What Is AVS For Credit Card Processing?

Address Verification Service

Like it or not (and you won’t like it), credit card processing comes with a bewildering variety of small, nickel-and-dime fees that add to your costs in ways you might not even be aware of. One fee that you might have seen on your credit card processing statement is the AVS Fee. If you’re an ecommerce merchant, you probably already know what this is, but if you’re in retail, you most likely don’t see it very often and may not understand how it works. Well, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll explain what AVS is, how to use it, and how much it might cost you in additional processing charges.

AVS is an acronym for the Address Verification Service, a feature that’s used to compare the address given to you by your customer and the billing address on file with the cardholder’s issuing bank. AVS serves two primary functions: (1) to deter fraud by confirming that the customer is the legitimate cardholder, and (2) to help prevent chargebacks by giving you additional information to verify your customer’s identity. AVS is provided by MasterCard, but is used by all major credit card brands in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

As you’re probably already aware, card-not-present fraud is a growing problem in today’s ecommerce-driven world, and it can come in many forms. Using AVS won’t eliminate CNP fraud, but it will lower the chances of it happening to you. Likewise, chargebacks are also becoming more common. If the address the customer provided and the address on file with the issuing bank matched when you processed the transaction, this provides additional evidence to improve your chances of successfully defending against the chargeback. Better yet, effective use of AVS can lower the chances of a chargeback occurring in the first place.

How Address Verification Works

Use of the Address Verification System isn’t necessary for all credit/debit card transactions. In fact, the only time you’ll need to use AVS is for card-not-present transactions and situations where you need to key in a customer’s card information manually. This can happen if for some reason your credit card terminal is unable to read the customer’s magstripe or EMV chip. Note that while it’s fairly common for the magstripe on an old card to wear down over time and eventually become unreliable, the chance of this happening with an EMV card is very small.

If your business is retail-only, you’ll only rarely need to use AVS, and the impact on your processing costs will be minimal. On the other hand, ecommerce-only, mail order, and telephone order businesses will need to use AVS for every transaction. If you’re in one of these types of businesses, the cost of using AVS can be very substantial, depending on how (and whether) your credit card processor charges you for using it. If you process a lot of B2B transactions, you should also be aware that some processors require the use of AVS to process Level II and III credit card data.

Using AVS is actually very simple. In addition to their credit card information, your customer also provides a billing address. This information is submitted to your credit card processor, which queries the AVS system to determine whether the customer-provided address matches the billing address on file with the credit card’s issuing bank. AVS can be set up to run automatically through a payment gateway or virtual terminal, or you can manually query the system through your credit card terminal. The Address Verification System will compare the submitted billing address with the one on file with the issuing bank, and return a code that tells you how closely the two addresses match. Here’s an overview of the most common codes returned by the AVS, and what they mean:

Common AVS Codes (for Visa, MasterCard, and Discover)

AVS Code Meaning
B No address information submitted, AVS check could not be performed
E AVS data provided is invalid (or AVS is not allowed for the card type submitted)
R AVS unavailable at the time transaction was submitted. Retry transaction
G Credit card issuing bank is of non-U.S. origin and does not support AVS
U Address information is not available for the customer’s credit card
S U.S. card issuing bank does not support AVS
N Neither street address nor 5-digit ZIP code matches address and ZIP code on file for card
A Street address matches, but 5-digit ZIP code does not
Z First 5 digits of ZIP code matches, but street address does not
W 9-digit ZIP code matches, but street address does not
Y Street address and first 5 digits of the ZIP code match perfectly

Note that there are additional codes that you might see. However, they’re far less common than the codes listed in the table above.

Okay, so you’ve got a code from the AVS system. Do you approve the transaction or not? In some cases, your credit card processor will automatically decline a transaction if certain AVS mismatch codes are returned. If this happens, your only recourse is to ask the customer for an alternative billing address and try again. There are legitimate reasons why a customer might inadvertently supply an incorrect billing address. For example, your customer might have recently moved, but hasn’t updated their new billing address with their credit card company. Or perhaps the customer simply doesn’t remember their address correctly. However, if the customer doesn’t provide the correct address on the second try, there’s a very good chance that it’s because the card is stolen, and the customer has no idea where the actual cardholder lives. In this case, you should decline the transaction.

In a retail setting, a merchant will have to decide whether to accept a transaction if the Address Verification System returns a code indicating something other than a perfect match. Different AVS codes present varying levels of risk in accepting the transaction, as summarized here:

AVS Risk of Transaction Approval

Transaction Approved If: AVS Codes: Risk Level:
ZIP code or street address do or do not match None High
Street address matches B, N and Z Medium
5-digit ZIP code matches B, N and A Medium
Either 5-digit ZIP code or street address match B and N Medium
Both 5-digit ZIP code and street address match B, N, A and Z Low
Both 9-digit ZIP code and street address match B, N, A, Z, W and Y Extremely Low

Again, retail merchants will have to make a decision based on the level of risk if a partial mismatch occurs. We recommend that you set specific policies regarding which AVS codes will be approved and which will be declined, and that you ensure your employees are trained to recognize AVS codes that will require them to reject a customer’s card. Mail order and telephone order businesses will also have to set similar policies to ensure consistency in accepting or declining transactions.

For ecommerce businesses, things are a little easier. In most cases, you can set up your payment gateway to automatically accept or reject transactions based on the returned AVS code. Popular gateways such as Authorize.Net (see our review) allow you to configure your gateway to automatically accept only transactions where specified AVS codes are returned. You’ll want to exercise extreme caution in selecting which codes to approve based on the overall level of risk. Accepting too many partial mismatch codes can leave you vulnerable to fraud and chargebacks. At the same time, you might lose a lot of sales if your AVS code acceptance policies are too restrictive. Although you’ll obviously want your gateway to be able to process transactions automatically 24/7 without input from you, we suggest that you set up a system to automatically email a customer notifying them that their transaction was declined due to an AVS mismatch. This gives the customer a chance to either correct the billing address information or submit an alternate payment method, and keeps you from losing a sale.

Address Verification Fees

Credit card surcharge fees illustration

Regardless of how frequently you use the Address Verification Service, you’re almost always going to have to pay for it one way or another. For starters, MasterCard charges an automatic AVS assessment fee whenever AVS is used, regardless of the circumstances. This fee is currently $0.01 for card-not-present transactions and $0.005 for card-present transactions. Your processor has to pay this fee to MasterCard when they process your transaction, and they’ll usually pass it on to you in one form or another.

If you use Square (see our review) or a similar payment service provider and are on a flat-rate pricing plan, you won’t pay a separate AVS fee. Instead, Square incorporates this fee into their processing rates, so you’ll never see it. Note that Square, along with almost all other providers, charges a higher rate for ecommerce and keyed-in transactions. While a lot of this increased rate reflects the higher risk associated with card-not-present transactions in general, use of the AVS service is also included.

If your processor uses a tiered pricing plan, you may or may not be charged a separate AVS fee for each transaction where the Address Verification Service was used, depending on your processor. However, using AVS for a card-not-present transaction is usually a requirement for placing that transaction in the qualified tier. Conversely, failure to use AVS will often result in the transaction being downgraded to nonqualified, and you’ll pay a much higher fee for processing it. Because the nonqualified rate will cost you up to two or even three times the qualified rate, you’ll save money using AVS – even if you have to pay a fee for it.

Merchants on an interchange-plus pricing plan may or may not be charged a separate AVS fee, but use of AVS will give you a lower interchange rate, thus reducing the cost of processing your transaction. Again, in most cases, the savings from the lower interchange rate will more than offset the cost of the AVS fee.

Subscription-based pricing works the same way as interchange-plus, with the exception that you usually don’t pay a percentage markup on your transactions. Once again, you’ll save money overall by using AVS for your card-not-present transactions. Note that most providers offering subscription pricing usually don’t tack on extra fees like the AVS fee, as you’re already paying a monthly subscription fee that’s intended to combine these and other costs associated with maintaining your merchant account.

To find out how your provider handles the AVS fee, you’ll have to wade through the fine print in your contract. Although some of the more transparent providers disclose this information on their website, most do not. Most providers that impose a discrete AVS fee will charge anywhere from $0.01 to $0.25 per transaction where AVS is used. These fees can add up quickly, especially if you process a high number of small-ticket transactions. Other providers might simply include this extra cost in their rates for card-not-present transactions, as you will be using AVS for 100% of these types of transactions.

Because of the potential for AVS fees to add significantly to your processing costs, some providers will permanently waive the fee if your business is ecommerce-only. Businesses with both a retail and an online presence probably won’t be so lucky.

Final Thoughts

The Address Verification Service provides valuable protection for your business from both fraud and the possibility of a chargeback. While it isn’t foolproof, it’s far better to use it rather than simply accepting all transactions without it. In this sense, AVS is worth paying a little extra for and is in no way a “junk” fee.

At the same time, you’ll want to make sure that your provider isn’t ripping you off by charging an AVS fee that’s much higher than what they have to pay to MasterCard for the use of the service. Your best defense is to discuss the AVS fee with your sales representative when negotiating the terms of your merchant account. And, by all means, read your contract documents thoroughly before signing to ensure that what your sales representative told you is reflected in your legally-binding contract.

eCommerce merchants are particularly vulnerable to overpaying for the Address Verification Service, and you’ll want to choose a provider that will either waive the AVS fee entirely or merely charge you the pass-through cost. Paying significantly more than this will add up quickly if you’re assessed an AVS fee on every single transaction that your business processes.

We also recommend that ecommerce merchants set the automatic rejection policies on their payment gateways to balance the risk of fraud against the possibility of lost sales from legitimate customers. Your provider can help you select automatic rejection policies that will meet this goal.

Each provider treats AVS fees differently, so you’ll want to research this issue before considering a particular provider for your business. For example, one of our highest-rated providers, Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) charges a flat $0.05 per transaction to use AVS. However, they disclose this fee on their website, and they also point out that the lower interchange costs from using AVS will still, in most cases, result in a lower overall cost to process the transaction.

The post What Is AVS For Credit Card Processing? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

What Is A Card-Not-Present Transaction?

It’s safe to say that nothing is ever free in payment processing (and if it claims to be, you should be very suspicious). But trying to understand why some types of transactions cost more than others to process can be a confusing and sometimes overwhelming process. For example, why does Square charge 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions and just 2.75% for swiped, dipped, and tapped transactions, even though they both go through the Point of Sale app? Why do invoices and online orders cost more than payments processed with a POS app and credit card reader? The answer is that it matters whether a transaction is deemed “card-present” or “card-not-present” (CNP)  — in fact, it is a critical factor in payment processing costs.

A card-not-present sale is any transaction where the cardholder does not present their card to the merchant. While that general definition may seem pretty cut and dry, the reality is a bit muddier. Here’s what I mean: Even if your customer takes out their physical credit card, the transaction is not considered a “card-present sale” unless they actually swipe, dip, or tap it. Manually entering a card number throws the transaction into card-not-present territory.

And when a customer taps a credit card terminal with their phone at a coffee shop? That transaction is actually considered a card-present sale even though the merchant technically never sees a physical credit card!

Confused? Don’t worry. Keep reading; below, we’ll break down some more examples of card-not-present transactions and help you understand why they cost more to process. We’ll also talk about what — if anything — you need to change in your payment processing setup to protect your business.

The reality is, whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or you run an eCommerce business, you need to understand how CNP transactions affect your business, your customers, and your bottom line. There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to distinguishing from a card-not-present and a card-present transaction, including how much it costs you and the security risks involved. Let’s dive in!

Card-Present VS Card-Not-Present Transactions

Let’s start by talking about what a card-not-present sale actually entails. Once we do that, these transactions will be a little easier for you to identify (and help your sales team navigate the whole issue as well.) A card-not-present sale is any sale processed that does not capture the electronic data of the card at the time of the sale.  

It’s not always super cut and dry. Sometimes merchants don’t understand that being handed a credit card doesn’t automatically qualify the transaction as a card-present sale. It all depends on how it is processed. For instance, say you are at a festival and decide to buy one-of-a-kind art from a vendor. You hand her your card, and she breaks out a little manual machine and makes a carbon copy. Even though you physically handed the vendor your card, this still counts as a card-not-present transaction. No electronic data was captured.

Another example involves Visa and Apple Pay. You can consider any in-store purchase made with Apple Pay a card-present sale, but any payments made using Apple Pay in-app are considered card-not-present. That’s because when a customer uses a digital wallet by tapping or scanning a QR in the store, the electronic data of the card is captured in real time. In-app purchases do not capture the electronic data at the time of the sale.

For the most part, the main thing to understand is that transaction categorization ultimately boils down to whether electronic data was captured.

Common Card-Not-Present Transactions:

  • Invoicing a client
  • eCommerce / online shopping
  • Phone orders
  • Recurring payments that are automatically billed (subscriptions)

Common Card-Present Transactions:

  • Countertop credit card terminals
  • Tapping or scanning digital wallets
  • Swiping via a card reader on a tablet or smartphone (e.g., Square)

If your revenue depends on processing payments with anything other than a POS app and credit card terminal or mobile card reader, it is worth your time to understand how to keep your transactions safe. Processing credit cards costs money whether you process in person or online, but you will face slightly higher fees for processing card-not-present transactions. 

