The world has turned upside down. (As a Broadway fan, I have the Hamilton version of that line running through my head on repeat these days.) Small businesses all over the nation find themselves in a rapidly changing climate and making decisions based on state requirements needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are faced with brutal choices and will need to employ creative solutions as the pandemic changes the landscape of our lives.
If you have a service that meets the needs of your community during the pandemic, getting information out to potential customers is a necessity. People right now want to help small businesses thrive, and they are looking for ways to spend their money conscientiously. What are some ways to navigate the balance of marketing a product during difficult times?
Before we look at marketing, it’s important to look at your business: Right now, more than ever, it’s crucial to understand what is an essential business and what is not. I just watched in real-time the complete viral annihilation of an owner’s decision to keep her consignment mall open because she deemed her store and all the vendors paying rent in her store (and all their employees) as “essential business.” (She, herself, was self-isolating in a different state. And three hours after her initial post, she changed her mind.) People are dying — if anyone susses out that you are here for profit/being greedy/to exploit a tragedy — I guarantee the karma (Facebook’s comment section) is swift.
Merchant Maverick’s COVID-19 hub has many resources to weather the storm, but if in doubt — sit it out.
And if your business has a role here as we move forward, then keep on reading, and we’ll explore the best practices together.
The Best Marketing Channels For Small Businesses
Parts of the nation are on full shelter-in-place orders, and others may soon follow. That means that millions of workers and their children are home, in their family rooms, most definitely on their computers or phones, with near-constant access to the internet. We are lucky to live in a digital world that can adapt to the needs of consumers during this pandemic — and the digital world is where you are going to access your potential customers.
Building a newsletter is an essential part of doing business. Why? Because when you have access to someone’s email, you have direct access to that person. They may not open your newsletter, but when they check their email, they will see your name and your subject hook: It’s the best resource you have. Building a newsletter should be seen as an essential part of doing business.
(How can you tell a writer has been a little too self-isolated? I just deleted an attempt to write this section to the tune of Over the Rainbow. I wish I were kidding.) Social media is where you will find your people. Maybe you already have a thriving community on your social media, or perhaps you are building one. Either way, it’s important to think of ways to use various platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat…maybe in that order, depending on your marketing audience.
Direct communication is the best! If you have access to phone numbers, maybe send a quick text update. A skincare business in Portland I have been to once texted to let me know its physical store was closed but is still selling products and gift certificates online. If you have a website, consider blogging about your own experiences. Now is the time, more than ever, to tell your narrative and build a community around your business’s story. Who are you, and how is this pandemic affecting you and yours?
The Ground Rules For Online Marketing
The entire world is really hoping that we can all flatten the curve of this virus and return to normalcy. However, until then, every person and every business needs to make socially responsible choices. That means your business needs to comply with social distancing and follow your governor’s mandates. As with any marketing campaign, be sincere and run your words by many different sets of eyes to ensure your tone is professional and sensitive to the mood of the nation.
If you are asking people to opt-in to your newsletter for freebies/deals, make sure you follow local privacy laws. Also, a good tip is to require only two fields (say: name and email) — any more will cause hesitation, and you might lose the lead.
Build An Email List
One small business owner mentioned that he sent out a newsletter, not to pitch anything, but simply to ask his subscribers how they were doing: How are you? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Small businesses are the bedrock of the community, so first, reach out to your community and see how people are feeling. With self-isolation in full swing across the nation, many people need your words of comfort and offers of help.
You can also use this time to build your list by offering discounts or freebies to people who sign up for your newsletter. (For a gym or yoga studio: If they sign up for your newsletter, maybe they can receive free daily quarantine exercises?)
Create A Social Media Following
There are opportunities to pay for ad campaigns within social media platforms, but it’s important to use your platforms to communicate with your customers and community directly in addition to running ads. People want to help small businesses in their community, but they need to know who is open and how social distancing needs are being met. Use your social media channels to inform and engage.
Keep Your Customers Updated On Changes
I have a local store I love, and I went to all of its social media pages for a COVID-19 update and didn’t find anything. Tell your story and make it easy for people to support you and to know how — put that information far and wide.
If you can still provide curbside or delivery during the pandemic, your business has pivoted and adapted with the changes, or if you are changing your hours or working with a reduced staff, let people know. Use all necessary means to communicate with your customers and encourage people in your community to share your message far and wide.
Use Hashtags & Branding
A hashtag is a way to group your message in with broader messages to attract new followers. As you can imagine, right now, pandemic hashtags are trending along with #stayhome, #stayhomesavelives, and #socialdistancing. Creative hashtags such as #savesmallbusinesses can gain momentum across platforms and will help categorize your information. You can create a hashtag specifically for your business to boost name recognition and your business’s story. Our local used bookstore (and Portland icon), Powell’s, had to shut its doors and lay off the majority of its staff, prompting a #savepowells hashtag to surge and ignite a successful online buying campaign to help keep it afloat.
If you are using your social media consistently to communicate, think about your company’s branding — can someone look at a post and identify your company? What is the overall tone of your company’s message? Keep your social media messages consistent and on-brand. Branding also means you understand your audience and their needs: If you are in a community that is struggling and feeling scared right now, you might want to avoid a tone that feels trite or dismissive of the current news.
5 Marketing Tactics You Can Use To Keep In Touch, Inspire, Motivate & Otherwise Encourage Customers
We are not living in the same world that we were a few months ago. Consumers and attitudes have shifted, thriving businesses have shuttered for the time being, and people have major anxieties. They are scared about the virus, worried about the health of loved ones, scared about their jobs, scared about the overall health of our economy, maybe food insecure or feeling alone, and/or possibly balancing remote work/home school for the first time. Right. So when consumers are dealing with a national emergency, priorities shift. Consider that as you move forward with a marketing campaign.
Marketing is two-fold. Yes, you want to sell the product/service you can offer, but you also want to market your story/your company’s ethos. Here are some marketing tactics that might work well as you look forward.
Promote A Good Cause
Larger corporations have made donations of coffee and sandwiches to health workers, and many smaller businesses are reaching out with offers to donate a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits helping assist communities most impacted by COVID-19. Can you provide free food for kids or the elderly? People want to spend money and know it’s helping small businesses and the people impacted by this emergency: What does your community need, and how can you help?
Run A Contest Or Challenge
Can you drum up some business by offering a contest or challenge to your customers? A game store in Kansas is offering up a $50 gift card to the store to anyone who shows their “19 painted miniatures in 19 days challenge.” A bakery in a suburb of Portland is offering “frost your own cookie kits,” selling them curbside and then highlighting the beautiful cookie art with a hashtag; daily winners via votes get a gift certificate to the store. Take an opportunity to engage your community with an activity or challenge (Bake with Me challenge or Tap with Me challenge; a toy shop near us that sells Legos is running a 30-Day Build-It challenge). All of these things build brand awareness and provide your potential customers with something to engage with.
Use Promo Codes For Online Orders
Are you moving your business online? Or have you already been equipped for online ordering but need to get the word out? Provide a financial incentive to order from you! I ordered some books from a bookstore owner directly over the phone, and she shipped the books free (and they arrived the next day!), and online delivery services are running promotions for free delivery. Entice new customers with a first-time buyer code or offer deep discounts for large orders.
Sponsor A Giveaway
At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too: the toilet paper giveaways. Order a pizza? Get some TP. Drive-thru to our coffee shop? TP while it lasts! If you don’t have 2020’s luxury item on hand to pass out with your product, that’s okay; there are many other things besides toilet paper you can give. This might be an opportunity to team up with a collaborator (another small business in your community) and give away gift certificates to a different business in the neighborhood. If you are a clothing boutique, can you have some fun with quarantine-outfits and sponsor a giveaway of clothes that are perfect to wear at home? This is about what you can offer and how you can help while building your brand and responding to the virus ethically.
Feature Your Customer/Community Stories
This is what speaks straight to my heart: stories. We are all a giant community of humans, and it is local families and local businesses that keep things afloat. Tell your own story but also reach out and see if you can feature other stories, too. Build a community from this isolation, and encourage people to reach out and connect with you and others. Also, feature people who may be asked to work as essential employees — put a name and story to the faces of the people in your business: Let the community know who they are supporting. They are not supporting a business; they are supporting the people behind the business.
The Bottom Line For Online Marketing During A Pandemic
How you face this pandemic can say a lot about your business and your brand. Don’t take the messages you send lightly, and run them through a filter of sensitivity and practicality. But if you have a service you can offer safely to others, yes, communicate that in any way you can to get the word out about how you can help people in your community. Email your list, send a newsletterÂ or a text; be sure to communicate honestly and often, and let people know how they can help you. Have you seen any brilliant or cringe-worthy marketing campaigns related to the pandemic? Share with us in the comments! And stay safe out there.
The post 5 Clever Marketing Tactics For Small Businesses During The Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The concept of a punch card is nothing new; coffee shops the world over have been slinging their punched out business cards alongside foamy espresso beverages for decades. Likewise, the concept of companies offering rewards to returning companies goes way back into the annals of entrepreneurship. But as the business sector dives further into the capabilities of digital tools, loyalty programs have come along for the ride.
Square has been tinkering with loyalty features since 2012. About two years ago, they stopped offering a free add-on to the basic Square POS, creating a paid-for loyalty product instead. After some concerns about that initial re-launch, Square Loyalty is back again with a new pricing scheme and feature list.
Square has consistentlyÂ expanded its business productsÂ and generally does a decent job at creating useful tools that people feel confident implementing in their businesses. How well does the new version of Square Loyalty measure up? Let’s find out!
Free App & Reader
Square for Retail
Square for Restaurants
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android
Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization
Specialized software for more complex retail stores
Specialized software for full-service restaurants
The price of Square Loyalty is determined by how many “loyalty visits” you get in a given month. A loyalty visit is exactly what it sounds like: whenever a customer signs up for or returns to your loyalty program, that counts as one visit. Square tracks yourÂ visits, then charges you based on the following pricing scheme:
Price Per Month
If you think you will require more than 10,000 loyalty visits in a single month, you will need to get in touch with Square for more information on exact pricing.
Ease Of Use
The team at Square has built their brand on the simplicity of their software; just about anyone can pick Square up and use it with little-to-no training. Not surprisingly, the loyalty rewards program operates with the same simplistic design. This is a system designed for intuitive use on both sides of the register for customers and employees alike. As long as you already use Square products for payment processing and point of sale, this will work just fine for you.
Setting up your rewards account is as simple as determining the economy of your rewards points (how many should customers get after a visit?) and creating the rewards themselves (how will customers spend their points once they have accumulated?). From there, you can refine your system as time goes on, making adjustments as needed–you will want to be clear with your customers about what is going on, though!
On the customer side, simply have new program members enter their phone numbers to sign up. From then on, your Square Register will remember the customer and apportion their points on subsequent views. Speaking as one who has encountered Square loyalty rewards in the wild, I can report that the system works well, and is even a little exciting!
Square Loyalty comes with the following features:
Points System:Â You get to pick between three different loyalty schemes: by visit, by amount spent, or by item. Customers will get text message updates on the number of points they have built up. Basically, your decision for which system to use will come down to your industry and business model. Selling beverages or baked goods? Visit-based rewards might be best. Working retail? Amount-based might be best. Selling niche products? You might want to go by item.
Customer Rewards:Â You can select three different kinds of rewards that align vaguely with the three different loyalty schemes: free item, discount on the entire sale, or discount on a product category. Obviously, some business types will find one of these systems more useful than others; it’s up to you to determine which will be best for you.
Customer Data: Once your customers sign up for loyalty rewards, you can begin tracking information about them. In some industries — coffee shops, for example — you get to know repeat customers quickly as a matter of course. In others, it may be valuable indeed to know a bit more about your clientele, particularly things like their most purchased items and how often they visit your shop.
Analytics:Â Square gives you a bird’s eye view of how your loyalty program is helping your business, showing data on all your customers and how often they visit your shop. You can see how many people use your loyalty rewards, how many points they have, and more. This is the feature that will tell you how well your loyalty program is working, so I definitely recommendÂ checking this out.
Square boasts that customers who enroll in their loyalty programs spend 37% more than non-enrolled customers. A cynical person might point out that the kind of person who signs up for a loyalty program would be automatically more likely to spend more at a particular store than other, but at the same time, 37% is difficult to argue with.
But is Square’s loyalty feature ultimately worth the price? I definitely found the monthly cost a bit prohibitive; $50 for just over 50 loyalty visits is a lot. It is possible that at higher subscription levels the price comes down and makes more economic sense, but in order for that to be true, you will need more customers to sign up.
On the other hand, from what I can tell, the feature set works reasonably well — especially when you consider how closely it plays with Square’s flagship POS product. That right there might make it worth it to stop and consider coughing up the cash, especially if you are using one of those snazzy new Square Registers. I suspect many Square Loyalty users hop on board the hype train for this very reason; they are already using some kind of Square product in the first place. In fact, one of the biggest caveats to Square Loyalty (apart from price) is the fact that in order to use it, you will have to already be using Square POS (at the very least); if you have a different system, this is not the loyalty program you have been looking for.
As usual, the final decision comes down to you. Are you using a Square product? Is the touted increase in customer engagement worth what might be an excessive price? Fortunately, you can give it a try before deciding for sure. Be warned though! Though Square provides a generous 30-day trial, your customers may feel less than generous if they discover that your rewards program has up and disappeared just as they were about to redeem one of their rewards. Tread carefully then, and make sure you are confident in your decisions before committing even to the free trial.
Free App & Reader
Square for Retail
Square for Restaurants
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android
Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization
Specialized software for more complex retail stores
Specialized software for full-service restaurants
The post Square Loyalty Program Review appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
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Were you aware that the average adult is enrolled in nine loyalty/rewards programs? (I’ve had many a polite staring match with clerks trying to push their store’s rewards program. Needless to say, I’m not at all surprised by this statistic.) Loyalty programs, in one form or another, have been around for many years. Though they’ve evolved through time, these systems have increasingly become a weapon for business owners to retain existing patrons.
Technology is rapidly encroaching every area of our lives and rewards programs are no exception. The advent of cloud computing has revolutionized businesses’ ability to store big data. Electronic rewards programs benefit businesses owners as well as customers. Proprietors can utilize these systems to collect customer information, track sales, and keep an eye on their retention and churn rates. This article looks to examine what loyalty programs are, where loyalty programs got their start, and how they work. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.
