with a vendor and select which ones you want to add to it. This kind of display seems kind of obvious, and it should be, but it’s not.

This might be the one area where I think Square has a modest upper hand. For one, Shopventory lacks the ability to edit POs or archive them to clear them out of your way while preserving the information. (The company says it’s working on this last bit.) But you can save as a draft, just like you can in Square. So if you’re not sure or you’re not ready, you don’t have to send the purchase order out into the world. With Shopventory, you also need to create your entries for vendors before you start the PO.

Pricing

Winner: Shopventory

Square for Retail’s pricing is very simple: $60/month per register. No tiered packages, no add-ons, no extra fees for priority phone support.

Square for Retail Pricing

That’s fairly competitive for an iPad-based POS system. But as we noted in our full review, Square for Retail actually removes several of the features available in the standard (and free) Point of Sale app. It’ll be up to you to decide whether the new interface and new inventory tools justify the cost.

Thinking more broadly, you’ll also need as many iPads as you have registers ($350+) and likely a Square Stand with a reader ($169) as well as any cash drawers, printers, and bar scanners you want for each device.

However, there is one caveat: Square for Retail provides employee management for an unlimited number of employees. With the standard Square plan, that cost is $5 per employee per month. So if you have 12 employees and one register, you actually break even on costs.

Shopventory’s pricing plan is focused not on the number of devices or the number of users, or even the number of transactions. Pricing is based just on the number of locations. There’s a limited free plan that provides analytics, but the paid plans start at a very reasonable $30/month.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Starter ($29/month): 1 location, 1 year order history, 1 year reporting
  • Standard ($59/month): 3 locations, 2 years order history, 2 years reporting
  • Professional ($199/month): 10 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting
  • Elite ($499/month): 25 locations, unlimited order history, unlimited reporting

If you want access to purchase orders, vendor management, and the bundling features, you’ll need to get the standard plan. The starter doesn’t support these capabilities at all. In addition, the higher-tier plans throw in a few other perks (free QuickBooks syncing, otherwise $30/month; access to beta features, phone support).

Keep in mind that you still need hardware and devices to run the Square app — and an iPad is the most full-featured option. But you could use Android tablets or smartphones too. You have a lot more options and no charge for using multiple devices at the same location. So at three locations, ignoring costs of hardware, you’re already saving $120 with Shopventory. (That’s the cost of 24 employee management subscriptions, by the way.)

You can also save a bit of money if you opt to pay for Shopventory on an annual plan instead of a monthly one, which is nice. I think designing an inventory system whose pricing focuses on locations is the smart option.

While I think Shopventory’s pricing is definitely better, I can’t say definitely that it’s the better value overall. For one, Square for Retail is optimized for businesses with very large inventories. And if you’re dealing with hundreds and hundreds of items you might prefer the search-and-scan based user interface that the app offers. But if you have a small inventory, or you’re not a retail business, and still want all the management tools? If you don’t care about the UI but want some of the Square POS features like offline mode or open tickets? It’s pretty obvious that Shopventory is the better solution. What’s right for you will depend on your priorities and your budget, so check out our complete reviews of both services before you commit to anything.

Web Hosted Or Locally Installed

Winner: Tie

Both of these solutions are web-hosted, which is awesome. Yay for the cloud! Don’t forget that you’ll also get some in-app reporting capabilities if you don’t want to log into a web browser, but they aren’t inventory driven, and they’re far more limited than using the web dashboard.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Tie

Apart from a small team on the Square Seller Community (a forum for online merchants), Square for Retail doesn’t have any exclusive support channels that are separate from regular Square support. So you should expect business as usual in this regard.

Square’s been plagued by complaints of shoddy customer service pretty much since the beginning. But honestly, I think most of those complaints are rooted in Square’s tendency to freeze or terminate accounts. For most technical (not account-related) issues, Square does seem to offer more reliable support. There’s email and live phone support, as well as a very comprehensive self-service knowledgebase. And the Seller Community is honestly a great resource as well.

But I find that the amount of information and how-to’s concerning Retail specifically to be troubling. There’s not a lot. Square has tons of videos but they seem to gloss over showing how to use the Retail app. If you want to know about specific features before you sign up, you should get on the Seller forum and ask. Otherwise, the only way to find out is to test-drive Square yourself.

Not only that, but it certainly seems like the process of obtaining a code to access phone support requires more effort than some merchants are willing to put forth. I get it. I loathe automated menus that make you jump through hoops to get to a real person as much as anyone else. And I’ve heard a smattering of complaints about email support. I think Square’s support is mostly good, but occasionally something does go wrong.

If you one of the merchants who’s felt frustrated at Square’s support, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the quality if Shopventory’s. Phone support is only available for higher-tiered plans, but the chat option is great and the knowledgebase is extremely helpful as well. (I know. I’ve tested both.) The chat option isn’t quite live chat because it might take a few to get someone to answer your question, but once you get one of the reps to respond, it is a live conversation. I shouldn’t have to say this about any customer support, but sadly I do: I like that you get to talk to a helpful person who isn’t going to shoehorn you into a script.

Shopventory isn’t quite large enough to have the kind of active forum that Square has for support, but the knowledgebase is easily as detailed as Square’s. I find the video tour is super useful as an orientation to Shopventory, despite how much I absolutely hate watching video tutorials longer than about one minute.

It’s worth noting that you’ll still have to deal with Square for payment- and account-related issues if you use Shopventory. But for inventory-related issues, you can deal with Shopventory instead.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Shopventory

At this point, merchants’ biggest point of contention with Retail is that in some ways is a step back from the standard Point of Sale app. A few features are lacking in the Retail app. Plus, I’ve seen complaints that features Square promised at launch (or at least showed in screenshots) haven’t actually appeared yet.

Some of the complaints about Square for Retail we’ve seen include:

  • Problems With Cost Of Goods Recording And Reporting: This is a big one and it manifests in a lot of ways. Currently, the only way to update costs is to upload a spreadsheet. The app itself doesn’t allow you to manually edit individual item costs, and Square’s current reports don’t list item costs on everything. Merchants who were expecting to finally get COGS reporting haven’t been thrilled, though Square does say it’s on their list of improvement to make, so we may see some enhancements.
  • Lack Of Features: Specifically, with Retail, you lose access to Square’s offline mode and the open tickets capability. You can upload images as part of the item listing, but they don’t display in the app. Merchants have complained about their removal. I haven’t been super thrilled about how Retail feels like a step back from the Point of Sale application in terms of interface and features, either. And one big missing feature that I’ve seen a lot of chatter about is the ability to auto-populate purchase orders based on low inventory (or even the ability to see the inventory count in the same window as the PO).

There’s a lot less user chatter about Shopventory overall (which makes sense with a smaller customer base). I think users who integrate with PayPal or Clover will probably be more dissatisfied than Square users, honestly. I think some merchants will dislike the same sort of shortcomings you find in Square for Retail: missing features like the ability to view inventory levels while creating a purchase order, or the ability to edit purchase orders. Overall, the comments I see from merchants are positive.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Square gets a lot of love overall for its payment processing. Signup is quick and easy, rates are fair and affordable, and the hardware is good and fairly priced. But the Retail app seems to be less popular overall. In theory, it fills a niche that businesses with a high quantity of inventory have been needing. I know a lot of merchants were excited at the prospect when it launched, but I haven’t seen as much talk about it since then.

