Purchased as Beam by Microsoft in 2016 and rebranded a year later, Mixer has long played second fiddle to Twitch in the world of video game streaming platforms. However, the lesser popularity isn’t all bad. Because Mixer has fewer broadcasters and viewers than Twitch, it may be easier for new streamers to stand out in the crowd.
Plus, Mixer has also been making waves recently. In August 2019, the platform lured Twitch’s top streamer, Ninja, away from its Amazon-owned competitor. A few more big-name streamers — notably Shroud and KingGothalion — followed in Ninja’s footsteps later in the fall. With exclusivity deals in place with these streamers, Microsoft has certainly lined Mixer with some deep pockets.
Despite the success of a fortuitous few, achieving the dream of making money off of playing video games still takes hard work and dedication. Most new streamers will struggle to collect a consistent paycheck without putting in a fair amount of effort and a little bit of luck.
Is Mixer the right place for you to make money off your streaming career? Keep on reading to find out!
How Streamers Make Money On Mixer
Streamers can make money on Mixer through several avenues. The platform does offer a partner program that enables viewers to reward their favorite streamers with “Skills,” “Sparks,” and “Embers” (which can then be converted into cold hard cash by the streamer). However, Mixer’s requirements to get into the partner program are rather stringent.
As such, most Mixer streamers will want to try earning money via third-party services. Examples here include donation platforms, merchandise, sponsorships, and affiliate linking.
How Much Money Can You Make From Mixer?
The amount of money you can make on Mixer depends on how big your following is. With this in mind, most new streamers won’t be earning very much money — it takes time and effort to grow an online community. And while some may eventually be able to break into banking six figures a month, most will not. Because the amount you could potentially earn depends on your audience size, it’s difficult to gauge just how much money you might be able to make from Mixer. In all likelihood, you won’t be earning a living wage — at least at the very start.
All that said, Mixer definitely has the money to throw around. When the platform poached Ninja from Twitch in 2019, the streamer was reportedly paid between $20 and $30 million to switch over. Of course, not everyone will be able to reach the same level of clout and celebrity as Ninja. It is simply unlikely that your average streamer will be making tens of millions off their streaming career.
What is easier to gauge is how much money you might make from individual contributions by viewers. Embers — one of Mixer’s in-house currencies — will net a streamer $0.01 for every one used on Skills during their stream (Skills are basically just emojis and GIFs viewers can use within a stream’s chat log). That means if your viewers purchase a number of Skills worth 1,000 Embers during your stream, you’ll collect a tidy sum of $10.
Partners: Mixer’s Monetization Program
Mixer’s partner program allows streamers to natively earn money through the platform. This program won’t be for everyone, however. There are fairly strict requirements that will restrict new streamers from qualifying.
How Mixer Pays Its Partners
Mixer pays its partners through Sparks and Embers, both of which act as a form of currency for the platform. Note that Mixer does not currently have a paid subscriber system in place, unlike Twitch (there is a Mixer Pro subscription available, but a viewer’s money won’t be earmarked for a specific streamer).
Sparks — which viewers earn through watching Mixer content — can be used to trigger Skills on your channel. Once enough viewers have collected Sparks through your channel and launched Skills, you’ll be able to cash out your earnings for actual cash. Unfortunately, Sparks and Skills don’t have an easy-to-calculate dollar value.
Embers, as mentioned above,Â do have a calculable dollar value. Embers can be used by viewers to purchase premium Skills. For every Ember a streamer earns via unlocked Skills, they collect $0.01 in real-world money. Unlike the watch-to-earn Sparks, Embers must be purchased by viewers.
How To Register As A Mixer Partner
To become a Mixer partner, you’ll need to apply through the partnership tab in your dashboard. Note, however, that Mixer does have a set of requirements you’ll need to meet before going through with an application. According to Mixer, the minimum metrics required for partnership are:
An account that’s two months or older
2,000 followers or more
12 days or more per month with streams
25 hours streamed per month
Note that even if you meet the above criteria, you might not be approved for partnership because Mixer also looks at a channel’s quality and may reject those who lack proper “Professionalism, Uniqueness, and Community Building.”
Should you already have a successful brand on a different platform, you may be able to become a Mixer partner without hitting the above requirements. If you have 100,000+ views in the last 30 days on YouTube or you average 300+ concurrent viewers on Twitch, Mixer may consider your partnership qualifications outside of the normal application process. In some other cases, special exceptions might be made for celebrities or industry-related organizations.
Other Ways To Make Money From Your Mixer Following
Because becoming a Mixer partner isn’t the easiest thing in the world, you’ll probably want to consider a different route to earn money while streaming. Even if you are a Mixer partner, the options below could still prove to be solid moneymakers.
Setting up a third-party donation system can enable you to receive money directly from viewers without needing to worry about Sparks or Embers. PayPal, in particular, has a popular donation platform that many communities use throughout the internet.