What Are Loyalty Programs?
Loyalty programs are rewards programs put in place by the owners of an establishment to encourage customers to return. These programs are extremely popular in businesses where customers make frequent purchases. Every rewards program is unique to the company who implements it, but they operate on roughly the same premise: The more a customer shops at your establishment, the more rewards they receive, and the more incentive they have to come back and continue shopping at your place of business.
Rewards programs typically require customers to hand over some form of personal information (name, address, etc.). In return, they are issued a unique membership card, number, or access code so they can receive their benefits. As was previously stated, modern electronic rewards programs specifically benefit business owners because they can mine a large portion of previously untapped customer data.
How Do Loyalty Programs Work?
There are a wide variety of loyalty program styles out there and each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over a few of the main styles:
Cash Back Or Rebate Program: This type of rewards program is pretty self-explanatory: customers earn money back from their purchases. Once they reach a certain dollar amount or a certain time limit has been reached, they can redeem their rewards for cash. The rebate is usually based off of a percentage of the total purchases during the time period in question. This type of program is easy to understand but it lacks the element of instant gratification for your customers and it can also be expensive to implement.
Discount Program: This system offers a discount off the original price of any given item that can be applied to customers at the checkout counter. Discount programs are easy to understand and process but may give customers the impression that your regular prices are too high
.Frequency Programs: Many of the businesses that use this type of rewards program employ paper punch cards to keep track of their customers visits. (Buy 5 subs and the 6th is on us!) While these punch cards are low cost, they don’t track any customer information and are more open to fraud.
Points Programs: With these rewards programs, customers are given points, often in exchange for the amount they spend in your store. The point system is a great way to avoid discounting your merchandise, but you may need to find a way to remind your customers of their status in the rewards program.
Tier System: This sort of rewards program is great for keeping customers engaged on a consistent basis. To join the system, a customer must make a simple purchase. The more frequently a customer makes purchases and the cost of those purchases will determine the level of rewards they receive. This sort of program works really well for businesses with expensive merchandise.Different loyalty systems can be mixed and matched together to create your own unique loyalty program that works best for your specific business and customer needs.
Any business owner worth his or her salt will tell you that having loyal customers is vital to keeping a thriving business. Not only is retaining existing patrons about 5 to 25 times less expensive than acquiring new ones, repeat shoppers are known to spend up to 67% more when they visit your establishment. Implementing a solid loyalty program is not only an important way for you as a business owner to make sure that your customers keep returning, it is also an important metric for your churn rate. It is important to do your research before adopting any loyalty solutions for your company, but this day in age, adopting some sort of loyalty program is becoming more and more advantageous. A loyal customer is a customer you can count on returning to your business and spreading free advertisement about your brand by word of mouth. (One of the most effective forms of advertising, I might add.)
Elizabeth Cranston is a writer and native Oregonian who lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She enjoys researching and getting to the bottom of questions relating to the Point of Sale industry.When not writing about and researching Point of Sale software, she can usually be found overindulging in Dutch Bro’s coffee, making others laugh, or listening to music.
Exactly what do the Walmart Savings Catcher, Macy’s Shop The Right Path, and Delta SkyMiles programs all share? They’re loyalty programs operated by large companies generating huge amount of money annually. These programs offer incentives to customers in return for certain behaviors, varying from frequent or greater spending to social discussing and referrals. By providing carefully marketed incentives, loyalty programs boost sales and feet traffic, increase contact with your company, and open a door for future marketing. Sophisticated, digital loyalty programs aren’t always new, but having to pay between tens to thousands and thousands of dollars of these programs make them unattainable for small companies – until lately.
Loyalty and reward platforms are relatively recent towards the small company space. Numerous companies have embarked to produce top quality, digital loyalty programs at affordable rates. The majority of the companies I’ve reviewed average around 2-four years old the first began in ’09. That being stated, loyalty programs are extremely diverse, and also the rules and abilities of 1 aren’t prone to match another. Regardless of this diversity, most programs are made having a couple of things in your mind. The foremost and primary because you have a company that needs significant feet visitors to stay afloat. Companies for example restaurants, stores, fitness gyms, local niche shops, and ecommerce stores which require frequent visits may benefit a good deal from loyalty programs. Essentially, a properly-rounded loyalty program must do three things: increase repeat business, generate start up business, and provide you with an aggressive edge.
Construct it right. Developing a loyalty program that work well for you personally will require forethought and meticulous planning. While adjustments might be necessary after a while, you need to make certain the basic principles of the program are seem. I suggest studying the McKinsey & Co strategies in more detail.
Make use of the right draws. Among the best tools any loyalty program can provide is the opportunity to collect specific data regarding your customers. This data may be used to tailor promotions while offering to some customer’s preferences, giving your choices more quality and increasing the likelihood that buyers will revisit.
Possess the right reasons. Among the goals of the clients are to earn money. Getting stated that, it can’t be the sole reason if you wish to be effective. Your loyalty program is a superb tool. Utilize it to enhance the client experience, services or products you are offering, in addition to express gratitude for your customers for his or her patronage.
“But let’s say companies used their loyalty programs to help make the service or product better for me personally? Let’s say, rather of paying me for which is generally a similar (and of low quality) experience, they provided the knowledge better?” – Taddy Hall on loyalty programs, The Cambridge Group
So, how can you tell if your loyalty program fits your needs? You will find numerous studies which suggest loyalty programs work, and numerous others which claim that loyalty programs don’t. Based on a Stanford Business article, loyalty programs don’t change customer behavior for top spenders, but instead only affect behavior for low spenders whose overall value might not offset program costs. A more modern article from Business Insider implies that companies without loyalty programs grow in a slightly greater rate than companies that do possess a loyalty program. Mckinsey & Company has identified a couple of explanations why loyalty programs neglect to deliver value, citing insufficient differentiation, innovation, and knowledge because the primary causes. Effective programs shared characteristics for example integrated or omni-funnel loyalty encounters, quality data to facilitate targeted marketing, and partnerships with non-competing retailers.
If you’ve didn’t have a loyalty program before, or else you have however it was unsuccessful, my hope may be the tips offered in the following paragraphs will take you better success. Loyalty programs are available in all sizes and shapes, so selecting the correct one for your company is key.
Table of Contents
Choosing the right Program
Steps Choosing the right program may appear just like a daunting task. Whether you’re a physical merchant or work strictly in ecommerce markets, there’s a numerous possibilities. Prior to choosing a course, there are several preliminary steps you need to take that will help you make a good decision.
The First Step. Define your company. Your company type will matter when choosing a course. Some loyalty programs are produced strictly for ecommerce, while some need a location. If you are generating business both on and offline, you’ll find you will find less low-cost options open to you to streamline the procedure. Within each business type you will see limitations according to your company hardware and software. Some loyalty programs operate like a stand-alone product while some require integration. For brick-and-mortar retailers this can typically involve your POS for ecommerce retailers, this can involve your ecommerce platform or shopping cart software.
Second Step. Define your objectives. Knowing what you would like is half the fight in selecting, well, anything, particularly loyalty programs. From the three functions listed, that is most significant for you inside a loyalty program? Give me an idea your program to complete? Once you’ve written lower what you would like, begin defining how you need to keep it in check. Some programs permit you to make changes anytime towards the program, other medication is smaller. Just how much detail do you want in reports? Are you currently searching for simplicity or impressive personalization options? Be as honest so that as thorough as the hectic agenda enables.
Third Step. Define your limits. It’s important to reconcile what you would like with what you could realistically maintain. Many loyalty programs need a subscription, compensated monthly, though some don’t. Just how much are you able to afford? Are you able to invest in an agreement, as well as on what terms? Creating custom rewards and tiers could be a bit tiresome, as well as time intensive. Determine the length of time you’re prepared to invest in creating and looking after your program.
Fourth Step. Define your census. Probably you’ve already defined some, if not completely of those areas, in certain capacity. Your target audience (the shoppers you need to generate), subscriber base (the shoppers you have) as well as your competition (individuals who sell similar products within the same area or space) would be the areas that warrant probably the most analysis. Get just as much feedback as possible from customers about things that they like. This should help you pick which platform works perfect for your company, in addition to assist you in making significant rewards for the customers.
Survey Your Choices
Once you’ve completed your preliminaries, it’s time for you to start narrowing things lower making a top three list (or even more, if you have time). You should check out the loyalty reviews here on this website to obtain began. For physical retailers, I’d recommend you review FiveStars or Perkville for ecommerce retailers or retailers using both platforms, I suggest you take a look at Sweet Tooth. A couple of areas to seriously consider:
Customer Support. Each loyalty review gives information on customer support and overall impressions. If customer support is really a major feature for you personally, pay attention for this area. Some companies offer great products, but horrible interpersonal relations.
Prices, Contracts and Cancellation Policies. Before getting associated with any loyalty program, know with certainty ways to get out and just what do it yourself. Contract lengths and cancellation policies ought to be well defined and clearly expressed. A thing of caution: sales people will frequently downplay cancellation policies with vague or dismissive solutions. Never be afraid to inquire about more clearness about this subject, or request their official policy if it is not easily available online. Regarding contracts and prices, some companies are prepared to negotiate on either of individuals terms, therefore it never hurts to inquire about.
Simplicity of use. Typically, a great loyalty program ought to be simple for your clients to make use of and simple for you to handle. Some companies perform a better job only at that than the others, but make time to view available demos and tutorials on loyalty software to find out if it will likely be a great fit.
*If you are getting trouble narrowing lower your choices, or would prefer to have another person perform the legwork, you are able to call us for further assistance. *
Each program may have its very own group of features open to you, and options and abilities will be different from business to business. A few of the more prevalent features are highlighted below:
Point-based programs. A place based program provides extensive value and versatility. Use a point based system to provide different point values for various services or products, and provide bonus or marketing suggests encourage specific actions.
Tiered programs. Utilizing a tiered system of rewarding your clients does a couple of things. First, it adds some gamification which provides your clients something to achieve for. Second, it enables you to definitely differentiate between customers and provide rewards according to their profitability.
Social Discussing. From Twitter and facebook posts email incentives, social discussing is a superb tool to market your company and special promotions. Most programs have incentivized social discussing (a coupon reward or X quantity of bonuses) however, many provide it without resorting to incentives.
Reviews. Not every companies provide the ability for the people to take a look at business from where you are, and also the limitations vary. There are several disadvantages in this selection namely, the possibility backlash from rewarding customers for 5 star reviews.
Data reports. Data reports are part of the effective lengthy-term loyalty program. Mckinsey & Co offer tips on how using data acquired through loyalty programs helps boost sales. Data collected from customer behaviors for example purchases, social networking interactions and reward redemptions will help you figure out what works well with each client and interact them in significant ways as individuals or smaller sized groups.
Campaigns & Promotions. Additionally in managing your loyalty program, some companies offer the opportunity to manage temporary or targeted campaigns and promotions via email, mobile application notifications, or SMS texting. These functions frequently include tracking abilities so that you can see whether a campaign ought to be repeated later on, or thrown within the scrap pile.
Mobile check-in. This selection generally needs a customer to download a particular application on their own smartphone. Mobile scanners such as the one utilized by Belly create a customer’s phone their loyalty card which may be scanned at the purpose of purchase. The iBeacon technology utilized by Perka automates the procedure using your customer’s Bluetooth capacity.
Omni-Funnel Features. Omni-funnel refers back to the ability for an organization to provide a seamless experience across multiple platforms. (i.e., beginning my shopping experience on amazon . com.com and finishing it with my cell phone) The amount of loyalty programs with omni-funnel technologies are still fairly small, however, many companies do provide omni-funnel development for his or her clients.
Companies to think about: Search Engine Optimization
Sweet Tooth Sweet Tooth can be obtained through Magento while offering a softer, Beta version in Shopify. Their point- based loyalty program has a clean front finish design and it is wealthy in features including social networking along with other interaction rewards, thorough program customizations, and product critiques. Sweet Tooth enables API integrations in addition to omni-funnel development. They’ve great customer support reviews, however the program could be cumbersome because of its complex rule system.
S Loyalty S Loyalty can be obtained through Shopify or BigCommerce and it is a place-based program. This program is extremely easy to use and could be setup within minutes. It can be bought in parts or in general package. It isn’t a really robust program, however it will get the task done.
Companies to think about: Physical Solutions
Perkville Perkville offers affordable rates for any card free loyalty program. Their features include social networking and referral rewards, in addition to daily data reports. A good option for fitness gyms, gyms and restaurants, Perkville integrates with multiple POS systems and it has a reasonably seamless process. Their transaction limits can be a drawback, however their program has gotten lots of reviews that are positive from retailers as well as their customers.
FiveStars FiveStars offers seamless integration with multiple POS systems, along with a well-rounded loyalty program. Features incorporate a customizable loyalty program, additional marketing abilities via SMS text and email, and knowledge reports to trace the progress of the program.
Belly Belly provides a customer facing iPad having a “per visit” loyalty platform. The Belly card is really a universal card customers may use at any Belly merchant location. An excellent choice for retailers with DIY customers, Belly offers social networking interactions, review abilities, a simple out-of-the-box setup, and knowledge reports which may be filtered into multiple groups.
Loyalty Gator Loyalty Gator offers an array of choices for your loyalty program. Based on your subscription plan, you may choose multiple campaigns varying from the point system to some punch card system. Additionally they offer worker loyalty programs and coalition programs for multiple retailers. Additionally to data possession, retailers receive accessibility API to build up additional integrations.
Running A Highly Effective Loyalty Program
Promotion Before you decide to unveil your program, and for some time later on, advertise it. For those who have an email list, enable your subscriber base be aware of information on this program ahead of time. Many programs offer marketing kits to brighten your doorways and funds registers (or nifty buttons for ecommerce retailers). Make use of the tools you need to tell your friends regarding your program. In almost any correspondence, your clients ought to be informed regarding how to join, how you can earn rewards, and the way to redeem them.
Should you haven’t already, ask your clients what sort of rewards they’d want to see, or make use of the information you’ve already to produce enticing rewards for the customers. With respect to the loyalty program you select, you could possibly get additional help with this out of your marketing repetition or software programs. Rewards ought to be enticing enough to inspire return visits, although not too pricey.