I don’t see a whole lot of chatter around the web about Shopventory. The website has a couple testimonials and I’ve seen the Square Seller Community talk about it, too. The discussions I’ve seen a focus on the good customer service and its fair pricing.

I’m calling it a draw here. Both options are good ones and serve their purpose, but there isn’t enough of a discussion to say which one has more positive coverage.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopventory

I can’t say definitely that Shopventory trounces Square for Retail in every regard. One is an inventory management add-on, the other is a full-fledged POS with inventory management. So I can draw apples-to-apples comparisons about some things and say that yes, Shopventory has more and better quality inventory features. Its pricing is way more competitive if your only concern is inventory tracking. It will work great as an add-on to Square Point of Sale.

But Square for Retail has a search-optimized UI and free employee management tools that might be deciding factors for some merchants. So you could potentially get a better value with Square for Retail if you have a lot of employees and want easy time tracking along with the ability to manage large inventories.

The good news is we’re looking at two companies that are both committed to adding new features all the time. So in six months or a year, we could be looking at two majorly improved products. We’ll have to see how they stack up then.

Check out our complete reviews for Shopventory and Square for Retail to get a closer look at each. Also, both Square for Retail and Shopventory offer free 30-day trials, so you can test drive both of them (preferably not at the same time) and see which one works better. Thanks for reading and good luck with your search!

The post Shopventory VS Square For Retail appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Improve Your Website Content

How To Improve Website Content

So your website is a mess — where do you even begin to “fix” it? What does “fixing” it really mean, anyways?

If you’re looking to improve your website, you know how daunting this overhaul can be. There are tips and tricks for almost every facet of the process, from improving your copy to reworking your design.

What you need is a process — not a grab bag of tips that leave you more confused than when you started.

Here’s the 7-step framework you can follow to improve your website content, even if you have no idea where to start.

1. Lay the Foundation

It may sound basic, but before you change anything on your website, you need to understand what your website does. You can have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don’t know what you want it to achieve, you’ll never really improve.

The first step is pretty straightforward — you need to define the goal for every single page on your website.

Each site page has a unique objective. For example, your homepage should encourage visitors to explore deeper into your site, a blog post may be key to generating new traffic, and a product page necessary for sales.

By understanding each page’s goal, you can begin to understand where things may be breaking down.

Start by putting your website into a map. List all of the pages you currently have, then define the goal for each page.

Once you have your page objectives down, it’s time to look at how your website fits together.

Think of your site like a puzzle. Each individual page is a piece of a larger picture. The pages all work together to create one big image (which is your user experience).

Your website’s organization should be intuitive for someone who is trying to navigate it. You don’t want a visitor to arrive at your homepage and be stranded, nor do you want them getting lost. Imagine how frustrating it is when you’re on a website and can’t get to the information you’re searching for.

Use your map to organize your website’s flow. Which pages are subpages of a larger section? Which pages need links to others? Note those in the spreadsheet, or use indentations to show how they connect.

Title Tag Keyword Map

2. Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is marketing 101, but it’s crucial for creating a website that achieves your goals. If you have the most amazing website, but it’s not tailored to the type of visitors you want and need, what good is it?

Before you rework your website, you need to understand who your audience is. Are they CEOs of small businesses? Are they local companies?

Who are they, and what problems do they have? How are you helping them solve these problems?

Create a persona for your website users.

A “persona” is marketing jargon for a profile of who you are really trying to do business with.

Write out one that describes your ideal customer. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use Moz’s guide to user personas to guide you through the process.

3. Understand Your Data

One of the best parts about the internet today is nearly everything is recorded. This means you have access to an incredible amount of data that can paint the picture of why your website isn’t working.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to dive deeper into how they’re experiencing your website right now.

Google has one of the most intuitive platforms for work like this. Take some time to use Google Analytics to figure out where your audience is getting hung up on your navigation. Look especially at the Behavior Flow section to see where users are dropping off.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow

But remember that you have access to TONS more data. I’ve written guides to –

  • Ahrefs
  • Search Console
  • Website Data
  • Bounce Rate
  • Improving Ad Campaigns

Create a column in your spreadsheet dedicated solely to “optimizations”. Use your data to evaluate each existing page and note any breakdowns or opportunities. For example, are you noticing a high drop off on a page that’s bringing in significant traffic? Write it down next to that page.

4. Do Keyword & Topical Research

Keyword and topical research are crucial to understanding your audience’s interests and how they search online. By implementing the same sort of language your audience uses while searching the web, your site will not only perform better organically, but will resonate with your target audience and remain relevant.

For your existing content, you can use Google Search Console to see where you can optimize pages that already have some visibility for specific search terms. Use it to determine where you can adjust a page to capture more organic traffic, expand on a certain topic, or update outdated content. It will also flag HTML issues such as duplicate content and titles and meta descriptions that need improvement. You can get the full guide to using Google Search Console here.

But what about the pages that aren’t already getting traction? For those, you’ll want to do additional keyword and topical research. I’ve put together a step-by-step process to using keywords on your site, which you can use to walk through the process of finding and implementing user language on your site.

As you go through the research process, create a keyword map for your entire website to add words and topics for each page. You can add it to your existing spreadsheet so all of your information is in one place.

5. Find Content Gaps

You can’t improve what doesn’t exist, Once you have a handle on what’s going on with your existing content, it’s time to dive into what’s missing from your website.

From a user’s perspective, what’s missing?

Start by doing internal research. If you have a sales or customer service team, ask them what questions they’re getting. More importantly, look at your own internal site searches! This tells you exactly what people are searching for on your site (because they can’t find it).

Google Analytics Site Search

Also comb through your email and see what people ask when they contact you about your business. Chances are, those questions are missing information on your website, and you can add them either as a new page or as an FAQ page.

After you’ve taken a look at your own internal sources, it’s time to take a look at outside data. Use tools like Ahrefs to help you find what industry publications and competitors are getting right (use the full guide to Ahrefs to help you get the most out of the tool). Look especially for content with significant backlinks and organic traffic to see what type of content is in tune with your target audience. Then, add the missing pages and their corresponding keywords/topics to your website spreadsheet/map.

6. Address User Experience

Improving your website isn’t just about improving the content — it’s also about improving the experience visitors have on your site (also known as user experience).

You can have all of the right information, but if the website is slow, looks funky on their mobile device, or has a horrible design… you can bet users aren’t going to stick around.

There’s so much that can create a poor user experience — a bad design, broken links, a slow page load speed — it’s your job to find these negative elements and remedy them.

Start by evaluating your website design. Do you have a cohesive color palette? Are your images high quality? Does your website scale for tablet and mobile devices (also known as responsive in web jargon)? The visual appeal is going to be key in keeping users enticed and engaging with your content.