Understanding The Cost Of Card-Not-Present Transactions

 

Why are you charged more for card-not-present transactions? It’s pretty simple, actually. Card-not-present transactions cost more because there are simply more ways for them to fail. From chargebacks, friendly fraud, and malicious fraud, there is more vulnerability and subsequent cost when things go wrong.  Granted, all credit card processing poses some risk — that’s why businesses have contracts with processors, and why high-risk merchant accounts exist. It comes down to which methods of payment processing (and sometimes even which businesses) present the most risk. 

With a merchant account that offers interchange-plus pricing, you will pay a higher interchange rate for card-not-present transactions because the card networks want a return in exchange for accepting some of the risk. Even third-party processors, which don’t overtly pass interchange costs directly to you, still build the costs in by adding a markup to their base rate.

It’s also important to understand that not all card-not-present transactions pose the same risks. For instance, you are generally going to pay a higher cost for a keyed-in entry than for an online transaction because there are typically some built-in security measures (like address and CVV verification) for online purchases, whereas there are no security measures for keyed transactions.

Want to know more about how credit card processing works? Check out The Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees for an in-depth look. 

Below we talk more about card-not-present fraud and what you can do to protect your business. 

The Cost Of Fraud

Unfortunately, when it comes to CNP sales, the industry is currently seeing an increased rate of fraud for online transactions. The rollout of chip cards and the EMV liability shift in the US for card-present sales actually plays a major role in the increase of card-not-present fraud, and it’s something that financial experts predicted would happen based on EMV adoption in other parts of the world.

While we certainly don’t want to strike fear or dread into any of our readers, the fact is that card-not-present transactions make you more vulnerable to fraud because the physical card data can’t be verified. Not only can a card data breach turn into an embarrassing public relations issue, but the business owner is ultimately responsible for absorbing the cost of any fraudulent charges in a card-not-present sale.

A recent press release from LexisNexis demonstrates that the cost of fraud is rising. Last year, every dollar ($1) of fraud cost a merchant $2.77. This year, it’s predicted to cost $2.94 on average. And if you are in the digital space, the cost is even a bit higher.

Small businesses need to stay on guard just as much as any medium or large business. The unfortunate fact is that fraudsters are looking for vulnerabilities like outdated data security practices, and small businesses are very likely to be targeted.

There are some very sobering statistics from UPS Capital:

  • Nearly 90% of small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. don’t use data protection for company and customer information.
  • Less than half have secure company email processes to prevent phishing scams.
  • 60% of smaller businesses are out of business within six months of suffering a cyber attack.

It is vitally important to be aware of the risks and know how to protect yourself.

Read on to learn more about fraud and what you can do to protect your business if you accept card-not-present transactions.

Protecting Your Business From Fraud

Merchant’s Guide to Preventing Card-Present Fraud image

Taking a proactive approach to preventing fraud is a smart move. In this post, we focus on understanding the risks and cost of card-not-present transactions, but card-present sales are certainly not exempt from fraud. If your business processes both types, check out the Merchant’s Guide to Preventing Card-Present Fraud for a great breakdown of information on how to protect your business from card-present security issues.

Your first defense against fraud will always be PCI compliance. PCI DSS is an acronym for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which dictates the industry-standard procedures and security measures a business needs to make to protect customer data.

The good news is that unless you are dealing with homegrown software for your payment processing system, you are likely operating with PCI compliant equipment and software. That’s because all payment processing software and equipment vendors go through a strict certification process to ensure their products meet industry standards for security. 

That being said, you still need to take the time to read your contract and understand if there are any steps you need to take to ensure continued compliance. Third-party payment processors such as Square are automatically PCI compliant and do not require you to do anything specific to maintain compliance — at least not as far as the contract is concerned. (As a general rule, you should keep yourself informed on PCI compliance and what constitutes a suspicious transaction that could get your account flagged for fraud.) 

With merchant accounts, PCI compliance is a lot more varied and partially depends on whether you use the provided software or integrate with a third-party. You may be obligated to complete a scan or assessments, or potentially much more depending on your payment processing setup.

The key takeaway is this: PCI compliance is never a one-time event. Assessment, remediation, and reporting is a continual process with best-practices changing each year. Even if your processor doesn’t require you to do anything to maintain compliance, it’s important to make sure you know what security best practices are.

According to the PCI DSS Quick Reference Guide, some habits can put you and your customers at risk for fraud. Within the guide, the PCI cites activities that are common across the board in all types of U.S. and European businesses (page 4):

  • 81% store payment card numbers
  • 73% store payment card expiration dates
  • 71% store payment verification codes
  • 57% store customer data from the payment card magnetic strip
  • 16% store other personal data

Let’s break down that first statistic. The majority of business owners store their customers’ credit card numbers. But where? Unless you’re using PCI compliant software with a secure credit card vault, you could be exposing yourself to risk and liability — big time. 

Following best practices and keeping yourself up-to-date with PCI compliance is one of the most important things you can do to prevent fraud. Another thing to remember is that it is up to you to ensure your team knows what not to do, too. A retail employee who keys in the majority of her transactions may be helping others commit fraud — or she may simply have trouble getting the credit card terminal’s card readers to work. But you won’t know until you check up on her. 

Once your bases are covered with PCI compliance, you can rest easy knowing that your legal and liability concerns have at least been reasonably mitigated.

Additional layers of security may be worth looking into as well, especially if your livelihood involves online sales

  • Address Verification System (AVS): This system checks to see if your customer’s address is the same as the person who owns the credit card. Verifying the billing address or zip code against Visa or MasterCard billing information of the cardholder can prevent misuse and protect your business from fraud.
  • CVV Checks: A CVV check requires your customers to enter in the additional three numbers at the back of the card (four digits for American Express). Since this information can be stored (and also stolen), it also makes sense to require customers to re-enter the card code whenever there is an unrecognized device or change to a shipping address.
  • 3-D Secure: This provides an extra layer of security for online transactions. If you have heard of MasterCard SecureCode, Verified by Visa, or American Express Safekey, then you are familiar with 3-D Secure. MasterCard SecureCode, for instance, requires a PIN code to be entered into an inline window that is securely hosted by the issuing bank. The code is never shared with you directly. This authentication step is designed to reduce your liability and improve security. Many processors that cater specifically to online businesses, such as Stripe, offer 3D Secure bundled with their services.

Final Thoughts

Fully grasping the nuances of credit card processing can be difficult. However, it’s definitely worth taking a bit of time to understand how and why card-not-present transactions are different from card-present payment processing.

Even merchants who run brick-and-mortar shops have to deal with the cost of CNP payments. If you have a storefront shop, taking the time to train your team to spot the difference between the two types of transactions and keeping up with the latest compliant software/EMV readers will go a long way towards keeping your costs down —and your payment security tighter.

If you run an online business, your focus should be on making sure you have the appropriate security measures enabled with a good payment processor — preferably one that does the bulk of the work for you! At the end of the day, you will take the hit from chargebacks and fraud if you don’t have the right protections. 

Shopping around for eCommerce businesses solutions? Read How To Choose An eCommerce Merchant Account.

The post What Is A Card-Not-Present Transaction? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

How to Start And Fund An Online Boutique

For many aspiring entrepreneurs, opening a boutique seems like a dream. After all, how many people can say they’re making the world a little more stylish all while bringing in an income? In the past, boutique owners faced lots of challenges, such as finding retail space and acquiring necessary business licenses, but the internet has made opening a boutique easier than ever.

Of course, it still takes hard work and a little know-how to successfully set up, fund, and operate an online boutique. Whether you’ve delved into the world of online business before or you’re new to entrepreneurship, this post is for you. We’ll break down the critical steps to setting up an online boutique, explore how to secure funding for your new business, and give other tips for running your online store. Let’s dive in!

Decide What To Sell

In order for your online boutique to be a success, you have to make sales. Obviously. However, before you can start bringing in money, you need to first decide exactly what your boutique will sell. In other words, you need to find your niche.

It may be tempting to go overboard and carry a little something for everyone. However, especially in the early stages of starting an online boutique, it’s wise to start small and hone in on one particular area. If your focus is on designer clothes, plan to carry only women’s clothing or only children’s clothing. Or maybe you want your boutique to feature custom jewelry and accessories. In that case, don’t muddy the waters with random sweaters and leggings.

Once you’ve got a broad overview of the customers you want to attract, it’s time to narrow down your niche further. For instance, do you want to carry affordable yet trendy styles for the 13-18 crowd, or would you rather sell high-end, classic pieces for professional women? Remember, you want to start small. If your boutique becomes a success and you see a demand for other products, add them. For now, though, take the time to find out what’s a hit … and what’s a miss.

Deciding what to sell will not only help you determine what inventory to keep on hand and what products to promote, but it will also help you determine your branding strategy, from the colors you use on your website to the design of your logo.

Create A Business Plan

Whether you operate a traditional retail store or an online boutique, there’s one thing all businesses need: a good business plan. Think of a business plan as a map of your business, outlining your goals and the steps you’ll take to reach those goals. A solid business plan is critical for new businesses seeking financing from investors or traditional lenders like banks and credit unions.

Your business plan should include information such as:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organization & Management Team
  • Financials

Source Inventory

With your niche selected and your business plan in place, you’re getting closer to opening your boutique. However, before you launch your website and begin to make sales, you have to find and purchase inventory that will be used to stock your online store.

There are a few ways to source inventory. One of the most common ways to source your inventory is by using a wholesaler. Through a wholesaler, you can purchase items in bulk at a reduced rate. Typically, the more you purchase, the more you save. Wholesale suppliers can easily be found in the U.S. and overseas with a quick online search.

Keeping your niche in mind, search online and create a list of possible wholesalers to use for your business. Keep an eye on available items, pricing, minimum order requirements, and shipping costs to determine which wholesaler will be the best partner for your business.

One of the biggest benefits of purchasing from a wholesaler is that you will have more control over shipping your products to customers. You’ll be able to control how products are shipped, as well as the packaging that your customers receive. This offers a better opportunity for branding your business.

However, purchasing your inventory through a wholesaler also has its drawbacks. This option may be more expensive based on minimum purchasing requirements. Packaging and shipping your own items could add on to your expenses. You may also incur additional overhead costs for the storage of your inventory.

If you don’t want to work with a wholesaler, dropshipping is another option to consider for your boutique. With dropshipping, a third-party supplier fulfills the orders of your customers. Your customer places an order, the order is manually or automatically sent to your supplier, and the supplier is responsible for packing and shipping the order to your customer.

There are a few drawbacks associated with dropshipping. The supplier or manufacturer handles packaging and shipping, so you won’t be able to personalize the packaging and branding of your shipped orders. You may also encounter some issues with inventory. If you house your own inventory, you’ll be able to better account for what’s in stock. A miscommunication with your dropshipping supplier could result in canceled orders or backorders, which could lead to unsatisfied customers.

Also, you have to consider that if something goes wrong, you are ultimately the face of your brand and you will be liable. If the wrong item is sent or there’s another issue with an order, this reflects poorly on you, even if it’s the supplier’s fault.

No matter what route you take, it’s important to properly vet any supplier you’re using for your boutique. Request samples to check out the quality of products, find out if you’ll have a dedicated contact to reach when there is a problem, and work with reputable businesses with a history of success in their industry.

Register Your Business

Before you start peddling boutique items, you’ll need to register your business. For an online boutique, the process isn’t too difficult.

Choose Your Business Structure

When you start your business, you’ll need to select your business structure. For an online boutique, your best options are to operate as a sole proprietorship or limited liability company (LLC). An individual can operate as a sole proprietorship without having to file paperwork. However, it’s often wise to take a few extra steps to set up an LLC, which will protect you in most cases from being held liable for your business’ debt. You may also opt to operate as a corporation, which may be a good idea if you plan to bring on outside investors.

File State Paperwork

To form an LLC or corporation, you’ll file paperwork with the state. For most business owners, this will be the state where you live and the business is formed. You’ll not only file documents within this state but also pay a filing fee, which varies by state.

Take Care Of Finances

Before you start making money, you have to obtain a federal tax ID number from the Internal Revenue Service. If you’re a sole proprietor or single-member LLC, you can use your Social Security Number.

If you don’t have one already, you also need to open a business bank account to keep your business finances separate from your personal finances.

Meet Sales Tax & Licensing Requirements

As an online seller, you’ll have to collect and pay sales tax for transactions that occur within your state. You can learn more about the requirements in your area by calling your state tax department.

You should also consult with city or county authorities to find out about business license requirements in your area.

Choose An eCommerce Platform

To boost your odds of running a successful online boutique, it’s important to choose the right ecommerce platform. Your shopping cart software serves as a storefront for your customers while also providing you with the backend tools you need to keep your business operating smoothly.

Most entrepreneurs opt for a Software as a Service, or SaaS, platform. The benefits of a SaaS platform is that you don’t have to download, host, or install anything on your own server. Instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee that covers hosting and software updates.

