You need a website for your small business. The problem? You don’t know a bit from a byte, and you know about as much HTML as Hungarian. Is it hopeless, or is there a solution for you that doesn’t involve hiring a pricey tech hero?
Relax. You’ve got this! In fact, we will walk you through it, step by step. Even if you don’t have a minute of coding experience, you can set up using any one of the reliable, user-friendly website builders available. Today, we’ll walk you through how to set up a website using one of the most popular options: a service called Squarespace.
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What You’ll Need To Start Your Squarespace Website
Because Squarespace offers new users a free 14-day trial, you won’t need a credit card or any payment method to set up a store. You will need:
A computer and internet connection
An email account, Google ID, or Apple ID
A name for your store
Product photos and descriptions
How To Build A Squarespace Website
Now that you’re ready to log on, the next question is how to actually use Squarespace to build a website for your business. We will go through the steps, one by one, and show you how easy it can be to build a Squarespace web store. Start by creating an account, using your Google account, your Apple ID, or your email address. Add a password, and you’re in! You won’t need a credit card, because when you sign up for a Squarespace account, you automatically activate a 14-day free trial period.
Alright, let’s walk through the steps involved in creating a Squarespace store in more detail.
Set Up Your Account
From the start, Squarespace sets itself apart from most other eCommerce platforms or website builders. First, the signup page is visually arresting. Squarespace hosts sites for many musicians, photographers, artists, designers, interior designers, and other creative types.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/4/2020
After creating your account, you’ll be guided to choose options to describe your site’s purpose. If you don’t see your choice among the 21 options listed, you can enter some keywords to get suggestions.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/4/2020
Next, you’ll be asked to pick your top goals for the site you’ll be creating. Choose all that apply.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/4/2020
The top option is Sell products, and you can add as many as you want. Squarespace uses your answers to these two sets of questions to guide you to a set of template options, although you’re free to browse the full set.
The final question you’ll be asked during this setup phase is to describe where you are in the process of building a website and a business. At each stage in the setup, you’re given the option to choose I’m just browsing. Other options run the gamut from Collecting inspiration to Growing an existing business.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/4/2020
Choose Your Theme
Now it’s time for the fun part â selecting the look you want for your store. This is another area where Squarespace sets itself apart, because unlike other eCommerce platforms, the 110 pre-built themes you’ll find on Squarespace all are available at no charge. You don’t need to feel limited in your choices by what your budget will allow.
Squarespace groups themes loosely by website type, so you’ll see right away that you’re able to browse categories designed to appeal to certain types of businesses, such as musicians or bands, wedding planners, local businesses, or online stores. Feel free to look around at all the themes you want, because you can always choose a theme from another category and use it for your eCommerce site.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/4/2020
Take your time to explore your options and preview as many themes as grab your eye before you choose the theme you’d like to use. While it’s possible to switch themes later, if you change your mind, it’s not easy to do so. What if you can’t choose? There’s a site builder you can use to build a custom site. You can add blank pages too, and use your own text and images as you’d like.
Build Your Site
Once you’ve selected the theme you want to work with, you’ll need to give your store a name. Then you’ll be treated to a walk-through of the steps involved in setting up a store. Be sure to watch the short introduction video when Squarespace prompts you to. It offers a quick tour of the options you’ll have as you develop your online store.
Ready to start building your store? On the left side of the page, you’ll see a simple and clean admin menu, and on the right, you’ll see the default for the template you chose. Click the Edit button to make changes, like adding photos and text. You can add new pages, too, by clicking New Page. Choose the fonts and colors you want, so they match your vision for your brand or your existing marketing choices.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/8/2020
One handy feature is a toggle button you can use to switch between three types of page views: desktop, tablet, and mobile phone. As you edit your pages and build your store, check occasionally to make sure your design works on all three types. That’s not as hard as it sounds, since Squarespace sites are responsive.
As fun as it is to tinker with the headers, the footers, photos, links, and more, don’t forget what you came to Squarespace for: eCommerce! When you have put together a website that’s ready to tell your story and introduce your products to potential customers, click the link on the admin that says Commerce to be guided through the five-step process of setting up your site for sales.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/8/2020
You’ll want to add products, add a way to get paid, think about shipping options, choose your subscription plan, and then take your store live. Squarespace offers a demonstration for each step. We’ll walk through those steps one at a time, too.
Add Products: Click on the Inventory button, and you’ll immediately be prompted to subscribe to a plan. If you’ve looked into the options and know what you want, you can upgrade now, but you can proceed without doing that. Just click the OK button, and you’ll arrive at a blank page that lets you add products. If you haven’t already created a product page, you’ll be prompted to make one now. Again, add photos and text, but this time with a Shop button.
Set Up To Receive Payments:Â When you click on the button for adding payment methods, you’ll again be reminded that you need to upgrade to a Business and Commerce plan to add a payment processor to your store. Squarespace lets you choose between Stripe and PayPal, and you can use Square for in-person sales if you’re in the U.S. Your store currency setting defaults to U.S. dollars, so if you’re selling outside the States, you can choose from more than two dozen currencies.
Take Charge Of Shipping: Squarespace offers two methods for calculating shipping fees: flat rate and by weight. And you can use Squarespace to request price quotes from FedEx, UPS, and the USPS for your typical packages, including different shipping methods and speeds and types of packaging. You can even add a standard postage markup, as a percentage, so you recoup some of your shipping costs from each sale.
Choose A Subscription Plan:Â By this point, you probably have taken advantage of your free trial period and gotten pretty far along in setting up your online store. Now it’s time to choose a plan and get ready to take your site live. Squarespace offers four payment plans. All of them include a free custom domain, SSL certificate, unlimited bandwidth and storage, 24/7 customer support, basic metrics, and access to Squarespace extensions. All but the lowest level Personal plan allow eCommerce.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/15/2020
Among the eCommerce plans, only the lowest level Business plan includes transaction fees of 3%. Higher-level plans do not charge any transaction fees. Choose to pay annually, rather than monthly, and you can save up to 30% on the plan you choose. If you pay annually, the plans will cost $18 for the Business plan, $26 for the Basic, and $40 for Advanced. Each plan is fully integrated for eCommerce, but as you go up in service level you gain additional features like abandoned cart recovery, analytics, and marketing tools.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/15/2020
5. Take Your Store Live:Â You set up your online store, added products, and took care of details like payment processing and shipping options. Now it’s time to let customers know about your store and start taking orders! Hit the Publish button, and that’s it â your Squarespace store is ready to start making sales for you.
How To Promote Your New Squarespace Site
Rather than waiting for customers to find your Squarespace store, you can take some simple steps to draw them in. And Squarespace offers some good tools for doing just that. From your admin, select the Marketing tab to get started.
Screenshot of Squarespace webpage, captured 9/15/2020
From SEO (search engine optimization) strategies to social media promotion aids, you can use Squarespace resources to draw attention to your store and your products on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Tumblr, and Pinterest.Â Once you select and pay for a plan, you can take advantage of an automatic Google Ads credit too.
When you’ve gotten familiar with Squarespace marketing options, you may be ready to take your strategies to the next level. If you learn about marketing strategies for growing your online store and put them in action, you’ll be well on the way to eCommerce success.
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The post How To Build A Squarespace Website For Your Business The Easy Way appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Recently, online shoppers were asked how much they would be willing to pay for shipping on the items they purchased — and their answers could give many small business owners cause for concern. A whopping 72% of consumers said the max they would be willing to pay was $5Â â and, in even worse news for small businesses working with slim margins, shoppers want their merchandise fast, with 58% of online buyers expecting to receive orders within one week, at most, even on orders that ship for free.
Free, fast shipping is great for consumers. Unfortunately, expectations around shipping cost and speed can present challenges for small business owners and their bottom lines.
If you’re feeling the squeeze between your customers’ expectations and the reality of your shipping costs, you’re in the right place. This article will show you how to calculate shipping costs, trim them, and price your products to protect your profits.
What Are Shipping Costs?
How much do you pay for shipping? It’s more than the postage you put on the box or envelope. To gain a realistic picture of what you’re spending to put your products into buyers’ hands, you need to factor in all the hidden costs. Think about:
Time spent packing shipments
Postage or freight costs
Money lost on damaged, missing, or returned shipments
Gaining a fuller understanding of your shipping costs is vital for businesses small and large. To maintain your profit margin, you must factor shipping costs into your budget â and into your prices. If your profit margin is already razor-thin, or if you’d simply like to keep a bigger slice of each sale, take a look at your shipping practices. Chances are, there are many small improvements you can make that will add up to savings.
How To Calculate Shipping Costs
To retain as much money as possible from each sale in the form of profits, your goal is to spend as little as possible on shipping. That goal is complicated by your customers’ demand for fast, reliable delivery. Fortunately, you can balance those competing needs by checking out a variety of shipping carriers and choosing the one that best delivers on both your customers’ expectations and your own.
From the start, you’ll notice one frustrating issue. If you contact a carrier directly to ask “How much does shipping with you cost?” you’re bound to receive a variety of this answer: “It depends.”
They’re not hedging. The truth is, shipping costs are determined by multiple, complicated variables. Here are some of them:
Carriers that rely primarily on air transportation for long-distance delivery place emphasis on package weight when determining shipping costs. Airplane cargo is limited by total weight, so it makes sense that heavier packages cost more to send, because carriers can fit fewer packages on the plane.
When your shipping carrier is trying to fit as many packages as possible into a truck for transportation, package size is a major factor. Carriers want to pack their trucks tightly, so they can fit as many shipments as possible. That’s why some carriers encourage you to ship products in the uniformly-sized boxes they provide or charge rates that depend on package size limits.
With the exception of the United States Postal Service (USPS), most carriers’ rates vary by distance. Packages that go further cost more to send, unless you’re willing to sacrifice speed to save money. If half your shipments go to destinations relatively close to where they’re made, you may be able to save money by using a local carrier in addition to a nationwide shipper.
How quickly do you need your shipment to arrive at its destination? Generally speaking, the faster it goes, the more you can expect to pay.
Some of the biggest shipping carriers will offer discount (sometimes called corporate) rates to businesses that regularly ship a lot of packages.
Getting a package to a customer’s doorstep is one thing. What additional services do you require? Think about things like insurance, signature, tracking, proof of delivery, and weekend delivery. Depending on the carrier you use, you may pay extra for those things.
Some carriers provide â and motivate you to use â their own boxes and envelopes. Those shipping materials generally come to you at no charge. When you can save money using materials that are provided for free, you’ve got a good head start on reducing the cost of shipping.
Let’s Try An Example
It’s a given that different packages will cost varying amounts to ship. But here’s another factor: Different carriers might charge very different amounts for the exact same package.
It’s impossible to list in one article all the different shipping rates you could possibly be charged. But we can provide a small view into the different rates you can expect to pay with a few of the major carriers. Let’s start with a simple mailing envelope, and look at what you’d pay to ship it with USPS, FedEx, and UPS. For this example, let’s assume that we are mailing a 9.2″ x 12.5″ flat envelope that weighs 12 ounces, and you’re shipping it from your warehouse in Tennessee to a destination in Wyoming, with no additional services (insurance, proof of delivery, and so on) required.
Let’s try another type of package. We’ll keep the same to and from destinations, but change the type of package. This time, our shipment will go in a small box. What carriers consider “small” varies a bit, so for this exercise let’s assume our package measures less than 14″ x 12″ x 4″, and it weighs four pounds. Again, we won’t opt for any additional services, just quick shipping.
There you have it, two examples of fast shipping options from three major carriers. Remember, the price you pay varies widely depending on factors like weight, package dimensions, shipping time, and distance shipped. So unless you happen to live in Tennessee and do a lot of shipping to Wyoming, the examples above won’t actually satisfy your need to know exactly you can expect to pay for shipping.
In that case, read on!