Next, dive into the mechanics. Start by testing page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re seeing low or below average speeds, use this beginner’s guide to increase page speed to help fix it.

Make sure you use correct HTML formatting. Make sure your design values function over form (don’t use trendy bullsh*t like Parallax unless you value design awards over sales).

You’ll also want to check for broken links. To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

7. Evaluate Your Copywriting

Now that you’ve addressed the mechanics and make-up of your site, it’s time to focus on the flair — otherwise known as the actual copy on your website.

As with all the of the elements in this guide, good copywriting (when combined with other website best practices) can lead to more traffic, better leads, and more sales.

Take a look at each page and determine where your content can be spruced up. Where can you use images instead of text? Where can you add more of your brand personality? Where can you break up paragraphs so the page is easier to skim?

Use this guide on how to improve website copy to help you evaluate your site copy. Choose three areas where you can improve, then go implement it!

Next Steps

Improving your website content can be a daunting task with no clear starting point. Using a grab bag of tips and tricks doesn’t get you any further — in fact, it can leave you feeling lost.

Instead of hopping around and fixing things at random, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process in a methodical manner. Use the steps above to help guide you, and make sure you focus one one step at a time.

By following a plan and sticking to the process, you’ll be well on your way to overhauling your website to create one that helps grow your business (without feeling completely overwhelmed!).

The post How to Improve Your Website Content appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Top 3 Project Management Apps For Construction Firms

 

Project managers are often stereotyped as office stiffs with permanent stacks of Stick It notes in their back pockets, quietly and heroically keeping the wheels on the bus going round and round. However, real humans do not fit easily into stereotypes — and this one is simply too narrow to stand up to even mild scrutiny. After all, all kinds of fields have projects to manage, and many projects take form far from an office building.

For example, project managers based in the construction industry need a powerful suite of tools at their disposal: communication with contractors and clients, document storage, scheduling apps, and more. Beyond that, individual construction workers need features for time tracking, task management, schedule reminders, and communication. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the three best project management apps for construction workers.

But first, some criteria. To work well for construction projects, task management apps need scheduling and document sharing features, a simple and flexible UI that works well on the go, and, of course, an affordable monthly cost. Read on for a comprehensive look at the following three apps — the best of the best when it comes to construction project management.

Monday.com

Unlike the other two apps we will be covering, Monday.com (formerly dapulse) is not a bespoke project management app. It does, however, meet all of our criteria handily. Let’s start with the price.

Monday.com is not the cheapest project management app I have ever covered. It is, however, entirely competitive and reasonably priced when compared with other, similar applications. There are a number of pricing plans ranging from “basic” to “enterprise.” The lower-priced plans (especially the “standard” plan, which grants 50 GB of storage) all provide the most valuable features of this product and come down to less than $10/user/month if you have 50 or more employees. If you don’t want to worry about managing your storage space, you might want to spring for the “Pro” plan, which comes with unlimited file storage. You do, of course, pay extra for the storage, with the price coming down to around $12/user/month on that plan.

In terms of features, Monday.com ticks all of our boxes for construction. You get file storage (how much depends, of course, on your subscription level), scheduling, and communication with both team members and clients. The Gantt chart (or timeline) is particularly good; adding items to the chart and assigning them to team members is easy and making modifications to the schedule is as simple as clicking and dragging. If I had one complaint or reservation about Monday.com’s feature set, it would be that the timeline has no dependencies; the addition of this feature would make this app incredibly well-suited to construction work.

Monday.com boasts an extremely well-designed, highly unique, UI. That said, I test a lot of project management programs, so I was thrown off for a moment by the one-term-for-everything philosophy of this app. Basically, everything you do in Monday.com comes down to ‘Pulses.’ You can assign team members or clients to a pulse, add deadlines, send messages, and even create hashtags for pulses. This methodology required an adjustment period for me, accustomed as I am to the more common “task-list” format of Monday.com’s competitors. Fortunately, I think that users that are new to project management applications will not find pulses as flummoxing, especially with the help of some good onboarding training.

Overall, If you are looking for a flexible, simple, and robustly-featured solution to your construction project management needs, I would encourage you to check out Monday.com and give the free trial a shot.

CoConstruct

CoConstruct, unlike Monday.com, is a custom-built app for construction firms. Everything about this brand is construction-focused, from the name of the application itself to the marketing and support materials on the company’s website. And this seems to be a winning formula. In fact, CoConstruct is most highly reviewed construction project management app on Capterra.

Unfortunately, CoConstruct does not make their pricing options transparent. The closest thing they have to a standard price “list” is a short reference to the fact that prices “start at only $99/month.” There are references to other plans, but you must contact CoConstruct directly to get concrete details. Fortunately, with prices starting out relatively low (assuming you have 30+ employees), it seems likely that you will be able to get higher-level plans without breaking the bank.

CoConstruct is a very full-featured program. The company breaks down its feature set into three categories: COmmunicate, COordinate, and COntrol. It is a pretty snazzy way to describe what this application can do.

The COmmunicate field deals with internal communications between employees and clients. This section of the application can handle estimating, bidding, proposals, and expense tracking. Crew members can even upload pictures from job sites to confirm completed work or detail potential issues.

The COordinate section of the app handles scheduling, task lists, time tracking, and more. I want to particularly highlight the time-tracking features, which function similarly to those of Tsheets (read our review) and Timely (read our review). It is cool to see features from other apps folded into this one; that represents saved money and time for you, the customer.

The final section of CoConstruct, COntrol, is all about financials. This covers, of course, the proposals, bidding, and estimates I mentioned earlier, but also long-term budgeting and an excellent Quickbooks (read our review) integration.

Most importantly, CoConstruct is easy to use. I have to admit, when I first looked through some of the screenshots from this app, I was worried. A few parts of the UI are pretty outdated, which in my experience can translate to a steep learning curve. Fortunately, in CoConstruct’ case, I was wrong. Yes, certain elements of CoConstruct’s UI are not exactly breathtaking, but most of the app is well-designed and solid. I especially like the mobile apps, which allow crew members and foremen to easily keep track of their tasks, communicate with clients and subcontractors, and more.

While it is a little annoying that CoConstruct keeps some things hidden until you reach out to them directly (like their pricing), in the end, their high customer satisfaction rate is entirely justified. If you are looking for a comprehensive project management solution for your construction business, this may be the one for you.

Buildertrend

Considering the fact that it has users in over 40 countries, awards from reviewers, and over one million projects completed from within the app, it’s easy to see why Buildertrend refers to itself as an industry standard for construction project management. With features that cover commercial construction, remodeling, and homebuilding, this app is designed to be your one-stop-shop for managing tasks, projects, and more.

Buildertrend’s pricing system, funnily enough, reminds me of CoConstruct’s. Like that program, Buildertrend starts at $99/month. We get a few more details with Buildertrend, however, including confirmation that this price includes unlimited users. That is fantastic, and it means that larger companies will find greater value using this app. On a less positive note, the baseline price only includes one project; if your firm handles multiple sites at one time, you will need to shell out the extra cash for more projects. Having said that, Buildertrend takes pains to assure users that adding another project does not double the price; it seems that the more projects you buy, the less you pay per project. Just like it should be! Note that there is no free trial; if you choose to buy Buildertrend, you will have to do so without directly testing it first. Fortunately, there are plenty of in-depth videos to help give you an idea of exactly you will be paying for.