There are multiple platforms to choose from, and you can narrow down your choices by considering what factors are most important to you, such as pricing, add-ons and features, ease of use, and design options.

Unsure of which ecommerce platform is right for you? Take a look at our picks for the best ecommerce platforms for your small business.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

Build Your Website

What do you think when you walk into a brick-and-mortar store that’s cluttered and disorganized? Does it make you want to spend hours shopping there, or do you immediately run for the door? The same principle applies to your online boutique. No customer wants to browse a website that’s a complete mess.

The good news is you don’t have to be an experienced web designer to get a professional-looking website. There are plenty of great website builders available online.  You can even set up your store in just minutes with your ecommerce software.

Platforms like Shopify have tools that make it easy for anyone to build their online store, even if they have no design experience. With SaaS platforms, you can take advantage of features including drag-and-drop interfaces, mobile optimization, color and font customization, and your choice of store theme.

When building your website, keep in mind your branding and your audience. You want your website to reflect the type of items you sell in your boutique. If you cater to the professional male, a pink floral theme will completely miss the mark.

You want to make sure your website is user-friendly. Categorize your products so they’re easy to find. Add in high-quality photos of your products and detailed descriptions. In a brick-and-mortar store, customers are able to touch, try on, and inspect items before they purchase. With online shopping, customers have to rely on photos and descriptions to ensure they’re making the right purchase. Make sure your customers know exactly what they’re purchasing to keep customer satisfaction high.

Another important step in creating your website is selecting the right domain name. There are a few key points to remember here. First, you want to make sure your company name is front and center. You also want to keep your domain name as short as possible. Avoid adding numbers and hyphens. Keep it simple to make it easier for customers to find you.

When setting up your website, you’ll also need to determine how you’ll ship your orders. Will you offer only domestic shipping, or will you ship internationally? Do you plan to offer a flat rate, or will you charge by weight? Will customers be able to choose from several shipping options (such as next day), or will you offer just one option?

You also need to set up your payment processor. This allows your customers to pay for the products in their shopping carts. Many ecommerce platforms come equipped with tools for shipping and payments, including shipping calculators, built-in payment processors, and dropship integration.

Finally, make sure that your contact info is prominently featured on your website. If your customers have questions about your products or have a problem with an order, they need a way to get in touch with your business. Include your business phone number, email address, and links to your online boutique’s social media websites. You may even consider adding additional features such as a live chat option as your business grows.

Before you go live with your boutique website, test it out. Make sure all links are working and there are no broken images. Hire a proofreader (or take on the job yourself) to make sure there are no typos in your copy or product descriptions. Take the time to make sure your website looks professional and is easy to navigate. Now, it’s time to go live and unveil your boutique to the world!

Secure Funding

Starting an online boutique is more cost-effective than opening a brick-and-mortar store, but it doesn’t come without its costs. Sure, you don’t have to lease commercial space or purchase a point-of-sale system, but your business will have startup and operational costs.

Unfortunately, as a new online business, you’re going to run into some obstacles when it comes to loans and other financial products. Traditional financing routes like bank loans will be unavailable to you because of time in business and annual revenue requirements. This doesn’t mean you’re stuck funding everything out-of-pocket, though. Read on to learn more about the funding options for your online business.

Personal Savings

While you don’t have to pay for your startup costs out-of-pocket, you certainly can by tapping your personal savings. By going this route, you don’t have to worry about paying interest to a lender or being stuck on a repayment schedule. You also don’t risk going into default if you don’t pay back the loan. Using your personal savings isn’t without its risks, though. If your business fails, you’ve lost your savings.

Friends & Family

Pitch your online boutique to a friend or family member with money to invest in a new business. Just because you know this person, however, doesn’t mean that you should just casually ask for money. Instead, prepare your pitch and have your business plan ready. If you decide to move forward with a loan, make sure to have a contract with all details in writing. All parties need to agree to all terms of the contract before signing.

What stands out about this option is that you are able to work out the borrowing amount and repayment terms that work best for you. And, of course, it goes without saying that you treat your friend or family member as you would any other lender by following the terms of the contract and repaying your loan.

ROBS

If you don’t want to go the traditional loan route and want to bypass paying interest or making monthly payments, consider a Rollover for Business Startups plan, also known as a ROBS. If you have a qualifying retirement account, you could leverage these funds to finance your startup expenses.

Taking out your retirement savings early could result in financial penalties, but a ROBS offers a way to avoid paying these penalties. A ROBS can help you get the funding you need in just four easy steps:

  • Create a new C-corporation
  • Create a qualified retirement plan
  • Roll over the retirement funds into the new C-corp plan
  • Access your funds by purchasing stock in the corporation

Using a ROBS to fund your business is legal if done correctly. This is why business owners who choose this type of financing hire a ROBS provider to ensure everything is done by the book. With a ROBS provider, you typically have to pay a setup fee, as well as a monthly maintenance fee.

Be aware: You won’t have to repay a lender or worry about interest charges, but if your business is unsuccessful, you do risk losing your retirement savings. Think carefully before moving forward with this option.

Recommended Option: Benetrends

Review

Visit Site

Benetrends is a ROBS pioneer, launching its innovative Rainmaker Plan in 1983. With this plan, you can cash in on your retirement plan to get the funding you need for your online boutique.

To qualify for a ROBS Rainmaker plan, you must have an eligible retirement account with at least $50,000. Most accounts qualify. However, Roth IRAs, 457 plans for non-governmental agencies, and distribution of death benefits from an IRA other than to the spouse do not qualify. There are no time in business, annual revenue, or credit score requirements.

Because this isn’t a loan, there are no interest rates or repayment terms. However, to set up a ROBS Rainmaker plan, a setup fee of $4,995 is required. You’ll also pay a monthly maintenance fee of $130, which covers audit protection, compliance, and other features.

Personal Loans

If you have at least a fair credit score, you may qualify for a personal loan that can be used to cover business expenses. Because this is a personal loan — not a business loan — you won’t have to worry about your business credit score, time in business, and annual revenue requirements. Instead, approval will be based on your personal income, credit score, and credit history.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Through Lending Club, you can borrow $1,000 to $40,000 with repayment terms of 3 or 5 years. Interest rates start at 5.32% and go up to 30.99% based on your personal credit profile. An origination fee of 1% to 6% of the total borrowing amount is deducted from your loan. No collateral is required to receive a Lending Club personal loan.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a solid debt-to-income ratio
  • Have a credit history of at least 3 years
  • Have a credit score of 600 or above

You can receive funds as quickly as 3 days after applying. However, there may be delays if additional documentation or information is required during the application process.

Lines Of Credit

As you get your online boutique off the ground, you’ll encounter recurring expenses — think web hosting, SaaS subscriptions, and inventory. While your incoming cash flow should cover these expenses, it’s not uncommon to come up a little short. When this happens, having a flexible line of credit in place will give you a financial boost when you need it.

How does a line of credit work? It’s simple. A lender provides you with a set credit limit, similar to a credit card. When you need additional cash, you can make draws from this credit limit. When you initiate a draw, the money is deducted from your available funds and transferred to your business bank account. With many lenders, you can receive funds as quickly as the next business day. You’ll repay the loan each week or month, along with interest and/or fees. As you repay the loan, funds will become available to use again.

A line of credit is a good thing to have because you can initiate draws as needed. If an emergency expense pops up or you have a sudden influx of orders that deplete your inventory, you’ll have on-demand access to the cash you need for your business.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Through Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000. Repayment terms are 12 weeks or 24 weeks. Fees start at 4.66% of the draw amount. You only pay for the funds that you use, and remaining fees are waived when you pay your balance off early.

It’s easy to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. All you need to be approved is:

  • A business checking account
  • Business bank statements from the last 3 months
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue

You can be approved just minutes after filling out Funbox’s application, and you can initiate draws immediately once approved.

Purchase Financing

If you need extra time to pay your vendors, consider applying for purchase financing. With purchase financing, you can get the money you need to purchase inventory, equipment, or other business necessities immediately while breaking the total amount into smaller, flexible payments.

With this type of financing, the lender sends a payment directly to your vendor. You’ll then repay the lender the balance — plus any fees and/or interest — on a weekly or monthly repayment schedule. You won’t have to pay the total amount upfront, and paying over a longer period of time may be more financially feasible for your new business.

Recommended Option: Behalf

behalf logo

Review

Compare

Through Behalf, you can pay your eligible vendors between $300 and $50,000. You will have up to 6 months to repay your loan, and you can make payments on a weekly or monthly basis. Monthly fees start at 1% and are based on your creditworthiness. There are no hidden fees, no maintenance fees, and no costs to apply.

To qualify for financing through Behalf, there are no time in business or annual revenue requirements. Although the lender does not have minimum personal credit score requirements, credit history is taken into account and a hard pull will be performed to determine your eligibility.

Vendor Financing

If you make sales on a platform like Shopify or PayPal, you may qualify for vendor financing. With vendor financing, the performance of your business is the most important qualifying factor. Often, there are very low or no personal credit score requirements, so this may be a good option if you don’t have a solid credit history.

With vendor financing, you’ll receive a lump sum of money based on the performance of your business. In exchange for receiving the loan right away, you’ll agree to give the lender a portion of your future sales until the loan plus fees and/or interest is repaid.

The only drawback to this option is that you must be making sales in order to qualify. If you need financing for startup costs and haven’t yet made any sales, you’ll need to explore one of the other options discussed in this article.

PayPal Working Capital

Review

Compare

If you accept PayPal payments, you may qualify for PayPal Working Capital. Through PayPal Working Capital, you can receive a loan of up to 35% of your annual PayPal sales. Repayments are based on a percentage of your future sales. Repayments are made daily when you have sales. If you don’t have sales, a payment will not be made.

However, you must pay a minimum of 5% or 10% of your loan amount every 90 days to remain in good standing.
You’ll pay just one fixed fee for receiving your loan. Your fee is determined by:

  • Amount of your loan
  • Repayment percentage
  • PayPal sales history of your business

PayPal Working Capital does not perform a credit check, and you can pay your loan off early with no prepayment penalties. You must be a PayPal seller to qualify for this loan program.

Recommended Option: Shopify Capital

Review

Visit Site

Shopify users may qualify for the Shopify Capital program. Through Shopify Capital, you can receive a merchant cash advance (MCA).

Shopify Capital is available by invitation only to qualified Shopify users. Once you receive an invitation, you’ll be able to view your funding options. You can receive up to $500,000 through this loan program based on the performance of your business. Once you select the amount you’d like to borrow, you’ll receive the loan, which is repaid through a fixed percentage of your daily sales until the loan plus fees are repaid.

There are no minimum credit score, annual revenue, or time in business requirements, but you must receive an offer from Shopify in order to apply.

Business & Personal Credit Cards

A business credit card is a flexible financing option if you want access to financing without having to wait for a lender’s approval. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive a credit card with a set credit limit. You can then use your credit card anywhere it’s accepted to purchase inventory, software, or pay for other business expenses.

Once you’ve used your credit card, you’ll repay the borrowed portion of the funds, plus interest, on a monthly basis. As you pay down your balance, it will once again become available to use again. Some credit cards come with 0% introductory rates, bonus offers for new cardholders, and rewards programs, which can provide you with cash and other benefits just for using your card.

When applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to include information about your online boutique, including your business name, federal tax ID number, and annual revenue. If you’re just getting started or don’t yet have your business set up, you can apply for a personal credit card. With a personal credit card, you’ll sign up under your name using your own income — no business name or annual revenue required.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

If you have excellent credit, Chase Ink Business Cash is a card you should consider. With Chase Ink Business Cash, you’ll receive 5% cash back for the first $25,000 spent on internet, cable, and phone services and office supply purchases each year. You’ll receive 2% cash back for the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each year. You’ll also receive 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Chase Ink Business Cash has no annual fee and an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable APR of 15.24% to 21.24%.

Final Thoughts

With careful planning, strategic financing, and a little hard work, you can start and operate your own online boutique. Take the time to learn about local regulations, build your brand and website, and curate a collection of high-quality products, and you’ll soon be on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

If you want to learn more about starting an online store, download our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store. Then, when you’re ready to scale your business, take some helpful tips from The Advanced Guide to Growing Your Online Store.

The post How to Start And Fund An Online Boutique appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Why A Credit Card Cash Advance May Be Your Worst Nightmare

If your business is strapped for cash and in a financial emergency, taking out a cash advance with your credit card may seem like an appealing option. Cash advances are quick and easy: they let you withdraw money using your credit card while only requiring a trip to the nearest ATM or bank. This makes them seem like an obvious choice.

However, cash advances are rarely your friend. In fact, they’re often wolves in lambs’ clothing, imposing costly fees and high interest rates while also limiting the amount you can request. In most scenarios, passing up a cash advance in favor of alternative measures may ultimately make more sense to help your business through a rough financial patch.

Unsure if a cash advance is right for your situation? Keep reading to find out!