Shipping Cost Calculators
While it may be an interesting academic exercise to compare shipping costs on two made-up packages, what really matters is your very real packages and the customers who are waiting to receive them. If you want information about your own company’s expected shipping costs, so you can choose a good carrier to do business with, you’re in luck. Many major carriers have online shipping calculators you can use to get real quotes for actual shipments. Pick a package and take a tour.
How To Calculate Shipping Costs With USPS
USPS is a public service, and its business model doesn’t center on profit. One benefit of that is that shipping distance does not affect USPS shipping prices. No matter where your package is headed, anywhere in the United States, you’ll pay the same price for the same transit time. That’s unique among carriers.
So how does USPS determine shipping cost? The primary factor is package size. USPS Priority Mail Service has the motto “If it fits, it ships,” and if you can fit your package into USPS’s free flat-rate boxes, you can send anything up to 70 pounds in weight anywhere in the U.S., with guaranteed one- or two-day delivery, no matter what’s in the box.
Can you take advantage of flat-rate USPS fees? Check out this shipping calculator to determine whether your items will fit into a flat-rate package — and to find out what it would cost. If you can’t use flat-rate, you can get a custom quote and purchase postage there too. If you regularly ship items classified as media â including books, sound recordings, videotapes, printed music, or computer-readable media such as CDs or DVDs â you can save money using USPS’s medial mail shipping rate. And if you regularly ship items weighing less than one pound, you should be able to take advantage of First Class postage rates, which will be lower than Priority Mail.
How To Calculate Shipping Costs With FedEx
Although on the surface FedEx seems like one of the most expensive carriers, you automatically qualify for discounts when you sign up with a business account, and you will be eligible for the FedEx rewards program too. FedEx does offer an easy to use shipping calculator, but be aware that you are likely to qualify for a rate that’s lower than the advertised cost.
FedEx prices depend on package size and weight as well as delivery speed. While the company has earned a reputation for dependable overnight service from its start in 1973 (and continues to offer overnight shipping), today you can save money by choosing speedy, reliable service that takes just a little longer. You can also keep costs down by using free FedEx packaging for your shipments.
If speed is the most important component of shipping to you, and you either 1) don’t mind what it costs or 2) can pass those costs on to customers, FedEx will be a good choice for your shipping needs. Don’t overlook FedEx’s seven-day delivery option. By allowing a week for delivery, instead of going with overnight, you can cut shipping costs by nearly two-thirds.
How To Calculate Shipping Costs With UPS
For UPS, delivery speed and distance are the biggest factors in shipping costs. The next most important consideration is “dimensional weight” or “package density,” meaning the amount of space a package takes up in relation to its physical weight. UPS says you can calculate dimensional weight on your own. Just multiply the package length by the width and the height to find its size in cubic inches, then use the UPS rate type divisor to determine the dimensional weight in pounds, and you’ll end up with the billable rate.
Or, if that sounds a little complicated, just use the UPS shipping calculator and let the online system do the work for you.
UPS is known for its reliability and excellent package tracking system, but it’s not always the lowest-cost option. However, if you’re regularly shipping oversize or heavy packages, you may find it the best option, especially because UPS offers reduced rates to shippers who enter into shipping agreements with the carrier.
How To Price Products To Accommodate Shipping Costs
From clothing and footwear to furniture, appliances, and even snacks and household supplies, online shopping in major categories has experienced double-digit growth since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S. That means it’s more important than ever to fine-tune your shipping costs to maximize your profits. Here are some tested strategies;
Add A Threshold
Sure, customers expect free shipping. But does it really make sense to spend $7.75 to ship them an item that they pay $8 for? Expert marketer Neil Patel says adding a threshold, or minimum sales amount, for free shipping leads customers to spend more to gain free shipping, raising your sales and margins in the process. Check out what your competitors are offering, then experiment with your threshold to see what makes sense for your industry and your market.
Build In Shipping Costs
Customers don’t want to pay for shipping. But they may be willing to pay a slightly higher cost for your products, so long as you ship them for free. That means you can adjust items’ pricing to absorb some or all of the typical cost of shipping them. Shipping and Marketing expert Kristina Lopienski also suggests figuring out average shipping costs for all your products, then using that blended average to set shipping fees for customers.
All the major shipping carriers take package size into consideration when determining the price you’ll pay to ship something. Whatever carrier you choose to work with, make sure that you’re using the right kind of packaging to net you the best rates. If you use the packaging your carrier provides, you’ll probably be able to access the best rates.
Almost without exception, envelopes are less expensive to ship than boxes. So if you’re able to ship your items safely in an envelope or padded mailer, be sure to do so.
Look For Alternatives
Take some of the sting out of shipping costs by making it easier on yourself. After all, your time is worth a great deal, and if you’re lugging packages to three different drop-offs each week to take advantage of different types of shipping savings, you may be better served by automating the process with a shipping software app. You have lots of options when it comes to shipping software. Find out what service makes the most sense for you.
Let Customers Pay for Shipping Extras
Suppose you are able to use a relatively low-cost shipping option that costs you about $7 for three-day delivery. You’re able to shift $4 of that shipping cost to customers by raising the price of your products slightly. That will keep the majority of your customers happy. But what about the 18% of online shoppers who, according to Statista, want next-day delivery? Many of them will be willing to pay a premium for even-speedier delivery. Try making rapid shipping an add-on service that customers can select and pay for at checkout. You’ll be improving your overall service by offering more options to meet customers’ individual needs. And that’s a good thing.
No matter what, where, and how often you ship, understanding your options is the key to keeping shipping costs in line. If you’re interested in even more smart tips, check out our top shipping hacks! You’ll find some sure-fire strategies you can use to make fulfilling customers’ orders as easy and inexpensive as possible.
The post How To Calculate Shipping Costs For Your Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Is there anyone out there who really, really loves the process of shipping products out to buyers? The answer is no, of course. A resounding no. Shipping is expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it distracts you from more important tasks, like growing your business. And yet shipping is a necessary part of doing business. You can’t escape it, at least if you expect to run a successful company.
Is there any way to make shipping easier, cheaper, and faster? What if you could print shipping labels from your own printer, add optional services like signature requirements, and send packages out with your own letter carrier? You can, thanks to a USPS shipping service called Click-N-Ship.
Read on for more details and to see if Click-N-Ship is right for your business.
What Is Click-N-Ship?
Click-N-Ship is an all-in-one postage service offered by the United States Postal Service; it allows you to ship packages without ever leaving your business or home office. When you sign up for the program by creating a free USPS.com account, you can print labels and pay for shipping, compare shipping options and prices, schedule pickup at your location, and more. Here are some of the things the program lets you do:
Print Labels From Your Computer Or Mobile Device
It doesn’t get any easier than this. From your USPS account dashboard, select Click-N-Ship and you’ll be able to enter address and package information, then choose a service â Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. (International shipping is also available.) Once you’ve entered your credit card information, you can print your label. That’s it!
Order Free Supplies Online
If you’re shipping packages via Priority Mail, you can order boxes and envelopes online. Flat-rate service is available for packages weighing up to 70 pounds, for domestic mail. The USPS slogan is, “If it fits, it ships,” so you may be able to pack quite a lot into each box for one flat-rate fee per package.
Build Your Address Book
You can add customers’ addresses to an online address book, saving you time and reducing the possibility of errors when you make repeat shipments to the same people or businesses.
Compare Services & Prices
There’s a tool that lets you view available service options and prices to make sure you’re choosing the shipping method that makes the most sense for each package. Once you enter all the required information, you’ll see a table that lays out your options for shipping services, including delivery date and price.
Save Time By Batching Orders
If you’re shipping multiple identical packages, use the Batch Order option to print labels for up to 20 different addresses at a time.
Add Optional Services
USPS tracking and up to $50 insurance is included with every Ship-N-Click shipment, at no charge to you. You can pay to add additional insurance for the package’s true value, up to $5,000, or signature confirmation upon delivery, including restricted delivery for products that minors should not access.
Print Customs Forms
If you’re shipping internationally or to a military destination, you can print customs forms online.
Set Automatic Notifications
If you like, the system can email package recipients to let them know their items are on the way. They’ll receive the label number and your shipping date. You can even add a message to them, thanking them for their business or giving them important additional information about their purchase.
There’s also a box you can check to enable tracking notifications for you, the sender. You can choose email updates, text messages, or both, and you can choose the notifications you want from a drop-down menu that includes in-transit and delivery updates.
Schedule Free Pickup
You won’t have to leave your desk or lug packages to the post office anymore. When you use Click-N-Ship, you can schedule free pickup from your regular postal carrier, when you receive your mail delivery. There’s no additional charge for pickup.
Earn Credit With The USPS Loyalty Program
Click-N-Ship users automatically earn credits from the USPS that can be applied toward future shipping costs.
How Does Click-N-Ship Work?
Click-N-Ship is a fairly seamless process with almost everything handled automatically. After you enter a package’s destination and weight (or choose flat-rate shipping), you choose your shipping method and add-ons, then pack the box yourself. From there, the USPS does most of the work. All you have to do is choose the shipping date, then print your shipping label and wait for your regularly scheduled postal delivery person to appear, while you get back to business.
How Much Does Click-N-Ship Cost?
When you use Click-N-Ship, you can choose the type of shipping service you’ll use. Your choice will determine the price you pay. Shipping charges also are influenced by the package weight, unless you choose flat-rate shipping and use USPS-provided packaging. Of course, you don’t have to choose flat-rate shipping; you can enter your package weight, and you can also ship large packages and get a customized price for shipping your unique packages.
For demonstration and comparison purposes, let’s suppose we are shipping a flat-rate package in a small envelope (12.5″ x 9.5″), with no additional services requested, somewhere in the U.S. This allows us to ship anything that fits into the flat-rate box, as long as its total weight is 70 pounds or less. Here’s what you can expect to pay, and what your choices will get you. These prices are consistent, whether you’re shipping across your state or across the nation.
$7.75 total shipping cost
Priority Mail Express:
$26.35 total shipping cost
The USPS website lets you enter exact information for any particular package (dimensions and weight) and see valid shipping costs and delivery times based on the options you choose. So you can gain real information to help you make the best choice.
Pros & Cons of Click-N-Ship
Free to use
Easy to print labels and ship from your home or business
Pricing available upfront, so you see what you’ll pay
No special equipment needed
No volume discount available
No low-rate shipping options available
There’s a lot to like about using Click-N-Ship. Here are some of the best elements of the program:
1) It’s Free To Use
You won’t need to pay any fees to join or use Click-N-Ship.
2) It’s Easy
There’s no trick to using the online system to print labels and schedule pickup. And you don’t need any special equipment, just a computer or mobile device, an internet connection, and a printer.
3) It Puts You In Control
You get to choose delivery speed, shipping costs, and pickup date.
Of course, Click-N-Ship has a few areas for improvement too. Users may wish they could sign up for a business account that offered them discounts based on how much they ship. And if you’re looking to save on shipping costs by using media mail or book rates, you won’t find them with Click-N-Ship — although you can use your USPS.com account to access those rates. In fact, with Click-N-Ship, you pay the same rates as you would if you walked your packages into the post office and asked a postal clerk to help you. Finally, although most businesses can work around once-a-day mail pickups, if your business requires you to ship more than once a day, you may need to look for an alternative to Click-N-Ship.
Who Should Use Click-N-Ship?
Given the pros and cons of using Click-N-Ship, you may be wondering if it’s right for your business. Generally, it’s a good option for users who value convenience and reliability over bottom-line costs or for those who can take advantage of flat-rate shipping. And of course, if you regularly ship to P.O. boxes, using USPS is almost your only option.
With the ability to ship anything up to 70 pounds that will fit into one of USPS’s flat-rate boxes, you can ship anywhere in the U.S. with guaranteed one- or two-day delivery, for one flat rate, no matter what’s in the box. On the other hand, if shipping costs are eating up your budget and you need to bring costs under control, you probably should keep searching for a less expensive shipping alternative.