Buildertrend’s extensive feature set is divided into four categories: “Pre-Sale Process” features, “Project Management” features, “Financial Tools” features, and “Customer Management” features. There are 21 individual items within these categories, so rather than trying to explain everything here in this limited space, I want to point out some of my favorites.

First things first: One of those pre-sale features includes email marketing. I love it when apps combine features from other kinds of software into one place because it means that you, the user, are getting a more streamlined experience for a lower price. While the email builder is definitely less snazzy than some of the dedicated email marketing apps out there, it does the job well.

In terms of project management features, one of my favorites is the document markup tool. Need to make a change to a blueprint? Mark it in the document. Want to make sure a particular detail gets noticed? Highlight it in the document.

The last thing I want to highlight in terms of features comes from the customer management section. When decisions about color, style, and more need to be made, you can send your customers their options so they can quickly and easily get back to you.

Buildertrend is surprisingly simple to use, considering the number of features available. The best part of this is the full-featured mobile app. And I do mean full-featured– all 21 features are directly accessible from within the app and can be used on the go. Very few project management platforms make everything usable on the go, and it says a lot about the priorities of the team behind Buildertrend that they have gone that route. In an industry that is all about being out in the field, it seems like a wise choice indeed.

If you are looking for a full-featured, flexible, and easy-to-use project management app for your construction firm, I highly recommend heading over to Buildertrends website and checking them out.

Final Thoughts

If I had to pick one of these three apps, I think it would have to be Buildertrend. I like that they focus on serious, thorough, construction-focused project management without losing accessibility. CoConstruct is very similar, but I think Buildertrend is just a bit more usable. Having said that, it may just come down to personal preference regarding which one of these three you choose.

If you are working with a small team, Monday.com might be your best bet. If you represent a larger company, CoConstruct or Buildertrend might be better fits for you. Regardless, one of these apps will certainly provide you the tools you need to get out there and get building.

The post Top 3 Project Management Apps For Construction Firms appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses

small-business-credit-card-processing-app

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

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

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

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

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

Square

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

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

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

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

PayPal Here

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

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

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

Shopify

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

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

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

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

ShopKeep

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: SumUp

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

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

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

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

As always, thanks for reading!

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

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8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business

Business financing is often a necessary part of growing a business, but when it comes to finding capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you get a credit card? What about a loan from your local bank? Is there useful financing out there that you haven’t even heard of?

Read on, and we’ll point you in the right direction. This article discusses the most common (and some less common) ways of getting financing for your business. And, if you find the right type of financing for your business, we’ll give you the next steps to continue your search.

Want help finding a business loan? Apply now to Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders. We’ve partnered with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to bring you fast and easy business financing.

1. Business Loans

As you might expect, business loans are one of the most popular and versatile ways of financing your business. Most businesses will qualify for a business loan of one sort or another, and they can be used for many business purposes, from working capital to business expansion to refinancing.

Business loans come from many different places. While everybody knows that you can get a business loan from a bank, you might not be aware that other financial institutions offer business loans. Many offer loans that are easier to qualify for and have faster applications than bank loans. Here are places that commonly offer business loans:

  • Banks and credit unions offer business loans and other types of financing.
  • Nonprofits, not-for-profit institutions, and microlenders offer small business loans and other types of financing to create jobs and fuel community growth.
  • The Small Business Administration partners with financial institutions to offer business loans. Read more about SBA loans in our guide to their programs.
  • Online lenders, also called “alternative lenders,” offer business loans and other types of financing with fast, semi- or fully-automated application processes.

Loans come in many different forms. The most common are installment loans, in which the money is granted to the business in one lump sum and then repaid via incremental, fixed, payments. However, some loans might have special fee and repayment structures — you might find loans with fixed fees (like short-term loans), loans that have repayment rates based on the percentage of money you make every day or month, or other arrangements. In other words, with a little looking, most merchants will be able to find something that is suited to the needs of their business.

For more information on small business loans, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans. Or, to read reviews of individual lenders, head over to our small business loans review category.

2. Business Lines Of Credit

Business lines of credit are a sort of hybrid between business loans and credit cards. Like business loans, with a line of credit, you can borrow a sum of money which is (normally) repaid along with interest in installments over a set period of time. Like credit cards, you can request funds at any time, up to your available credit limit.

If you occasionally need funds to make ends meet or grow your business, or you simply want a safety net in case of emergencies, a line of credit is an excellent tool at your disposal.

Credit lines can be especially useful to businesses on a timeline because you don’t need to apply every time you need to borrow funds. When you are approved for a credit line, you’re granted access to a certain amount of money from which you can draw at any time. If you have a revolving line of credit, the amount you can borrow will replenish as you repay outstanding debts.

Some credit lines, such as asset-backed lines of credit, can work a little differently. If you have access to a credit line secured by unpaid invoices, inventory, or other assets, the amount you can draw at any given time will depend on the value of the assets you have outstanding. These credit lines are normally best for B2B businesses.

Credit lines carry a few drawbacks — most credit lines have variable interest rates, which mean that your rates might change without notice. And, if you aren’t very good at managing money, you might find that you don’t have emergency funds when you need them. However, lines of credit are useful tools for many businesses.

In the past, it was difficult for all but the most well-established and prosperous businesses to get credit lines. With the advent of online loans, it’s becoming easier for businesses of all sizes to access this useful financing tool. Check out our guide to business lines of credit for more information, or, if you’re interested in procuring one, take a look at our favorite line of credit services.

3. Business Credit Cards

There are many reasons to get a business credit card for your business.

For starters, most credit card issuers offer rewards and benefits to merchants who have signed on with their services. By using the card, you could be earning savings in the form of cash back points (that can be redeemed for travel or other expenses). These rewards add up in the long run, and you might be able to save your business quite a bit of money. Additionally, many credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders, such as extended warranty, price protection, roadside assistance, and other perks.

Credit cards are also convenient ways to keep track of expenses and smooth out cash flow. If you put all your purchases on your credit card, you can easily see what you’ve been spending money on and where you might be able to cut costs. Because the money isn’t coming out of your own account right away, you can defer payments until a more convenient date. You don’t have to struggle to come up with money for expenses if you don’t have it at the moment, or it would be more convenient to pay later.

Of course, credit cards do have some downsides: the APRs can be expensive, so if you don’t pay your bills in time you could wind up with hefty fees that can be difficult to pay off. Additionally, some credit cards carry extra fees, like annual fees and balance transfer fees, which could eat into the money you save by using the card in the first place. However, if you are good at managing money, and spend time choosing a card that will maximize your savings based on how much you plan to utilize the card, credit cards can be excellent tools for many businesses.

Interested in getting a business credit card? Check out a list of our favorite business credit cards. Or, if you are starting a business, you might be interested in our favorite personal credit cards that can be used for business.