How Credit Card Cash Advances Work

If your credit card has a pin number, a cash advance allows you to use your card at an ATM to withdraw money. If you don’t have a pin, you can take your card to a bank that provides advances inside your card’s payment network. Note that you may have to pay an ATM or bank fee.

With cash advances, you won’t usually be able to access your entire credit line. Instead, the available amount for a cash advance will likely cap out at several hundred dollars.

Frequently, this withdrawal will come with its own initial fee. This fee is commonly either a percentage (such as 3%) or a dollar amount (such as $10). You’ll almost always have to pay whichever amount is greater.

On top of this fee, your cash advance accumulates interest. In many cases, this rate is much higher than the card’s rate for purchases. Additionally, cash advances don’t offer grace periods—that means the interest will start accruing from the day you receive the cash advance.

Why You Shouldn’t Get A Cash Advance

Put simply: cash advances will lose you a lot of money, quickly. In almost all situations, using your credit card to charge purchases as normal will be much cheaper.

For starters, taking out a cash advance will subject you to upfront fees that aren’t present when buying directly with a card. Between ATM, bank, and issuer fees, you could be paying $10 or more on fees alone.

Besides this, interest rates for cash advances are usually higher than the credit card’s interest rate for purchases. Most credit cards offer purchase APRs between 10% and 25%. Cash advances, meanwhile, often have APRs above 25%.

Finally, normal credit card purchases offer grace periods. This allows you several weeks to repay without accruing interest. Coupled with high interest rates and no grace periods, a cash advance will likely cost you more, even if you repay a credit card purchase after its grace period is over.

Here’s an example:

Say you want to make a purchase for $300 and you have a Chase Ink Business Preferred card. If you take out a cash advance, this is what you’ll wind up paying:

  • $300 for the purchase.
  • $2.50 for the ATM fee (assuming you use an out-of-network ATM).
  • $15 for the minimum cash advance fee.
  • $4.68 for interest at 26.99% APR, assuming you repay 21 days later.
  • $322.38 total.

If you make the same purchase directly on the card, here’s the cost:

  • $300 for the purchase.
  • $0 for additional fees.
  • $0 for interest, assuming you repay by the end of the card’s 21-day grace period.
  • $300 total.

As basic math tells us, the cash advance is automatically more expensive than just putting the purchase on the card. In the above example, a $300 purchase will cost over $20 more via a cash advance when compared to just buying on the card.

Thankfully, most purchases these days can be made directly on a credit card, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever actually need to do a cash advance.

Is It Ever A Good Idea To Get A Cash Advance?

It is very rarely a good idea to request a cash advance. And because simply paying with a credit card is cheaper and more efficient, you should almost never need a cash advance.

However, if you have an emergency and are unable to pay with a credit card, can’t access your bank account, or don’t have enough money in your checking account, a cash advance could make sense. Potential scenarios might include your bank perceiving a trip abroad as fraudulent activity and locking your account or your office facing a serious plumbing issue with a plumber that only accepts cash.

In those situations, when time is short and a lot is on the line, a cash advance might make sense. But you should only use a cash advance if you know you will be able to repay it within a short time frame.

Credit Card Cash Advance Best Practices

Should you decide to get a cash advance, there are a couple of rules of thumb to follow.

To start, only take out an amount you know you can pay off. If you withdraw too much money and can’t afford to pay it off in a timely manner, the amount you owe after interest could become expensive.

In a similar vein, pay off the balance as fast as possible. Because cash advances carry high interest rates, you’ll want to be quick when it comes to paying off your balance. If you put a cash advance’s balance on the back burner, your repayment amount can pile up fast.

The Best Alternatives To Credit Card Cash Advances For Businesses

Short-Term Business Loans

If you are looking for emergency funds, but don’t need cash on hand immediately, a short-term loan may work for your business. These usually take the form of single, lump sum loans, intended to be repaid within a relatively short period of time.

You may also find success with these short-term loans if you struggle with bad credit. Besides being more friendly towards weak-credit businesses, short-term loans can help boost that ever-important credit score.

Want the full breakdown? Read up on the Merchant Maverick guide to short-term business loans. Here are a couple of our favorite options to get you started:

OnDeck

Review

Visit Site

LoanBuilder

Review

Check Eligibility

Business Lines Of Credit

If your business struggles with consistent emergency fund problems, you may want to look at getting a business line of credit. This option lets you access to a certain sum from which can withdraw money at any time.

With a revolving line of credit, the available amount of money replenishes every time you repay. Note that each withdrawal acts like a small loan—that means you’ll owe interest and will likely repay on fixed time intervals.

To learn more, check out our full guide to getting a business line of credit. We’ve included a couple of the best options below:

BlueVine

Review

Visit Site

Fundbox

Review

Visit Site

Personal Loans

You also have the option to take out a personal loan. This might work well for new businesses that lack credit history and struggle to qualify for more traditional methods.

Of course, you’ll be relying on your own, personal credit history. That means to get the best rates and loans, you’ll want to maintain a solid credit score. If you don’t know your credit score, check out one of our favorite (and free!) credit-checking websites.

Ready to get a personal loan for business? Here are some of the better options to get started:

Lending Club

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Prosper

Review

Visit Site

Final Thoughts

Requesting a cash advance via your credit card is rarely ever a good idea. With numerous extraneous fees and high interest rates, cash advances can be quite costly. Unless you are in need of cash for a true emergency, there are many better avenues when it comes to getting a loan for your business.

If you want to delve further into loan alternatives, Merchant Maverick has you covered. Check out our guide to different types of business loans. We’ve also broken down how to know if you can afford a small business loan.

The post Why A Credit Card Cash Advance May Be Your Worst Nightmare appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

12+ Great Squarespace Website Examples for Inspiration

12+ Great Squarespace Website Examples for Inspiration

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

Squarespace is one of the most well-known brands in the website builder industry.

In terms of different types of website builders, Squarespace lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It makes a nicely designed website incredibly accessible for DIY-ers while leaving the heavy-lifting (AKA hosting, functionality, coding) to someone else. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Squarespace is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment. You’re in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. You have some flexibility, but you also give up some control for convenience.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

But before we dive into examples of what Squarespace websites look like in the Internet wild, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too. I’ve written a full Squarespace review in addition to comparisons with other popular website builders, WordPress and Shopify.

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

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

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

General Website Examples

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

Active Schools

Active Schools squarespace website example

Active Schools’ site is a great example of how simple and clean a Squarespace website can be while still conveying all of the necessary information, showing creativity, and looking professional.  Not all websites need to be a design masterpiece. Instead, this site focuses on what matters: copy that describes what the company is all about, and a icons that educate visitors on their mission. If you’re looking for a basic website where you can throw up some text and basic images/video, this template should serve as a good example of what’s possible.

Beautiful Destinations

Beautiful Destinations

While not all websites need to be visual masterpieces, Squarespace is known for making it easy for DIYers to create beautiful sites. For brands that rely more heavily on visuals (like this travel brand), Squarespace allows you to do some pretty amazing things with design fairly easily (and without having to pay for a professional designer). We pulled this website to show how your site can still be simple but incredibly visual. Check out that video header!

Explore Similar Squarespace Templates!

Wedding Website Example

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

Anya & Deven

Anya & Deven

Anya & Deven’s website is a great example of how a simple theme can be all you need to get the job done — without having to custom-build something complex. Their homepage has all of the crucial information: the date of the wedding, the location, and the link to the RSVP page. The site is polished, implements their style with their pictures and colors, but also makes it so you don’t have to spend money on a custom designed website that you’ll only update for a year or two.

Explore Similar Squarespace Templates!

Photography Website Example

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

Erika El Photography

Erika El Photography

What stands out on Erika’s website is the combination of clear copy + great photos. Her homepage starts with a full image that immediately shows visitors what her work is all about. As you scroll down the site, Erika includes some text about her services paired with a carousel of photos that simultaneously showcases her work. If you’re looking for a way to not just show off your work, but also provide some additional context about your services + approach, this is a great website to use as inspiration.

Julie Harmsen

Julie Harmsen Photography

This Squarespace website takes a different approach, especially on the homepage. The entire front page is dedicated to showcasing Julie’s work. The use of the grid keeps the focus on the photography, and the navigation at the top gives an easy and clear way for visitors to navigate to more information.

Explore Similar Squarespace Templates!

Ecommerce Website Example

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

Simple Shape

Simple Shape

A great ecommerce website comes down to a few main things: high quality product photos, easy navigation, and easy check out. This website from Simple Shape checks all of those boxes. What stood out to us especially was how straightforward the homepage is. The shop section is easy to navigate and breaks down the product categories intuitively. The collection page itself is also straightforward and clean:

Shoppers can jump to different product collections with the navigation at the top of the page, or use the main navigation to move to other areas of the site.

Little Clay Land

Little Clay Land

The Little Clay Land is another example of an ecommerce website that checks all of the boxes. The main header image is actually the products themselves, which pair nicely with the primary call to action of “Order Now” (which, on an ecommerce site, is the main action you want visitors to take!).

We also liked how the artist included a behind-the-scenes video further down the homepage with a button to learn more about her and her process.

Little Clay Land Video

For ecommerce companies that want to give visitors an inside look at production, this is a great way to do it!

Explore Similar Squarespace Templates!

Personal & Portfolio Website Examples

Personal and portfolio websites are exactly what they sound like… personal! Whether it’s a resume or portfolio website you use to get booked or a side project you created to pursue a passion, this type of site is all about getting your personal brand online and owning your space on the Internet. A personal website should be easy to edit, manage, and customize. Here are a few examples of Squarespace personal and portfolio websites to use for inspiration:

Darren Booth

Daren Booth

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

Susannah Rigg

Susannah Rigg

This Squarespace personal website stands out for a few reasons. First, the homepage. The clear navigation + simple header image (with a strong call to action button!) make it easy for visitors to find exactly what they need.

Next, the portfolio page is a great example of using a card layout with images and text to display your work.

Susannah Rigg Portfolio

If you’re wondering how to structure your personal website in a way that’s intuitive, clear, and polished, this site is a great place to start for inspiration.

Lawyer Website Example

A strong lawyer’s website is all about showcasing your practice areas, giving potential clients the opportunity to contact you, and building social proof. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and how you can help them when they land on their site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. Here’s an example of a strong Squarespace lawyer website:

The Law Office of Christopher Duby LLC

Have you ever been on a website and been completely overwhelmed with the amount of information? This Squarespace lawyer’s website is an excellent example of providing just enough of the RIGHT information on the homepage, along with clear calls to action. The small about paragraph is a great way to introduce what you’re all about, with the option to either learn more, or contact with the contact information on the side.

Fitness Website Example

A strong fitness website boils down to a few important factors. Visitors should be able to know exactly who you are and what you do when they land on your site, and should be able to easily navigate to what they’re looking for from your homepage. They should also be able to contact you, book a session, or request more details. If you have a physical location, you’ll also want to provide information like hours, location, etc. Here is a str0ng example of a Squarespace fitness website:

Fitness By Design

Fitness By Design

A video is a great way to tell your audience about what you’re all about, and we particularly liked how this Squarespace site used video on the homepage and paired it with an irresistible offer to try their personal training session for free! It’s a unique way to engage potential customers, show them what you do and how you can help them, and give them a clear next step.

Blog Website Examples

A good blog website is all about showcasing your content. Keep in mind that your blog doesn’t need to be something super sophisticated. Your focus should be on good user experience (i.e. straightforward navigation, search functionality, etc.), and a site that allows you to easily and quickly upload new content.

The Style Transplant

The Style Transplant

If a good blog is all about the content, then this example from The Style Transplant is a great place to start for inspiration on how to showcase your content! The homepage is simple, easy to navigate, and clear. We especially liked how visitors could see most recent posts in the Stay Updated section on the homepage.

But a good blog website isn’t just about the homepage… it’s also about what you can do with the posts themselves. This Squarespace blog example uses photos and even a “shop the look” feature on the blog page, which adds two valuable elements to the post content.

The Style Transplant Blog

Next Steps

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

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

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

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

The post 12+ Great Squarespace Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

“”

What Is A Cross Border Fee For Credit Card Processing?

If you decided to read this post, you’ve probably already have been introduced to the cross border fee on your credit card processing statement, and you want to know a little bit more about it. You may also be in full-on research mode when it comes to accepting credit cards in general. In either case, you’re in the right place.

So what is a cross border fee?

A cross border fee is a specific type of credit card processing fee that appears whenever you, a merchant in one country, accept payment from a customer whose card originates from another country. This fee is set by the card networks rather than your credit card processor, so it’s important to note right off the bat that you likely can’t negotiate a lower cost for this base figure. But you should still know what the going rate is so that you can spot any inconsistencies or inflated charges on your statement.

First, we are going to explore two scenarios that will help you understand what could trigger a cross border fee on your statement. Then we will get into the nitty-gritty of the cross border fee itself — what it is exactly, why it’s passed to you, and how much it may impact your business. By the end of the post, we hope you will come away with a balanced perspective when it comes to making decisions about engaging in business across the globe.

When Might A Cross-Border Fee Apply?