Once you have your loyalty enter in place there’s a couple of things you want to do regularly:
Train your employees. Unless of course you’re the only real worker, the possibilities your employees may have different responses for your new program. Let everybody know upfront what’s expected of these, and make certain to possess very obvious guidelines to follow along with in situation something goes completely wrong (i.e., will we redeem rewards when the system crashes?). Some companies offer training via tutorials or webinars for the employees, so take benefit of individuals things too.
Inquire. Mainly in the beginning, and also at various times all year round, acquire some feedback out of your employees along with your customers on which they consider this program. According to your responses, you may want to have adjustments or re-train staff.
Use every chance. Whether it’s a complaint, concern, or compliment, use every chance to interact your clients inside a positive way. Versatility and courtesy go a lengthy means by improving customer relations.
Place your data to operate. Most loyalty programs have a helpful approach to data accumulation. Some data reports tend to be more extensive than the others, offering thorough analysis and actionable insights, while some just provide raw data for use at the will. The information abilities of the loyalty program are the best, since the insights attracted from that data may be used to enhance your business in other locations. My advice? Go to whichever you need to make smarter choices regarding your program and business.
Should you not seem like your program is fulfilling all your needs, speak to your customer support repetition. Regardless of whether you need additional tools or perhaps your loyalty program requires a couple of tweaks, contacting your repetition and expressing your concerns can help you save considerable time and. A lot of companies are eager to help you. In the end, your ability to succeed is the success.
Safeguards Every loyalty programs aren’t likely to please everybody, so be ready for negative feedback, and prepare for foreseeable problems. All loyalty programs have limitations, and so i encourage you to definitely read both good and bad reviews when searching for your loyalty program. A couple of commonplace problems to think about are highlighted below.
Mobile Application software. If you are searching right into a mobile application for the loyalty software, it’s essential that you understand how your program interacts together with your customers’ phones. For instance, some mobile phone applications focus on all cell phones, while some only focus on smartphones. Also, apps have a tendency to crash more traditional programs.
Ecommerce software. The loyalty software I’ve reviewed for ecommerce can be obtained on 1 of 3 platforms: Shopify, Bigcommerce, or Magento. Though there are several integrations within the works best for the likes of Sweet Tooth, I haven’t seen anyone loyalty program on the 3 ecommerce platforms, therefore the platform you utilize will limit your choices. There’s a couple of software firms that can make custom integrations for the ecommerce store, however these integrations could cost you.
Program limitations. Some companies limit your program through transaction or signup limits, based on your subscription plan. Be sensible when selecting plans with these sorts of limitations, and think about future growth when deciding.
Guidelines Loyalty programs provide essential tools to assist generate business, but the easiest method to stick out is thru customer relations. Most of all, preserve the connection you’ve together with your existing customers. Listed here are a couple of do’s and don’ts worth mentioning about this subject:
Don’t hide your loyalty program. This can be a horrible practice. If you notice that rewards are squandering your an excessive amount of, make alterations in your program or discontinue it. Sporadically telling your clients “the product is lower,” “the machine is damaged,” or “we’re full-scale,Inches paints your company inside a negative light, particularly when individuals statements are blatantly false. If individuals statements are true, which is likely to happen, attempt to offer positive alternatives (i.e. another reward, additional points/punches/perks, or perhaps an I.O.U.). Small gestures go a lengthy way.
Never be stingy together with your customers. Lavish gifts aren’t expected, but common courtesy is. You shouldn’t provide a “tenth donut free” if my tenth donut would be the tiniest, stalest one you’ll find. Help remind your employees that rewarding your clients is a great factor.
Don’t complain for your customers. In case your loyalty program is squandering your money, you shouldn’t gripe for your customers about this. Making your clients uncomfortable will probably turn them off and them.
Do smile. Smiling at the customers and which makes them feel appreciated for patronizing your company goes a lengthy means by keeping them. Whether they’re buying or redeeming a totally free reward, the interaction ought to always be an optimistic experience.
Do be flexible. Some arguments simply aren’t worth getting. If your potential conflict could be diffused with a small compromise, choose the compromise, particularly if the alternative involves creating a scene or slowing lower service.
Do give advance notice of changes for your program. If you are thinking about altering the guidelines of the program, or plan to cancel this program altogether, provide your customers a manages. Email changes, publish an indication, or inform customers once they buy something (Personally, I’d recommend doing the 3, simply to be thorough).
Getting a loyalty program doesn’t guarantee your company will succeed, but the potential for a effective program can’t be overlooked. Loyalty programs boost profits inside a significant way. Selecting a loyalty program that’s the right fit for the business, creating significant rewards, and preserving the connection between both you and your customers will pave the best way to that success. Make sure to take a look at our loyalty reviews to obtain began with a small company loyalty program, and for those who have additional questions, you can leave a remark or achieve to us!
Phylicia is really a freelancer, indie author, and Google addict. She accustomed to scout all New York’s free venues in her own free time, however she’s reviewing loyalty rewards software for Merchant Maverick. Her professional background includes technical writing and research, though she’s also fluent in toddler gibberish. When she’s not crying over spilled milk, Phylicia enjoys studying, writing, and performing random Google searches.
Fivestars premiered by Victor Ho and Matt Doka during the cold months of 2011. It services SMBs (medium and small companies) having a customizable loyalty program. The Fivestars Loyalty program utilizes a universal card (which fits for just about any business using Fivestars), along with a customer’s telephone number to trace and incentivize purchases made at the business. Fivestars also provides the opportunity to market your location using special SMS text campaigns, in addition to reward customers for social networking interactions, and may integrate with lots of POS systems. If you are searching for simple, you’ll think it is in Fivestars, but it isn’t your main option.
Belly’s loyalty program is powered via a customer-facing iPad completely outside of your POS system. Founder Logan LaHive created out a distinct segment for Belly among local companies in Chicago, gaining a Moxie award this year for the best UX (consumer experience). Similar to Fivestars, Belly utilizes a universal card to trace customer interactions, and physical cards could be substituted with the mobile application.
Fivestars and Belly share similar features, but exactly how each program works, and, more to the point, whether it’ll fit your small business, needs a much deeper look. Read the entire reviews for Belly and Fivestars here around the Merchant Maverick site. Continue studying to check prices, features, support, and overall function for every company.
Table of Contents
Fivestars hardware is in your area installed on your pc or POS terminal. You’ll require an up-to-date browser to see your dashboard, though. However, Belly utilizes a specifically designed iPad preloaded using the Belly loyalty software and needs a web connection.
Fivestars loyalty software programs are installed using a USB. All Belly software is a component of the Belly-provided iPad.
Fivestars costs average around $2500 annually, with a lot more campaigns and options to select from. Belly offers tiered prices options varying from $99 – $199 monthly, having a one-time $150 installation fee tacked on for that lower plans. You might be able to negotiate your monthly subscription with Fivestars, based on your company needs, but Belly provides a free trial offer duration of thirty days. Both Fivestars and Belly require contracts including 6 several weeks to some year. With Fivestars, you’re obligated to pay for the duration of your hire Belly, cancellations are susceptible to a 6 month cancellation fee.
Fivestars and Belly both get good marks for simplicity of use, but maintenance for Belly is lower, as well as your employees do not need to follow along with any extra steps, apart from answering the periodic question. The general consumer experience for Belly is greater compared to Fivestars, and also the program is more engaging and interactive compared to Fivestars program.
So far as installation goes, POS integration with Fivestars is fairly seamless, with Belly installation is basically tethering your iPad to some secure location and establishing the Wi-Fi.
Both Fivestars and Belly supply you with a representative to help you on the way, however they offer additional compensated choices for expert consultancy. Both of them provide customizable loyalty programs and e-mail marketing strategies, in addition to detailed reports relating to your program and campaigns. Have a downloadable mobile application for the customers. Both give a universal card to be used at any company that utilizes them, but Fivestars doesn’t require people to scan their loyalty card. They are able to use their telephone number rather. Belly requires checking either the credit card or even the mobile application.
Where Fivestars sets itself apart is thru its SMS texting features. The Autopilot program enables you to definitely send several predefined campaigns to gather information out of your customers or lure them to go back to your company. Fivestars also provides a choice of discretionary texts, which may be generated unconditionally (i.e. special promotions while offering). The reports available are more in depth too, since Fivestars integrates directly together with your POS system.
Belly requires a more direct approach with regards to getting feedback out of your customers. Prompts for social networking interaction via Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook can be found immediately after checking in. Belly’s mobile application can also be better quality and provides the choice to interact from your company link in addition to supplying a scanner that you can use instead of the Belly card. The main one concern I’ve with Belly’s program may be the per visit check-in process. Made to encourage repeat visits, Belly’s approach is problematic. A per-dollar point system ties revenue straight to rewards. A per-visit point system awards exactly the same quantity of points whether a person spends $5 or $50. The opportunity to distinguish backward and forward and incentivize greater expenses are what the program is missing.
Fivestars has additional campaigns you can include to boost your program while offering integration with multiple POS systems. Belly is really a standalone product, so no integrations can be found.
Support for Fivestars could be utilized through phone or email. The organization offer pretty extensive tutorials and video tutorials via Fivestars College, a light-weight support page, along with a blog. Support for Belly can be obtained through its line. You may also connect to the website for FAQs, in addition to the organization blog, however these choices are for very fundamental support. Belly provides an additional resource hub covering marketing practices, video lessons and testimonials.
My customer support encounters with Fivestars and Belly weren’t everything impressive, but local retailers appear happy with their support, so I’ll defer for them.
The most typical complaint against Fivestars originates from mobile application users. The mobile application has very couple of features and does not have a mobile scanner. Other complaints originate from their cancellation policy along with the way Fivestars does business. Customers who join your business’s program basically become customers of Fivestars. Fivestars can send purports to individuals customers associated with your company, in order to another business that utilizes Fivestars. This reveals the doorway to conflict and may potentially remove your edge against your competitors.
Belly has gotten its great amount of malcontent over its cancellation policy too, but the commonest complaint originates from customers using Belly outdoors of chicago. Belly is excellent at marketing Belly, particularly in Chicago, however for companies outdoors of Chicago, the motivation to participate Belly just isn’t as high. Obviously, you are able to operate a effective loyalty program no matter the number of companies use Belly, however the perk of the universal card -you can use at exactly one place- sheds.
What I’d want to see from both Belly and Fivestars is really a coalition program. Many companies have taken advantage of loyalty programs that provide rewards at areas (think supermarkets and gas rewards), so that as both companies broaden their nets, the opportunity of an excellent coalition program can there be.
Retailers using Fivestars have reported significant increases in profits after while using program. Used strategically, Fivestars can definitely strengthen the connection between customers and companies with time. Additionally, it will get heavy praise from local retailers because of its support.
In which the Fivestars mobile application is missing, the Belly application is extremely popular. So far as figures go, Fivestars has roughly 1500 reviews within the Google Play store when compared to 7000+ reviews for Belly, I believe it’s safe to declare a champion within the mobile application category. Belly is usually preferred among customers using it, and also the application will get great reviews.
Evaluating money to overall recognition, I believe Fivestars arrives ahead over time. If Belly can be their recognition means elevated profits for the business, we’ll reevaluate that assessment.
Awesome apps and clever features aside, how can these businesses strengthen your business? Will they:
Increase repeat business? For Fivestars and Belly the reply is yes, however in this the champion is Fivestars. Fivestars’ focus on worker training and relationship building puts it within the edge within this category. Fivestars offers video tutorials and guidelines to simplify the register process making the loyalty program simple for people to understand. This program is made to still engage your clients via email and text lengthy after they’ve visited where you are. Belly offers incentives to customers for coming back for your business, but individuals visits aren’t associated with revenue. Belly also provides special campaign features via email, but when compared to campaign features provided by Fivestars, they simply aren’t nearly as good. The character from the Belly program may increase appointments with Belly locations generally, although not always for your business.
Generate start up business? Yes for Fivestars, you will find for Belly, but Belly wins. All companies using Fivestars are viewable to customers through the website and mobile application. You have to Belly, but discoverability is a lot greater with Belly because of the recognition of their mobile application, along with its social networking interactions.
Provide you with a edge against your competitors? Yes to both, but, when i pointed out above, this might not necessarily function as the situation. Belly and Fivestars match this category, simply because it really depends upon in which you conduct business. Belly may be the less expensive option and a fantastic choice in case your competition has either no loyalty program or perhaps a very fundamental one. However, should you choose business within an area saturated with loyalty programs, Fivestars provides a more serious, although more costly, option and may really increase profitability.
Searching at these loyalty programs alongside, there’s a great deal to consider. While Fivestars arrives slightly ahead for getting a much better program overall, Belly holds its very own pretty much. Fivestars provides a better quality program its SMS campaigns possess a farther achieve compared to classical email strategies, and contains better customer care options, in addition to a more reliable roi. However, Belly’s deficiencies could be easily overcome, particularly with this type of popular program and smartly designed application, and a straightforward tie-directly into revenue might make an impact.
Phylicia is really a freelancer, indie author, and Google addict. She accustomed to scout all New York’s free venues in her own free time, however she’s reviewing loyalty rewards software for Merchant Maverick. Her professional background includes technical writing and research, though she’s also fluent in toddler gibberish. When she’s not crying over spilled milk, Phylicia enjoys studying, writing, and performing random Google searches.
There are many different ways available to produce a loyalty program. Have a quick look in the Google Play or iTunes application stores and youâll see a large number of apps made to influence customer loyalty. Choices vary from coupons and discounts to games and point systems. Both ways has its own merits and drawbacks, and never all methods work nicely for each business. In the following paragraphs, Iâll be breaking lower a few of the more prevalent methods, along with a couple of less frequent ones, as one example of how both ways works.
When thinking about a loyalty program for the business itâs vital that you realize that despite a complete group of features, a course canât replace quality goods and service, nor will it produce your passion and drive. Itâs your decision to animate your program making it something dynamic and fitting for the business. That being stated, what effective loyalty programs do is help make your job simpler. Consider installing a wall-mounted having a drill versus a normal screwdriver. Neither can accomplish anything without you, only one helps make the job simpler compared to other. I really hope youâll continue studying to find out what method (or methods) might be the next drill.