You could also consider signing up for a membership platform, such as Patreon. You can receive monthly donations through these platforms in exchange for giving followers perks, such as exclusive Discord access, bonus content, physical merchandise, and more.
If you want to learn more about accepting online donations, Merchant Maverick has an article on the topic.
Selling products promoting your channel can be an excellent revenue source if you have an audience ready and willing to help spread your brand. Example products include such things as t-shirts, sweatshirts, and mugs. Numerous services exist online to help make merchandise a reality. Some of the bigger names include Teespring, Redbubble, and Zazzle.
Besides selling products with your channel’s logo, you can also reach out to artists (either on a site such as Fiverr or within your own following) to craft new designs that align with your audience.
Big brands often leverage the influence of popular streamers to promote their products. For the streaming world, this could be in the form of sponsorships or by playing a particular video game on stream for a set number of hours. The exact details of these sponsorship deals will depend on the brand and the individual streamer involved with the agreement.
For brand promotion to be successful on your channel, you’ll (unsurprisingly) need to have a sizable following. Of course, there may be situations where you can find a brand that aligns with your community’s particular niche. In this instance, you might be able to strike a deal without having thousands of viewers watching each stream.
If you are unable to get direct brand sponsorships, you might still be able to generate revenue by promoting products through an affiliate or referral program. These programs share a small portion of the profits each time someone clicks on a link you share and buys a product.
As an example, if you enjoy using specific accessories, hardware, or software during your streams, you could provide links to those products via the Amazon Associates program. Your viewers can then buy those products by clicking your link and giving you a bit of extra income.
A few specific brands operate their own affiliate programs. For instance, the gaming hardware company Razer has such a program that can share up to 10% of each sale to affiliates — this is a much better rate than you might get with Amazon Associates. If there is one brand you like in particular, it may be worth digging up info on whether or not they have an affiliate program.
All told, don’t expect streaming on Mixer to be a get-rich-quick scheme. You’ll need to put in a fair amount of time to set up a consistent streaming schedule and promote your channel’s brand. Plus, you’ll need to be patient as your following grows over time. On top of all of that, it will take some luck for you to start seeing leaps and bounds in viewership.
As such, focus on the fun aspect of playing video games. Gaming and streaming should ultimately be about having fun and making social connections — any money earned is only a bonus.
Want to learn more about streaming? Check out Merchant Maverick’s guide to making money on Twitch.
The post How To Make Money On Mixer: 5 Ways To Monetize Your Stream appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Are you looking to start selling online? With the steady increase in popularity of online shopping, developing your own online store is crucial to ensuring you meet the needs and expectations of your customers.
But for many new online sellers (including those who already operate a brick-and-mortar business, as well as those who are just beginning), the costs of operating an online store can feel overwhelming. There’s the monthly subscription rate that you pay to your eCommerce platform, as well as the cost of transaction fees, payment processing, software extensions, and integrations.
Fortunately, you can ease some of the costs of opening an online store when you use a free eCommerce platform. Although you still have to pay for other expenses related to online selling (such as the cost of payment processing and software extensions), at least you won’t have to pay to use the actual selling software. This reduction in costs can lower the barrier to entry and help many businesses take the first steps to start selling online.
Free eCommerce software tends to come in two forms. Some software is available as a free plan on an all-inclusive cloud-based software. These free plans tend to give users the basic features they need for online selling while placing limits on product listings and advanced features. The other form of free eCommerce software is downloadable open-source software. This software is always free to use, and it does not limit its users in any way. That said, it is not nearly as user friendly as cloud-based software, and the software does not include web hosting or customer support.
It’s clear that each type of free eCommerce software offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Fortunately, both cloud-based software and open source software are great options for sellers who are looking to get started with a free eCommerce platform.
Best Free eCommerce Platforms
In this article, we’ll cover the best free eCommerce platforms on the market. Some of these options are free plans for cloud-based eCommerce software, while others are free open source eCommerce software. All of the free eCommerce platforms in this list meet our standards for security, available features, customer support, and usability.
Best for makers and artists who plan to list only a few items at a time.
Big Cartel is a cloud-based online store builder that is designed specifically with artists in mind. Content creators and makers of all types use Big Cartel to establish a website, build out an online store, and sell their digital and physical products. Big Cartel is incredibly simple and easy to use, which makes it an excellent option for anyone who is new to online selling.
Additionally, Big Cartel is a great alternative to marketplace selling, and their free option makes it accessible for everyone. Using this free plan, sellers can list up to five products on their online stores, and they gain access to Big Cartel’s most basic selling features. Keep reading to learn more of what’s available with Big Cartel’s free plan.