4. Merchant Cash Advances

If you need a one-time amount of funds, it might be worth considering a merchant cash advance. This type of financing can be useful for B2C businesses with strong daily sales.

In practice, merchant cash advances are similar to business loans, with the exception of how they’re repaid. Cash advances are repaid by deducting a small percentage of your daily sales; the amount you are repaying each day will vary along with your cash flow. These financial products don’t have a set repayment date, but are normally repaid in a year or less.

Merchant cash advances are an excellent tool for B2C businesses that need a small infusion of cash for working capital, business growth, or other reasons. Know, however, that cash advances have a few downsides: they can be very expensive, and the cost might not be immediately apparent because the fee structure is different than a traditional loan. Instead of interest, cash advance fees are calculated using a factor rate, which can obscure the true cost of the advance.

Head over to our comprehensive article on merchant cash advances for more information, or take a look at our reviews of merchant cash advance providers if you’re interested in finding an advance.

5. Personal Loans

While business loans are based on the credibility and strength of your business, personal loans are based on your personal creditworthiness and financial health. For this reason, these loans can be useful for entrepreneurs, startups, and other businesses that don’t yet have a credit history. You’ll want to give this option a pass if you have separated your business and personal finances, but if you’re not there yet, a personal loan can help you get your business up and going.

Personal loans are normally available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll have to have a steady source of income, a solid debt-to-income ratio, and fair credit to qualify for reasonable rates.

Take a look at our guide to personal loans for business for more information, or check out our startup business loan reviews for reviews on personal lenders.

6. Crowdfunding

Rising to prominence due to the internet and some changes in legislature, crowdfunding allows you to finance your business via a network of your peers.

Crowdfunding is normally used by entrepreneurs to get a startup off the ground, or by creators who need money to fund a product. In a crowdfunding arrangement, the entrepreneur creates a campaign, which usually includes a description of their business or product, information about the founders and their partners, a rough timeline, potential problems, and other frequently asked questions.

Perhaps the most well-known type of crowdfunding, popularized by services such as Kickstarter (read our review) and Indiegogo (read our review), is rewards crowdfunding. You may not be aware that there are actually quite a few different type of crowdfunding available:

  • Rewards crowdfunding, from services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allows contributors to receive products in exchange for backing the business or project.
  • Donation crowdfunding, on sites like Razoo (read our review), involves funds that are donated to your cause. This type of crowdfunding is typically only used for nonprofits or other charitable projects.
  • Debt crowdfunding, from services such as Kiva U.S. (read our review), works similarly to a business loan — backers contribute money with the expectation that it will be paid back, normally with interest.
  • Equity crowdfunding, from company’s like Fundable (read our review), works when backers contribute money in exchange for equity in your business.

Between all the different types available, most entrepreneurs should be able to find a type of crowdfunding that will suit their business or project. Some less-than-sexy businesses, however, might find that they have trouble appealing to casual investors. While debt and equity crowdfunding — which tends to attract more serious backers — might solve that problem, some businesses might still need to look at other financing options.

Crowdfunding also tends to take a long time. Typically, the entrepreneur has to create a campaign and enter into a one- to three-month funding period. The funding period might require a fair amount of marketing, networking, communicating with current and potential backers, and other work to get your project funded.

Interested in crowdfunding? Head over to our startup business loans review category to read reviews of crowdfunding services.

7. Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a financial solution for B2B businesses that invoice their customers. If you have cash flow struggles due to slow-paying customers, invoice factoring is a potential solution. Factoring is commonly used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, printing, and other B2B businesses.

Invoice factors purchase your unpaid invoices at a discount. While you’ll have to take a bit of a loss, invoice factoring can get you the money you need, when you need it, to keep your business going.

When you sell an invoice to a factoring company, you will receive most of the money up-front, and the factor will place a small amount on reserve. Then, when your customer pays the invoice, the funds are diverted to the factoring company, and you will receive the rest of the money in the reserve, minus the invoice factor’s fee.

There are many invoice factoring arrangements, depending on the factoring company and the needs of your business. You can find factors that require you to sell a lot of invoices or ones that let you pick and choose more carefully. Some factors require that your customers know about the arrangement, while others will keep it a secret, and so on.

Invoice factoring has gotten a bad rap in the past because some factoring companies employed poor practices, such as failing to disclose extra fees, requiring long-term contracts and monthly minimums, and other reasons. However, if you do your due diligence, you will be able to find an invoice factor that suits your business’s needs without employing poor tactics. Check out our Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring to learn what to look for, and take a look at our comprehensive invoice factoring reviews to learn about individual factors.

8. Equipment Financing

If you run a business that relies on computers, manufacturing equipment, restaurant equipment, vehicles, or other equipment that might be difficult to pay for out of your business’s own pocket, equipment financing might be right for you.

Equipment financing covers two types of financing: equipment loans and equipment leases.

Equipment loans are similar to traditional business loans, but the equipment is generally used as collateral. In a typical equipment loan arrangement, the lender will cover 80% to 90% of the equipment, and you will be responsible for paying the other 10% to 20%.

Equipment leases are arrangements in which you rent the equipment for a certain period of time. In practice, some lease arrangements are similar to loans, because you have the opportunity to buy the equipment at the end of the leading period, but other arrangements are designed so that you can return or trade in the equipment after a certain period of time. Because you don’t have to purchase the equipment, leases can be a good option for businesses that only need equipment for a short time, or frequently need to upgrade expensive equipment (like computers) due to changes in technology.

Equipment financing, especially equipment loans, will most likely be more expensive in the long run than purchasing the equipment outright. However, if you can’t afford what you need, an equipment loan or lease is an excellent way to get financing.

Head over to What Is Equipment Financing? to learn more about this type of financing, or our equipment financing review category to learn about individual financiers.

Final Thoughts

Business owners have many financing tools at their disposal, but finding the right tool for the job can take some work. The above resources will point you in the right direction.

Need some more help? Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders is there for you. We’ve teamed up with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to provide our readers with fast and easy business financing. With one short application, you can check your eligibility for all participating financial institutions. Read more about the service, including a step-by-step guide through the application process, in Mirador Finance & Merchant Maverick: Making Small Business Loans Easier.

The post 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses

mobile-card-payment-app-service

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

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

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

Square

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

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

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

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

PayPal Here

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

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

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

Shopify

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

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

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

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

Payline Mobile

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

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

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

Spark Pay

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

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

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

SumUp

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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5 Easy Task Management Apps

If you are a newcomer to the project management world, you would be forgiven for not immediately grasping the difference between task management and project management. After all, both tasks and projects are things that need to get done, and it would be helpful to…manage them. All playfulness aside, the difference between the two concepts can be helpful to understand, especially when considering how to spend your dollars on software.

Put simply, task management is more basic than project management. Where your typical project management app features milestones, Gantt charts, in-depth reporting, and more, task management apps tend to work with to-do lists, file storage, and communication. Put another way, project management is always task management, but task management is not always project management. Kind of a square-rectangle deal.