The Buy âXâ get âYâ Method
Merits. A Buy âXâ get âYâ approach to loyalty offers simplicity. In case your customers create a specific buy a certain quantity of occasions they get a reward in exchange. Multiples of 5 are typical purchasing parameters, and also the reward is frequently exactly the same product offered free of charge or for a cheap price (i.e. buy 10 donuts, get 11th free). This easy approach to tracking loyalty can increase repeat traffic and it is tied straight to revenue, as your customers need to still buy âXâ to get their reward. Using a punch card program helps both you and your customers keep an eye on purchases and rewards. While the action of really punching an actual or digital card is typical, it isnât necessary. As long as you’ve got a method in position for counting âXâ and offering âYâ this program is functional, whether it is punches, points, or purchases.
Example. Pinkberry provides a simple loyalty program for purchasers who join the rewards card. After every tenth purchase, cardholders obtain a free yogurt. Simple! Pinkberry also provides a totally free yogurt on the cardholderâs birthday. Rewards expire after thirty days, and customers who register with their email will get additional marketing offers.
Downsides. This process can be quite bland and generic, so youâll have to be just a little creative to be able to differentiate your program. If youâre utilizing a digital program, discover what type of features are for sale to you that will help you stick out out of your competitors, particularly if they will use exactly the same loyalty method. Good quality features to think about are marketing features where you can offer double punches, or additional rewards. Tiered systems will also be a terrific way to diversify your program and encourage continual use. Getting an incredible service or product likewise helps. If youâre an espresso shop encircled by coffee houses, try being bold with unique customer support, personalized products, or daily promotions. Youâll should also consider features that provide you additional control over your program, for example punch or reward expiration, to help keep costs lower.
Industry Match. This process is well-liked by companies that sell exactly the same products repetitiously, for example yogurt and occasional shops, vehicle washes, salons, and pizza shops.
Merits. Tiered structures are an easy way to distinguish between frequent and infrequent customers and reward individuals customers accordingly. There’s two common kinds of tiers: status tiers and reward tiers. Status tiers give customers a particular rank, which rank qualifies them for several rewards or benefits. Reward tiers simply offer elevated rewards with elevated point or punch accumulation. Ideally, a 2 or 3 tiered structure provides a small reward at the end tier, probably the most appealing reward or rewards at the very top tier, along with a obvious path backward and forward. This process is effective along with point programs in addition to digital punch card programs. Additionally, it enables more versatility with rewards. You may make acquiring rewards at the end tier relatively simple without having to pay out an excessive amount of for rewards. This will make recurring visits more desirable to customers without having to be too pricey for you. Additionally, it enables you to definitely offer more significant rewards at greater tiers. A person who only stops from your cafe from time to time might not take care of a reward naming a glass or two after them, however a customer who visits multiple occasions each day might.
Example. The My Starbucks Rewards program offers three status tiers for purchasers who pay utilizing a registered Starbucks or Teavana card. Every time a customer pays having a physical card or through the mobile application, they accumulate a star. Every registered card user starts in the welcome level, and rewards increase with every tier. To be able to upgrade to another tier, customers must accumulate a particular quantity of stars inside a year. The truly amazing factor concerning the way these tiers are system is that particular rewards, for example free in-store refills, could be enjoyed anytime.
Downsides. The tricky part about tiers is discovering that magical balance between value and price. It isnât impossible, however it certainly requires more thought and legwork. Gathering apple from customers and employees to discover what rewards could be most appealing isn’t any easy task. Additionally working out what rewards wonât be too pricey, setting the parameters for every tier, and training the employees to condense this program right into a short, simple reason behind your clients. In case your customersâ status is tiered, thereâs even the possibility to isolate lower tiered customers in case your balance is a touch skewed. So, unless of course you really can afford for somebody to complete the legwork for you personally, tiered structures require additional work, but some extra focus on the leading finish will yield better recent results for your company.
Industry Match. This process can be useful for many business types, whether or not they offer specialized products or a multitude of services or products.
Software Match. Perka offers status tiers additionally for their mobile punch card program, an excellent combination worth thinking about if youâre searching into mobile-based programs. Check out the Perka review for more information.
Merits. Probably the most versatile and popular way of loyalty programs may be the point system. It can be useful for simple programs having a static point/dollar ratio, and in addition it works best for more complicated programs with different point/dollar ratios or point/product ratios. With respect to the limitations of the software, point systems could be stable and consistent or dynamic and altering.
Example. The Walgreens balance rewards program offers its people $5 of in-store gift certificates for each 5000 points accrued. Points could be earned on a number of products, for example prescription refills, in addition to certain actions, like exercising, taking bloodstream pressure tests or any other healthy choices. People receive exclusive offers, and rewards are tiered.
Downsides. Really the only downside to some extent system originates from misuse. Point systems can be quite accommodating, but utilizing a complex point system whenever a simple program is the perfect fit for the business could be harmful. The inverse often happens.
Industry Match. Because of its versatility, point systems are a good fit for just about any industry.
Software Match. If youâre searching for search engine optimization, Sweet Tooth provides a great loyalty program via Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento. This program can hold simple in addition to complex point programs, so make sure to look into the Sweet Tooth review. For physical solutions, Perkville, Fivestars, and Belly have significant point-based programs. You may also browse the comparison article, Fivestars versus. Belly, to determine how one stacks facing another.
Cash Reward Methods
Merits. Cash reward methods are extremely unique and appear not the same as one program to a different. The finest draw for purchasers is it offers something which everybody values: cash. Itâs not really a preselected reward or listing of rewards a person needs to select from. Cash return offers are big winners within the eyes of consumers. There are various ways to carry out it: cash return on select services or products, cash return for purchases over a specific amount, cash return on every purchase, or a variety of other combinations.
Example. Walmartâs Savings Catcher program is really a prime illustration of a money reward program. Walmart shoppers can be found the chance in order to save the main difference between Walmartâs prices on the product as well as their competitorâs marketed prices. Could it be dangerous? Yes. But Walmart has been doing a fantastic job using the program to date. This program has contingencies which make this program manageable and lower risk. First, thereâs a time period. Shoppers have 7 days to scan their receipt to be able to be eligible for a savings. Second, Walmart compares the prices towards the marketed prices of the competitors. So, if Dove soap is usually cheaper at another store however the cost isnât marketed, shoppers donât obtain the difference. Third, when customers redeem cash, guess where they stand? Walmart.
Downsides. Thereâs a very good reason the reason why you donât check this out method very frequently within the loyalty category for small companies. It may be devastating otherwise done carefully, as well as an alternate method with lower risk will frequently be a more sensible choice. The price of noncash rewards is frequently less than the price of cash rewards, and developing a system that actually works for your company is very tricky.
Industry Match. Just the bold may enter here.
Merits. Compensated memberships are most generally observed in wholesale stores like Costco, BJâs or Samâs club, however they may also be used in small companies. Basically, customers pay a charge to patronize your company, or receive additional discounts and promotions. The truly amazing factor about compensated memberships is this fact method can offset costs before customers buy things. Compensated memberships for companies that sell a distinctive service or experience will get additional advantage to be exclusive.
Example. The Sallyâs Beauty Club offers member-only discounts on products on the internet and in shops. People pay an enrollment or renewal fee of $5 each year. After enrollment or renewal, people get a $5 coupon they are able to redeem on purchases through the finish of later, so customers who purchase their membership possess the chance to have it back immediately.
Downsides. Compensated memberships could be a major switch off for purchasers when they donât begin to see the added value, but when costs are lacking, you wonât have the ability to remain in business. Locating the balance backward and forward can be quite difficult outdoors from the wholesaler / retailer market.
Industry Match. This process could be effective for companies rich in demand, affordable products, or companies that provide unique services or encounters.
Merits. I have faith that coalition programs have untapped potential among small companies. Two heads are superior to one, and teaming up with the proper partner can change lives for your online business. What one thinks of most may be the brilliant pairing of groceries and gas. The 2 donât frequently compete, plus they both offer necessary products. The truly amazing factor about coalitions is how they complement each other while remaining separate. A sea food restaurant can get together having a pancake house, a smoothie shop and a health club can get together, as well as an auto shop can work with a vehicle wash. Iâve only seen a couple of software packages offer the opportunity to facilitate a coalition program for small companies, however it has great potential.
Example. Lately Macyâs, Rite Aid, ExxonMobil, along with other brands launched a coalition loyalty program known as Plenti. Points could be accrued across these companies, and rewards could be redeemed in multiple ways, with respect to the business. For Rite Aid, customers who bring home 200 Plenti points will get $2 in savings using their company companies inside the coalition. This program sticks out since it enables people to redeem more significant rewards. A Macyâs shopper may require a fish tank of gas greater than a tshirt, so getting that choice for spending reward points increases the need for this program.
Downsides. Among the primary downsides for any coalition program is managing it. Concerning arenât lots of possibilities software-wise, many programs are restricted to shared gift certificates or certificates, or discounts.
Industry Match. Coalition programs are perfect for chains, shopping malls, and noncompeting local companies.
Merits. Gamification is a technique that provides a little bit of fun or interaction for your loyalty program. This is often as easy as a meter calculating the space prior to the next reward, or perhaps an actual, interactive game. Gamification makes your loyalty program more intriguing and encourages people to complete an action, for example buying, to carry on the interaction.
Example. For some time a minimum of, the internet food delivery website GrubHub used Tasty Rummy to inspire return visits. After every third order, customers could play a round of Tasty Rummy, an odds game where customers needed to select 1 of 3 cards to win a prize. A few of the prizes incorporated free food or drinks, but even though you didnât win, youâd obtain a clever quip or joke for the trouble.
Downsides. Thereâs hardly any downside should you keep gamification simple. Interactions that provide something to expect to another time around will go a lengthy way, whether or not the rewards are extremely small. If youâre utilizing an odds game, however, that is one little tricky. Nobody loves to play a game title they think is rigged against them, therefore if your clients never win anything, itâs game over for the loyalty program.
Industry Match. Gamification is ideal for ecommerce companies, food and restaurant chains, and companies that are looking to include some extra fun for their program.
As the methods described in the following paragraphs offer efficient ways to improve the caliber of your company, applying a course that work well requires a mix of creativeness, industry-specific understanding, and quality customer relations. When selecting a loyalty program for the business, consider what youâre offering, who youâre offering it to, and just what methods perform best for connecting together. Many methods work harmoniously along with other methods, so that your loyalty program doesnât need to be restricted to only one. Loyalty software programs are still a comparatively new space for small companies, however the choices still improve. Take time to evaluate which works well with your company, and compare several program to determine what you could reasonably maintain. Itâs also smart to take a look at companies concentrating on the same business structures to determine what labored (or didnât work) on their behalf.Â The Merchant Maverick Loyalty Software section is a superb spot to read reviews from retailers and business proprietors across industries. Best of luck!
The publish Effective Means of Loyalty Programs made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.
Are you currently searching for any POS system to help you build customer relations, get more traffic, and stick out from the competition?
You will find dozens upon a large number of POS systems available, some good, some less. Loyalty solutions have been in existence for quite a while, however the possibilities for small companies will always be couple of.
Damaged lower by industry, that list will get even smaller sized, especially while you transfer to eCommerce and mobile platforms. Keeping that in your mind, among the simplest ways to apply loyalty solutions for your company is to make use of the various tools available using your POS system.
Not every POS systems have loyalty solutions, obviously, and a few are extremely fundamental, but fundamental marketing options are superior to no options whatsoever. Oftentimes theÂ POSÂ loyalty program softwareÂ is incorporated at no additional cost, so why wouldn’t you utilize it?
If youâre looking around for any POS having a solid status and powerful loyalty and marketing solutions, keep studying.
Hereâs our top three listing of POSÂ loyalty programs (POS systems with built-in loyalty solutions). Rankings were according to Merchant Maverick ratings, overall loyalty solutions offered, and added cost.
Third Place: QuetzalÂ
The Quetzal POS is made for small retail companies and it has a comprehensive loyalty solution. Quetzal is most effective being an iPad POS but may also be used with any internet browser.Â Quetzal includes a five-star rating with Merchant Maverick and loyalty solutions come at no additional cost.
Quetzal uses thumbs up/lower buttons as a way of by hand awarding suggests customers. With a few imagination, this process could be utilized for a highly effective tool for loyalty. You are able to give customers a thumbs up every time they buy something and provide special rewards or discounts after they achieve a particular quantity of points. Quetzal also provides additional tag features to trace customer spending trends.
Exactly what the Quetzal loyalty feature lacks is definitely an interactive knowledge about your clients. Itâs more a casual tracking tool for you personally than the usual full-scale loyalty program, though you can use it to reward customers. You should check out the Quetzal review for additional info on their loyalty solutions and overall features.
Second Place: BindoÂ
Bindo POS is really a feature-wealthy system having a concentrate retail. This iPad POS provides additional online shop features for retailers.Â Bindo includes a five-star rating with Merchant Maverick, and you will find no additional costs for loyalty solutions.
Bindo POS loyalty solutions could be customized in many ways: By quantity of orders/visits, quantity of products purchased, or amount of money spent. This program could be modified into tiers, an effective way of rewarding your most loyal customers. Additionally towards the loyalty program, the machine tracks customer revenue and private data for other marketing possibilities.
The Bindo POS can also be able to managing additional discount choices, gift certificates, and store credit. Read much more about this technique on the Bindo POS review.
To Begin With: VendÂ
Our to begin with champion for POS software with inclusive loyalty solutions would go to Vend, a cloud-based POS. This technique offers solutions for eCommerce platforms in addition to physical locations within the retail industry.Â Vend includes a 4.five star rating with Merchant Maverick and also the loyalty solutions can be found at no additional cost.
Vend offers an inclusive, customizable loyalty program to reward customers. Rewards are calculated using dollar ratios that may be focused on all purchases or qualifying products. This program may also be established to offer bonus dollars in addition to promotions and Very important personel choices.
The Vend POS offers among the best inclusive loyalty solutions Iâve found, and also the software programs are very simple to use. Read much more about this technique around the Vend review.
There’s a couple of other POS systems that, when they don’t quite merit the very best three, should have mention. Scalping strategies have solid ratings around the Merchant Maverick site and supply loyalty solutions inside the software.