Cross Border Fee Scenario #1

In this first scenario, imagine you are an owner of a textiles company in the western part of United States and have an ecommerce storefront. You decide to begin selling your fine fabric offerings in Canada, so you develop a campaign that successfully targets your prospects to the north; your online sales take off in the Toronto area.

In this case, you intentionally decided to reach out and market to prospects who live outside of your country, so you are likely well aware of the fact that you will need to consider the conversion rate. What you may not know is that your credit card processing company is also taking on additional fees when it comes to converting from Canadian currency to USD — and those fees are passed to you.

In this scenario, you can expect a cross border fee to be applied to the sale. This cost represents a tiny percentage of your total sale but still may become an important factor when it comes to deciding if you ever want to expand or set up a part of your business over the Canadian border to save fees.

Cross-Border Fee Scenario #2

With ecommerce, you should be aware that you’re opening your business up to international sales and accept that you’ll end up paying a bit more in fees as a consequence. But there are some cases where you may not be aware of the international nature of a sale, especially for card-present transactions! In these cases, a random “cross border fee” appearing on your statement can be a cause for alarm. 

If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, for instance, you could potentially accept payment from someone traveling to the US (as a tourist or even on business) who walks into your shop and pays you with a card from an overseas bank. The final conversion will be in US dollars from that overseas bank, and therefore, the cross-border fee applies.

Read on to find out exactly why the cross border fee is assessed in the first place, and if there is anything you can do about it.

Why The Cross Border Fee Is Passed To You

Selling across borders means more work for the financial institutions involved, which is why cross-border fees are passed on to the merchants. However, depending on the circumstance and the banks involved, both the consumer and the merchant could face extra fees on their credit card statements. The two biggest players in the credit card industry — MasterCard and Visa — both assess cross border fees to credit card processing companies. The credit card processing company then typically passes these charges on to the merchant in the sale.

To do business in today’s global market, it just costs a little bit more. But we still haven’t explored the why in depth.

It all boils down to the costs faced by credit card companies and acquiring banks when it comes time to convert the cash. Any time a transaction involves two currencies, there are a few more administrative steps required to convert money from one country’s currency to another’s. Depending on the countries involved, there are also some risks for the issuing banks, particularly when it comes to the stability of another country’s currency.

Because of the fees and risks associated with conversion, and the dramatic increase in exchanges across the globe, MasterCard and Visa have both assessed these types of international fees since 2005. Like a hot potato, the fee is tossed between the issuing bank and processor, then passed along to the merchant as an “assessment fee” — a reasonably fair trade for the privilege of using the international credit card processing network.

It’s important to know that even though both companies charge the fee, they call it by different names. Visa refers to its fee as the International Service Assessment, whereas Mastercard is more direct and simply calls it the Cross Border Fee.

How Much Are Cross Border Fees?

Just how pricey are these cross border fees?

Part of that depends on where in the world you, the merchant, are based. MasterCard, for instance, issues a 0.06% fee for “any transaction in which the merchant’s country of domicile differs from the country where the card was issued, and the transaction was settled in USD.”

MasterCard charges a bit more for non-US merchants: “Any transaction in which the merchant’s country of domicile differs from the country where the card was issued, and the transaction was not settled in USD,” will cost you a flat 1.0% in addition to interchange fees. 

Keep in mind that you could also be responsible for other types of assessment fees, including the Global Acquirer Program Support Fee, which applies to transactions accepted by US merchants involving credit cards that are issued outside of the U.S. 

Note that these each of these fees represents 1% or less of your total sale from the credit card companies. And while that likely won’t break the bank, each fee still takes a little something away from your bottom line.

How Third Party Processors Deal With International Processing

We generally recommend merchant account providers that offer interchange-plus pricing for transparency’s sake. You know how much the processor will charge in addition to interchange fees and assessments, and it’s all clearly laid out in the statement. However, third-party processors typically offer flat-rate pricing instead of interchange-plus. (Think PayPal or Stripe, both of which charge 2.9% + $0.30 for all US-based online transactions.)

Third-party processors don’t break down all of their fees for you, and that’s largely because they play a numbers games — with their flat-fee pricing, they make a profit on some transactions but lose money on others (usually American Express transactions, which tend to have higher interchange rates). This sort of pricing model means that the processors usually set their own pricing for cross-border transactions and other special fees, rather than simply passing on the card networks’ interchange fees, for the sake of keeping pricing predictable.

Some third-party processors don’t support international transactions at all. Square falls into this category. Others, such as PayPal and Stripe, do accept international transactions, but assess their own fees.

PayPal, for example, adds a 1.5% fee to all transactions from cards that originate out of your home country. For US merchants, that means you pay 4.4% + $0.30 per transaction for international/cross-border sales. Stripe, a company that has staked its reputation on making global commerce easy, charges a 1% cross-border fee, which means US-based merchants will pay 3.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

In both cases, these fees don’t include any currency conversion costs, if the issuing bank doesn’t convert the currency before passing it onto the processor.

At first glance, pricing for international transactions with a third-party processor sounds rather steep, but usually, these kinds of businesses are more cost-effective for small businesses because they have few, if any, other fees or overhead costs. So while you might pay more on paper to accept cross-border payments with a third-party processor, you’ll often save money in other areas.

Is There A Way To Avoid The Cross Border Fee Charge?

The answer to that questions is generally a hard no — not if you want to continue making sales from your international patrons. The cross border fee charge is a non-negotiable assessment fee that is collected and maintained by the card networks. Your credit card processor doesn’t make any profits off of the base fees set by the credit card companies. That said, you will want to make sure your processor isn’t charging you extra fees for the transaction — these may be negotiable.

And there are a few exceptions that some business owners might want to explore. While it isn’t possible to get the cross border fee removed when you deal in international business, you may decide that you do enough business in one area of the world to necessitate registering your company in that country and opening a bank account there. There may be a plethora of reasons why that decision would work for your business, and one of those could be to avoid extra processing fees. It all depends on where you see your business growing and if expanding your business in a specific region is worth it for you.

Keeping The Cross Border Fee in Perspective

As a savvy business owner, doing the due diligence when it comes to running your business is how you become — and stay — successful. Seeking to research and understand why you are being charged a fee (and if there is anything you can do about it) is something you should never stop doing. However, in this case, the cross border fee and other charges for doing business with people located across the globe are unavoidable parts of doing business. 

For most business owners, accepting orders across borders — despite some extra costs — represents more potential for revenue growth. Balancing all the costs of doing business with your customers (no matter where they are) with your profit potential will help you make the best decisions while you keep your goals intact.   

If you are interested in learning more about international fees and how they may affect your business, check out our related article, What is Visa’s International Service Assessment Fee? If you are worried about the woes of overpaying for credit card processing and feel you need some more guidance on making the best choice, our cost analysis workbook may be able to help.

The post What Is A Cross Border Fee For Credit Card Processing? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Top 3 Ways To Cancel Your Credit Card

Find yourself haunted by a credit card your business doesn’t use? If it comes with extraneous fees that outweigh your rewards rate, you may want to just cancel the card and completely close your account. You might also need to cancel a card if you put too many purchases onto the card—negatively affecting your business’s finances.

Unfortunately (for obvious reasons), card issuers don’t make it quick or easy to close an account. So what are the best ways to cancel a credit card? Keep reading—we’ve outlined some of the top ways to get rid of that card.

1. Cancel Online

By far the easiest way to cancel a credit card is through an online interface. Unfortunately, not all issuers offer this option via their online portals.

Doing it online isn’t only a quick way to cancel. If you’re able to cancel your card online, you’ll also be able to avoid customer service agents who might try to convince you to keep your card. On top of that, you won’t have to wait on hold or navigate unnecessarily complicated phone menus.

If your card offers the ability to cancel online, you should be able to find the option after logging into your account. However, note that sometimes companies will place cancellation options behind multiple pages. This could make finding the option to cancel tricky.

2. Cancel By Phone

If you don’t have an online option for cancellation, you’ll be able to call your issuer to close your account. The appropriate number should be found on your issuer’s website. There should also be a customer service number on the back of your credit card.

Of course, by calling, you’ll probably deal with complicated phone menus before being put on hold to wait for a customer service agent. And then once you do reach a human being, they might try to convince you to not cancel your card by providing a counteroffer. These things all take up extra time and create more hassle.

Receiving a counteroffer may not be the worst thing in the world, however. For instance, if the only reason you’re canceling is that you can’t afford the annual fee, you could receive an option to waive the fee. Or perhaps you’ll get an offer to switch you to a different card with no annual fee. Either option may make it worth it for you to not cancel the card.

3. Cancel By Mail

You also have the option to cancel by sending a letter via traditional mail. If you choose to send a certified letter through USPS, you’ll have a receipt of proof that your issuer received the letter.

Because of its slow sending speed, writing a letter may be a good option to do after you already requested a cancellation via the Internet or by phone. This way, you’ll have a paper trail for proof that you wanted your account canceled, but will still be able to take advantage of the faster cancellation routes.

You won’t send the letter to the same address that you send payments. Instead, you can often find the correct correspondence address by looking at your most recent credit card statement. It’s also a good idea to include all (or part) of your account number so that the issuer can easily determine who’s actually requesting a cancellation.

This option likely provides the least amount of hassle to you, as you won’t need to hunt for a hidden cancellation button on a website, nor will you have to wait on hold. However, it certainly takes the longest because it could be up to a week for your letter to reach its destination. As such, a letter is best utilized in conjunction with online or phone cancellation methods.

What Not To Do When Cancelling Credit Cards

If your card is the oldest line of credit on your credit history, you may want to think twice before closing your account. Canceling your oldest credit line could make your overall credit history appear shorter, and a shorter credit history might make future creditors less likely to do business with your company.

You’ll also want to be wary of closing multiple accounts at once or in a short time span. Future card issuers or lenders tend to look suspiciously at that kind of activity, and you might even see a dip in your credit score. If you’re working on improving your credit score, you’ll especially want to keep this mind.

If you’re serious about not using a card, don’t just simply toss it away or cut it up and forget about it. In this case, your card’s issuer won’t know you want the account cancelled—they’ll just see a lack of activity. This means you may still be subject to various fees (such as annual ones) and there might be potential interest if you’re still carrying a balance.

Additionally, once you’ve canceled a card, don’t just leave it lying around or throw it out completely intact. Instead, cut it up before dumping into the trash. This will help combat any potential fraud because the magnetic strip will be completely unusable. If you have a chip in the card, make sure the chip has also been destroyed.

On top of all that, don’t forget to monitor your credit score after canceling. You’ll want to make sure the cancellation hasn’t brought about errors to your credit history. If you don’t know where to look for your credit score, we’ve compiled a list of the best free credit-checking websites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad to cancel a credit card?

This really depends on your particular situation. Canceling a line of credit may have unfortunate consequences on your credit score. For instance, as we mentioned above, if you cancel your oldest line of credit, your report may show a shorter credit history. Additionally, you may also see a drop in your actual credit score—especially if you cancel a bunch of cards in quick succession.

However, if you have a rarely-used card that charges a hefty annual fee, it may be best to cancel, regardless of the negative consequences. Should you go that route, but still want a credit card available to swipe, there are a number of options with no annual fees.

Is it better to cancel an unused credit card?

Once again, this can only be answered on a case by case basis. If your unused card carries an annual fee that’s ultimately not affordable, then it might be worth canceling.

However, if your unused card does not have an annual fee, you’ll want to think twice. For starters, unused cards will still get reported to credit bureaus, something that could look good on a credit report. Plus, it might also be worth having a card in case you need to make a purchase with credit.

Can you cancel a credit card online?

As we discussed earlier, this depends on your credit card issuer. Some issuers will provide cancellation options through their online portal. Others may require that you call or write to close your account.

How can I cancel a credit card application?

If you want to avoid a “hard pull” on your credit history and need to cancel a credit card application, contact the issuer as soon as possible. In most cases, you’ll need to call the issuer’s customer service line.

Note that if you’ve applied online, you may only have several minutes to cancel. If you applied via mail, you’ll likely have a longer time span because the application will spend several days in transit.

Some issuers may also let you decline an account after approval. This won’t save you from having a hard pull, because the application has already gone through. However, it will enable you to avoid any potential penalties that come with closing a recently-opened account.

Final Thoughts

Credit cards are a tricky area to maneuver, and sometimes it’s just best to get rid of one. As a good rule of thumb, you’ll want to cancel your card online or over the phone, and then follow up by sending a certified letter. This will enable you to cancel the account relatively quickly, while keeping a paper trail for your records.

Of course, numerous other credit cards may work well for your business, even if your current one doesn’t. If you still want a credit card, but are looking for a different option, Merchant Maverick has you covered.

The post Top 3 Ways To Cancel Your Credit Card appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

Find The Best eCommerce Website Builder For Your Business

When opening an online store, one of your most important tasks is finding the right website builder. In truth, selecting the proper software fit for your needs can make or break your whole operation. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway, because it’s our job) that a small online shop offering its own home-based inventory has different software requirements than a large network of websites offering thousands of products sourced from all over the world.