Top Click-N-Ship Alternatives For Businesses
If Click-N-Ship sounds right for you, visit USPS.com and get started! If you’re still on the fence, here are a few of the many other shipping options you should consider:
UPS is another major player in the shipping game, known especially for its reliability and comprehensive package tracking system. It’s often one of the most affordable options for heavy or oversize shipments, but it can be a more expensive choice. USPS offers discounted rates to select users who have a regularly scheduled UPS pickup and an agreement that includes those rates. Expect to pay a flat rate if you want UPS to pick up packages from your location vs. you dropping them off at a shipment facility.
If you’re interested in comparing costs, UPS makes available a shipping calculator that can help you determine what you’ll pay for a typical package — as well as how long you can expect delivery to take, based on your shipping choices. Keep in mind that UPS shipping varies depending not only on weight and dimensions but also on how many miles your shipment will travel.
FedEx offers services that are fairly similar to what UPS has to offer. FedEx shipping can be expensive, but you automatically qualify for discounts once you sign up for an account. Sign up for a business account, and you’ll become eligible for the FedEx rewards program too, meaning you potentially have two ways of saving money. FedEx also excels at package tracking, and Saturday delivery is available at no extra cost if you ship via FedEx Home Delivery. Like UPS, FedEx does not offer free package pickup services although you can access that option for a fee.
The price of FedEx shipping varies greatly depending upon shipping distance, package dimensions, and weight. For a basic comparison, take a look at the FedEx rates and transit times calculator.
Maybe the best solution for your small business is to stick with the good old USPS â but with an improved interface. That’s where Stamps.com comes in. It’s a shipping solution based on software that integrates with the USPS, allowing you to purchase postage and print out shipping labels wherever you do your work from. You can also use the software to schedule a pickup time with USPS, so you don’t have to interrupt your day with a drive to your local post office.
Unlike Click-N-Ship, Stamps.com is a service you’ll pay for. Plans run from $17.99 to $24.99 per month, in addition to postage costs. You can sign up for a free four-week trial. When you do, you receive $5 free postage to use during your trial, a supply kit with address and postage labels, a digital scale, and coupons you can use for postage after your trial. The best thing you’ll receive, though, is the ongoing discounts. You’ll get up to 16% off Priority Mail Express shipments, up to 40% off Priority Mail shipments, and up to 7% off international shipments, for example.
How To Choose The Best Shipping Option
Shipping may seem like a basic service, necessary to facilitating eCommerce of any kind. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution because every business has different shipping needs, products, and priorities. We have given you some tools and information you can use to understand the differences between a few readily available shipping providers that are easy to partner with. Spend a little time researching top shipping providers, sign up for free trials or programs where they’re available, and test out a couple until you find the one that delivers what you’re really after: a well-priced shipping solution and satisfied customers.
The post What Is USPS Click-N-Ship & Should Your Business Be Using It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Signing up to sell online through Square is fast, free, and easy. But is it a move you should consider making?
Square has been a game-changing player in the mobile payments arena since it was launched by Jim McKelvey and Jack Dorsey in 2009. Today, the Square application has been download more than 33 million times, making the company a POS (point of sale) giant. Since 2019, Square has been using software from online website builder Weebly to offer users an easy-to-use, all-in-one eCommerce solution called Square Online.
Whether you’re new to online sales or looking to jump from another eCommerce platform, we’ll show you how to get started with Square Online and how to make the most of your store.
What You’ll Need To Start Your Square Store Online
The one thing you won’t need when you set up a store is a credit card or any other payment method. That’s because it’s a free service, at least for starters. You can add on extras later, if you decide they’re worth paying for. To get started with Square Online, all you need is the following:
Your Business Name
Tax ID Number: You can enter this later, if you don’t have it ready
Estimated Annual Revenue: Choose from a range, if you know it, or skip this step.
How To Start An Online Store Through Square
The first thing to know about setting up an online store with Square is that it’s easy to do, even if you don’t know much about eCommerce or setting up websites. Read on to find our step-by-step instructions on how to start an online store through Square.
Sign up for Square eCommerce
When you’re ready to start, head to the Square Online signup page and press the blue button that reads Start a free online store.
You’ll be prompted to enter your name and email address, and to create a password. You’ll also be asked to check a box noting that you agree to Square’s terms, privacy policies, and e-sign consent. Be sure to click the links so you can read what you’re agreeing to. Once you enter that information, you’ll be asked to enter your business name, your tax ID number, and your estimated annual sales. All you really need to enter at this point is a business name, however; the other two items are either optional or can be entered later through your Square Dashboard.
Enter Business Information
The next page you arrive at will ask you to describe your business. The choices given are limited:
Clothing & Accessories
Specialty Shop: Retail
Specialty Shop: Food & Drink
Art, Photo, & Film
Outdoor Markets: Food & Drink
Jewelry & Watches
Hair or Beauty Salon, or Barbershop
If your business doesn’t fall into those categories, don’t worry. At the bottom of the page is a button that says I Don’t See My Business Type. When you hit that button, you will go to a new page that offers more choices, including narrow categories like Beauty and Personal Care as well as catch-alls like Retail. Select the category that most closely meets your business type, and then choose a subcategory to narrow it down further.
For example, under Home and Repair, you can choose from a wide variety of businesses, from automotive services to watch and jewelry repair.
Screenshot of Square webpage, captured 8/25/2020
Explore Products & Features
Before you can go further, Square will ask you to enter a physical address for your business, to verify your identity. Check the box if this is also your home address. After you do that, you’ll be taken to your Square Online Dashboard, where there’s a setup guide you can use to help you explore. If it doesn’t pop up automatically, look for the Tour your Dashboard option under the My Business tab at the top right. Take a look at the admin panel on the left side of your screen. This is where you’ll list products, take orders, and manage inventory and payments.
Take your time while exploring, but don’t worry if you can’t take everything in at once. You can always revisit areas where you need to spend more time.
Compared to other eCommerce platforms, the Square Online setup process definitely is more focused on payment, possibly because of Square’s origins in POS. If you want to skip the financial information for now and move on to setting up your store, you can always come back to it later.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to activate the Setup Guide, just click the green button at the top of the page to move through the steps needed to get your finances up and running. This guide covers three key areas:
Activate your account to take payments. You can verify your identity, link your bank account so you can transfer funds, and take your first payment with Square.
Set up your account.Â You’ll be able to customize the way receipts look and what they say, set up taxes for individual items or at checkout, add a business location or merge multiple locations, and explore Square’s software tools. One of those tools is the Dashboard app, which lets you manage our business through a mobile device.
Get started with Square Point of Sale.Â You can choose to order hardware and devices to take payments in person, or download an app for Android or iOS devices.
Set Up Your Store
Once you have the business end straight, it’s time for the fun part: setting up your store! From the Dashboard, click the Online button, and you’ll be able to choose from three general page types:
Single Ordering Page
Full Website Plus Ordering Page
Screenshot of Square webpage, captured 8/26/2020
If you’re not sure which page type you should choose, there’s a Help button that takes you through a list of questions about your business and makes a suggestion. Next, you’ll be asked how you plan to fulfill orders: by shipping, by customer pickup, or by delivery. You can choose more than one, or you can skip for now if you’re not sure.
Next, you can access several Setup Guides that will help you design your website, add products, and connect a domain. When you choose website design, you get your first look at the page Square Online suggests for you. You may or may not like what you see, but don’t worry — it’s meant to be customized. And although your choices are limited, compared to other eCommerce platforms, it’s very easy to change the look of your Square Online webpage using the Page Sections choices on the left side of your screen.
Screenshot of Square webpage, captured 8/26/2020
For example, if you click the Header edit button, you can change the layout, logo, navigation options, action button, cart and search icon, and the overall section style. You will still have the same general layout, but you should put your personal touch and your own business message on it. It’s easy to use, though not as flexible as the drag-and-drop editing available on other website builders. Take your time filling in all the available fields, as this will be your main point of contact with potential customers.
Add Items For Sale
Once you have tinkered with the look of your webpage and improved its functionality to meet your needs, it’s time to add products to sell. Near the top of the dashboard, you’ll see a blue button that says Add. Click on that to access a dropdown menu that includes Item, and you can start to build your store’s inventory.
Screenshot of Square webpage, captured 8/26/2020
You can add a physical item, prepared food or drink, donation, event, or membership. Just pick the right item type, then add an item title and its price. You should include a description of your item, including materials, origin, special details, size, and specifications. Add images and check the right box to indicate how you’ll fulfill orders, including shipping, in-store pickup, or local delivery. That’s all it takes! Repeat as necessary until your store is ready to take live.
Take Your Store Online
You should see a blue button near the top right of your screen that says Publish. When you push that, your site will be live and ready for shoppers to visit. It’s probably a good idea to Preview your site first, though. There’s a button for that just to the left of the Publish button.
Square will assign you an automatic domain name that probably will read Your-Store-Name.square.site. Fortunately, you’re given an option immediately to improve on that no-frills URL. You can link to a domain you already own or, if you want to upgrade to a paid plan, you can build your brand with a professional web address. It’s worth noting that all Square Online plans, including the free one, include a shopping cart, inventory management, tax calculator, coupon codes, and gift cards, and allow you to accept payments through Square. If you’re interested in adding a paid plan, you’ll add features to that list.
Tips For Selling With Square
That’s all it takes to build a basic website for eCommerce using a Square Online store. Of course, if you want to make the most of your site, you have a few more items on your to-do list.
Look Into Paid Plans
There’s absolutely nothing wrong â and many things right! â with using the free option for your Square Online store. However, once you’ve gotten to know the site and perhaps solidified your eCommerce goals, there’s nothing wrong, either, with taking a look at what paying for a plan can get you. Square Online paid plans run from $12 to $72 per month when billed annually.
Screenshot of Square page, captured 8/26/2020
What do you gain for that cash outlay? The first bump-up in service means you can publish to a custom domain, use custom fonts on your page, and ditch the Square branding and ads on your store. For $26, you add the ability to accept PayPal payments, integrate shipping apps, and email to recover abandoned shopping carts. The top-tier plan lowers your transaction fees, delivers shipping rate discounts, and gives you a tool to calculate shipping rates more accurately.
The free plan gives you more than what you need to set up a basic store. As your sales and your goals increase, you may want to upgrade.
Upgrade Your Product Photos
When customers shop online, they can’t actually see or touch the items you have for sale. All they have to rely on as they make buying decisions is an image on their screen. So it’s important to have high-quality images that show off your products in the best light. Square Online offers an interesting feature called Photo Studio. Find it through your admin, and you’ll have a chance to order professional product photos at a low price. At just $9.95 for three multi-angle, high-resolution photos optimized for eCommerce, or $29.95 for an interactive 360-degree image, it could be an investment that pays you back with increased sales.
Connect With Customers
Square Marketing helps you send out a one-time or automated marketing email campaign. You can send out a discount code to first-time buyers who left without placing an order, for example, or make a special offer to previous buyers who haven’t visited in a while. You can also ask for customers’ birthdays and then send them a special offer on their special day. If you’re active on Facebook, or if you’d like to build your presence there, you can send customers a link and ask them to leave feedback on your Facebook page. You can customize Square’s campaign templates with your branding elements or product photos to help you meet your marketing goals.
Play Around With Pop-Ups
From the Marketing tab on the admin, you can build a pop-up ad that grabs customers’ attention. There are templates you can customize for collecting email addresses, offering coupons, making announcements, or verifying shoppers’ age, if you’re selling age-restricted products. It’s an easy process, with help if you need it. Don’t overdo the popups, as customers often find them annoying. However, since they’re easy and free to add, it’s worth experimenting with them to see if you can use popups to increase sales or meet marketing goals.
Confirm Payment Options
Your Square Online store comes equipped to handle Square transactions. You don’t need to add a third-party payment gateway. You’re even set up to accept Square gift cards. If you look under the Checkout tab on your admin, you’ll see two other options: Accept Apple Pay and Accept Google Pay. You can decide whether or not you want to add either or both of those options. Don’t overlook the fact that you’ll be charged fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. If you want to accept PayPal, you’ll need to upgrade to the Performance plan, at $26 per month. Again, it’s fine to stick with the free plan for now and revisit your options when sales start coming in.