If you find that your team would benefit from an official to-do list, but don’t want to invest in full-on project management, a task management app might be just what you need. While most of these apps are straightforward, some are easier to use than others. With that in mind, here are the top five easiest task management apps:

Producteev

Producteev (read our review) has a bit more to offer than some of the other solutions on this list. This simple app ticks the standard boxes for task management (task lists, etc.), but also allows you to build entire “networks” of projects within your company. It provides a level of organization that extends beyond what is standard in task management, so if you are looking for something a bit complex, this might be the app for you. One important note, before you jump to sign up for Producteev: This app is somewhat lacking in communication tools. While it is true that you can comment on tasks, even using the @ symbol to mention specific team members, there is no dedicated chat feature. For that reason, I have a hard time recommending Producteev to mobile or remote teams.

On the other hand, Producteev’s pricing is extremely attractive. There are two subscription levels: free and $99/month. The difference between the two? Paying subscribers can customize their color scheme, add their own logo, and access dedicated support services with a guaranteed 24-hour response time. Is this worth the cash? It depends. If your team is small, I would try the free version first. If you are working with a larger group, the value of the subscription increases. In the end, of course, the decision rests with you.

Squidhub

I have written several posts that discuss Squidhub (read our review) in the last few months. Simply put, I like this app a lot; it jives well with how I personally work, and does so with possibly the cutest mascot in the business world. (That’s a bold claim, I know, but just look at that adorable little guy). Squidhub’s simple, single-page UI, and focus on task management and communication exemplify the qualities of a good task management app. However, some may find the simplicity of Squidhub a little limiting.

One of the best things about Squidhub is that it feels complete even at its free subscription level. Actually, for the moment, the free plan is the only option for Squidhub users. However, the company has recently revealed (on the Squidhub pricing page) that higher subscription levels will soon be available. If you have room to play in your budget, some of those new options may be worth considering — particularly the Business plan, which will allow users to build templates for task lists.

ClickUp

ClickUp (read our review) is so easy to use that you may start to wonder how its competitors even stay in business. With features that sometimes emulate true project management (time tracking, workspaces, project views, etc), it feels as though there is little this app can’t do. In fact, if I had a criticism, it might be that ClickUp is trying too hard. When you first log in to the app, you get a pop-up asking you to name other project management apps you have used so they can “tailor the experience” a bit more to your needs. While this could easily be a genuine goal, it also feels a bit, well, braggy.

And there are so many other things ClickUp could brag about! Not the least of which is price. Like the three prior options I have covered here, ClickUp has an excellent free version that will leave you wondering how the company behind the app, Mango, is making any profit. If you want a little more file storage space, as well as onboarding services, you could choose to pay $5/user/month. The benefit of that extra cost is really going to depend on your specific circumstances. If you are already paying for cloud-based file storage, you may not find the subscription necessary. On the other hand, onboarding is one of the biggest challenges of a new business service app, so that five dollar fee might pay for itself right in the first month.

Trello

Trello (read our review) is one of those programs that is always easy to recommend. This app, the originator of the increasingly popular board view, is simple yet effective. Capable of pretty advanced task management, Trello is also (dare I say it?) fun. Sure, you can pack your boards and cards with relevant information, assigning tasks to different team members with deadlines and more, but you can also activate the Pirate (!) powerup that turns your cards into crinkly old treasure maps if you haven’t touched them in awhile. You can also put “stickers” on your boards; my personal favorite is the smiling face of a husky dog — the company mascot, Taco.

Like most of the apps I am covering here today, Trello offers its best features for free. If you want a bit more customization or file storage — or even more advanced power-ups — you can pay up to $20/user/month.  Honestly, though, I don’t personally see these things as worth the cost (unless a specific power-up is extra important to you).

Basecamp 3

I am not sure what it is with simple task management apps and cute logos, but it is at once a fantastic and disturbing trend. Basecamp 3 (read our review) is, in some ways, the most advanced app on my list today, edging into the world of true project management in ways not even ClickUp has managed. Yes, the core of Basecamp 3 is task management and communication. But this app also boasts more advanced reporting capabilities and automated reminders. For that reason, Basecamp is a bit more versatile than some of the other options I discussed above.

Having said that, that versatility literally comes at a price. Whereas the four apps above function beautifully for free, Basecamp 3 goes for $99/month. For that reason, this might not be the best app for you if you are working with a tight budget or on a small team. On the other hand, if your team has more than 10 people, Basecamp 3 becomes one of the best values in the project or task management worlds.

Final Thoughts

There is a wide array of options when it comes to simple, easy-to-use task management apps. Much of the decision of which to use will come down to your specific situation. The base-level simplicity of Trello or Squidhub may appeal to some while the more advanced features of ClickUp or Producteev will be more in line with the needs of others. And businesses looking for a kind of hybrid task-and-project management app might want to go with Basecamp 3.

The nicest thing about any of these apps is that they are easy to try. Since most of them are free, there is no downside to giving them a test drive; even Basecamp offers a generous 30-day trial. With that in mind, go ye forth and manage your tasks!

The post 5 Easy Task Management Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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6 POS Systems That Are Good At Inventory Management

When casually shopping for a new point of sale system it’s easy to focus on things like the software’s price point, its design, and how simple it is to use. But, for any sizable retail or restaurant establishment, one of the most important components of a POS system is its inventory management.

Most of the top systems on the market come with built-in inventory tools, but each one is different in terms of the features and functionality on offer. There’s really no excuse to stick with a system that can’t quickly help you analyze your inventory and determine how to maximize your profits. Read on for a look at a few point of sale systems that have exemplary inventory management functions.

Vend

Vend (see our review) does a lot of things well (that’s why it’s already earned one of our coveted 5-star ratings). It numbers among the most user-friendly systems on the market, requiring very little training to install or operate. Vend is continually updating and integrates with dozens of companies. With a limited free option and plans starting $69 a month, Vend is also budget friendly.

Vend’s inventory management is easy to maneuver without sacrificing functionality. This POS allows you to import a CSV file to easily transfer large amounts of inventory. You can also import existing barcodes or print new ones. There is a wide variety of options for organizing your products, making it possible to build customizable reports. The centralized product catalog is also a nice function.

Vend comes with a built-in way to automate promotions, making it possible to set discounts across multiple stores or create discounts for individual customers. Stock orders can be automatically generated once a certain item dips below a set point. What’s more, Scanner by Vend simplifies stock counts.

Lavu

While Lavu (read our review) is best suited for the restaurant or food service industry, its inventory management feature is robust enough to handle smaller retail stores as well. Lavu has a simple and modern interface and is customizable to your business needs, whether you need table management for a restaurant or are just operating a food cart or cafe. It also starts at just $59 a month with a contract, making it highly affordable. Best of all, its inventory management is top-notch. As you might expect, Lavu has real-time inventory monitoring which immediately informs servers when an item is low or out of stock.

You can choose for purchase orders to automatically update or create them manually. It’s also easy to transfer inventory items from restaurant to restaurant or order items from a warehouse directly from your POS. Lavu provides easy-to-read reports on what items are selling well at individual locations and can track customer trends to help diagnose profitable items.