To assist in your search, we’ve rounded up the top ecommerce software contenders. Two of our recommendations (Wix and Squarespace) began as traditional website builders for business or personal use, but have since added ecommerce capability. The others are ecommerce shopping carts at their core but have also made advanced online storefront-building capacity a major feature of the service. These include Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Wix Squarespace

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

$25 – $40

$26 – $46

eCom Features

Excellent

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

In recommending these particular sitebuilders, we should note that our focus is on the DIY end of the website-building spectrum. If, on the other hand, you are confident in your coding skills (or can hire a dedicated developer) and prefer the infinite flexibility of an open-source platform for frontend design and content creation, you might try a CMS like WordPress to use in conjunction with a shopping cart plugin, such as WooCommerce or Ecwid.

However, if you’re looking for an all-in-one, fully-hosted, and simpler-all-around system for online store-building, you’ve come to the right place. The great news for you is that the online storefront creation and editing capabilities of the all-inclusive platforms we’ll highlight in this roundup have only improved over time.

How To Choose An eCommerce Website Builder

If you haven’t shopped for an ecommerce platform before, the first step is to become oriented with this type of software so you know what you’ll be examining in the first place. Fortunately, each sitebuilder we’ll cover here offers some sort of free trial, so you’ll have the opportunity for hands-on experience with the software before making a final selection.

Here are the main things you should consider when choosing ecommerce software:

Cost

  • Monthly Subscription: Most DIY sitebuilders these days are SaaS (Software as a Service), so check for the monthly cost of each plan level, which features are included at each price point, and any plan limits such as number of products you can list, revenue caps, etc.
  • Per Sale Commission: Some ecommerce sitebuilders charge a percentage commission per sale under certain circumstances, so investigate if and when this extra fee might apply to your store.
  • Add-On Features: Many features may only come as add-ons from an app marketplace. While some add-ons are free, other apps you may want to integrate with your store (like shipping, marketing, or accounting software) are fully-fledged SaaS platforms with their own monthly subscriptions.
  • Payment Processing: You’ll need to connect an online payment gateway to your store — usually a third-party processor like Stripe or PayPal — to accept payments from customers, so check out the available options that work with the platform in your country, and the processing rates charged.
  • Design Template: Some website templates come free with the software, but premium themes typically have a one-time purchase cost.
  • Web Development: While most ecommerce sitebuilders are DIY when it comes to getting things up and running, you may still decide to hire a developer or designer to fine-tune your site at some point.

Website Design

  • Template/Theme Options: Browse the theme marketplace and get a feel for several templates you could see yourself using.
  • Customization Options: Go beyond admiring templates and work with a few yourself. In particular, explore the storefront editing tools that come with the software. Look to see if and how you can move elements within page layouts — there are varying degrees of flexibility in this area.

Features

  • Admin Features: Look at the options for configuring storewide settings such as shipping methods, currencies, languages, tax calculation, and sales channels. Also, consider the ways in which you’ll be able to manipulate the specifications for individual products (pricing, SEO data, discounts, product variants/attributes, etc).
  • Storefront Features: This includes how products are displayed, organized, and marketed to customers on your site, as well as all aspects of the checkout experience.
  • Quantity VS Quality: Just because a certain feature exists, doesn’t mean it’s very robust or will work well for your needs. Similarly, you don’t want to get bogged down with (nor pay for) a bunch of features you don’t need.
  • Fit: Do the available features cater well to your business type, size, location, etc?
  • Scalability: Online stores grow in different ways, so it helps to anticipate how your operation will most likely expand over time. Growth dimensions, like number of products and their variations, number of staff accounts, file storage, revenue, marketing needs, and traffic levels, are often handled differently by different platforms.

Ease Of Use

  • Onboarding & Store Setup: All the software apps we cover in this article falls under a larger umbrella of “easy to get started,” but pay attention in your free trials to exactly how self-explanatory each step is, and to any additional guiding resources that are available.
  • Dashboard Navigation & Feature Manipulation: Check your level of comfort with both finding and manipulating features like inventory and order management, discount creation, etc.
  • Simplicity VS Flexibility: User-friendliness is a good thing, but make sure that the tools you need aren’t so basic that they can’t accomplish precisely what you want them to.
  • Coding Skill Requirements:  In most cases, the basics of admin and storefront customization will be covered without coding, but advanced customization can require advanced knowledge. Do your best to push the limits of non-coding customizability during your trial.
  • Tech Support: Know what resources you’ll have if you get stuck or if something goes wrong with your site. Since online stores operate 24/7, you’ll probably want at least one support channel (email/web tickets, live chat, or phone) that’s open 24 hours.

Between your own testing experiences, perusing the software’s website, reading reviews (like ours!), and interacting with customer service to answer any lingering questions, you should have a very good handle on how a particular sitebuilder will work for your online store before coughing up a single cent in subscription fees.

Now, let’s take a look at some software! We can’t cover absolutely everything we’ve discussed above (check out our full reviews of the software for more info), but we’ll hit some key points to help guide your choice.

1. Shopify

Pricing & Payment Processing

While there is a $9/month Lite plan with Shopify, you’ll need to sign up for the Basic plan ($29/month) or higher to build a full ecommerce website using the software. As you continue upward in plan level, you’ll see a few added features and the option to increase your number of staff admin accounts. Here are the subscription options:

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

You have over 100 gateway possibilities for accepting payments from your customers with Shopify, but note that if you don’t use the in-house option — Shopify Payments, powered by Stripe — you will be charged an extra Shopify commission per sale of up to 2% on top of the card processing fee from your payment gateway. On the flip side, if you do use Shopify Payments, you’ll receive a processing discount (i.e., pay less than the going rate for Stripe on its own) on the Shopify and Advanced Shopify plans.

We’ve put together a complete breakdown of Shopify Payments, and I’d definitely recommend reading that before you sign up for Shopify. For now, just remember that you’ll face an extra transaction fee from Shopify if you don’t use Shopify Payments.

Shopify also has one of the most extensive app stores you’ll find among SaaS ecommerce platforms. This can be a great resource for your store, but be careful to take the added cost of the apps you might need under consideration as you evaluate pricing.

Ease Of Use

Shopify users appreciate how easy it is to jump right in and start selling with the software. Once you open your free 14-day trial, your dashboard guides you toward a few steps to begin setting up your store:

Our tests of both admin navigation and individual feature manipulation have demonstrated that everything is easy to find and use. If you do run into problems, Shopify offers phone, email, and live chat support 24/7 at all subscription levels — a rare support trifecta amongst ecommerce website builders. The company has also curated an impressive library of self-help articles, videos, and even full online courses. All in all, Shopify earns an A+ for user-friendliness.

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

Choose from 10 free themes (made by Shopify) or 60 paid themes for $140-$180, most with multiple style variations. Even the free themes are good quality, and I’m always struck by the pleasant experience of shopping in the theme store. When a shopping cart platform is good at showcasing its own products, this gives me confidence in its ability to serve the needs of ecommerce sellers who are trying to accomplish this exact same task with their own products.

Editing Tools: 

To move elements around on your site’s pages, you’ll have access to a drag-and-drop tool called “Sections.” It’s not as flexible as the visual editors from traditional sitebuilders like Wix and Squarespace, which allow more freedom of placement, but you can at least add, subtract, and change the order of elements. You can also change fonts and colors under “Theme Settings.”

If you wish to further customize your theme, you’ll need to learn Shopify’s own templating language called Liquid. This open-source language is written in Ruby and is the backbone of Shopify templates. Of course, you may not need to further code your Shopify theme at all — we just always like to include the heads up in case.

Features

While Shopify has a strong, highly-capable core feature set, advanced features often come as add-ons (even free ones) to keep the base platform streamlined and easy to use. Here are some of the Shopify features we like:

Admin

  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage on all plans
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Extensive sales channel & marketplace integrations (eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Google Shopping, etc.)
  • Mobile store management via Shopify App

Storefront & Checkout

  • Checkout on your domain
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Expedited checkout with Shopify Pay

Along with the features we’ve highlighted above, check individual templates for special storefront features such as parallax scrolling, customer testimonials, social media feeds, and more.

Best Fit

From an overall software quality standpoint, it’s hard to go wrong with Shopify. This platform remains our default recommendation for the typical online seller who wants to quickly launch an attractive and functional store, but who also hopes for a scalable solution that easily accommodates growth in product listings and store revenue. As far as shopping cart software goes, it’s also one of the easiest platforms to use.

Shopify not-so-subtly guides you toward using Shopify Payments as your processor by rewarding you with reduced processing fees if you do and punishing you with an extra commission per sale if you don’t. If you’re not in one of the 10 locales currently supported by Shopify Payments or don’t qualify to use the processor for another reason (such as risk level or type of products sold), you should probably take a closer look at some of the competing ecommerce platforms as well.

2. BigCommerce

Pricing & Payment Processing

Each bump in subscription level with BigCommerce gives you added features, but also implements annual revenue caps. Meanwhile, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale, regardless of which payment processor you choose. You’ll have around 60 payment gateway options, one of which is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Here are the plans, all of which allow you to create a full ecommerce storefront:

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

BigCommerce also offers an app store with hundreds of connections to ecommerce-related software and feature plugins. While this platform attempts to include a few more native features than Shopify, you should still be aware of the cost of additional integrations purchased through the app marketplace.

Ease Of Use

BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial (probably just to one-up Shopify by a day). The admin dashboard you’ll encounter upon signup is arranged in a standard ecommerce fashion — navigational menu on the left, tips to get started on the right:

I would qualify BigCommerce’s backend as quite intuitive to use, although you might find it slightly more complex and detailed than Shopify’s interface. Part of this comes down to personal preference and experience, though. If you happen to run into a snag, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels, as well as good documentation and community forums.

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

With over 120 themes (and multiple style variations per theme) available at the BigCommerce theme marketplace, you’re bound to find a good match for your store. Seven of the themes are free, and the rest range from $145 to $235 each.

Editing Tools:

Theme editing with BigCommerce is more restricted than with Shopify. The visual editor (now called Store Design) lacks a drag-and-drop component, for example. In other words, you should carefully choose a template you really like, because you are stuck with its basic format. Alternatively, you can add a page builder app from the marketplace with drag-and-drop capability, but just be careful to factor in the added cost. You can also make customizations with HTML and CSS if you’re skilled in these areas.

Features

As always, check which features are included with each subscription level (and which come as apps), but take a look at a few of BigCommerce’s standout features:

Admin

  • Unlimited products, storage, & bandwidth
  • Unlimited staff accounts
  • Sell digital and service-based products without adding an app
  • Support for numerous product variations
  • Manual order creation & editing (virtual terminal)
  • Square POS integration
  • Marketplace integrations (Amazon, eBay, etc)
  • Shipping label printing (USPS) and discounts
  • Complimentary Avalara AvaTax account
  • Customer segmentation with loyalty program capability
  • Multiple SSL certificate options (shared, dedicated, custom)

Storefront & Checkout

  • Single-page checkout
  • Real-time shipping quotes
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Faceted/filtered product search
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Public & private wish lists
  • Recently viewed products
  • Akamai Image Manager & Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)  for mobile-friendliness
  • Integrate consumer financing options at checkout

Best Fit

BigCommerce strikes a good balance between ease-of-use and powerful out-of-the-box functionality, which we think a lot of online sellers will appreciate. Individual feature quality is also quite robust. Like Shopify, BigCommerce works for a wide variety or catalog sizes and scales well. However, if you have a nuanced catalog with a lot of product variations or custom fields, and like being really hands-on with your product SEO, you might be drawn to BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is also a great option to consider if you want or need the freedom to choose a payment processor without the “threat” of extra transaction fees if you don’t select an in-house option. If you’ve already looked at Shopify but need more flexibility when it comes to payments, definitely check out BigCommerce as an alternative.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

Pricing & Payment Processing

3dcart shares pricing structure components with both BigCommerce and Shopify. Like BigCommerce, 3dcart subscription packages have revenue caps. Another similarity is that 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale (and over 160 compatible payment gateways are available, some with discounted processing rates at higher subscription levels).

Like Shopify, you get more staff accounts at each 3dcart level. And, like both Shopify and BigCommerce, each step in plan offers a few additional features.

Do also note that the Startup plan with 3dcart has an item limit of 100 products. Here’s a quick pricing summary:

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

For building a complete online storefront with the software, 3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than both BigCommerce and Shopify (at just $19/month). You’ll also note that the 3dcart $29 plan accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce. For these reasons, 3dcart is often considered a less expensive choice.

3dcart boasts a lot of built-in features, but watch out for the ongoing monthly cost of software integrations for shipping, accounting, and other services available in the 3dcart app store.

Ease Of Use

3dcart also comes with a free 15-day trial (and if you think everyone’s just copying each other on this, 3dcart has been around the longest!). The dashboard functions just like those of the other two ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far, but some advanced features are built-in modules you must find and turn on to use.