This technique is definitely an iPad POS created for single location restaurants. The in-house loyalty solutions Ambur provides be more effective referred to as enhanced customer management tools, including discounts, coupons and gift certificates. To learn more, browse the Ambur POS review.
This technique was created mainly for restaurant and small retail companies. The built-in Revel POS loyalty program utilizes a point-based system to reward customer spending and it is available for the next fee. Additionally for this option, Revel has lots of 3rd party integrations available. Browse the Revel review for additional info on Revel POSÂ loyalty program software options.
This retail-oriented system offers POS loyalty solutions via e-mail marketing for discounts and promotions and tracks the sales good reputation for your clients. Browse the Erply review for more information.
While the amount of POS systems with inclusive loyalty software programs are growing, itâs still a comparatively few. Loyalty solutions for small companies are available in many sizes and shapes some programs integrate together with your POS software while some work on another network. The conclusion? When the software programs are included in your POS system, utilize it! The simplest of programs is definitely an effective tool for building customer relations for the business. Make the most of all of the tools provided inside your POS system. The truly amazing factor about POS loyalty solutions is the fact that theyâre designed particularly for the software, and they’re frequently more intuitive than a 3rd party software solution.
There’s a couple of more points to consider, like the proven fact that some POS systems may charge yet another fee for his or her loyalty software. In individuals cases, I’d think about the value when it comes to features, customer support and necessity. 3rd party software involves a person service experience outside of those of your POS, in addition to different rules and contract factors. You should check out the loyalty software section for more information on 3rd party software.
The publish Best POS Software with Built-in Loyalty Solutions made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.
Engaging your clients inside a positive, distinctive, and relevant strategy is essential for any company. The various tools you utilize to interact your clients need so that you can do three things:
Leave an optimistic impression
Separate your company from others
Illustrate the advantages of selecting you
Loyalty cards are an easy way to complete all of these things. They will use effective digital tools behind the curtain and also have advantages like a physical indication of the business. If youâre searching for methods to enhance customer engagement for the business, keep studying.
Influencing Customer Engagement
Why itâs important
While getting a dependable, foreseeable loyalty program can take part in your customer engagement strategy, it can’t function as the entire it. Finding creative methods to interact with your clients is definitely an organic, complex process, and loyalty programs are a good start to obtain there. All you do, from how you recognition rewards for the loyalty program, to how you manage customer complaints and suggestions, impacts the way in which customers view your company. These apparently small, mundane interactions will build with time and make lasting impressions in your customers. Research has shown that weekly interactions between customers and companies build loyalty, and 78% of loyal customers had experienced delight or surprise from that business. Showing courtesy and supplying good service are anticipated. Whenever your business exceeds the expectations of the customers, youâre growing the chances that they’ll spend more money, and/or even more frequently, at the business.
Talking about spending, one method to encourage a rise in customer expenses are to provide a number of incentives. Research conducted recently by LoyaltyOne regarding grocery retailers implies that roughly 8 from 10 shoppers would like grocery discounts to gas savings as incentives. Gas incentives were, but still are, a terrific way to reward customers, however they arenât highly relevant to everybody. Similarly, inside your business, the rewards you are offering today might not be relevant tomorrow. Understanding what your clients want, and recognizing when individuals wants change, is essential to maintaining the amount of engagement that drives your company forward. How do we evaluate which your clients want, or when individuals wants change? Iâm glad you requested.
Engaging Customers Through Loyalty Cards
The potency of a loyalty card depends positioned on how itâs used. Research has shown there are over two billion loyalty program memberships within the U.S., with customers averaging around seven memberships each, but under one fourth of individuals are positively engaged customers. If your loyalty card for your company is only a gimmick, yet another factor to temporarily boost traffic, a loyalty card is going to do hardly any for you personally. Utilized as an item of connection, a loyalty card becomes a lot more effective. Consider a loyalty card like a middleman presenting two potential buddies, or perhaps a door giving use of . . . well, whateverâs on the other hand. A loyalty card introduces your company for your customers, promising something useful if theyâre prepared to cultivate rapport. Obviously, loyalty cards donât promise monogamy, your clients arenât married for your business in the end, however they offer possibility of a far more significant relationship between both you and your customers. Whenever you provide a loyalty card, youâre telling your customer, âHey, thereâs more to my company. Do you want to discover?â Whenever a customer accepts your loyalty card, theyâre suggesting, âIâm willing to hear what you are offering.â That connection may go absolutely nowhere. Or, it could cause a committed customer who brings you their business along with the business of the buddies. Or, and Iâll talk much more about this later, it might are a complete disaster and really hurt your company. There’s a hazard involved with beginning a loyalty program, and Iâve seen a couple of fails firsthand. The conclusion? Loyalty cards really are a gateway by which relationships between both you and your customers can grow. Here are a few advantages to presenting a loyalty card together with your loyalty program:
Identifies most loyal customers. This is correct for many loyalty cards, although not all. Loyalty cards with tiered structures be capable to differentiate between periodic customers and much more frequent ones, in addition to low spenders and greater spenders. The way in which tiered systems are structured can vary from course to course, but theyâre among the best ways to pay attention to cultivating better relationships using the customers who really assistance to increase your business.
Enticing to prospective customers. For the way you plan the launch of the loyalty program, a loyalty card may be used to lure prospective customers through person to person. One factor you could do this is provide a secondary group of cards to new newbies (or old newbies, too) to provide for their buddies to allow them to test out your business. At the minimum, basically just like a place, I tell my buddies about this. Put an additional card within my hands, and thatâs double points for the business. The additional card will help remind prospective customers that you simply exist and therefore are waiting prepared for everyone them.
Free advertising. Should you provide a physical card for the customers, theyâll make it around together everywhere. Whether itâs within their purse, wallet, or on their own keychain, anywhere they’re going thereâs an opportunity someone around them might find your card.
Brand builder. Coinciding with free advertising may be the brand building potential. Loyalty cards arenât viewed as frequently among small companies (unless of course youâre a series), so getting one boosts confidence that youâre legit, promotes recognition of the brand for individuals who’re less acquainted with you, and improves your general appeal.
Digital Loyalty Software. There are several benefits that include digital loyalty programs, even when they donât make use of a physical card. These digital tools offer everything from tracking individual customer spending to outlining your best selling products or perhaps calculating your best promotions. It’s these back finish tools that enable you to evaluate customer behavior and switch it into something actionable. Customer profiles help you produce customer transactions more intimate. Customer tracking tools help you produce interactions more relevant. Customer comments options enable you to help make your program as well as your business better. Marketing and marketing tools result in the whole process a great deal simpler once youâre prepared to engage customers.
And today comes unhealthy news. The greatest obstacle to some effective loyalty program, and often business generally, is managing customer expectations. You arenât likely to satisfy every customer. Many will complain about all you do. Many will be perfectly happy (before you ruin, that’s: then, be careful Yelp, your company sucks). Complaints is often as simple as serving lukewarm fries, or as serious as not delivering the wedding cake on their own big day. Whenever you provide a loyalty program, youâre basically promising a mutually advantageous relationship. If customers donât seem like youâre keeping the finish, one, or perhaps all, of those three things will probably happen:
They create a large fuss, or, to become fair, possess a completely appropriate reaction in your direction, the server, or cashier, or someone at the business, possibly creating a scene.
They patronize your company less frequently or stop coming altogether.
They provide you with an adverse review. This may be a profoundly written âthis place sucks,â a treadmill of individuals rare gems that really help you stay awake during the night.
Statistically speaking, people are more inclined to remember an adverse knowledge about your company compared to what they really are a positive one. Based on an SDL survey, 76% from the nearly 3000 people they surveyed stated they appreciated a significant negative experience of the this past year. For just one quarter of this number, the main negative experience cost them $20 or fewer as well as an hour to repair. Only 55% appreciated an optimistic experience. These negative encounters, trivial as they might be, are very highly relevant to your company. Actually, they may be pricey.
Improving Customer Relations
The very best technique for fostering positive customer relations is really a preemptive one. Know ahead of time that your company is likely to neglect to meet expectations for somebody, somewhere. Roughly 59% of customer support failures are related to an individual, instead of a failure of technology, or perhaps a joint failure of both. Should people provide you with a break once the internet is lower and absolutely nothing is working? In one human to a different, yes. But may they wonât. Because sometimes customers forget that they’re coping with people. And, around the switch side of this, sometimes employees forget that buyers are people, too. Sometimes Personally i think similar to a herded sheep when Iâm waiting in the road at Starbucks. Particularly when I donât understand what I would like (yikes!). At times it just takes a muttered comment or sideways glance from your worker to ruin my whole experience. Other days, I walk to the counter, just like a boss, and let them know things i want in a short time span, but for whatever reason the individual alternatively finish misses things i stated, or will get everything wrong. And, for any couple of seconds, I forget the cashier is an individual who, like me, makes mistakes. For the reason that moment, all I understand is the fact that my expectations werenât met. Every customerâs reaction to that moment differs, but every customer may have individuals moments. Being ready for individuals moments is essential to improving customer relations for the business.
Customer comments. Some loyalty programs provide you with the choice to make notations on the customerâs profile. If your customer comes with an issue, make sure to notate it and react to it, even when itâs trivial. Getting a person prepared to complain is really a great sign. This means they trust that you simply care enough to listen to
their complaint and find a solution. It might also mean theyâre manipulative rather than let anything go, but thatâs splitting hairs. Complainers provide you with valuable feedback, even when their complaint is groundless. Fostering trust is essential, sometimes customers would like to be heard. Using complaints to enhance your company and just how both you and your employees connect with customers can also be important.
The price of a poor experience. There’s a genuine risk involved with not implementing customer complaints seriously. LoyaltyOne and Verde Group did some pot study just how much an adverse experience costs a company. The outcomes varied with respect to the industry, but losses were believed at between an 11%-25% decrease in revenue because of negative customer encounters. Silent customers, or customers who donât complain straight to a company, constitute an enormous most of these encounters. Based on the SDL study, eight in ten customers donât give companies an opportunity to make things right. These customers frequently reduce their spending or stop spending their cash at this business altogether. Additionally those that storm social networking, Yelp, or tell all of their buddies to not patronize your company. Negative comments are probably the most damaging. Even understanding what I understand about negative reviews, Iâm reluctant to provide a company my patronage if theyâre not well rated by their clients. Prospective customers are frequently switched off by scathing negative reviews. Exactly what do you need to do?
Rapidly resolving issues. You wonât have the ability to win every argument having a disgruntled customer. Actually, winning the argument could cost you more over time. Rather, try to resolve matters rapidly. The more an issue drags out, the much more likely it’ll escalate into something uncomfortable. Resolving issues doesnât mean giving your clients something free of charge (although I really like freebies). Many issues could be resolved by simply apologizing and accepting blame. Based on the SDL survey, the best way to regain disgruntled customers involved the company owning their failures and acknowledging their mistakes (In the event that doesnât work, try providing them with something free of charge!). Apart from individual customer complaints, you will find problems that affect all your customers, like a power outage or perhaps a stocking problem with a well known item. When unexpected things happen you know will inconvenience your clients, donât wait to allow them to complain. Most of them wonât a minimum of, to not the face. Among the advantages of loyalty cards is they will help you become more positive together with your customers. Knowing your clients were inconvenienced throughout a certain period of time, you should use your loyalty program, whether it looks after a transaction history, to provide a coupon or special offering to customers who made purchases in that period of time. Should you donât wish to offer any discounts, an apology for that inconvenience could work wonders too. Simply acknowledging the inconvenience goes a lengthy way with many different people, although it wonât work with everybody. You may also offer additional points, or punches if you are using a paper or digital punch card system, for that inconvenience.
Loyalty programs with Loyalty Cards
Fivestars provides a loyalty program with optional loyalty cards. Itâs a great fit for small companies with a small amount of employees. Fivestars offers tiered programs, email promotions, and social networking choices for getting together with your clients, in addition to additional SMS text marketing plans.
Belly is really a Chicago based company that provides both plastic loyalty cards along with a mobile scanner to award customers for frequent visits. Itâs an excellent fit for cafes, bars, small grocers and native niche shops. Features include e-mail marketing tools and social networking integrations, including Yelp review abilities.
Perka provides a digital punch card for rewarding customers. Itâs a great fit for cafes, coffee and pizza shops, boutiques and companies that offer exactly the same product repetitiously. This program offers additional in-store ads, register bonuses, analytics on customer transactions, and push notifications for purchasers using the downloaded application.
Loyalty Gator provides a loyalty program with several options, including plastic loyalty cards, punch cards, along with other material. Itâs a great fit for small storefronts, bars, spas, and boutiques. Customer engagement tools include targeted and transaction based emails, online enrollment, and extra customized marketing material.
Loyalty cards are an easy way to enhance customer engagement in your business. They provide effective tools to trace and evaluate your customersâ spending habits, requirements, and overall effect on your company. These power tools can assist you to personalize interactions for every customer to supply enjoyable, unique, and relevant encounters which strengthen the look of the business. Accustomed to achieve to your clients as well as their potential buddies, loyalty cards really are a physical representation of the business along with a indication for your customers that the services are prepared. While you continue to look for methods to improve relations between both you and your customers, consider the advantages of a loyalty card for the business. In the centre from it, customer engagement is exactly what drives your ability to succeed. Loyalty cards are merely a different way to make it happen.
The publish Improving Customer Engagement with Loyalty Cards made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.
For most small business owners, it’s a jungle out there. Danger lurks around every corner, predators seem to be silently stalking your every movement, and – in the immortal words of Jethro Tull – the rivers are full of crocodile nasties. Let’s face it, when it comes to start-ups and small businesses the statistics are grim. According to one recent study, the failure rate of retail establishments after four years is over 50%, and businesses in the service industry usually meet the same fate. Sadly, restaurants tend to do even worse, and the majority are forced to close their doors before a decade has passed.