Getting Your Square Online Store Up & Running
Square Online offers an all-in-one solution that allows small businesses to jump into eCommerce with no cash upfront and very little ongoing financial investment. Especially if you’re already using Square to process payments, a Square Online store will help you to quickly bring your products to the wide world of online selling. Great things await you there, so get started!
The post How To Create An Online Store Through Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
More than 2.5 million people are making money selling handmade items and designs, vintage items, and crafting tools and material on Etsy. Are you ready to join them and bring your products onto this thriving online marketplace?
While there are other online marketplaces catering to vendors of handmade goods, Etsy remains a top platform â and for good reason. It’s easy to sign up for Etsy, and Etsy provides a supportive community of artists and artisans that has drawn in more than 45 million active buyers since 2012. This article will share step-by-step instructions for setting up an Etsy shop and give you some tips you can use to start selling.
If you’re ready to jump into eCommerce via Etsy, read on!
How Much Does It Cost To Sell On Etsy?
While it’s free to join Etsy, everyone who sells there incurs some costs. Each product listing will cost you $0.20, and when you sell an item Etsy takes a 5% transaction fee on the item’s cost as well as on shipping costs. If you use Etsy Payments, you can expect to pay transaction fees of 3% plus $0.25 when items sell. (If you use a different payment gateway, you’ll owe transaction fees to them.)
If you want to upgrade from the free Standard Plan, you can move to the Plus Plan for $10 per month. You’ll gain some advanced features for that price, and some credits and discounts you may find appealing. Etsy fees sometimes change or increase, so you’ll want to stay on top of the latest information about Etsy pricing.
What You’ll Need To Start Your Etsy Shop
It’s easy to get your Etsy store up and running, even if you don’t have much experience with eCommerce or coding. Before you log on to the site, though, you’ll want to gather some information, including the following:
Your bank routing and account numbers
Credit card to leave on file for fees
You won’t need to enter all this information right away, so hold onto it while you get ready to launch. Follow the steps listed in the next section, below.
How To Start An Etsy Shop
Once you’ve decided to set up an online store through Etsy, you’ll find it’s an easy process. The first thing you need to do is sign in to your Etsy account. If you don’t have an Etsy account already, create one. Then follow these steps that show you how to set up your online store through Etsy.
Sign Up To Sell On Etsy
On the Etsy page, right next to the search bar, you’ll see the words “Sell on Etsy.” Click on that link, and you’ll have taken the first step toward becoming an Etsy vendor.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/21/2020
That link takes you to a new page with information about Etsy. Take some time to explore the links you’ll see, and you’ll learn about:
Once you’ve made your way around the page, click on the black button at the bottom, the one that says Open your Etsy shop.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/21/2020
When you click that link, you’ll be taken to a new screen, where you’ll be asked to enter some basic information, including your country of operation and whether selling is a full-time or part-time gig for you.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
Create Your Etsy Shop
When you press Save and continue, you’ll be asked to enter a name for your Etsy shop. That name can include only unaccented Roman letters, with no spaces. Be aware that it’s highly likely that your first choice of name will be already taken by an existing Etsy user. Fortunately, Etsy has a handy name generator that will take your first choice and generate closely related suggestions for alternative names that are available. For example, I tried to claim the store name “KatesCorner.” That not-so-original name was taken, but I could see that KatesCornerUS was available, among other names suggested. If you see one you like, type it into the name box exactly as it appears, then hit Save and continue.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
Add Products To Your Etsy Shop
The next step is to add products. When you add a new listing, you’ll be allowed to upload as many as 10 images. There are even helpful suggestions for how to take and choose the best photos. You can perform basic photo editing on the site, though you probably have better editing tools on your computer already.
Screengrab of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
You’ll be prompted to enter more information about each item, including a listing title that includes keywords buyers can search for. You’ll also be asked who made the item. Be aware that Etsy allows listings for handmade items only if they were made by you or by a production partner whom you will have to identify in your About section. The only exceptions include certain vintage items that are at least 20 years old and craft supplies. Etsy members can flag listings that appear to violate listing policies, and if your listing is flagged it may be removed. Your listing fees will not be returned.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
As you enter your product information, take special note of the Renewal options. The default is Automatic, meaning the listing will renew after a four-month period, if it hasn’t already sold. Your account will be charged the $0.20 listing fee each time the item renews. You can change the option to Manual, and renew expired listing yourself if they don’t sell within the four-month listing window.
You’ll also be prompted to enter Tags, the words that will show up first when users search for items like yours. You can enter your own tags to describe your item’s shape, color, style, function, and so on, or you can ask the Etsy system to make suggestions. If you’re unfamiliar with tags and other SEO terms, spend a little time reading up on them to improve your listings.
Price Your Items
Before you’re done listing items, you’ll need to assign a price to each. Etsy offers some helpful suggestions that can help you assign a fair price, including shipping and the cost of materials and labor. Once you decide on a price, enter it, and then enter how many of that item you have available. Again, note that you will be charged a new listing fee of $0.20 for each unit as it relists after a sale.
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
Set Your Shipping Prices & Policies
Before you publish a listing, you’ll need to think about how you’ll deliver items to buyers. You can leave it to Etsy to calculate the shipping charges, or you can decide to set fixed price shipping fees for each item. If you choose the Etsy option, your buyers will see shipping costs based on their location and the information you enter for each item including product weight and dimensions when packed for shipping. You can set a custom shipping profile for each item you’re listing, once you decide:
Where and how you’ll ship
Will you offer free shipping
Will you charge handling fees
Screenshot of Etsy webpage, captured 8/24/2020
Note that you can choose to ship worldwide. Etsy will calculate international shipping fees for you and take care of the details of international shipping, including customs paperwork.
Take Care Of The Financial Details
The best part about selling on Etsy? Getting paid! But before you can do that, you’ll need to enter some financial information:
Your full name
Type of account
Routing and account number
Date of birth
Social Security number
You’ll be asked to enter credit card information, as well. Etsy costs, such as listing fees, will be charged to the card you enter. After you enter card information, you’ll be ready to open your shop.
How To Sell On Etsy Now That Your Shop Is Up
You’ve created product listings and entered your financial information.
You could sit back and wait for the sales to start rolling in. But there’s a better way. Take these steps to make sure your Etsy shop is primed for success.
Step 1: Build Your Customer Base
Step 2: Manage Your Listings
If you’ve done everything right, the items you’ve listed will fly off your shelves. If you haven’t done everything right, don’t worry! Any kind of marketing or sales involves trial and tweaking. If you’re not seeing the sales you like, revisit the language you used in the listings. Research competitors on Etsy and elsewhere. How do they describe their products, and how can you use what you see on their pages to improve your own? Look at other elements, too, like price and delivery time. If your numbers are noticeably higher, you may need to lower your price and speed up your production in order to become competitive.
Step 3: Build Your Profile
While Etsy walks you through the process of listing items and posting them for sale, one thing is left out of the process: introducing yourself and your store to customers. Fortunately, it’s easy to do that once you’re up and selling. From the admin panel, under the heading Sales Channels, click on the edit button to the right. From there you can add a title for your shop, put in your location, add a profile photo for yourself and/or your shop, and add a banner photo. You can upload one video and up to five photos, giving you a chance to introduce yourself to shoppers and show them how you create your unique items. You can also list a tagline or slogan. Don’t forget to link to your website and social media pages too.
Step 4: Analyze The Data
From the Etsy home page, you should be able to see a Shop Manager link at the top, to the right of the search bar. Click on that to go to your shop’s admin. This is where you can manage all aspects of your shop, from listings to customers, and more. In the admin panel, there’s a link for Stats, and if you click on that you’ll see a lot of very useful information about who is finding your page and how. You’ll be able to see overall sales performance as well as how individual listings are performing. You can use this information to target your marketing efforts and to tweak your listings to attract more views and more sales.
Step 5: Activate Other Channels
Etsy isn’t the only channel you can use to funnel shoppers into your store. Think about connecting all your social media pages, too. From the admin panel, click on Marketing, then choose Social Media. You’ll be guided through the steps of creating a post to boost one of your listings, and the Etsy system will generate a link to your listing that makes it easy for buyers to find you. It’s easy to link your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram pages.
Step 6: Stay On Top Of Service Issues
Once the orders start rolling in, it’s finally time to celebrate and relax.
Or is it?
As customers place orders, you’ll need to stay on top of any service issues that arise. Use your admin panel to track orders, including any that are canceled or returned. Remember, while you will not be allowed to contact customers outside of the Etsy sales process, you can communicate with them and do your best to ensure a successful sale that leaves them satisfied â and likely to recommend you or return to shop again.
Step 7: Keep An Eye On The Competition
Whatever you’re listing on Etsy, it’s highly likely that you’re not the only one offering it for sale. So pay attention to what your Etsy competitors are doing. Etsy doesn’t allow direct copying of other vendors, but you can see what they’re doing to make their products stand out. Maybe they’re offering customization options that you could consider adding to your listings, or perhaps they are charging less (or more) than you are and enjoying greater sales. Put regular “window shopping” on your Etsy to-do list, and you just might find ways to make your shop and your sales better.
Go Forth & Launch Your Etsy Empire!
It’s hard to find perfection, and Etsy won’t be the right platform for every seller. However, it’s hard to argue with a strategy that made possible nearly $4.975 million in sales last year. If you’re making a killer product that you can’t wait to share with the world, do your research, and then don’t hesitate to jump in and start selling on Etsy.
The post How To Set Up An Etsy Shop & Start Selling appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
When you’re thinking of getting into eCommerce, or if it’s time to expand your online sales presence, you probably have realized that you have many choices of shopping cart platforms. Each of them has something to offer your eCommerce business, but at the same time, each seems a little … small. If that sounds like you, it may be time to take a long look at a different eCommerce solution: Shopify Plus.
In this article, we’ll help you dig into Shopify Plus, giving you the key information you need, including:
How much does it cost?
Is it right for your business?
How does it work?
How can you make the right decision on Shopify Plus?
If you’re part of a large and growing online business, looking for an eCommerce solution that can support your company’s robust growth and ever-increasing sales, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Shopify Plus.
What Is Shopify Plus?
Shopify Plus is a fully hosted, cloud-based eCommerce platform aimed at high-volume merchants who anticipate large amounts of both traffic and sales. It’s fast — delivering unlimited bandwidth that can handle up to 3 million visitors per second and 10,978 orders per minute, with 99.99% uptime. And it’s appropriate for merchants selling direct to consumers, with products shipped or picked up in-store, as well as for those selling to wholesale customers.
With Shopify Plus, you can sell in 175 countries using 20 languages. And it promises multichannel selling that brings your products to wherever your customers want to shop — including Facebook, Snapchat, Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, GooglePlus, Instagram, and more. You can set up your site to accept payment from 100 different providers, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Shopify Payments.
Flow lets you automate tasks, by building a library of templates and workflows to manage customers’ experiences, inventory, merchandising, and more.
Launchpad lets you pre-plan, schedule, coordinate, and execute eCommerce events.
Don’t worry that all those customization choices will slow you down, though. Shopify Plus prides itself on ease of use and fast development. Recently, new customer Lindt, the chocolate purveyor, decided to open its first-ever eCommerce store, due to customers’ changing habits in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lindt’s Shopify Plus store opened in just five days.
Shopify VS Shopify Plus
Shopify is known as an easy-to-use, relatively agile platform. So is Shopify Plus. So when it comes down to Shopify VS Shopify Plus, how do you know which is the right choice for you? The two services work in essentially the same way, using the same dashboard. But there are some big differences between them. Let’s take a look:
From startups to established sellers, Shopify provides solutions for all sizes of eCommerce businesses. Shopify Plus takes aim at the very highest level. It’s an enterprise-level platform that features scalability as a primary advantage. Shopify Plus promise unlimited extensibility, integrations, and customization through Shopify’s own apps as well as partner apps.