Hike

Hike (read our review) is an affordable retail system (starting at $49 a month) with surprisingly robust inventory management that could also be utilized for small food carts or cafes. Hike’s mobility makes it a nice option for businesses that want their employees to be able to interact on the floor with customers; its employee management is also strong. The system can handle an unlimited number of products and is custom made to handle large amounts of inventory. Custom barcodes on receipts make it easy to look up products. Virtually everything can be automated, from re-ordering to setting up reminders and shipping items between stores.

Hike’s purchase ordering is intuitive, as is its ability to track orders online. Inventory can be quickly imported in bulk, and a central inventory system makes it possible to keep tabs on your stock across multiple locations from one system. You can schedule a full or partial inventory count in advance to save time as well. There are myriad categories and subcategories that you can place items into, making it easy to search for them.

NCR Silver

NCR Silver Review

NCR is a behemoth of a company, but it has carved out a nice niche in the POS world and continues to impress. NCR Silver (check out our review) offers strong customer support and was created with the business owner in mind, featuring an interface that can get customers through the line quickly. Pricing starts at $79 a month with an annual contract.

NCR is one of the rare products whose inventory management is equally strong for both retail and restaurant establishments. Inventory can be viewed in real-time and, for larger businesses with multiple locations, it’s easy to toggle back and forth from store to store to check product amounts. Like with Hike, many of the inventory functions can be automated to save employee hours. Orders can be made automatically once stock drops below a certain level, and variations for products, like size and color, can easily be added.

For restaurants, forced and optional modifiers can be added to boost sales. The Inventory Snapshot feature also lets you see the total inventory you have on hand at any given moment. NCR Silver’s analytics, predicting item sales and profits from inventory, are also top notch.

Revel

revel systems pos

Revel (read our review) has emerged as one of the big players in the POS world and stays at the forefront of the industry with constant updates and expanding integrations. Featuring a flexible pricing structure, the company is equipped for both restaurant and retail businesses and its inventory management has all of the functions you would want in an easily digestible format.

Revel offers a convenient style matrix for adding large amounts of inventory en masse with customizable category options for easy searches. For restaurants, it’s easy to check out ingredient levels and costs. Revel allows you to create your own purchase orders, including a convenient function where you can note if only a partial order arrives. As with some of the other systems, inventory levels can be viewed in real time and alerts can be set up when products are running low — or you can have the system automatically order new stock. Revel also has an inventory app that can be downloaded, turning your phone into a scanner.

talech

talech review

talech (check out our review) continues to be one of the more underrated POS systems on the market. Like Revel, talech updates constantly and can integrate with virtually every credit card processor. With plans starting at $62 a month with a full year’s payment, it’s also relatively affordable.

This highly customizable and scalable software is a strong option for small to mid-sized food and retail businesses, and one of its biggest pluses is its strong inventory management system. There is an option to create your own barcodes as a PDF, saving money on hardware. The inventory log makes tracking products and assessing their viability simple. Items can also be bundled and sold as a single unit while still tracking and recording each individual item to analyze later. talech is a nice product for businesses with more than one location, as discounts and other pricing changes can all be managed remotely from a single station. While talech isn’t quite as robust in some other features as its competitors, it more than holds its own in terms of inventory management, making it an affordable option.

Final Thoughts

Price, ease-of-use, and aesthetics matter, but depending on what type of business you operate, strong inventory management may actually be the most important feature to look for when shopping for a POS. Before purchasing a new system, do your research and ask as many questions as you can about the inventory features available. Whenever possible, take advantage of free trials.

Good luck, and happy selling!

The post 6 POS Systems That Are Good At Inventory Management appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Lines Of Credit For 2018

business line of credit loan

A line of credit is one of the most useful tools at a merchant’s disposal. Merchants with a line of credit can have funds available within a few days without going through a long application process every time. These funds can be used for many business reasons, such as working capital, business growth, or emergency funds.

Are you looking to gain access to a line of credit? Or do you have a line of credit already, but want to know what your other options are? You’re in luck! We’ve searched out and evaluated the best credit lines currently available to businesses of all sizes — from microbusinesses and startups to stable and established operations.

The following lines of credit are sorted (roughly) by ease of qualification (from easiest to most difficult). Bear in mind that, in general, the easier it is to qualify for a line of credit, the higher the rates and fees you will be offered.

Best Lines Of Credit (At A Glance)

Products Offered Best For
Fundbox • Invoice-backed lines of credit
• Traditional lines of credit
B2C and B2B startups, microbusinesses, and freelancers
BlueVine • Invoice factoring
• Traditional lines of credit
B2C and B2B businesses over six months old with fair credit
Kabbage • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old
OnDeck • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old
StreetShares • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old with fair credit
Fundation • Traditional lines of credit Businesses over a year old with fair credit
P2Binvestor • Asset-backed lines of credit Large, well-established B2B businesses over two years old
SBA CAPLines • Working capital lines of credit
• Seasonal lines of credit
• Contract lines of credit
• Builder’s lines of credit
Large, well-established businesses
Your Bank Or Credit Union • Various lines of credit Well-established businesses

Fundbox

Gone are the days when you had to have a large, well-established business to qualify for a credit line. With Fundbox (read our review), you might qualify even if you’ve only been in business for three months. This service offers invoice-backed and traditional lines of credit to eligible businesses.

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

Fundbox currently offers the most accessible business lines of credit available. There is only one specific requirement: you must have been using compatible accounting/invoicing software for at least three months, or a compatible business bank account for six. In most cases, your credit score doesn’t matter — Fundbox doesn’t check your credit at all.

Fundbox also has one of the fastest applications available. Typically, you can create an account, apply, and get a decision within a couple of minutes. Borrowers might be eligible for a credit line up to $100,000 with repayment term lengths up to 24 weeks in length.

Obviously, Fundbox offers a useful service, but it’s not right for all businesses. The fees are higher than those of services that cater to more established businesses, so if you have been in business for a while and have strong financials, you might be able to find better rates elsewhere. Nonetheless, Fundbox is an invaluable source of financing for many businesses.

Check out our full Fundbox Review or head over to the website using the link above for more information.

BlueVine

Founded in 2013, BlueVine (read our review) offers two services to solve cash flow problems: lines of credit and invoice factoring. If your business is at least six months old and you have fair credit, a BlueVine line of credit might be right for your business. Check out the eligibility for their traditional lines of credit below:

bluevine logo
Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 6 months with a revenue of $10,000 per month.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Lines of credit are not available in all states. See full review for details.
Visit the BlueVine website

You have a fair chance at qualifying for a line of credit from BlueVine if you meet the above requirements. Borrowers might be eligible for a credit line up to $200,000 with repayment terms of six months. If you invoice your customers, invoice factoring might be worth your consideration — BlueVine doesn’t require monthly minimums or long-term contracts. Check out our full BlueVine review for more information on the invoice factoring services.

The application process for BlueVine is fast and straightforward. In most cases, you can expect to have a decision regarding your application within 24 hours. Unlike with some other services, you will not have to submit a lot of documentation to be considered for a credit line.