While 3dcart is easy to use, it is definitely more complex and layered than Shopify or BigCommerce. You may find, however, that you appreciate the flexibility and advanced capability of 3dcart’s features. Tech support is available 24/7 via phone, live chat, and email, but note that you must be on the $29/month plan to access phone support. The community forums are also helpful, and the knowledgebase provides step-by-step articles on most of the important features.

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

3dcart offers just shy of 50 themes in its marketplace, and close to half are free. The rest are $150-$200.

Editing Tools: 

If you want to customize your theme, you can make color, content, and some typography changes in the visual editor, but more significant changes require tweaking HTML and CSS. In other words, there is no drag-and-drop capability. My overall hunch is that 3dcart expects most users to eventually tinker with the code if they really want to hone their designs.

Features

Below is just a sampling of 3dcart’s features — be sure to check the website for the full breakdown by plan:

Admin

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Inventory & order management
  • Dynamic, unlimited product categories
  • Return management
  • Manual order creation & editing (virtual terminal)
  • Advanced SEO tools
  • Create/print shipping labels from multiple carriers
  • Multichannel selling
  • Email marketing & drip campaigns
  • Unlimited email hosting
  • Built-in CRM
  • Built-in iPad POS software (or integrate with Square POS)
  • Built-in B2B selling features

Storefront & Checkout

  • Single-page checkout
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Gift certificates (on all plans)
  • Wide variety of discount/coupon types
  • Daily & group pricing deals
  • Make-an-offer pricing
  • Offer financing options
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Reviews & product Q&A
  • Waiting list & pre-orders
  • Gift wrap
  • Loyalty program & rewards points
  • Abandoned cart recovery

Best Fit

In some ways, we’ve been climbing up the ladder of built-in complexity as we’ve progressed through this software roundup so far. The tradeoff between simplicity and flexibility starts to lean more noticeably toward the flexibility side when we arrive at 3dcart. I think it’s safe to say that 3dcart works well for users who are perhaps not coding experts, but still fancy themselves on the generally tech-savvy end of the spectrum. While still easy to use in the grand scheme of things, this platform requires a bit of initiative on the part of the user to take full advantage of what it has to offer.

Starting at just $19/month, 3dcart is also a cost-effective option for sellers on a tight budget who still require workhorse-style ecommerce software underpinning their websites (versus a traditional website builder with added ecommerce capability). Speaking of budgets, 3dcart is also a great option for sellers who may feel Shopify’s software is a good fit, but are stuck with an extra transaction fee because they can’t use Shopify Payments. With well over 100 options at 3dcart, you’re bound to find a compatible processor that suits your needs.

4. Wix

Pricing & Payment Processing

To create an ecommerce website with Wix, you’ll need to sign up for one of the “Business” plans designed for online sellers. As is common with traditional website building software, Wix advertises a monthly price for plans when paid annually, rather than a true month-to-month price. We like to focus on with the month-to-month price, so you can better compare between platforms:

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

If you decide to pay annually, the above prices drop to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. (To be fair, all the platforms in the article offer some type of discount for paying annually — it’s all a matter of advertising strategy). The package levels are defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included. 

Wix never charges an extra commission per sale, regardless of which of the close to 20 gateway options you select for accepting payments.

As we’ve mentioned with the other software platforms we’ve discussed so far, you may want to add some apps to expand what your site can do. Wix apps often have both free and premium versions, so just confirm which type will work for your store so you can accurately calculate your true monthly costs.

Ease Of Use

You can dive right in and start testing Wix for free as long as you’d like — you just can’t start accepting payments through your store until you sign up for a paid plan. At that point, you have 14 days to cancel and receive a full refund on your subscription fee if you change your mind.

There are two ways to get a site started with Wix. You either let Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) create a website for you by asking you a series of detailed questions about your business, or you select a pre-made template and go from there. Either way, the ecommerce portion of your site is built on the Wix Stores app, which seamlessly integrates into the rest of your dashboard:

The backend ecommerce features of Wix are very easy to use, if sometimes not quite as powerful or flexible overall as the features of the other shopping cart software we’ve discussed so far. Wix actually takes user-friendliness to a whole new level by incorporating several visually-engaging interfaces that carefully hold your hand through important processes such as setting up email campaigns, creating discounts, configuring SEO for your site, and more. On a personal note, I really enjoy using Wix for this reason.

If you still need extra help, phone support is available Monday-Friday from 5AM-5PM PT on all plans, or you can submit an email ticket 24/7. Online self-help resources are good quality, but not as extensive in the ecommerce department as those you’d find for a platform like Shopify.

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

Approximately 80 templates offered by Wix are built upon the Wix Stores app, but it’s easy to add the app to any of the 500 or so templates offered. Happily, all templates are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. And, as you might expect from a platform that specializes in frontend design, your options are very elegant and modern.

Editing Tools:

While you can’t switch templates midstream with Wix, you have loads of flexibility in customizing what you’ve chosen. The drag-and-drop capability of Sections in Shopify pales in comparison to the “place anything anywhere” possibilities with Wix. Use the gridlines as a guide to ensure your site is mobile-friendly, and away you go:

If, on the other hand, you decide to have your base website constructed for you using Wix ADI, you’ll have access to a theme editor that’s more in line with Shopify’s drag-and-drop system:

I think one common path to design customization with Wix is to have Wix ADI create a base site to begin with, and then shift over to the more flexible Wix Editor for fine-tuning. You just can’t go back to Wix ADI and its simpler editor once you’ve made the switch.

Features

Once again, we’re just including a sampling of key features here. Most of those listed below are available on all three Wix Business plans:

Admin

  • Unlimited products & bandwidth
  • Sell physical, digital and service-based goods
  • Up to 6 options and 300 variants per product
  • Inventory & order management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • SEO tools
  • Track traffic with Google Analytics
  • Personalized email address that matches your domain/brand
  • 20 email marketing campaigns (100,000 total emails/mo) included in subscription
  • Customizable, automated email & chat responses
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Free stock photo library

Storefront & Checkout

  • Checkout on your own domain
  • Offer discounts & coupons
  • Customizable product sorting & filtering
  • Customer login/member area
  • Multilingual storefronts
  • Multifunctional sites (including bookings, event management, restaurants, etc)
  • Live chat with customers
  • Advanced frontend design features

Best Fit

We love Wix as a solution for stores with aesthetically-nuanced products. as well as for brands that highly prioritize visual quality and uniqueness overall. Those who feel boxed in by the somewhat limited design customization options of ecommerce platforms like Shopify will appreciate the freedom to fine-tune everything about the look and feel of their online storefronts, as well as their communication and marketing materials — all without touching a line of code. And, for those who want a visually-unique site with minimum effort, Wix ADI can hold your hand every step of the way.

If you are thinking of scaling to offer a very large number of products, or wish to significantly expand your shipping and fulfillment needs over time, Wix probably isn’t your best choice. Meanwhile, we think a lot of multifunctional businesses (like hotels, restaurants, photographers, artists, musicians, bloggers, etc.) who also want to sell a few products online will love the seamless integration of a native ecommerce app into their dashboards.

5. Squarespace

squarespace

Pricing & Payment Processing

Similar to Wix, Squarespace leads with pricing figures that assume you’ll pay for a complete year at a time. Adjusted for true-month-to-month costs, here are the Squarespace plans with fully-integrated ecommerce functionality:

  • Business: $26/month
  • Commerce Basic: $30/month
  • Commerce Advanced: $46/month

There’s a pretty big jump in the number of features between the Business and Commerce Basic plan, and a smaller jump in available features to Commerce Advanced. Another difference between the Business Plan and the two Commerce plans is that the Business plan comes with a 3% Squarespace commission per sale. If you’re serious about creating an ecommerce website with Squarespace, it will likely be worth it to have a Commerce package for the additional ecommerce-specific features and the elimination of the extra transaction fee. Meanwhile, you only get two payment gateway options with Squarespace (Stripe and PayPal), which will also charge their own transaction fees.

Squarespace doesn’t have an app store — any third-party integrations come already connected to your store. However, when activating one of these connections, you should be aware that some of them do have premium versions with ongoing monthly costs. ShipStation and MailChimp are two good examples.

Ease Of Use

Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial. If your trial expires before you upgrade and you haven’t made up your mind yet, you can simply create another trial site under the same registration email.

Before you reach the dashboard, you’ll need to select a template (but you can change it later). You’ll see a few ecommerce-geared options first if you enter “to sell” something as your site’s purpose. Unlike any of the ecommerce sitebuilders we’ve discussed so far, your admin dashboard incorporates a frontend preview on the right:

I find it a little difficult to start adding products with Squarespace — you have to create a separate product page first, and the software doesn’t do a great job explaining this. Once you conquer this initial hurdle, however, the overall learning curve for ecommerce functions is relatively small.

I also like all the direct links to applicable support articles within the dashboard that guide you directly to the right knowledgebase article if you become stuck. Squarespace email support responds 24/7 and is quite effective, but the tradeoff is that there’s no phone support offered. Meanwhile, live chat is available Monday-Friday 4AM-8PM Eastern time.

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

Squarespace offers approximately 90 themes grouped into 21 families. Since you’ll eventually be adding some sort of product page no matter what, any of them can be used for ecommerce, even though some are specifically suggested for online stores.

As far as traditional website builders go, the sheer variety of templates is low, but the quality is high. We’re looking at a carefully-curated selection of polished, classy, streamlined designs offered by Squarespace:

Editing Tools:

Squarespace lands somewhere in between Wix and Shopify when it comes to the amount of freedom you have to drag-and-drop page elements. You can add and arrange large sections up and down each page, insert various types of “content blocks” (including spacers and lines), and adjust the alignment of pieces within those blocks to a certain extent. Fonts and colors are also adjustable, but often exist as site-wide style settings in order to maintain a unified look.

In summary: Squarespace offers more no-code design flexibility than Shopify and less than Wix. However, if you’re comfortable adding CSS to your site, there’s an easy CSS editor available.

Features

Below are some Squarespace features that caught my eye. A handful of these features (i.e., abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, and subscription payments) are only available on the Commerce Advanced plan. Always check the full and most complete breakdown by plan on the company website!

Admin

  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage
  • Sell physical, digital, and service-based products out-of-the-box
  • Unlimited staff contributors on all ecommerce plans
  • G Suite integration (full year free)
  • Shipping & accounting integrations
  • Inventory & order management
  • Set store manager permissions
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Logo creation software
  • Commerce analytics & reports
  • Advanced image/photo management & editing

Storefront & Checkout

  • Checkout on your domain
  • Customizable checkout forms
  • Promotional banners & pop-ups
  • Offer gift cards
  • Offer subscriptions to products & services
  • Accept donations
  • Offer coupon codes and discounts
  • Real-time shipping rates from multiple carriers
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout & customer accounts
  • Express checkout for single-product stores

Best Fit

The target audience for Squarespace amongst ecommerce website owners overlaps significantly with Wix’s demographic. Both sitebuilders are great for smaller product catalogs with visual interest, but Squarespace is nice if you specifically want a posh, classy, or even minimalist vibe for your store. This sitebuilder is also great for those who enjoy the freedom to easily tweak a design but don’t feel hemmed in by a bit of built-in structure for ensuring a consistent style overall.

As far as standard ecommerce features go, it’s a tough call between Wix and Squarespace. The two platforms take a slightly different approach, so you’ll have to decide which features are a priority to you. For example, if you want an abandoned cart recovery tool and the ability to connect with popular third-party apps like accounting and shipping/fulfillment software, Squarespace will suit you better. I’d recommend skipping over the Business plan and going straight for one of the Commerce plans if you’re at all serious about selling.

Quick Pricing Comparison

Before I share my final thoughts on choosing the best ecommerce website builder for your store, here’s a quick rundown of the monthly subscription costs for each of the platforms we’ve discussed:

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

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

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

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

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Squarespace

Business: $26/mo.

Commerce Basic: $30/mo.

Commerce Advanced: $46/mo.

  • Available features
  • Squarespace’s commission per sale

Remember that traditional website builders like Wix and Squarespace typically lead with “when paid annually” pricing, so we’ve adjusted the figures to reflect the cost if you pay month-to-month. All five services offer some sort of discount if you pay for at least a year upfront.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’re excited about test-driving one or more of these ecommerce website builders. My guess is that you’ll probably figure out if you’re in the Shopify/BigCommerce/3dcart or the Wix/Squarespace camp first, but there’s no reason you can’t check out both types of software.

That said, anyone planning to scale their product and sales numbers dramatically over time should probably stick with one of the three ecommerce workhorse platforms. There’s a reason sitebuilders like Wix and Squarespace cap their ecommerce plan subscriptions at under $50/month, while platforms like 3dcart, BigCommerce, and Shopify can charge upwards of $200 per month for their best ecommerce packages. You’re usually paying for a larger quantity and better quality of features that help you manage the complicated logistics of selling online.

It’s a safe bet, in this case, to use pricing as a general guideline for the ability to shore up and scale your backend functions as your store grows by various dimensions. Still, Wix and Squarespace would not be included here at all if they weren’t both excellent options for smaller stores.