Shopify Plus also appeals to companies doing global business with the ability to create a total of 10 stores, allowing for true global reach. And where the range of Shopify plans allows anywhere from two staff members to 15, Shopify Plus allows unlimited staff permissions.
With Shopify, you can choose from a range of popular plans priced from $29 to $299 per month. There’s also a Lite plan, priced at $9 per month which doesn’t include a web store but gives you basic options for online sales. Those plans all include transaction fees on top of the subscription price, ranging from 2% of each sale, on the Basic plan, to 0.5% of each sale on the Advanced plan. That’s in addition to fees charged by your Gateway processor. You can avoid the transaction fees by using Shopify Payments. Some users have reported difficulty in being approved for Shopify Payments participation. When you use Shopify Payments, you won’t be charged a straight transaction fee, though you’ll still be charged credit card processing fees ranging from 2.9% plus $0.30 to 2.4% plus $0.30 per transaction, depending on your plan level.
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/20/2020
When you upgrade to Shopify Plus, it’s no surprise that your monthly fees rise accordingly. The Shopify Plus plan starts at $2,000 per month for standard setups and integrations. For those with complex needs and a high volume of business, the monthly fee will vary depending on your requirements and what level of support you need to get up and running. Your plan comes with a “launch engineer” who can connect you with developers and designers to customize your site if you are not interested in doing that on your own.
As far as transaction fees, you’ll pay none on the Shopify Plus plan, if you use Shopify Payments. If you use a third-party payment processor, you’ll pay $0.15 per transaction, which Shopify says goes to pay for the costs of additional security requirements, maintaining PCI compliance, and protecting data integrity for users on both ends of the transaction.
Any Shopify plan offers an impressive amount of features, including unlimited bandwidth and storage, staff accounts, POS, analytics, financial reports, analytics, customer support, and many more. As the top-tier plan, Shopify Plus includes all of those and then goes beyond.
For example, when you set up a Shopify store, you can choose from more than 100 themes, including 11 that are free. You can purchase one of the others for up $180. Every Shopify plan allows you to add up to 20 themes per account. When you upgrade to Shopify Plus, you are allowed up to 100 themes.
In addition, Shopify Plus offers its merchants exclusive access to these tools:
Wholesale Channel: Sell direct to businesses
Shopify Flow: Create automations
Launchpad: Schedule, coordinate and execute events such as sales, product drops, and restocks
Script Editor: Coding that lets you personalize transactions for customers
Transporter App: Import customers, products, and order records into your store
Bulk Account Inviter: Invite customers to activate their accounts after you import customer accounts from another platform or store
GiftCard: Alternate payment method
Multipass: Direct customers from your website to your Shopify Plus store with a seamless login
User: Manage staff accounts
All levels of Shopify service offer support for customers, including by phone, email, live chat, written help library, video tutorials, webinars, and a community forum. That means that when something goes wrong, or you have questions, usually you can find an answer without shelling out a lot of money for it.
Shopify Plus offers an even higher level of support and includes an Academy that features educational content tailored for your needs with online courses. You’ll even get a consultant to help you decide if you’re a good candidate for Shopify Plus, including assessing your needs and identifying opportunities for growth. A “solutions engineer” will continue working with you to ensure your store set-up and integration goes smoothly. And of course, as mentioned above, you’ll work with a “launch engineer” to help you migrate data and set up your store, including international storefronts and custom checkouts.
What Can You Sell on Shopify Plus?
With 5,300 merchants selling online through Shopify Plus, it’s already a vast yet still growing platform that specializes in five broad categories of products:
Beauty & Cosmetics
Fashion & Apparel
Food & Beverage
Among the biggest names using Shopify Plus, you’ll find a huge variety. From Unilever to Kylie, from Rollie Nation to The Cambridge Satchel Company, from Heinz to Death Wish Coffee, from Magnolia Market to International Military Antiques, there’s no one “mold” that fits all merchants that find a home with Shopify Plus. What many of them share in common is high sales volume, international reach, and a desire for an online sales platform that’s ready to grow with them.
How Does Shopify Plus Work?
Like Shopify, Shopify Plus is an all-inclusive online selling platform that lets you create and develop an online store that you can use to promote, sell, and ship your products. Shopify Plus is designed specifically for high-volume sellers. It’s a cloud-based, fully hosted SaaS (software as a service) shopping cart solution.
Shopify typically offers an impressive array of features and available add-ons. Shopify Plus matches that list and goes further with included offerings like these:
Shopify Admin: Manage all your organization’s stores from a single location.
Apps Designed For High-Growth Merchants
Customizable Checkout: Control your branding.
Advanced API: Integrate with custom apps using an application programming interface.
Merchant Success Program: A dedicated liaison will help you get the most value out of Shopify Plus.
Launch Engineer: You’ll be online faster when you have help with third-party integrations and finding development and design partners.
Unlimited Staff Accounts: Grow your business without worrying about incurring extra costs as you expand.
Expansion Stores: Add up to nine stores for international sales, physical locations, or other needs.
Shopify Plus Academy: Access self-guided training to help you grow your business.
Additional Themes: Add up to 100 themes, allowing you to test new themes, maintain seasonal variations, and more.
Wholesale Channel: Create a separate, password-protected store for wholesale customers.
The Benefits Of Shopify Plus
Without a dedicated team of experts, designing and maintaining a website is a challenge â and even with an expensive team on staff or on speed dial, it’s a labor and time-intensive proposition — especially when your business is growing and expanding. Shopify Plus takes over a lot of the burden, managing the mechanics of your eCommerce website and freeing you to market and sell your products. And like all Shopify stores, a Shopify Plus store includes secure, reliable site hosting. You won’t have to worry about your site crashing or hackers hijacking your data: Shopify Plus supports stores that can handle nearly 11,000 orders per minute and boasts 99.99% uptime.
Additionally, Shopify Plus offers a personalized level of support that could help you take your business to the next level. When you’re focused on expansion and growth, you will appreciate all the help you can get. Shopify Plus’s help features a dedicated support staff; that means you’ll have the help you need to put your eCommerce vision into action.
Shopify Plus Pros
Personalized service and support
Speed and reliability
Exclusive access to management tools
Multichannel, multi-store, and international sales
Wholesale eCommerce possibilities
The Drawbacks Of Shopify Plus
The majority of user reviews of Shopify Plus are positive. Some common complaints are the cost. Plans start at $2,000 per month, but you’ll likely receive a custom quote that’s higher, based on your needs. Users who switched from other premium platforms were generally positive about the cost of Shopify Plus.
Other users complained that common add-ons can slow site performance, although no specific apps were mentioned. Not every user expressed satisfaction with their customer service support. It may be that Shopify Plus is experiencing some growing pains of its own as more eCommerce vendors sign up for its services.
Shopify Plus Cons
High price point
Customizing is necessary but can be difficult
Can be difficult to manage in-house
Who Should Use Shopify Plus?
Shopify Plus offers a good solution for merchants who are selling â or who hope to be selling â at high volume online and especially for those selling at high volume internationally. Shopify Plus merchants generate between $1 million and $500 million or more in annual sales, and they experience an average of 126% yearly growth.
When Should You Use Shopify Instead?
With monthly fees starting at $2,000, no matter how ambitious your plans for growth, if you’re not already selling at high volume, you should not rush to sign up for Shopify Plus right now. You can opt for a lower-level Shopify plan and upgrade when you’re ready. Even the most expensive plan below plus, the Advance plan at $299 per month, would offer significant savings over the Plus plan. That’s money you can set aside until you can really benefit from the advanced features and capabilities that Shopify Plus will deliver.
How To Get Started With Shopify Plus
If Shopify Plus sounds like the right solution for your eCommerce needs, you can request contact from a member of the Shopify Plus team. You’ll have to enter some basic information, like your name, your business email, your company name, and business URL. You’ll also be asked to select the country where your operations are based as well as your annual revenue range. You can also click a button to chat now with a salesperson.
The Bottom Line
Shopify Plus is fast, it’s flexible, and it comes with a price tag that may put it beyond the reach of many smaller eCommerce merchants. For companies that need what Shopify Plus has to offer, the price may be well worth it. On the other hand, if you’re not quite at that level yet, knowing how Shopify Plus can help you improve your sales and your business practices may just motivate you to reach the next level.
The post What Is Shopify Plus? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
With more than 1.6 billion daily users, Facebook can seem like a ripe opportunity for doing business. The question is, will Facebook be a good platform for your small business? Whether you’re planning to start your first online store, you’re ready to expand your eCommerce business, or you just want to make it easy for friends and family to purchase directly from you, Facebook offers options for merchants of all kinds.
If you’re ready to tap into Facebook’s sales potential, this article will show you how.
How To Sell On Facebook
There are three main eCommerce channels on Facebook:
Direct sales from your page
We’ll cover each of them, so you can decide which is right for your business. You may be thinking of one more way Facebook allows sales: Facebook Marketplace. Because the Marketplace operates essentially as a spot for online classified ads, rather than ongoing eCommerce, it won’t be included in this guide to selling on Facebook.
How Much Does It Cost To Sell On Facebook?
You have choices when it comes to selling on Facebook, and the price you will pay depends on which option you choose and which payment methods you accept for orders. We’ll go deeper into the costs associated with each method, below. But here’s an overview:
Free to add to your Facebook account
No listing fees
5% transaction fee or a flat fee of $0.40 per transaction of $8 or less
Fees include taxes and payment processing
Payout occurs in 8-10 business days
No cost to add Facebook through your Shopify admin
Can add Buy Button using $9/month Shopify plan, instead of paying for a full store
Shopify transaction fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 apply
List products on your personal or business Facebook page
Manage inventory, delivery on your own
Choose your payment method based on fees charged. You can choose Facebook Pay, with no fees, or accept payments via Facebook Messenger from friends and family who enter a bank-issued debit card or PayPal account. You also can take orders on your page and arrange for payment via cash, check, or a free service like Venmo or Zelle.
Now that you have an overview of the options and their prices, let’s dive deeper into each method of selling on Facebook.
How To Use Facebook Shops
In May 2020, Facebook launched its Shop feature that allows eCommerce operations on both Facebook and Instagram. It’s easy to set up a Shop through a business page, especially if you’re already used to navigating your way around the social media site. If you have only a personal page right now, you’ll want to set up a business page, which is free to add.
What Is A Facebook Shop?
Adding a Facebook Shop is as simple as adding a “buy now” option to a business page. It’s a seamless way to add eCommerce to an existing social media account or to easily transfer online friends and family to your eCommerce site.
A Facebook Shop is a great way to enter the eCommerce market or to bolster existing sales. According to Statista, buying via social media is on the rise, with more than a quarter of U.S. consumers aged 25 to 44 regularly using “Shop Now” buttons on Facebook to make purchases. Those numbers dropped slightly among consumers aged 18-24 and 45-54, to 18% and 15%, respectively, with that number falling to 11% among those 55 and up. Still, if your target audience is between 18 and 54, a solid percentage of them already are using Facebook to buy. A Facebook Shop gives you a vehicle for reaching them.
How To Set Up A Facebook Shop
When you’re ready to set up your Facebook Shop, open your business page — if you already have one. If you don’t, it’s easy to create one from your personal Facebook page. Just click on the Create button located near the top right of your personal page.
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
From there, select the type of page you want to create. Most likely, you’ll choose the Business option.
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
Next, you’ll have the opportunity to upload a profile picture and cover photo for your page. Don’t worry if you don’t have those picked out already because you can add them later. Once you have created your business page, look for the blue box that reads +Add a Button. It’s underneath your cover photo, on the right side of the screen. When you click that button, you’ll see a range of options, including on that says “Shop with you.” Click the option that reads “Show Now.”
Screenshot of Facebook, captured 8/18/2020
When you do that, you’ll have a choice to make: You could direct customers to an external website to do their shopping, or you can set up your own Facebook Shop right there.