As you might expect, larger organizations will want to give BlueVine a pass. With APRs between 21% and 65%, well-established businesses will be able to find lower rates elsewhere. However, smaller companies will find this service worth considering.

Head over to the website above, or check out our full BlueVine Review for more information.

Kabbage

Kabbage (read our review) offers one of the most popular and well-known lines of credit available. This service is known for having a fast, easy application process, and for being a convenient and easy way to access funds. You might be eligible for a Kabbage line of credit if you meet the following requirements:

Borrower requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months and make at least $50,000 annually (or $4,500 for the last 3 months).
• No specific credit score requirements.
Visit the Kabbage website

With relatively low revenue and time in business requirements, a lot of businesses will qualify for a credit line from Kabbage. This lender does not enforce a specific minimum credit score, but it will run a check on your credit before giving you a final decision on your eligibility, rates, and fees.

Like Fundbox, Kabbage’s application process is completely automated. Most potential borrowers will be able to make an account, fill out an application, and check their eligibility within a few minutes.

With APRs that range from approximately 20% to 106%, Kabbage lines of credit have the potential to be the most expensive on this list. However, your personal rates will depend on your creditworthiness, the strength of your financials, and some other factors, so you might be eligible for lower rates. Regardless of the potentially high rates, Kabbage is worth checking out if you need fast access to a convenient line of credit.

Check out our full Kabbage Review for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

OnDeck

OnDeck (read our review) is known for offering short-term loans, but it has also been offering lines of credit for the last few years. Because OnDeck will consider applicants that have personal credit scores as low as 500, it’s a good choice for businesses that don’t qualify for other credit lines because of poor credit.

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

OnDeck’s credit lines currently range from $6,000 to $100,000, with repayment terms of six months. Unlike the lender’s short-term loans, which are usually repaid daily, draws from your credit like are repaid on a weekly basis. OnDeck does not charge a fee for drawing from your line, but they do charge a monthly maintenance fee.

Although slower overall than Kabbage or Fundbox, OnDeck has a relatively fast application process. Most borrowers will have a final decision within 24 hours after applying.

OnDeck’s rates and fees are competitive with similar lines of credit. So while you still might wind up with a rate that is higher than you would like, you will not come across fees that are overly expensive.

Head over to our full OnDeck Review or their website for more information.

StreetShares

StreetShares (read our review) is a P2P lender that offers many financial products to small businesses, including lines of credit. This lender has very low revenue requirements, so if you have at least 12 months in business and fair credit, you might be able to qualify for a credit line.

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

Like those of many other lenders, StreetShares credit lines max out at $100,000, but the amount you will personally be offered will be about 20% of your annual revenue. StreetShares APRs range from 7% to 39.99%, which is competitive with many other online lines of credit. Draws have a maximum repayment length of 36 months, which is the longest draw term-length on this list.

StreetShares’ application process generally takes less than a week. Naturally, once you have access to a credit line, you can draw at any time without going through an application, although StreetShares will occasionally request to see your financials if you haven’t drawn from your line in a while.

Check out our full StreetShares Review for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

Fundation

Fundation (read our review) is an online lender that offers installment loans and lines of credit to eligible businesses. Here are the requirements you’ll have to meet to qualify for the latter:

fundation logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $100,000 per year.
• Must have a personal credit score of 600 or above.
• Must have at least three full-time employees (including yourself).
Visit the Fundation website

Because of the employee requirement, Fundation might be a little more difficult to qualify for, but eligible borrowers will benefit from favorable terms and fees. Fundation offers credit lines between $20,000 and $100,000. Draws have repayment terms of 18 months, which is longer than most other lenders on this list. Additionally, with APRs that range from 7.99% to 29.99%, Fundation’s rates are lower than those of most of the above lenders.

The application process to gain access to a line of credit is short, and most applicants can expect a decision in fewer than seven days. Between the low rates and the fast application process, this is definitely a lender worth checking out if you aren’t yet big enough to get a line of credit from a bank or the SBA.

Check out our full Fundation Review or their website using the link above.

P2Binvestor

P2Binvestor (read our review), which began as a modern take on invoice factoring, offers lines of credit that are backed by assets. Currently, P2Binvestor (P2Bi for short) offers credit lines backed by unpaid invoices or inventory. Check out the qualifications below:

P2Binvestor P2Bi logo
Borrower Requirements:
• Must be in business at least 12 months with a revenue of $500,000 per year.
• Must be a US-based B2B business.
Visit the P2Binvestor website

P2Bi is a little more difficult to qualify for than the above lenders, but eligible merchants will discover that P2Bi offers low rates and fees in comparison to others on this list.

This service is useful for businesses that are growing fast (and need funds to continue that growth), but don’t yet qualify for a bank line of credit. P2Binvestor’s credit lines, which range from $250,000 to $10,000,000 (or even higher) can give you the money you need to keep your business growing. While P2Bi does charge an early termination fee, they will waive it if you are able to find lower rates with a line of credit from a bank.

Check out our full review of P2Binvestor for more information, or head over to their website using the link above.

SBA CAPLines

The Small Business Administration (SBA) works with partner lenders, such as banks and credit unions, to offer loans to small businesses at affordable prices. The SBA’s lines of credit (part of their 7(a) loan programs) are called CAPLines. Currently, the SBA offers four different lines of credit:

  • Working Capital CAPLines: Lines of credit for working capital and/or operating needs.
  • Seasonal CAPLines: Lines of credit to help your business get through your busy season. This line cannot be used during your business’s slow period.
  • Contract CAPLines: Lines of credit used to finance specific contracts.
  • Builder’s CAPLines: Lines of credit used for construction and renovation.

CAPLines max out at $5,000,000. The SBA will guarantee a maximum of 75% or 85%, depending on the size of the credit facility.

The SBA borrower requirements for a CAPLine are the same as those for other 7(a) loans:

  • Your business must be for-profit
  • You must do business in the United States or its territories
  • You must have reasonable owner equity
  • You must have used personal savings and other alternative financial assets before seeking an SBA loan

However, the partner you’re working with will have other requirements you need to meet. You’ll need to be able to prove 1) that your financials are strong enough to qualify for a credit line, and 2) that you have the necessary collateral.

To apply for an SBA CAPLine, you’ll have to find a partner lender that offers CAPLines. The best place to start your search is the SBA’s Lender Match platform.

Your Bank Or Credit Union

If your company is stable and well-established, you might be able to qualify for a credit line from your bank or credit union. Banks and credit unions are notoriously risk-averse, but for qualified businesses, banks can offer credit lines with favorable terms and fees.

Final Thoughts

Lines of credit are useful tools for businesses of any size, whether you’re just starting out or have been running a successful organization for a while. The above lines of credit will work for most businesses, but if you’re not seeing one that works for you, check out our full library of business line of credit reviews.

The post The Best Business Lines Of Credit For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top 5 Project Management Apps for 2018

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

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

Squidhub

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

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

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

Streamtime

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

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

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

Binfire

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

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

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

Trello

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

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

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

Asana

best ecommerce apps

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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