There are many reasons why businesses eventually fail – bad locations, limited staff, a poor economic climate, etc. But experts are beginning to agree that most failed businesses (no matter what industry they belong to) have one, very important factor in common: inexperience on the part of the owners/managers. It’s all very well to follow your dreams, but man does not live on dreams alone. For most of us, a little thing called money is required if we want to eat, access our electricity, wash our clothes, keep our children shod, etc. That’s right, money. It’s what you get when you run a business that brings in more revenue than it puts out. That sounds so simple: spend less than you make. But the reality is that pulling in a profit takes knowledge, skill, and access to the proper tools. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve opened up a cat-grooming boutique or finally launched that grilled-cheese food truck you’ve always wanted – if you don’t know what you’re doing when you set out, and/or don’t bother to learn as you go, you might as well throw your seed money down the storm drain.
Fortunately, at Merchant Maverick (MM), we understand how hard it can be to start a business – let alone to keep one going for more than a year or two. You shouldn’t have to do everything by yourself – keeping up with inventory, payment processing, invoicing, shipping, point of sale, website design and the like is nearly impossible without the right equipment (good ol’ pen and paper just doesn’t cut it anymore). The good news? Advances in software and cloud technology have resulted in some pretty impressive small business tools. Even better news? The writers and reviewers at MM have invested thousands of hours researching, testing, and rating small business services/software. In other words, we know our stuff. Running a business is a tremendous burden, but the heavy lifting has already been done – we’ve done if for you – and all you need do is benefit from our years of experience.
Each company below has undergone a rigorous evaluation by an experienced MM reviewer. We scoured websites, read help articles, and browsed through user forums. We talked to customer service and saw for ourselves how responsive they were. And most importantly, we tested the actual software or service ourselves. The following are our reviewers’ top small business software picks for merchant services/payment processing as well as for mobile payments, shopping carts, point of sale, accounting, inventory management, invoicing, booking, email marketing, CRM, project management, loyalty rewards, and website building.
So, without further ado, let the awards ceremony for the best small business software begin!
Merchant Account Providers
Winner: Dharma Merchant Services
Dharma Merchant Services is one of our all-time favorite companies, period, here at Merchant Maverick. Defined by exceptional customer support, low-cost hardware, excellent industry connection, and reasonable negotiation-free rates and fees, Dharma is an ideal option for small businesses with in-person sales. It distinguishes itself from the competition by using only interchange-plus pricing and charging no early termination fees or monthly minimums. There are no annual fees, no application fees, and no pesky PCI compliance fees to deal with either. In addition, this company dedicates 50% of its net profits to charity. Dharma is basically a paragon of integrity, honesty, and respect, and it’s worth its weight in gold in this sometimes unscrupulous industry,
There is one small catch: businesses must process at least $10K per month to use Dharma Merchant Services. Businesses with smaller revenue streams are directed instead to Flint Mobile (see review below).
Dharma offers amazing in-house customer support during business hours (8:00am â 5:00pm Pacific Time). If you need support outside this time frame, you will be directed elsewhere, depending on the severity of your issue and what processor you’re using.
To read more about Dharma Merchant Services, see our full review here.
Boasting a great reputation and a low monthly base fee (which includes access to Quantum gateway), CDG Commerce is a budget friendly alternative to Dharma Merchant Services, especially for low-volume merchants or web-based businesses.Â CDG was established in 1998, and has had plenty of time to cultivate a reputation for honesty and excellence. In fact, customer complaints are nearly non-existent, which is a miracle in itself after nearly 20 years in business. Like Dharma, CDG offers interchange-plus pricing, does not charge an early termination fee, and has no gateway setup fees or PCI compliance fees.
CDG Commerce charges only $10 per month in base fees; beyond that, you can pick and choose which additional services you want to pay for. This is a great system, as it ensures that you won’t be stuck buying things you neither want, nor need.
CDG offers live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. In our experience, support staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and scrupulously honest.
Click here to read our full review of CDGcommerce.
Winner: Flint Mobile
Flint Mobile is our overall top pick for mobile, based primarily on its speed, ease of use, reliability, and price point. To start off, it doesn’t offer a swiper – not a free one, not a paid one, just no reader whatsoever. You can either key in card numbers or simply use your phone’s camera to scan numbers instead. That in and of itself significantly reduces the cost for setting up your account. Flint therefore has the ability to offer lower rates, which is exactly what they do. And with a ridiculously low rate for processing debit alongside a very fair credit rate, they’re nearly impossible to beat.
Flint has only two rates:
Debit transactions: 1.95%
Credit transactions: 2.95%
Yep, thatâs it. It doesn’t get more complicated than that at any point: there are no per transaction fees, no non-qualified fees, and no surcharges of any kind. Flint Mobile runs transactions at a much faster speed than other similar apps, and while it might take a couple tries to get your scanning settings set up the way you like, Flint makes customization an easy and intuitive process. Our one complaint is that they do not provide any means for printing a paper receipt.
One very important thing to mention about Flint Mobile is that, even with the EMV liability shift (effective October 1st, 2015), users have no need to upgrade hardware. The camera scan will continue to work as it always has, with no change to liability. Currently it’s the only mobile processor we’re aware of that will securely process chip cards with no hardware upgrade.
This app can’t replace a full-feature tablet POS, but it comes with a number of amazing features (integrated QR coupons, invoicing, customizable receipts, etc.) and executes service flawlessly. If you’re looking for a sensible, surefire way to accept payments and grow your clientele, you can’t go wrong with Flint Mobile.
If you’d like more information about Flint Mobile, check out our full review.
Runner-Up: Payline Data
Payline Data is mostly a standard merchant account provider, but it has a good mobile solution and low-volume fee structure. Extra services are offered as-needed, so you only have to pay for what you need. There are two pricing models (to accommodate both low and high volume merchants):
Simple (Under $5,000 per month)
$5 monthly fee
Interchange + 0.50%
$0.10 per transaction
Pro (Over $5,000 per month)
$20 monthly fee
Interchange + 0.20%
$0.10 per transaction
We really appreciate the number of customer service and support outlets Payline provides, and it has an extensive knowledge base and FAQ for self-service support, which is quite nice.
Payline Data delivers on any businesses essential needs, and has managed to maintain positive reviews and a spotless reputation since 2009 â which is no small task in the credit card processing industry. In general, it’s a great pick for mobile processing for small businesses everywhere.
Find out more about Payline Data by reading our full review here.
Shopify is unique in that it can be used as a physical POS or an online shopping cart or both at once. This inherent flexibility gives it a clear edge over other shopping carts, and its low price point make it well within the reach for small businesses, even those with strained budgets. Shopify is the industry standard for shopping cart software, and for good reason. There are never any limits to the number of products you can sell, which is nice, though there aren’t many limits to the software in general.
All Shopify plans come with a full 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees. Plans range from $14/month to $179/month with rates ranging from 2.9% + 30Â¢ to 2.4% + 30Â¢. You can pay on a month-to-month basis, but you’ll receive a 10% discount if you choose to pay for one year up front (a 20% discount is offered for those who sign a two-year contract). We’re not terribly fond of Shopifyâs transaction fees, unfortunately, although they do get waived if you use Shopify as your credit card processor.
Shopify is eminently user friendly, and the cart is easy to set up and easy to manage. In our experience, the software works flawlessly from the point of view of both the customer and the merchant, and it is one of the most feature-rich carts available. It is accessible for online mavens, but it is also well within the reach of newcomers and amateurs. Shopify offers a number of apps, some of which are free and some of which may cost a small fee. You can check out Shopifyâs App Store to browse offerings.
Customer support is available via phone, email, and live chat, but there are other great self-help resources as well, including a support center, Knowledge Base, a discussion forum, and a Shopify âExpertsâ page where you can find experienced professionals in design, marketing, development, and photography.
For more information, click here to read our full review of Shopify.
Ecwid, the “go anywhere, sell anything, no manual required” shopping cart, is designed for small eCommerce businesses, as well as for individual sellers and start-ups. We’re big fans of Ecwid, and there are two main reasons why. Firstly, it is extremely ubiquitous, and capable of integrating with nearly every existing website, from social media platforms to blogs. Secondly, it is so reasonably priced, compared to its competitors, that you would be foolish not to take it out for spin. Unlike most shopping carts, there is no typical âfree trial periodâ for Ecwid. Instead, you can simply try out the Free Plan (the obvious advantage to doing this is that your services won’t be cancelled after your trial period ends).
Ecwid offers unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and no transaction fees on every subscription level, even the free plan. Paid plans range from $15/month to $99/month. Personal support by email and online chat are only available at higher subscription levels.
Like Shopify, Ecwid gives you the option to use the software as a physical POS. However, this function is really best suited for online-only business owners who want the option of having a mobile or âpop up shopâ operation, but aren’t trying to maintain a physical storefront at all times.
In general, Ecwid is a solid product with great, user-friendly elements. It’s not the best solution for high-volume sales, but most companies out there (especially startups and very small businesses) will be fully satisfied with its features and ease of use.
Read our full review of Ecwid to learn more.
ShopKeep is one of the best software solutions we’ve ever encountered at Merchant Maverick. This simple, elegant, and visually-appealing cloud-based POS has carved out a solid niche catering to small-business food and beverage sellers. For a very low monthly cost, ShopKeep can help you manage your inventory, customers, employees, as well as record transactions and offer a variety of reporting options (for analyzing all this data).
ShopKeep does not require you to sign a contract. It is a pay-as-you-go, monthly subscription service. There are no extra maintenance fees, and what’s more impressive, tech support is 100% included in the monthly charge. The actual pricing system is beautifully simple as well: $49/month/register.
Other than it’s extremely reasonable price point, ShopKeep’s biggest selling point is its ease-of-use. There is very little learning curve involved, and even the most technologically deficient should have no problem learning the ins and outs of this software in a matter of days (or hours, more likely).
Customer support is fantastic, and unlimited email, live chat, or phone is included in the monthly price. The support page on the company website is also fantastic, and offers comprehensive articles and video tutorials on every aspect of the software.
Read our full review of ShopKeep if you’d like more details.
SalesVu is a perfect POS for the average small business, offering a robust feature set at a competitive price. eCommerce options are built right into the software, so you can design your own site from the back office without ever having to pay for (and integrate) Shopify or hire an expensive third party designer. Integrated eCommerce also ensures that communications between the web store and the brick and mortar store are smooth and seamless.
Prices range from $25/month to $150/month, depending on how many features you need (things like time tracking, accounting, etc. are a bit extra). Basically, SalesVu can be as affordable as you need it to be. Additionally, when you open an account with SalesVu you get a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit (for some small business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need).
Customer service is good, but the primary strengths of this software are found in its intuitive interface and broad flexibility. It is so much more than just a mobile cash register. With SalesVu, you can monitor inventory, create detailed reports, design custom discounts and promotions, maintain an active customer database, and manage employees – and you can do all these things anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. Opening an account with SalesVu gets you a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit. For some business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need.
SalesVu integrates with SalesVu Easy Accounting, Quickbooks, Facebook, and Zapper.
You can check out our full review of SalesVu for more information.
It’s not hard to see why Xero takes the prize for best small business accounting software. It is mobile, cloud-based, easy-to-use, and extremely comprehensible for the small business owner who is handling finances on his/her own (click here for a full list of features). While it can be more expensive long-term than something like QuickBooks Pro, small business owners – especially those who aren’t accountants by nature or profession – are more likely to enjoy using a simple, intuitive program like Xero.
There are multiple pricing plans available, ranging from $9/month to $70/month (these prices include updates as they are released, usually every 3-6 weeks). Small companies with limited invoicing needs would have to look far and wide for a similarly robust accounting/payroll package that trumps Xero’s $9/month price tag. And happily, you don’t have to sign a contract with Xero; plans are paid by the month and you can basically cancel the service at any time. Xero offers a 25% discount for non-profits and a 15% discount on your total bill if you subscribe for multiple businesses. If you do feel comfortable making a commitment and signing up for a 6 month subscription, youâll get a 30% discount.
There are only a few minor problems with Xero, one of which is slow customer support response times. Customer service is offered 24/7, year-round, but some customers have complained of long response times, cut-and-paste answers to questions, and reps who don’t seem to actually know how to use the software. This would be a much bigger deal if Xero was complex or had a steep learning, curve, but it’s not as alarming considering the software’s general simplicity and ease of use. Furthermore, many customers praise Xero’s level of customer service, and the wait times are comparable to those of other accounting software programs.
One real perk of using Xero is that it integrates with over 400 other applications which can facilitate nearly every aspect of business operation, including inventory management, CRM, and POS (some of these are only available to certain countries; in the U.S., there are about 350 Xero integrations available).Â
Read our full review of Xero here.
Runner-Up: QuickBooks Pro
Intuit’s QuickBooks Pro is a robust, feature-rich accounting solution, perfect in many ways for small business (to see a full list of features, click here). It is locally installed software, which results in lower per-year costs and more features than your typical cloud-based software, so if you’re willing to deal with a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning (especially difficult for people who have no previous accounting background), then QB Pro can be an excellent way to save money in your accounting budget. Though it lacks the convenience of a cloud based solution – you don’t get automatic, routine updates or instant access to new features – it is a very viable accounting solution for companies with complex bookkeeping needs.
QuickBooks Proâs list price is $299.95. This might seem a bit high compared to something like Xero, but keep in mind that QB Pro requires a one-time purchase and does not use a subscription model â and it is nearly always available at a discount. While thereâs no free trial available, Intuit does back QB Pro with a 60-day guarantee; if you return the program for any reason within 60 days, you can get a full refund. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the purchase price does not include updates, nor do you get full tech support or bank feeds. It’s also worth noting that customer service tends to be slow.
One comment we’ve noticed often on user reviews is that, while people aren’t particularly enthusiastic about QB Pro, it works and does what itâs supposed to do; many claim that it’s the best accounting program available. While thatâs far from a resounding recommendation, itâs also true that despite its drawbacks, for many businesses, QB Pro is more than adequate. And whether you love it or hate it, QuickBooks Pro is often the best option for the money.
Read our full review of QB Pro here.
Inventory Management Software
Winner: Stitch Labs
Stitch, the flagship product of Stitch Labs, is a cloud-based inventory management solution with tons of functionality, myriad useful integrations, and fantastic customer service. Designed to combine inventory, billing, accounting, shipping, and eCommerce features with your choice of 3rd party integrations, Stitch is the do-it-all, full service inventory solution. As the name would suggest, it is intended to be the thread that holds the backend of your company firmly together. Really, its only flaw is that is designed exclusively for American companies. International businesses will have to look elsewhere.Â
Price plans range from $29/month to $449/month, not bad considering how many features this software brings to the table. What’s more, Stitch is easy to use, even for the uninitiated. The UI is clean, understated, and intuitive. Within a few minutes of signing up, you should feel like a pro, able to create products and customer contacts and generate sales orders with ease. It’s easy to pick up on your own just by experimentation, but if you’re queasy about finding your own way around, you can reference one of the many tutorials on each page that take you step-by-step through all the basic tasks.