Let’s assume you’ll use the Facebook Shop option. Here are the steps you’ll take.
Set Up Your Shop
Under your business page’s cover photo and title, you’ll see a row of options, including Home, Services, Reviews, and then Shop. Click on Shop to access Facebook’s Commerce Manager. After you access Facebook’s Commerce Manager, you’ll be able to choose how you want customers to complete purchases from your Facebook store page. For this demonstration, we will be choosing Checkout on Facebook or Instagram. Click that option, then press the Get Started button.
Screenshot of Facebook Shop, captured 8/18/2020
Create Your Product Catalog
What products do you want to add to your Facebook Shop? You can access Facebook Shops’ Catalog Manager and create a catalog of products from this tab. Just click, the blue button that reads Add Products and follow the prompts from there to add items manually, use a bulk upload, or use a pixel, depending on how many products you have to add and how quickly you want to add them.
Screenshot of Facebook Shop, captured 8/18/2020
Use the admin to add images, listing titles and descriptions, SKUs or other identifiers, and link to an external web page where users can find more information about the products, if they want to. You’ll also want to list a price for each item.
Gather Your Information and Records
Before you can go any further in setting up your store, you’ll need a few pieces of information:
A U.S.-based bank account and routing number
Tax and payment information
Preferences and policies for your shop
Your business name
Set Basic Business Policies
You’ll need to decide on a few policies before you can open your Facebook Shop for business. What shipping methods do you want to offer, and how much will you charge? Will you set a threshold for free shipping? Keep in mind that you’ll be expected to ship products within three days of orders.
You’ll also need to set return policies. Facebook requires a minimum return window of 30 days from delivery. Don’t worry too much at this point: You can always come back and make changes later. You will also need to enter an email where customers can reach you with service needs.
Once you have products entered, you’re ready to start selling. If you chose to use the Checkout option for payment, Facebook will take care of most of the finances for you — including taking payments and calculating sales tax automatically — based on where items ship from and to. You can keep track of payments due to you through the Payouts tab on the admin, under Orders, and you can expect Checkout payments to show up in your bank account three to five days after the payout date.
Keep exploring the admin page to learn how to view sales analytics, print shipping labels, and more. Facebook will offer some helpful advice about how to place ads to draw attention to your business page. If your budget allows, that can be a good strategy for drawing traffic.
How To Use A Shopify Facebook Store
The familiar Facebook platform may feel very comfortable, and you may already have a huge Facebook following that’s ready to purchase from you. Those are two huge benefits to selling on Facebook, but it’s important to note that Facebook is at heart a social media platform, and while it’s definitely possible to sell there, you may find some aspects lacking.
Most notably, Facebook Shops do not incorporate inventory tracking. So if you’re selling from a large or complicated catalog, you may find you’re looking for more help than is available on Facebook. Never fear, there’s a solution. You can jump into Facebook selling simply by adding the Facebook sales channel to your Shopify store. If you don’t already have a Shopify store, it’s easy to set one up. And once you link your Shopify store to Facebook for sales, you’ll find that Shopify features like analytics, customer rolls, and your products all are available to use on Facebook and Instagram.
Shopify lets you create one integrated product catalog for Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Shop. Simply add the Facebook Sales Channel app to your Shopify store, and you can start selling on Facebook right away.
Linking your Shopify store to your Facebook account makes sense when you have an established Shopify store and you’re interested in growing your sales. It’s also a smart way to build a strong eCommerce store when you’re starting from scratch. After all, why not tap into your Facebook following for additional sales, when Shopify makes it so easy? You’ll also find that Shopify can support you in spreading out to other social media channels, such as Etsy, Amazon, or eBay.
How To Sell On Facebook With PayPal Or Facebook Pay
So, you’ve read about Facebook Shops and Shopify’s Facebook Integration, but maybe neither option sounds quite like what you’re looking for. Maybe you’re someone who is looking for a more low-key entree into eCommerce, anticipating lower sales volume and less traffic. Is there still a home for your store on Facebook? Absolutely!
While some sellers will want a full-on Facebook store, others may find eCommerce success by simply posting about what you have to offer on your personal or business Facebook page. For example, you could post an image of the items you have available, and invite your followers to add a comment if they are interested in purchasing something from you. In that case, you might arrange payment electronically, via a Facebook Pay, Venmo, or PayPal request before you ship items â or even arrange to meet in person to exchange payment for the items. You can even arrange payment via Facebook Messenger if both you and your customer have added a debit card to your accounts.
That’s a good approach for vendors anticipating low sales volume and/or highly customized items, especially if you have a large Facebook following. Keeping it simple makes sense for some sellers. You’ll still find a large and receptive audience on Facebook, you can change your approach whenever you’re ready to expand your sales, and you won’t unnecessarily (or expensively) complicate your sales process any more than you need to, for now.
Tips For Selling On Facebook
Facebook represents an enormous potential customer pool. And you may already be using the social media site to connect with many of those potential buyers. So it makes perfect sense to make it official and start using Facebook for your eCommerce efforts. We’ve described three ways of doing that. No matter which method you choose, you will want to use some similar tactics in your sales process.
Build A Loyal Customer Base
You’ll find that Facebook sales come easily when you have a receptive audience. So keep them engaged by posting frequently. That doesn’t necessarily mean multiple times a day, but it also doesn’t mean you should post only when you have something to sell. Post engaging content frequently, and you’ll build a community that’s receptive to your sales offers.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
Make it as easy as you can for customers to purchase from you. That means letting them pay for items in whatever way is most convenient for them. Fortunately, when you’re selling on Facebook that’s easy to do. From Facebook’s Checkout and Messenger payments to PayPal, Stripe, Venmo, and cash or check, you can offer a few options and find out your customers’ preferences.
The best part about selling on Facebook? It’s free! You won’t pay anything to list items for sale, and you don’t have to worry about limitations on how many images you can post. So be sure to include high-quality visuals of everything you list for sale. Show items from multiple angles, show them being used, show optional customization, and different choices like color or style.
Make Special Offers
No matter how successful you are at using Facebook for eCommerce, it is, at its core, a social media site. So you should work to create connections between your followers. One way to do that is by treating them as special. Make Facebook-only offers, like free shipping or free customization on items. Encourage them to share your special offers with their own followers too, and you will build your online community â and your sales.
If you’re selling on platforms other than Facebook, or if you do in-person sales as well, let your followers know about those other venues. If you’re a small vendor who makes appearances at local marketplaces, for example, post the dates and times when you will be offering in-person sales. Let your Facebook followers know how to find you live, and offer them something special, like a sample or a discount, if they visit you in person. Post links to your Facebook account on your website and on other social media sites. Meet your customers wherever they happen to be, make it easy to buy from you, and you’ll draw in more sales.
Build Traffic Through Shares
You can pay for an advertising campaign on Facebook, and that may be an effective use of your marketing dollars. If your budget’s a bit thin, or if you just want to try your luck with a free tactic, post content that your followers are likely to share. What type of content is most likely to be shared? According to Statista, native video generates the most likes, comments and shares on Facebook, followed closely by native photos. So, upload a video of your product in use, or of you creating your product, if you’re an artisan. That’s the best way to engage your followers and encourage them to share — which builds awareness and draws others to your site.
Using Facebook For Your Business
Facebook is the biggest social network platform in the world with billions of users. How many of them would be interested in buying from you if they knew your product and how to reach you? With its vast reach, combined with its low cost of entry, Facebook can be a tempting venue for eCommerce businesses of all sizes and types.
A Facebook store is easy to set up, and if you’re using a shopping cart platform already, adding a Facebook channel might be even easier. What’s stopping you from giving it a try? You have very little to lose and nothing but sales to gain.
The post The Business Owner’s Guide To Selling On Facebook appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
You’ve got a dynamite online store and unbeatable products that should be flying off the virtual shelf. So why aren’t customers flocking to your website to buy?
You probably designed your website with your customers in mind, making it easy for them to find what they need, once they make their way to your store. But if you stopped there, that may be the source of the problem. Even the best online store will go nowhere if your ideal customers aren’t able to find you, and that’s where SEO comes in.
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which sounds pretty technical. Fortunately, it’s not that complicated, although there is an art to getting it right.
Every eCommerce seller needs to know at least the basics of SEO so that you can help put your brand and your products in front of the right customers to increase your sales. That’s where this guide comes in. It’s a beginner’s guide to eCommerce SEO â for people who know that SEO matters but don’t really know where to begin. Keep reading, and we’ll walk you through the basics, so you start feeling comfortable tackling the first steps of adding SEO to your website.
What Is SEO?
Customers who have your store’s URL, or web address, can type it into their browsers and visit your store easily. For customers that already know about you and want to buy from you, SEO doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s the potential customers, those who will open their browser to a search engine such as Google and type something along the lines of “Where can I buy (your product)”â those are the ones you can guide to your online store through the skillful use of SEO.
Think about it like this: Google executes an estimated 63,000 searches every second of every day, according to Internet Live Stats. Those searches are based on information Google organizes in a search index and sorts with complex and secret algorithms. Google says that its search index contains hundreds of billions of web pages, and it’s big: over 100 million gigabytes. The index has an entry for every word on every webpage indexed, and those entries are what Google sorts through in deciding how to present answers to users’ search queries. If your site contains the right words, among other factors, you’re more likely to show up in search results.
Why SEO Matters For Your eCommerce Store
SEO is a modern-day marketing technique. In the old days, you might have put an ad in the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper. Today, instead of designing print ads, you can drive traffic to your store by developing your site with SEO in mind. SEO is so vital to business success today that US companies will spend an estimated $79 billion on SEO marketing in 2020, according to Statista. Here’s why companies are willing to invest that kind of money:
SEO Can Be Free
When you place an ad, whether it’s in print or online, you’re paying for a service. When you learn to use SEO techniques to draw more customers to your online store, that’s known as building “organic traffic,” meaning customers are naturally finding you rather than you reaching out to them through paid advertising. You’re not paying anything beyond the time you invest to gain SEO skills. And sure, you could pay a consultant to do that for you, as the biggest eCommerce players do, but there’s no reason everyone involved in eCommerce, especially those working on a small scale, can’t learn to use SEO to improve site traffic.
SEO Helps You Improve Your Website
As you learn more about SEO, you’ll find that at the most basic level, it just means using the same language on your web store as your customers use when they’re searching for products and solutions like those you’re offering. So when you start using those words more frequently and more prominently on your web pages, you’ll start to connect better with your customers, boosting sales in the process.
SEO Delivers Long-Term Results
When you gain a handle on SEO and use it appropriately, you should start to see increased traffic to your store. The best part is SEO isn’t something you have to update continually. Get it right, and you can continue to tweak it, but you won’t have to reinvent your strategy every quarter or year. There are other things you will need to update to stay relevant â Google favors recent content, for example, so you’ll want to keep adding fresh blog posts, product listings, photos, videos, and so on.
eCommerce SEO Basics Every Online Seller Needs To Know
Once you understand why SEO is worth investing your time in â and if you’re convinced that it’s something you can do yourself â you’re ready to learn some of the SEO elements you can start working on today. The following is a collection of SEO elements that are proven to improve your website’s search engine performance. These may sound unfamiliar, but we’ll walk you through the basics of each, including steps you can take right away to start improving your SEO performance.
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One of the easiest ways you can boost your website’s SEO performance is to brush up on keywords.
What Are Keywords
Keywords are search terms. Interestingly, keywords can be a single word or a short phrase that commonly appears in search terms. They help your website rank higher and appear in the results of web searches. In the example below, the most important keywords would be “color” and “banana.” So if you wanted to draw people searching for the answer to this question to your site, you’d want to be sure to feature those words on your website.
Screenshot of Google search page captured 8/13/2020
Keywords Research 101
Hopefully, most of your customers don’t need to look online to find out what color bananas are. But they may be performing searches like the one below. For this example, just substitute one of your top-selling products for the words “blue jelly beans,” and you’ll see one way that customers can find you.