The thing that’s hard to nail down in a summary article like this is the quality and usefulness of the features you’ll need for your store. By listing a few highlights for each sitebuilder, we’re just giving you a flavor of the software. While we can confidently say that all the platforms in this article cover the “basics” of running an online store, that assurance is no substitute for your own experience. If you’re still stuck or confused after your research and testing, turn to the platform’s customer service and sales support for clarification. You need a good excuse to put those support systems to work before signing up anyway, so go for it!

Happy software testing!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Wix Squarespace

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

$25 – $40

$26 – $46

eCom Features

Excellent

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post Find The Best eCommerce Website Builder For Your Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

The Best Credit Card Reader Apps For Android

Android alternative to shopkeep

 

It feels sometimes like Apple dominates the field as far as availability of credit card reader apps. After all, there are plenty of iOS exclusives, but I can count on one hand the number of Android-exclusive POS apps. It hurts my Android-loving heart, in some ways.

In part, the difficulty with Android-based mobile processing apps is how fractured the Android space is — there so many devices, and updates to the OS depend on both the device and the cellular carrier. But good Android-based mPOS apps for credit card processing do exist. You just have to know where to look! Happily, it looks like many companies are starting to understand the importance of accepting Android, and I’ve seen several POS offerings branch into the Android space recently.

Let’s talk about your best options for Android mPOS apps — which ones offer the best experience, the best hardware, and the best pricing!

Best Android-Based Credit Card Processing Apps

To be considered one of the best Android-based mPOS, the mobile app must be available for Android devices and include a mobile credit card reader, rather than a terminal. And obviously, it needs to be a highly-rated solution, too.

Without further ado, here are our favorite recommendations for Android users in need of a credit card processing app!

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Payline Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Payline Data Review Logo

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + 0.2% + $0.10

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$10

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$25

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

CardConnect Mobile Device ($49)

Square

Square (read our review) features in a lot of my articles — and honestly, that’s because it’s one of the best options out there, period. As far as features, pricing, and hardware, Square is top of the line in each category. Square’s free mobile POS app, blandly named Square Point of Sale (read our review) has more features than your standard POS app, even if it doesn’t quite reach the abilities of a full-fledged POS system. Plus, Square throws in invoicing, a customer database, and intermediate inventory tools (including item counts) at no additional cost. Payments process at 2.75% for swiped, dipped, or tapped transactions using Square POS and a mobile card reader. Invoices process for 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, and keyed entry sales for 3.5% + $0.30 per transaction.

Square works on iOS and Android, though it’s worth noting that particular features aren’t always supported by Android tablets or smartphones. For example, you can run a cash drawer session on an Android tablet, but not on a smartphone, and you can’t track sales by employee at all on Android.

Until recently, the best way to get the most Square features on a single device was to use an iPad. However, Square Register (read our review) has changed that.

Register is an Android-based, all-in-one POS platform with a 13.25-inch touchscreen display and a 7-inch customer-facing display with built-in card readers. It runs Square Point of Sale and has many features that aren’t available on Android tablets or smartphones. Payment processing with Square Register is a departure from the standard 2.75% per transaction; instead, merchants will pay 2.5% + $0.10, which means merchants with an average ticket size of $40 or more will see the most savings with this processing rate.

If Register isn’t quite for you, Square still offers plenty of choices for affordable hardware; its Contactless + Chip Card Reader sells for $49 with financing available. You can also purchase additional hardware for Square directly from the company if you’re using Square for a register setup — including Android-compatible tablet stands!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Shopify Lite

I honestly feel like more people need to be aware of the fact that Shopify POS is available as a standalone payment processing option for businesses that need a mobile app but maybe don’t want a full-fledged online store. The Shopify Lite plan (read our review) gives you access to the Shopify POS app (available on Android and iOS) as well as a few extra tools. That includes customizable website payment buttons if you have, for example, a WordPress site, as well as a Facebook shop and invoicing.

The Lite Plan goes for a very reasonable $9/month, with payments processing at 2.7% per swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction. Invoiced and keyed transactions process for 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Now, admittedly, the Shopify POS app isn’t as full-featured as Square. And the Lite plan doesn’t give you access to all of the features of the POS app, but you do get all the essential, standard mPOS features.

If you want something more resembling a traditional POS setup, with staff PIN access, register shifts, and so on, you’ll need to upgrade to the higher Shopify plan tiers. However, Shopify doesn’t charge any per-device subscriptions, so $79/month for the Shopify standard plan gets you a very powerful ecommerce plan, plus a POS that runs on unlimited devices with quite a few features that bring it on par with traditional POS apps. (Oh, and discounted processing rates, too!)

Finally, you should know that Shopify’s mobile card reader, the Chip & Swipe Reader, retails for $29. However, Shopify does offer a free card reader to new merchants. We’ve previously reviewed the card reader and were very satisfied with it, in terms of design and pricing.

Payment Depot Mobile (Swipe Simple)

Payment Depot has mostly operated as a wholesale merchant account provider, offering a whole range of merchant services, from ecommerce to mobile processing. However, we’re happy to say that Payment Depot is now offering an exclusive mobile processing plan to Merchant Maverick readers, one that’s targeted at even low-volume businesses. You can check out our Payment Depot Mobile review for more information.

Payment Depot’s mobile plan includes access to the Swipe Simple app, made by a company called CardFlight. CardFlight actually licenses its solutions to several providers and so pricing and terms vary according to which company you sign up with. Payment Depot is offering its mobile plan for $10/month, with payments processing at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction. There are no monthly minimums and no other fees involved. And again, this is a Merchant Maverick exclusive, so you need to use our link in order to sign up for this plan! Also, high-volume businesses can still get access to PD’s standard pricing, which may be more cost effective for them.

The Swipe Simple app is an all-around solid offering, with the essential mobile POS app features, along with a customer database, intermediate inventory (including item counts), and a virtual terminal available for no additional cost. There’s even a free virtual terminal thrown in. While it won’t come close to replacing a full-fledged POS app, mobile businesses that need a reliable app and a stable merchant account will enjoy the flexibility that Payment Depot (and SwipeSimple) offer.

Payment Depot also offers a free chip card-enabled mobile reader, the Swift B200. If you’d like to also accept contactless NFC payments, you can upgrade to the EMV/NFC capable card reader, the Swift B250, for just $25, which is an excellent price for an all-in-one, future proof card reader.

Payline Mobile (CardPointe)

Payline Data Mobile was the first mobile processing solution I reviewed that offered the stability of a merchant account combined with pricing that’s competitive for low-volume businesses.  Obviously, we’ve added Payment Depot to that list as well, but Payline Mobile is also a great option if you need a mobile plan and you want transparent pricing and great customer service.

Payline Mobile’s plan includes access to the CardPointe mobile app, made by CardConnect. The app is pretty solid, with all the essential features you would need to run a mobile business. You can even mark items as tax-exempt in the app, which makes it a great option if you run a wholesale business or even just occasionally sell to business owners with sales tax exemptions.  You also get access to a virtual terminal for no additional cost.

As far as card readers, Payline offers the CardConnect Mobile Device, a magstripe reader that connects via headphone jack. It does have an EMV slot; however, chip card acceptance currently isn’t enabled for the reader, so you’re limited to magstripe only until CardConnect launches EMV support. Payline sells the reader for $49, though you can talk with your Payline sales rep about the pricing if it’s a concern.

Payline Data’s mobile offering is billed under the Payline Start plan, which means you’ll pay a $10/monthly fee and interchange plus pricing with a 0.2% + $0.10 markup. This pricing might not be the most competitive for small-ticket businesses, but if you have an average transaction of $50 or more, you should do well.

The other thing to note with Payline is that the company has a $25 monthly minimum — meaning you need to generate $25/month in processing fees, or Payline will charge you the difference between your processing fees and $25 (so if you process enough to generate $18.28 in fees, Payline will charge you another $6.72 to make up the difference). For most businesses, this works out to be about $1,000/month in credit card volume, but your exact break-even amount depends on your transaction size and average interchange.

I also need to mention that CardConnect is actually a First Data product — and if you prefer, you can get the Clover Go mobile app through Payline for the same contract terms and an additional $6/month fee (passed through by Clover). You can get Clover’s chip-card enabled Bluetooth reader for $120, but again, if you have concerns about the price, talk with your sales rep.

Honorable Mentions

Didn’t find quite what you were looking for? You won’t find a shortage of mobile processing apps here at Merchant Maverick — and a list of just 4 processing options seems a bit limited. So here are the honorable mentions — the solutions that didn’t quite make the top of the list but that I still like for various reasons.

PayPal Here

PayPal is a juggernaut of commerce, and if you want to sell online, accepting PayPal is an easy solution. If you want to accept payments in person, PayPal’s mobile POS app, PayPal Here (read our review), offers a solid range of features, including the ability to send invoices from the app or in the dashboard. PayPal Here is not as robust as Square, and PayPal generally recommends integrating with one of its POS partners if you need more advanced software features. But it’s great for pop-up events, tradeshows, conventions, and mobile businesses.

PayPal processes in-person transactions at 2.7% per swipe, dip, or tap, and invoices at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. You can get a chip and magstripe card reader for $24.99, or upgrade to the all-in-one Chip and Tap Reader for $59.99 (a bundled charger set is available for $79.99).

Wondering how PayPal Here compares to Square? Check out our Square vs PayPal article for a direct comparison!

Sumup

If you don’t process credit cards on a regular basis but you need a simple, straightforward option for mobile processing with a great credit card reader, SumUp (read our review) should be at the top of your list. I’ve previously described SumUp as Square’s sophisticated, minimalist European cousin because it delivers all of the essentials with a sleek, simple approach.

Payments process at 2.65% per swiped, tipped, or tapped transaction, which is lower than either Square or PayPal, with no flat fee per transactions. While you’re not going to save boatloads over the alternatives, SumUp does offer the lowest rates with no monthly fee, which is worth mentioning. But what I really like about SumUp is the card reader — which, even two years later, still one of the best designed and packaged card readers I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter. At $69, it’s not cheap, but I still think it’s better than the Square Contactless + Chip Reader, and the similarly priced PayPal Chip and Tap reader.

Check out my Square vs SumUp comparison for a better look at how SumUp stacks up in terms of features and execution.

Clover Go

I’ve already mentioned Clover Go — it’s the mobile app linked to the Clover suite of POS products, owned by First Data, just like CardConnect. Clover is First Data’s flagship software, and has been for a few years now. If you’re already a Clover user and you want to go mobile with your POS, the Go app is the obvious answer because it’s built to be an extension of the full POS app. However, you can get Clover Go as a standalone product from First Data and many of its resellers. Check out our review of Clover Go for a better look at its features.

Pricing for the Clover Go app, payment processing, and hardware will vary by the reseller you choose. Payline Data is one option — you’ll pay $16/month in fees plus interchange plus 0.2% + $0.10 per transaction, and $120 for the card reader. We generally recommend Dharma Merchant Services for merchants processing more than $10,000/month in cards, and National Processing for businesses of all sizes. In both cases, you’ll pay a $10 monthly fee and interchange plus 0.2% + $0.10 markup per transaction.

Curious how Clover Go stacks up? Check out our Square vs Clover Go comparison!

Which Android Mobile Processing App Is Right For You?

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Payline Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Payline Data Review Logo

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + 0.2% + $0.10

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$10

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$25

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

CardConnect Mobile Device ($49)

If you need a mobile POS app that’s compatible with your Android device, or you’re debating between an Android or iOS device, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of great Android-based credit card reader apps to choose from, with great pricing and great hardware. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which service is right for you — consider the features you get as well as the pricing. Not sure how to do that? Check out my article, Is Square the Cheapest Processor For Your Business? to learn how to figure out for yourself whether a rate quote is actually a good deal.

Still can’t decide? Square offers the best value in terms of features, and the flat-rate pricing works for all businesses, even low-volume and small ticket ones. Plus, there’s no monthly fee!

The post The Best Credit Card Reader Apps For Android appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

14+ WordPress Website Examples for Inspiration

WordPress Website Examples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General Website Examples

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

The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company

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

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

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

Trefecta

Trefecta

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes via my industry-specific roundups.

Wedding Website Example

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

Tyler and Tayler

Tyler and Tayler wedding website example

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from ThemeForest.

Photography Website Example

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

Jeremy Chou

Jeremy Chou photography website example

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

OANA FOTO

OANA FOTO

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Ecommerce Website Example

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

House of Whisky

 

House of Whisky

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

The product page is also a great source of inspiration:

House of Whisky Product Page

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

Sodashi

Sodashi ecommerce website example

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

But here’s the great thing about WordPress:

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

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

Explore similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Artist Website Example

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

Amy Paul

Amy Paul artist website example

 

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Music Website Example

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

7th Ave Band

7th Ave Band

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from Elegant Themes.

Business Website Example

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

Smart Chameleon

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

BS&A Software

BS&A Software

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from StudioPress.

Personal Website Examples

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

Michelle Sanchez

Michelle Sanchez

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

Vladimir Strajnic

Vladimir Strajnic

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

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

Explore Similar WordPress Themes from JetPack.

Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“”