In general, the customer service department is responsive and helpful. Our questions were promptly answered (never longer than 24 hours, even on the weekend), and ticket creation happened immediately, so we always had a case number toÂ reference and never felt lost in the shuffle. Not surprisingly, the Stitch Labs support team is highly praised all over the web.
Stitch integrates with a large number of other programs and applications, including Amazon, eBay, BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and Square, to name just a few. And when you combine an excellent selection of integrations with powerful suite of tools,youâve got inventory management software that is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.
You can read more about Stitch Labs in our full review.
TradeGecko, a cloud-based inventory application for small to medium sized businesses, is comparable to Stitch Labs in functionality and number of integrations, but is more geared toward international companies (it still works well for American companies, if you don’t mind a time difference with the support staff).
The design of this software emphasizes collaboration, group workflows, and activity feeds. This means that you can reference sales information, purchase orders, and stock levels at once, and they will all update in real time. TradeGecko is intuitive and easy to use, and has a clean – if spartan – UI which is perfect for a bookkeeping system.
TradeGecko offers a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Plans range from $49/month to $399/month, though you can get a monthly discountÂ if you commit to paying for a year up-front. The company provides a detailed knowledge base, with step-by-step instructions for performing many tasks, and it also offers 24 hour customer support. On the whole, our support experience was positive, though a few of our tickets took longer than we would have liked to resolve.
Integrations include Shopify, Salesforce, Xero, Magento, Quickbooks Online, Amazon, and WooCommerce (to name a few). All in all, TradeGecko isnât the cheapest product on the market (which is why it’s the runner up for this category) but it is so intuitive and feature rich that small to medium-sized businesses with a budget to kick around should give it a look.
For more information about TradeGecko, read our full review here.
Officially, Freshbooks is a web-based accounting solution, though it is fair to say that it’s best utilized for its incredible invoicing features. This software is tailor made for independent contractors and small, service-based businesses; it is easy to use, has lots of interesting features (including time tracking, reporting, and expenses), and integrates with a huge variety of 3rd party applications.
Pricing, unfortunately, is a bit steep for the target market (small businesses), though there is a free plan which allows you to manage a single client. Paid plan range from $19.95/month to $39.95/month. Customer support is available Monday â Friday, 9am â 6pm EST. In our experience, representatives are remarkably quick to respond to emails (usually within 20 minutes during business hours) and are courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable.
As mentioned above, FreshBooks offers more than 60 integrations and add-ons includingÂ PayPal, Shopify, Basecamp, and Stripe. It is as comprehensive an invoicing solution as you could hope for, especially since it does offer other perks, like reporting.
You can read our full review of FreshBooks here.
Invoiceable is simple, easy to use software that allows you to create professional looking invoices. It’s actually free to all, with no feature limits, though you can opt to pay a one-time fee to remove the company’s branding from your invoices: this is a perk that no other free invoicing program offers. Additionally, unlike many of the other major free invoicing programs, Invoiceable isnât just a wimpy, scaled-back version of a paid service. You can have as many clients and send as many invoices as you like.
Of course, with a completely free service you’re going to miss certain features that come with a paid subscription. Support, for example, is unreliable and sporadic. Response times can vary between 1-12 days, and sometimes you may not get any response at all. There is also limited sales tax functionality, which means that the software really only works for businesses that charge a single, across the board tax rate, or don’t charge tax at all.
That said, if you are a freelancer or own a very small business with relatively low sales volume, this may be all you need for now. Itâs leaps and bounds better than simply typing out your invoices into MS Word or Excel, and it is one of the best free options out there that both allow you to have unlimited clients and actually works in the United States! The interface is basic and intuitive, and while customer service is slow, you probably wonât need it most of the time. If this sounds like a good match for you, we suggest you try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose â after all, itâs free.
Read our full review of Invoiceable here.
Winner: Zoho CRM
User-friendly, reasonably-priced, and full of useful features, Zoho CRM is our favorite customer relations management software, hands down. It’s not hard to see why we’re such big fans. The âbuilding blocksâ which make up the Zoho CRM logo are not there for design purposes alone; these blocks allude to the fact that the Zoho team has developed many other business applications, all capable of working together seamlessly (much like Google Apps). In addition, Zoho has an well-deserved reputation for integrating nicely with a number of 3rd party add-ons, including MailChimp, Unbounce, Google Apps, MS Office, and Quickbooks (see a full list of add-ons and integrations here). In short, Zoho CRM software can adjust to any size business, be whatever you need it to be, and grow with you as your business expands.
You can try Zoho CRM for free with a 15-day trial of their Professional package. After that, pricing breaks down as follows:
Entrepreneur: Free, up to 3 users
24-hour Mon-Fri telephone support is available to paying customers, though those using their free edition are limited to email support. However, your email questions can be flagged according to urgency, so that important queries do not fall to the wayside.
You would be hard pressed to find a CRM that provides more functionality at a lower cost. Zoho CRM is, without a doubt, the most bang for your buck.
Read our full review of Zoho CRM here.
Clevertim is a cloud-based CRM system with a firm mission: to cater specifically to small businesses. With a surprisingly reasonable price point, a clean, user-friendly UI, and the ability to integrate with 3rd party developers (via an open API), Clevertim may just be as clever as its name suggests. The only chink in Clevertim’s armor is the lack of a mobile app. As it is now, the app functions smoothly on a desktop, but is only so-so on a tablet and virtually nonexistent on a phone.
Clevertim offers a 30 day free trial. After that, plans range from absolutely free to $99/month. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel your subscription at any time. Unlike most other CRM systems, Clevertim does not charge on a per-user basis. Instead, each plan has a user limit. There is alsoÂ customized pricing available, which allows you to upgrade the number of users allowed in your plan.
Clevertim is relatively new and does not yet have its own dedicated Technical Support team. However, queries can be sent to the company either via web tickets or through the sales email address.
Read our review of Clevertim here.
BookingBug can do just about anything you would expect from scheduling software, but still manages to be accessible and intuitive. Many companies claim to be versatile, but this software actually is designed for a wide variety of industries, making it one of the only options out there for B&Bs or bike rental shops, and a better option than most for medium-sized spas and salons. It is a perfect tool for businesses that want to offer combination services while managing limited resources and limited staff (see a full list of features here). It is distinct from other appointment booking software other ways as well: first, itâs designed for serious scalability – which again validates its claim to be âthe only real-time distributed booking and reservation system that works for all business typesâ –Â and second, it integrates with a vast number of 3rd-party apps all over the world. This is a company that prides itself on innovation and flexibility.
Plans run from $19.95/month to $69.95/month, or you can scale up to an Enterprise plan, which are priced on an individual basis. Customer service comes free with your account. Like most companies, BookingBug relies heavily on email support, but phone support is available for some of the more expensive plans. We received helpful responses to our email inquiries within hours – always a great sign.
One terrific thing about BookingBug is that it offers your customers the option to make online payments (full or partial, including pre-payment and bulk payments); you can also issue full or partial refunds directly through the site via one of the software’s numerous payment integrations. BookingBug integrates with programs like MailChimp, WordPress, Facebook, and Dropbox as well.
There isn’t much negative feedback about the company online or in user reviews. Granted, some people have complained about issues with their mobile apps, but BookingBugâs receptivity and responsiveness to these issues speaks well about the companyâs commitment to customer service.
To read our full review of BookingBug, click here.
Runner Up: Bookeo
Bookeo is cloud-based booking software with a lot to offer. Not only does it include important booking features, but it provides a surprising variety of marketing solutions, integrates with many payment platforms and third party applications, and boasts excellent security features. This is innovative software as it is, and Bookeo continues to improve with age; significant new feature releases occur every few months, and updates are frequent. The only consistent complaint disappointed reviewers have is with its lack of phone support. (Bookeo relies on email and a store of 300 tutorials for its customer support.)
Bookeoâs pricing differs by product (in other words, by whether you want to book appointments, classes, or tours), but each version offers a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee on the first paid month of subscription. Bookeo accounts do not require set-up or processing fees and you don’t have to sign a contract – always a good sign.
One of the best things about Bookeo is that it is user-friendly. Action items and information are intuitive and clearly distinguishable, and the software in general is organized neatly, in a very manageable way. There isnât much setup support, unfortunately, but the self-help tutorials available are precise, and sufficient enough to help you circumvent most major problems.
Customer service centers on the Bookeo Help Portal, which consists of 300 tutorials and an email support form. There is no phone support, however, and this is the only consistent complaint from disappointed reviewers. You can receive some support via a live chat option on Bookeoâs promotional website.
Read more about Bookeo here, in our full review.
Email Marketing Software
At Merchant Maverick, we’re all in agreement that MailChimp is the boss when it comes to email marketing. It’s a mature, time-tested software with reasonable pricing plans, a great selection of features, and tons of integration, and it scales well to just about any size campaign. Better yet, for users with modest needs, MailChimp offers a robust, flat-out generous free plan which lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. There’s only one real catch: if you do your email marketing with the free plan, there will be a small MailChimp badge at the bottom of every email you send out.Â
Paid plans come in two basic varieties: send-based (pay as you go) and list-based (monthly). These plans are fairly specific and complex, so if you’d like more details about pricing you should navigate here.
MailChimp is generally very easy to use, and signing up for a MailChimp account is simple; enter a name and email address and youâre on your way. The customer support system is pretty extensive as well, though it lacks telephone support, which is slightly disappointing. However, our experience with them has been good; representatives were courteous and well-informed, and inquiries were answered in anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on urgency. MailChimp’s biggest selling point, however, is that it offers over 500 integrations and add-ons. (These include Google Analytics, Zendesk, SHopify, Magento, and Salesforce).
Check out our full review of MailChimp here.
AWeber appeals to a smaller niche than MailChimp, but it’s still incredibly easy to use and quite affordable. It comes with some very nice features, especially for businesses which want to send all new subscribers the same series of messages: the autoresponder setup in particular is easy, intuitive, and well explained within the program, and users have a lot of options.Â
AWeber offers a free 30-day trial for lists of up to 500 subscribers. After that first month, there is a single list-based pricing plan available. It’s reasonably priced for the most part, but so robust that very small companies may find they are paying for lots of extra features they may not even require. If you don’t need much from your email marketing tool, you might be better off with MailChimp’s generous free plan.
In general, AWeber finds a healthy balance between ease of use and high functionality. Navigation is remarkably intuitive, considering the number of features available. The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor has some quite impressive characteristics, and recent updates to the software have have managed to significantly improve the email design experience. Additionally, the analytics and reporting capabilities are well above par for an email marketing tool of this type, as are AWeberâs investment in numerous 3rd-party integrations.
Our experiences with customer support have been positive overall. As a rule, we’ve found AWeber’s representatives to be friendly, helpful, and prompt in responding to queries. Response times to our inquiries varied in time between 20 minutes and 6 business hours.
Read our full review of AWeber here.
Project Management Software
Trello is a visually-oriented, Kanban-based project management tool that works by allowing users to see and manage their tasks and projects via detailed âcardsâ which are then pinned onto âboards.â At its most basic level, Trello is an ingenious way to create and organize a set of virtual 3Ã5 cards without the risk of misplacing them, but it also can also work as a simple task management tool, offering features like file storage and automatic email notifications.
The standard, free version of Trello allows for unlimited boards, users, and attachments (with a 10 MB max per file upload). However, for a fee, Trello also offers two upgraded versions of the software: $3.75/user or $5/user
Trelloâs simple, visually-appealing UI makes it incredibly easy to use; there is almost no learning curve involved. A mere five minutes after I signed up I was able to navigate the software quickly, creating cards and boards like a pro. It may be integrated with several 3rd party apps, including Zapier, Google Drive, Box. Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Trello provides email support (via [email protected]) to all users during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST).
Not only is this software reasonably priced, but it is characterized by elegance, simplicity, and user-friendliness. It would be difficult to find a basic project management solution with a more intuitive, visually-appealing design. And in terms of sheer adoptability â of getting your employees to actually use a software-based task management tool â Trello scores extremely high.
You can check out our full review of Trello if you’d like more information.
Runner Up: Basecamp
With over 9,000,000 current users, Basecamp is considered the most popular cloud-based project management software system of all time. It is, without doubt, one of the most user-friendly project management programs out there. When it comes down to brass tacks, simplicity is an enormously valuable characteristic, and Basecamp is just that â simple. This is project management software at its most basic and effortless level.
This software is celebrated for its no-frills, no-fuss pricing system. There are no hidden fees and no per-user costs. Plans range from $20/month to $150/month. Features include task tracking, a calendar, email notifications and a daily recap of activities, text documents (basically giant legal pads), and very simple reporting.
Basecamp is known for fast, reliable service. While they donât provide the level of immediate personal support that you can get from other software companies (read: no phone or live chat support), the folks at Basecamp respond quickly to email requests and offer a large variety of ready-made aids and live training tools.
Basecamp itself is a pretty basic program, but there are a huge number of optional 3rd party applications available if you want or need to increase softwareâs functionality. You can see a complete list of Basecamp integrations on the official product website
If you have plain, bread-and-butter management requirements, we think youâll find that Basecamp is a suitable, extremely affordable way to go. One of the best things about Basecamp is the fact that it is designed, updated, and supported by an established parent company. It is a sure bet, in other words.
Read more about Basecamp in our full review.
ShipStation is a reasonably-priced, web-based shipping solution for eCommerce retailers. Designed to streamline the fulfillment process as much as possible, this software has invested in a huge number of integrations that make it possible for you to sync up your business with the most popular sales channels, shopping carts, payment gateways, and mail carriers.
Pricing plans range from $25/month to $145/month. Thereâs a free 30-day trial that includes access to all features, with no credit card required. If youâre not satisfied with the product within 90 days, ShipStation offersÂ a full refund, no questions asked.