Screenshot of Google webpage captured 8/13/2020
If you were to click on the top few results from this jelly bean search, when you visit those web pages, you’d see that every one of them uses the words blue, jelly, and bean in their product titles and descriptions. That’s SEO at work! Those websites and products show up in this very simple Google search because they prominently feature the words we searched for.
You can get started improving your SEO game by looking at your products and your brand to identify a few keywords you want to be associated with. Visit your top competitors’ online stores. What words do you see, over and over, in their product titles and descriptions? If you want your website and your products to show up in more searches, you should make sure that you’re featuring those words too.
Then take it one step further and look to see what your customers are looking for. That will allow you to market your products more effectively by hitting the right keyword searches. There are two types of tools that can assist you in this:
You can learn to use keywords more effectively, without spending a nickel. Here are a few good tools you can start with. These may offer a free trial, or they may be forever free.
You can do quite a bit when you start exploring the free tools mentioned above. If you’re ready to devote a little more time and even some money to your SEO strategies, you can invest in one of these more advanced tools. You’ll find they have a learning curve, but the payoff will be worth it.
Improving your keywords isn’t the only thing you can do to improve your SEO results. Pay attention to title tags as well because they’re one of the first things potential customers see when they search via Google. So if you want people to click through to your store, you need effective title tags.
What Are Title Tags?
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage. Here’s how it looks:
Screenshot of page source code captured 8/13/2020
You can check out the titles of any web pages you’d like. Simply load the page on your browser and hit Control + U to View Page Source. Next, hit Control + F and type “title” in the search box that pops up to see the title highlighted in the code. Everything between the highlights that read “title” is that web page’s title tag, and they usually are displayed as the clickable link on search engine result pages.
Tips For How To Write Title Tags
If you’re using an online sales platform (such as Shopify, for example) or a website builder (such as Wix, among others), the program you’re using will create title tags for you based on the words you enter for each page. You can, however, edit those automatic title tags if you wish. Search the help feature to find out the best way to do that on the platform you’re using. Here are some general suggestions for writing title tags:
Keep It Short
There’s a limit to how many characters can be displayed in a search engine response. The best advice is to keep your title below 70 characters, so the whole thing appears in search results.
Every single page needs its own title tag. That helps your site to show up in more online searches.
Make sure to include the most important words in your title tags to improve your ranking in search results. Think about what words customers will use to search for products like those you’re selling. Those are the words you want to include in your title tags.
Meta descriptions are a page element that doesn’t necessarily help your search engine rankings, but they can help drive traffic to your online store. The key: Include words that give customers a reason to want whatever it is that you’re offering them.
What Are Meta Descriptions?
A meta description is another HTML element, sometimes called a “snippet,” that’s used to summarize each webpage’s content. Execute a search, and you’re likely to see these snippets, or summaries, in the search results. Here’s an example:
Screenshot of Google webpage captured 8/14/2020
In this case, the meta description offers a short overview of the content you’ll find when you click on the link and read the articles that appear in this search result. If your customers are searching for products like yours to buy, you’ll want them to see compelling product descriptions in your meta descriptions that give them a reason to buy. That can be done by using important keywords to show them that they’re on the right track and compelling action words that give them an incentive to click through to your page.
Tips For How To Write Meta Descriptions
As with title tags, if you’re using a web builder or a shopping cart platform, meta descriptions will be automatically generated for you. However, you can edit them if you wish. Here are some general tips for writing meta descriptions that deliver results:
Keep It Short
Search engines allow only so much room for meta descriptions to display. So to keep descriptions from getting cut off, you should keep them under 160 characters. If you do go over, make sure that you front-load the most important words.
Compare, Then Contrast
Look up some of your competitors’ meta descriptions. Google them, and notice what snippets appear when you do. To a certain extent, you want to use the same language that the majority of your competitors are using. But if you’re going to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to go beyond. Make sure you include valuable keywords but also provide a compelling reason to visit your site instead of theirs.
Sound Like A Person
Remember that online shoppers are looking for sites they can trust. They’re more likely to click on a link that makes them feel they’re engaging with a human being and not a sales-generating robot. Yes, you need to keep it short, and yes, you need to use important keywords. As much as you can, use a conversational tone in meta descriptions rather than making a blatant sales pitch. That means telling people what’s in it for them or how they will benefit from visiting your site.
Image Alt Text
Although there are billions of words on the internet, it’s the images that capture customers’ interest. That’s why photos of your products are so crucial to eCommerce. What happens, though, when your photos don’t load for some reason when customers are searching online?
What Is Alt Text On Images?
Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons why your images might not load on customers’ devices, especially on phones. The problem may be on the customer’s end, or it may be that your photo files are just too large and cause the browser to time out. That’s why you need to include alt text for every image on your website.
Alt text (sometimes called alt tags or alt descriptions) is written words that can appear in place of images that fail to appear on a user’s screen. Importantly, alt text also is used to describe images to visually impaired readers.
Tips For How To Add Image Alt Text
Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? When your website’s pictures won’t load or can’t be seen, you don’t have 1,000 words to replace them. So you have to make the few words you have available count. Here’s how:
If you couldn’t see a product picture, what would you still most want to know about it? Tell customers exactly what the photo shows. This isn’t the time to overuse keywords in an attempt to boost your search engine rankings. In fact, if you stuff alt text full of keywords, it may make your site seem untrustworthy. If you do use keywords, use them only once per image.
Know When To Stop
Experts agree that you should limit alt text to 125 characters. That limit doesn’t allow a lot of words, maybe 10 or 15, depending on their length. Opt for smaller words with similar meaning, such as big instead of large, to save characters.
Each time you list a product for sale in your online store, you’ll have a chance to enter a description of that product. You already know that it gives you a way to entice customers to buy from you. But did you know that your product listing can also affect how many customers find your store?
What Are Product Listings?
Search engines such as Google look through the words on your product pages, looking for keywords that determine how high your page will rank in users’ searches. So when you create a vivid, descriptive listing with an eye toward SEO, you can increase not only sales but also traffic overall.
Tips For How To Write Product Listings
If your goal is to show up in search listings and to rank as high as possible, use these strategies:
Use A Variety Of Keywords
While it’s never a good idea to repeat keywords (that’s a strategy that will backfire because it makes you look like a spam site), you can use an assortment of them, including variations. For example, suppose that you sell T-shirts in your store. If your product description reads “Blue T-shirt with starfish design,” you may rank high when customers search for those exact keywords. But what about those looking for 100% cotton shirts, shirts with ocean themes, screen-printed T-shirts, and so on? You will draw more customers your way with a product description that includes all of these relevant words.
Take a look at your competitors’ product listings, noticing what they leave out. You can add words to our listings that capitalize on those differences. If your prints are made with organic soy ink and recycled paper, say so. Go even further by explaining why and using words such as nontoxic and zero-waste that will appeal to your ideal buyer.
It stands for Uniform Resource Locator, and you use them every time you type in a web address. But what exactly is a URL, how does it relate to SEO, and how can you use your URLs to draw traffic and increase sales from your online store?
What Are URLs?
Most of the internet actually is constructed of numbers and letters. Every device that connects to the internet has a series of numbers and letters called an IP address. The problem is, those IP addresses are not handy and easy-to-remember words such as Amazon and Google. That’s where domain names come in. You register your website with a domain name, usually the name of your business or something similar.
Although a lot of people think a URL is the same thing as a domain name, it’s not. Your domain name is a part of your URL, however, combined with numbers and letters that provide a sort of roadmap telling computers how to get there. Every webpage has a unique URL.
Tips For SEO-Friendly URLs
Search engines look at your URL, among other SEO functions.
Keep Them Simple
URLs should be simple and descriptive of the content, using keywords and product titles as much as possible. Don’t reuse them, though. You risk your credibility when you overdo it. Check your URLs before you publish pages. If the URL was automatically assigned, you might see a string of numbers and letters at the end. If so, you need to edit that. Those letters and numbers are meaningless to customers and hard to remember. Replace that with words that have meaning.
Make Them Descriptive
If you have written a blog post, for example, to highlight a new product line, the URL for that post should include related keywords that let readers know about it and ensure it ranks in online searches.
Use Proper URL Punctuation
Forget everything you learned in grammar school about capitalization, punctuation, and spacing. Good URLs use all lower case letters, not capitals. And you should use dashes to link words in one long chain, with no spaces: best-ecommerce-seo-tips is the most effective way to write it.
Getting Started With eCommerce SEO
Now that you’ve made it through this crash course in the basics of SEO, you may have more questions than answers. That’s okay. SEO is a vast topic, with experts devoting their careers to advising businesses on the subject. For a small vendor who is just getting started, SEO can feel overwhelming. The best antidote to that feeling is not to put it off â or to begin budgeting for consultants’ fees. Your next best step is to pick one small area to start improving on in the big field of SEO.
Our suggestion: Start by updating your title tags. Research the keywords your competitors are using and make sure to incorporate them into your title tags. Record the changes you make, so you can track what works and what didn’t. Then you can try again to improve if you need to.
Remember that SEO is an ongoing process, not something you do once and then forget about. You’ll want to stay on top of keyword trends, particularly as you add new and different products. Managing SEO can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we say to take it slow. Any changes you make are a step in the right direction. You may feel daunted by the process, as you’re first building your skills, but you’ll find that the effort you put into SEO will more than pay off. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started using your new SEO knowledge to boost online traffic to your store.
The post eCommerce SEO: The Complete Beginner’s Guide For Online Sellers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Yup, it’s that word again, and this time it’s not just a cheeky Friends reference.
Pivot. The word for 2020, undeniably, is pivot.
When small businesses shut down in early March as a response to the threat of the novel coronavirus, a new normal began to emerge from the changing landscape. Now, midway through August, questions about the future still linger, but business owners — a tenacious bunch to start with — are no longer thinking about short-term solutions.
COVID is here to stay, additional government support is in limbo, and if a small business is going to survive, it needs to embrace the eCommerce pivot, specifically. Business Insider said eCommerce growth is expected to rise 18% this year:
“Our 18% growth forecast for US eCommerce in 2020 reflects a notable increase in both the number of digital buyers and the average spending per buyer. These gains reflect the pandemic’s impact on new buyers joining the online retail space, including 12.2% growth for those ages 65 and older,” Business Insider said.
It didn’t take long for businesses to realize the value of giving their traditional brick and mortar stores a bigger eCommerce presence.Â A report by Square stated that according to their data, may sellers moved online just weeks after shelter-in-place orders took effect. “Sellers in cities large and small are embracing eCommerce as omnichannel selling becomes a necessity for long-term success,” the report said.
Businesses & Consumers Embrace New Habits
Back in March, when shelter-in-place and mandatory shut-downs for non-essential work began, eCommerce sellers reported to Digital Commerce 360 their initial projections for how their businesses would fare. The report was a mixed bag with 38% of retailers projecting increased overall sales and 36% losing sales.
Grocery eCommerce certainly saw the biggest gains in growth with many consumers turning to online ordering as a result of grocery shortages or initial concern of grocery safety. The other industries that did well were household cleaning supplies, pet supplies, beauty/health products, at-home fitness products, and home entertainment. Subscription services also saw an increase in consumer demand.
Consumers increased their spending on groceries by 15-20% and said they increased the amount they spent on at-home fitness by 35-40%. In general, consumers were admitting they were spending more online, even though they weren’t terribly hopeful about the state of the economy.
Morning Consult, a global data intelligence firm, reports that nearly a quarter of surveyed adults said they wouldn’t feel comfortable shopping at a mall in the next six months. (An equal percentage said they had no idea when they would feel comfortable returning to normal shopping habits.) Those trends are holding steady — which means that it’s not too late to embrace the eCommerce trend for your small business.