The user interface can be a bit overwhelming at first, as there multiple options, menus, and sub-menus displayed on most pages. A bit of patience is definitely required when you start out, though you can take advantage of a number of video tutorials, a large knowledge base, and a pretty robust community forum if you run into trouble. Actually, you can have your own personal account manager if you want, and this person will help guide you through the setup phase of your account. Some of the higher paid plans can receive chat support as well. In general, customer support is slightly disappointing, and the responses we received to queries were somewhat boilerplate and indifferent.
One of ShipStationâs biggest selling pointsÂ is that it integrates with an enormous number of carriers, marketplaces and shopping carts, especially when compared to the competition, including FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as Shopify, Etsy, Magento, Square, eBay, etc. The list goes on.
Check out our full review of ShipStation for more information.
ShipWorks is probably the best shipping software available, though unfortunately it’s a PC-only app (which removes about half of the world’s users) and the learning curve is extremely high. The good news is that this software, which is designed to streamline the order fulfillment process for small to large businesses, has many amazing features you can’t find in other shipping applications. With a few clicks, ShipWorks can download shipping informationÂ from an online sales channel, calculate and print postage, generate labels, packing slips, and more. Combine this functionality with integrations for over 40 different mail carriers and eCommerce platforms, and you’ve got a shipping solution that really packs a wallop. Additionally, ShipWorks scales well, in a way that its SaaS competitors don’t.
Cost per monthÂ is determined by two different factors: shipment volume and number of licenses. Shipment volume is divided into three tiers:
$14.95/month for 0-99 shipments/month
$29.95/month for 100-999 shipments/month
$49.95/month for 1,000+ shipments/month
The price forÂ shipment volume is then added to your licensing fee to determine theÂ monthly bill. How much you pay forÂ licensingÂ is based on the number of online sales channels you useÂ with ShipWorks.
Our own experiences with ShipWorks support have been positive. Turnaround times on support tickets were 24 hours or less, and we never had trouble reaching anybody on the phone. The Knowledge Base is extensive, and covers everything from setup and configuration to online marketplaces and shipping providers. What’s more, the articles are clearly written and provide plenty ofÂ screenshots.
As I mentioned above, ShipWorks integrates with a huge variety of shipping carriers and online marketplaces (including USPS, FedEx, UPS, Magento, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion), but if you happen to use a store that isnât directly supported by ShipWorks, you can always work with a developer and use the ShipWorks Generic API to create your own integrations.
Click here to read our full review of ShipWorks.
Loyalty Rewards Software
Winner: Sweet Tooth
Sweet Tooth is a prolific loyalty rewards software that currently works with over 3500 merchants worldwide, including Delta, Universal, and Olympus. Sweet Tooth is dedicated to increasing customer engagement, and case studies from many of the clients mentioned above have demonstrated nearly 20% increases in customer lifetime values, sales and repeat purchases. It is complex software with a high learning curve, but in general, the benefits of using a robust loyalty rewards software outweigh the inconvenience of having to learn how to use it! Sweet Tooth is an ideal solution for both eCommerce merchants and merchants who use combined methods of commerce.
Sweet Tooth works best – and is most full featured – when it’s used through Magento, though you can use a lighter, simpler version of Sweet Tooth on BigCommerce or Shopify (this is free for up to 500 customers). Sweet Tooth subscription plans are offered monthly and automatically renew unless cancelled. Plans begin at $49/month, and are broken down by loyalty point transactions and annual revenue generated on Magento. If your activity exceeds the limitations of your plan you will be required to upgrade to the next available plan. You can view the full pricing details for Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento on the Sweet Tooth website.
Customer service is available Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST. Overall, our experience with Sweet Tooth has been positive. Everyone we’ve spoken to at the company has been knowledgeable and friendly, and most reviewers on Magento cite the technical support as an essential part of their loyalty program.
Read our full review of Sweet Tooth if you’re interested in learning more.
Belly provides a more hassle-free loyalty rewards program than Sweet Tooth, and is ideal for smaller businesses with brick and mortar store fronts (such as bakeries, cafes, grocers, bars, spas, fitness clubs and boutiques). What’s really unique about Belly, though, are its customizeable rewards offerings and “all in one box” setup, which includes an iPad (with stand and combination lock), data reports, a personal support representative, social media integrations, and email marketing tools. Even more significantly, Belly customers get a mobile page for their business on the Belly app, where potential customers can look to find Belly-compatible businesses.
Monthly subscription costs range from $99 â $199,Â and all contracts run for 12 months. The cost of the iPad, iPad stand, application software, and unlimited rewards cards are included in the subscription costs forÂ the highest plan, but an additional $150 installation fee is charged for lower plans.
Right now there are only a few drawbacks to Belly, most important of which is its steep price. Customer service can be a bit spotty as well, and unfortunately, not enough other businesses currently use it, which doesn’t provide much incentive to customers to get in the Belly network. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an easy, no-worries loyalty program, you can’t go far wrong with Belly.
Read our full review of Belly for more details and information.
Website Building Software
Wix is our number one choice for web building software, and it’s not difficult to understand why. With its sleek editing interface and multiple selection of apps and integrations, it is an extremely effective do-it-yourself website designer. In addition to being easy to use, Wix provides a great selection of unique and visually appealing templates (there are hundreds to choose from).
The free version of Wix is provided to anyone who signs up, though any website you create under the free plan will be branded with the Wix logo. Paid plans range from $4.08/month to $24.90/month. Wixâs store offers payment processing through a handful of vendors, including PayPal, WebMoney, Skrill, and PayU.
All in all, Wix is intuitive and user-friendly. Within a few hours, you should be able to take a template, mess around for a bit with the editing tools, and build yourself an incredibly fine looking website.
Because Wix allows developers to create and share their own add-ons, other users are given the opportunity to expand and diversify their websites as well. Some of the most popular integrations available include online shop expansions (like the Etsy app), the Wix Hotels premium booking system, live Instagram feeds, website profile systems, and a variety of other site boosting applications
There is one downside to the software: unlike most other website-building services, Wix does not offer 24/7 live-chat or provide an email response system. There is a toll-free number you can call for help with technical issues, but be aware that you could possibly be put on hold for an unspecified amount of time.
Click here to read our full review of Wix.
With its reasonable price points and clever, yet simplistic editor, Jimdo has made a mark on the website building industry. Managing to be both straightforward and comprehensive, Jimdo allows users to make custom, professional looking websites. Templates are provided, of course, but you’re not bound to the confines of the template you choose; you have total freedom to edit and can essentially be as hands-on about the design process as you want.
Jimdo plans range from free to $20/month, and all plans come with an HTML5 WYSIWYG web editor, usage of professional-grade templates, social media tools, a mobile device editing view, blogging tools, photo galleries, Google Maps, contact forms, direct video embedding, widget integration, optimized mobile websites, and unlimited bandwidth.
While the only online payment processor currently supported by Jimdo is PayPal, a selection of various real-world payment methods can be activated in a websiteâs store, including invoicing, payment-in-advance, collection-upon-delivery, local pickup, and local delivery.
This is an easy-to-use service that somehow still manages to astound with the depth of its overall functionality. Some things may be a bit too simple, and Jimdo isn’t sophisticated enough to work as a tool for a professional web designer, but it is perfectly suited – price-wise and in ease-of-use – for small businesses who would otherwise have to hire out their web design services.
Read our full review of Jimdo here.
The post Merchant Maverick’s Awards for Best Small Business Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If youâre operating a company that interacts with customers past the initial purchase, you will want a method for managing contacts. And not simply for the customers, but in addition for your vendors, the employees, your investors, potential leads, even random people you meet during flight layovers. What’s promising? You will find loads of affordable solutions open to make managing this facet of your company a great deal simpler. But Customer Relation Management is all about greater than gathering what they are called and emails of everybody you communicate with. Listed here are best ten ways to use CRM software to exhibit precisely how versatile scalping strategies could be.
Use #1: Business Management
The very best use for CRM software programs are its primary use: managing from email correspondence to sales activity and consolidating it into one centralized hub. This may be completed with a paper and pen, a rolodex, as well as an Stand out spreadsheet, but there are several apparent drawbacks to that particular method. You canât search a rolodex exactly the same way you are able to an electronic system, as well as well-made spreadsheets get their limitations. Using CRM software, or CRM tools available via a loyalty program or POS, saves numerous man hrs, as well as your sanity. CRM software at its best takes all of the moving parts involving customer contact and links them together to produce a system thatâs seamless, intuitive, and simple to navigate.
With respect to the program you utilize and the kind of business you use, CRM software programs are also able to managing inventory and tracking item quantity levels, the interest rate where they offer, as well as which products arenât selling. Zoho CRM offers inventory management tools that track sales, and manage product lists, cost books, vendors, and much more.
Use #2: Customer Tracking
Identifying customer spending patterns
To find out what clients are buying, just how much theyâre buying, and just how frequently, youâll require a good tracking system. This is among the primary advantages of CRM software. Digital loyalty platforms like Fivestars can gather lots of data since the software integrates directly together with your POS. This data may be used to personalize encounters for every of the customers, or utilized on a worldwide scale to trace how good certain goods are doing. Getting use of your customersâ spending patterns, habits, and preferences enables you to definitely make more skillful decisions about promotions, prices, and advertising, in addition to increasing the customer experience.
For individuals who require immediate access to client correspondence, whether it is email, telephone calls, or personally conversations, CRM software programs are vital. Many CRM software systems offer correspondence tracking in the first transaction towards the last. The CRM software solution Base does exactly that, storing call logs, emails, documents along with other types of correspondence for every customer.
Use #3: Targeted Marketing
Commonplace in many loyalty programs, e-mail marketing plays a large role in generating repeat business and obtaining start up business. E-mail marketing keeps your company linked to your clients inside a non-intrusive way. Marketing campaigns serve many purposes: offering discounts, alerting your clients to new items, inviting these to occasions, or maybe even saying hello. Digital programs like Fivestarsâ AutoPilot Program permit you to manage campaigns according to customer activity, delivering emails whenever a customer continues to be inactive for over a certain length of time.
Alternate Media Marketing
If youâre searching for further methods to access your clients, many loyalty and CRM providers offer mobile and social networking campaign tools. SMS texting campaigns, social networking blasts, as well as mobile application notifications, like the one provided by the loyalty platform Perka, are efficient ways to connect with your clients past the traditional email method.
Campaign and Promotion Management
Internet marketing tools can be used as greater than lengthy term relationship building. Campaign and marketing applications may be used to solve short term requirements of your company. Whenever your small business a lift, internet marketing tools provide you with immediate access for your people to encourage feet traffic for the business. The Flok loyalty program includes a âhappy hourâ tool that allows you to setup rewards on certain days and occasions to improve traffic. Certain mobile application programs like Perka and Flok can send promotions to customers when theyâre inside a certain distance out of your location.
Use #4: Integrations
Social Networking Integrations
Loyalty programs such as the one Belly offers may bring all of your social networking applications together and provide your clients use of individuals platforms in a single. Additionally they provide the ability for purchasers to love your social networking pages and take a look at business on Yelp. Zoho and Nimble offer social networking integrations, helping you to monitor and interact together with your customers on their own social networking feeds.
CRM software plays an important role in getting different programs together to seamlessly interact and provide an intuitive, fluid system. Additionally to several data migration and export options, many providers can integrate with Google applications (for example Gmail, Contacts, Maps, Drive yet others), MailChimp, Constant Contact, eCommerce platforms, Accounting software, Helpdesk software, and numerous others.
Use #5: Customer Comments
CRM and loyalty software offer great tools to create monitoring review sites as well as your social networking pages a great deal simpler. Some programs monitor review sites like Yelp to provide you with current info on where your company ranks and just what individuals are saying. The Sweet Tooth loyalty platform for eCommerce offers reward tie-ins for product critiques published on your site, stellar motivation for the people to leave reviews. In case your system allows it, in-house reviews are an easy way to provide your clients an chance to convey concerns or comments before they finish on the internet.
Chatter feeds, such as the one provided by Salesforce, permit you to keep in touch with employees with similar speed as other social networking outlets. Chatter feeds are perfect for group collaboration.
Use #6: Data Analysis
Trends and Insights
Most loyalty programs, and a few CRM programs, provide a pretty helpful degree of data analysis to provide you with actionable insights to your business.Â The greater thorough your tracking tools, the greater in-depth case study could be. On the product level, data analysis let you know what goods are selling and which arenât, so that you can determine if you want to make adjustments on quantity levels, or begin a promotion. Inside a sales atmosphere, analytics let you know how good each person in profits team does, so that you can get the best choice when assigning tasks. The Bottom CRM offers in-depth sales analytics to complete exactly that.
Use #7: Sales Tracking
CRM software provides you with the opportunity to track happens each purchase is within across your team. You are able to prioritize sales by chance and manage every aspect of your workflow too. Sugar CRM offers real-time pipeline management to provide you with probably the most up-to-date information, in addition to management tools that will help you assign tasks for your salesforce.
Along with sales tracking is worker tracking. Many CRM companies offer tools that track what workers are doing, their progress on assigned tasks, and also the stages of all of their sales.
Use #8: Mobility
In case your business necessitates frequent travel, then getting use of your contacts, along with other facets of your company, is crucial. Some CRM providers offer mobile phone applications and remote access options so that you can connect to the important information no matter where you’re. Zoho CRM and Solve360 CRM both offer mobile phone applications additionally for their primary software. Pipedrive CRM provides an iPhone mobile solution in addition to a remote access choice for android and home windows users.
Use #9: Task Management
Make use of your CRM to handle from personal tasks to business deals, conferences, and much more. Sync the program together with your calendar, create and assign new tasks, and link projects and tasks with specific contacts.
Use #10: Document Management
CRM software may be used to collect, manage, and distribute documents, in addition to track which documents happen to be delivered to which client, or worker, or vendor. Zoho CRM, Clevertim CRM, and Contactually CRM all offer document libraries with different amounts of tracking.
Final Ideas around the Ways to use CRM Software
Quality CRM tools make handling the relationship between both you and your customers efficient, effective, and, hopefully, just a little simpler. There are lots of great CRM software providers and loyalty programs around that may fit the requirements of your company. I encourage you to look into the CRM software reviews along with the loyalty software reviews to understand more about all these programs.
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