The market research company Neilsen looked at consumer behaviors linked to the pandemic and their results on markets. Neilsen said consumers were:
Proactively buying health and wellness products (flu medicines; cough and cold medications)
Reactively buying health management products (hand sanitizers; N95 masks)
Buying to stock their pantries
Buying to stock for quarantine
Buying to prepare for restricted living (in the instance of mass COVID cases, communities are relegated almost entirely to online purchasing)
Buying as they live a new normal (preparing for eCommerce to replace many buying options in the wake of the pandemic’s aftermath; accepting a permanently altered supply chain)
Source: Civis Consumer Survey 2020
A survey from Civis Analytics says that while traditional consumer activity has increased since March, most industries are still operating below pre-Covid earnings.
Unsurprisingly, the two biggest eCommerce options that surged in popularity amid the pandemic were click-and-collect and curbside pick-up. And those are likely here to stay as shoppers have continued to show an affinity for using these options even as economies open back up fully around the country. With CDC guidelines asking restaurants to limit contact, many organizations used Square or Toast systems to set-up online or contactless payment systems. A switch to self-ordering kiosks might become the norm in places that do not want to accept the risk of exposing their employees.
Your Business’s Next Steps To Make The eCommerce Pivot
A survey showed that 92% of small businesses have had to pivot in some way due to COVID. And according to our Merchant Maverick post on the subject, “For 58% of businesses, pivoting has included incorporating ‘a new online delivery channel.’ Other common tweaks mentioned in the survey include adding a new virtual service (40%), offline delivery channel (36%), or product (31%).”
For brick and mortar businesses wanting to expand into online options, services like Shopify are even advertising to help provide some type of crisis support to assist owners through the changes. If you are looking into moving into eCommerce, you can follow these steps:
Research and compare eCommerce platforms — decide on the right fit for your business. Compare Shopify and BigCommerce or WooCommerce to other online shopping centers like Etsy.
Research shipping options.
Set up and research the best payments system for your type of business.
Research how to market your new online presence.
The new reality is that has COVID pushed us into the future at record speed. This pivot into the world of eCommerce might not be what small business owners had imagined for 2020, but consumer expectations and pandemic restrictions will continue to shape spending — we want your business to be ready.
Check out our Coronavirus Hub for all things pandemic and small business-related.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected].
The post Small Businesses See Success With eCommerce Pivot appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Congratulations! You’ve done the research, looked into a few platforms, and decided that Shopify is the best service to use for your online store. What’s next?
Whether you’re new to eCommerce or just ready to take a more professional approach to online selling, Shopify can be a great choice. Founded in 2006, Shopify now serves as the basis for more than a million stores worldwide. That number is a testament to Shopify’s intuitive UI and undeniable ease of use.
New to Shopify? Let this article serve as your guide. We’ll give you some hands-on advice you can use to avoid delays and pitfalls, and help you get your store up and running as quickly and easily as possible.
What You’ll Need To Start Your Shopify Store
Before you create a Shopify account, you must take a few preliminary steps. If you’re an experienced vendor, you may be able to skip these and jump right into setting up your online store. For those new to eCommerce, make sure you’ve covered these basics before you start to launch your online store. Of course, you can always create a Shopify account now and go back and enter this information when you have it.
Your business name
Products to sell
Once you check off those boxes, you’re ready to sign up for Shopify. Read on!
How To Start Selling On Shopify
Next, we’ll discuss how to start an online store, from creating a Shopify account to becoming familiar with the admin. Follow our step-by-step guidelines as you set up your own Shopify store. When you’re finished, you’ll be ready to start selling with Shopify!
1) Create Your Account
From the start, Shopify creates a level of comfort in the new user by allowing a 14-day trial period. That means you can start setting up your store and familiarizing yourself with Shopify before you have to commit to a service plan and pull out your credit card. All you have to do is enter your email address to begin, and you’ll set a password and enter your store name next.
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/11/2020
2) Enter Your Information
After you create an account, Shopify will prompt you to enter a little more information about your plans for your store. Fortunately, you will find a range of answers available from pull-down menus, and it’s okay to say you’re just browsing or to admit that you’re not an experienced online vendor. For example, you can say that you’re just looking around, or that you don’t even have products to sell just yet. You’ll be asked to choose from among 15 different product categories. (You can choose Other, if your product line doesn’t fit into any of the existing categories, or simply say that you haven’t decided yet.)
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/11/2020
Next, you’ll be asked to enter your name, address, phone number, and business or personal website. You’ll also check a box to indicate whether your store already is a registered business. Once you submit that information, you’re the owner of a Shopify storefront. Congratulations!
Don’t start celebrating just yet, though. There’s more work to do.
3) Get Familiar With Shopify’s Admin
Once you create your store, you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/11/2020
On the left side of the screen are the tools you’ll use regularly to manage your store. First, though, take a peek at the other side of the screen, where you’ll see the words “Add your first product.”
Click the blue “Add product” button below that, and just like that you’ve got something to sell! From there, you can enter products individually, giving each a title and a description. You can drag and drop multiple photos of each item and set a price.Â You can also add useful information that customers won’t see, such as how much that item cost you, how many you have in stock, and its dimensions and weight.
What if you’re selling digital, rather than physical, items? There’s a button you can click for that. Each item gets its own URL, and you can edit the suggested SEO terms. Be sure to enter a quantity before you hit Save, to show how many of each item you have in stock.
4) Manage Your Inventory
The next item to explore is Inventory, which you’ll find under Products in the left-hand menu. The example below shows only one item, but it’s easy to populate your own inventory with as many items as you have to sell. This is where you’ll go to keep tabs on your stock in hand. There’s a handy link underneath your inventory, where you can go to view a tutorial about Shopify’s inventory management features. (Although Shopify doesn’t have a setup wizard, you’ll find similarly helpful links on nearly every page you encounter.)
Screenshot of Shopify webpage, captured 8/11/2020
5) Choose A Theme
Shopify will assign your store a default theme. But because that default is neither attractive nor original, you’ll want to change it very soon. Fortunately, there are many good options available, and you can easily find a theme you like that’s either free or priced at $180 or less. The hardest part might actually be having to choose just one!
Screenshop of Shopify webpage, captured 8/11/2020
If you find the sheer number of choices overwhelming, you can narrow the search by browsing by industry. You can even search for themes designed for businesses with small inventories and optimized for one-page stores. Once you select a theme, Shopify guides you to customize it. You can add text and images and make various style choices, all without entering a single line of code. One caveat: Even within the free themes, you can make choices that will cost you money. Just keep an eye on your options and make the right choices for your budget.
6) Add Customers
Okay. You’ve set up a store, complete with products and an attractive theme design. What’s next? Customers, of course!
If you return to your admin panel, you’ll see that Customers is the fourth option down in the left-hand menu. When you click on it, you’ll be given the option to add customers manually or import a list. There’s even a template you can use to create or modify a customer spreadsheet, allowing you to add customers to your Shopify database in bulk.
7) Take Your Store Live
On Shopify, you can choose from five different plans that deliver just the right level of service for your needs. The three most popular plans range in price from $29 per month to $299 per month. The higher your plan level, the more options are included, and as you go higher on the plans, you’ll find that the transaction fees Shopify charges go down accordingly, from 2% at the lower level to just 0.5% at the highest.
There’s also a basic plan, at $9 per month, that does not include an online store but gives you a Buy Button and allows you to sell in person and on Facebook. Eventually, if you develop high-volume sales, you may want to consider the enterprise-level plan. For now, know that you won’t have to pay for a subscription until after your trial period expires, so you can test a plan now and change your mind before you incur charges.
You may choose to pay for your plan on a month-to-month basis at first. Once you’re sure you’re satisfied with both your store and your plan, you can save a little money by paying less frequently. Choose the $29/month plan, for example, and save $36 by paying annually, $138 by paying for two years in advance, or $261 by paying for three years at once.
Select your plan, decide on your payment frequency, and enter your credit card information â remember, you won’t be charged until your trial period is up, so you have plenty of time to experiment and change your mind if you need to. Then you’re ready to take your site live.
Take care of a couple of final housekeeping details before you hit the Publish button and bring your store online:
Remove Password Protections:Â Shopify stores are automatically created with password protection, so that only visitors with that password can view your site before you’re ready to publish it. Once you have selected your payment plan, click on Online Store from the admin, and then click Preferences. Scroll down the page until you see Password protection, then uncheck the box labeled Enable password.
Check Your Domain Name: Shopify automatically assigns you a domain that will read YourStoreName.myshopify.com. Although that will technically work, you’re going to want to link to a different domain name, if you have one already, or purchase a domain name that omits the “myshopify.com” element to create a more professional looking URL.
Enable Notifications: Unless you want to live on Shopify, you’ll probably want to set up your Shopify store so that you receive automatic notifications when a customer places an order. From the admin, click on the Setting link, located at the very bottom left of the page. Choose notification, then scroll down until you see Staff order notifications. Make sure your email is listed correctly under Recipients, and send yourself a test to make sure you’re able to receive notifications. If you want to add another email address, this is your chance. You can also enable desktop notifications, so long as you leave the Shopify admin open on your browser.
Tips For Selling On Shopify
Once the work of setting up your online store is done and your store has gone live, you’re ready for the orders to start rolling in. While you’re waiting, you can do a little more work to build a stronger store that’s likely to succeed in the online marketplace.
Link All Your Channels
Shopify makes it easy to link your existing online sales channels to your storefront, enabling multichannel selling without a lot of effort on your part. If you already have a presence on or sell through eBay, Amazon, Instagram, Facebook, Google Shopping or Pinterest, you can download an app that lets you link it to your Shopify store.
Keep Exploring The Admin
As you wait to have orders to fill, spend some more time on your Shopify admin page. You can place a test order to make sure your checkout process runs smoothly. Open the Marketing tab on the admin panel to create and test automated marketing messages that will help you capture sales on the verge of slipping away when shoppers abandon their carts. Familiarize yourself with all the functions Shopify gives you, so you’re ready to put them to use to better serve customers and increase your sales.
Add Features Customers Love
If you haven’t already, look at your store from a customer’s point of view and try to make shopping at your store as close to an in-person shopping experience as you can. That means setting up a welcoming landing page, highlighting special offers like discounts or free shipping, setting up a FAQ section to give customers quick answers and instill confidence, and creating an “About Us” page or section. That gives you a chance to let customers know not just who you are but also why they should purchase from you. All these features together personalize the sale and make shoppers feel more comfortable buying from you.
Master The SEO Game
Search engine optimization â SEO for short â is the ticket to driving traffic to your store. The way you write your product descriptions and the language you use on other pages throughout your store affects the way search engines like Google rank your web page. Setting up Google Search Console is a great way to start improving your SEO performance and drawing more customers to your Shopify store.
Integrate & Improve
Shopify is a great platform out of the box. But did you know there are thousands of ways you can improve it? That’s because there are literally thousands of apps you can download and integrate with your store. From dropshipping and chat options to email marketing and accounting software, you can find an app to improve every aspect of the sales process for customers and for yourself as the owner. Most of the apps in the Shopify App Store require payment, so it will be up to you to determine what’s worth adding and how it fits into your budget.
Harness The Power Of Analytics
From the admin panel, you can access an overview of what’s happening in your store. You can see information about total sales, how many people visit your store and how many return, what your conversion rate and average orders are, what products are selling best, where your sales traffic is coming from, and much, much more. This information can be incredibly valuable because it shows you where you’re succeeding and where you have the opportunity to do more — and to do better. As customers start to visit your store and orders start coming in, visit the analytics section often to learn and improve.
Getting Your Shopify Store Up & Running
Although it may seem like setting up an online store is a complicated process, when you start to explore Shopify you’ll come to realize that the platform you’ve chosen for your store makes eCommerce as easy as can be for you. You did your research and picked the best site for your needs. Now it’s time to gather the basics you’ll need to set up your online store and these follow these simple step-by-step guidelines to get that store up and running. Before you know it, you’ll be an eCommerce pro with a thriving store to prove it.
The post How To Set Up Your Shopify Store & Start Selling On Shopify appeared first on Merchant Maverick.