Easy to use
Geared toward artists
Customer support available for all users
Big Cartel Pricing
In this article we will be focusing primarily on Big Cartel’s free plan, but it’s important that you know about their paid plans as well. Big Cartel keeps pricing for their plans fairly low, ranging from just $10/month to $30/month. Each increase in pricing gives users access to more product listings and features. At the highest level plan, sellers can list up to 300 products.
Big Cartel’s Gold (free) Plan includes all of the features you need for basic online selling, although it limits users to just five product listings.
The Gold Plan includes:
One image per product
Use your own domain
Full code customization
Automatic tax calculations
Advanced tax settings
Product option groups
As we’ve mentioned, Big Cartel is a simple selling solution. Its aim is to provide sellers with an easy-to-use platform, and part of the way Big Cartel accomplishes this mission is by including only the features that most merchants need to sell online. You won’t find any fancy bells and whistles here–just the basics. Here are a few of the features you can expect from Big Cartel:
Sell on Facebook
SEO features like plain-text URLs and automatic sitemap generation
There are a few potential downsides to using Big Cartel. The first is the limited feature set and the reduced ability to customize your software. If you have a number of specific needs that you are trying to solve, Big Cartel might not be the right option. In addition, Big Cartel has a fairly small selection of extensions and payment methods. This further limits your ability to customize the software to suit your business.
Fortunately, Big Cartel does a good job when it comes to customer support. Although they do not offer any phone support, they do have a very good response time via email (we consistently receive replies in under two hours) and their self-help tools–such as the help center, the pre-recorded live classes, and the blog–are good resources for figuring things out on your own.Â
When To Use Big Cartel
We think that Big Cartel is best for small businesses and artists. Because of the limits on product listings, the free plan in particular is best suited to hobby sellers or artists who sell only a few pieces at a time.
Best for small to mid-size businesses that want to add an online store to their WordPress site.
WooCommerce is an open-source shopping cart plug-in designed for use on WordPress. WooCommerce is free to download and use, and it allows you to easily add an online store to your existing WordPress site. With over 84 million downloads, WooCommerce is incredibly popular. The software currently accounts for 26% of the top one million sitesÂ worldwide.
Although WooCommerce is free to download, it isn’t totally free to operate. You’ll have to pay for your WordPress account, as well as web hosting, security, and extensions. That said, WooCommerce is still an excellent choice for many businesses. The open-source software is completely customizable and full of useful features for online selling. All-in-all, WooCommerce is one of our favorite open-source solutions. Keep reading to learn more about why we love WooCommerce.
Numerous integrations available
Limited customer support
Site hosting not included
Add-ons often necessary
Steep learning curve
WooCommerce is an open-source WordPress plugin that’s free to download and use.
That said, there are a few expenses you should account for as you implement WooCommerce. You still have to pay for your WordPress site, along with your web hosting and domain name. You also will likely need to purchase a few add-ons and extensions for your online store. These add-ons range in price from free to hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, they are all available as one-time purchases.
WooCommerce follows a Core + Extensions model when it comes to features. In an effort to keep the software easy to use, they offer only core features already built in. These core features include everything the average merchant needs to get started. Any advanced features are available as extensions. Here are a few of the core features that come built-in with all WooCommerce downloads:
Sell physical and digital products
Create coupons and discounts
Although WooCommerce is a generally well-liked software, there are a few downsides to the platform. One downside is the learning curve that users must overcome. While it isn’t the most difficult software to use, it isn’t necessarily intuitive, and it will likely take some time to get the hang of daily use. What’s more, the cost of adding new features via extension can quickly add up. If you aren’t careful, WooCommerce could become more expensive than a cloud-based software with a monthly payment plan.
When it comes to customer support, WooCommerce is like most open-source software. There are very few options for personalized support from WooCommerce representatives. Instead, customer support takes the form of self-help resources. Available resources include a knowledge base, developer documentation, and a community forum. If you need personalized support, you can also hire a WooExpert to help out.
When To Use WooCommerce
We recommend WooCommerce to small to mid-size businesses. In particular, WooCommerce is best for businesses that want to add an online store to their WordPress site. WooCommerce works well for sellers who want a customizable solution and who don’t mind figuring things out on their own.
Best for mid-size businesses that can handle a technical challenge and need a way to sell internationally.
PrestaShop is a open-source eCommerce solution with an international reach. PrestaShop allows users to sell their goods across the globe with multiple available currencies, languages, and international payment processors. As an open-source solution, PrestaShop is free to download and use, although you’ll still have to foot the bill for web hosting, support, and extensions.
PrestaShop is one of the more technically complex options on this list. In order to get the best use of the software, you need a solid understanding of code, or you need the resources to hire someone who can manage the technicalities for you. In exchange for this complexity, however, you gain access to a strong selection of features and customization. Keep reading to learn what we like best about PrestaShop.
Excellent support materials
Strong user community
Expensive customer support
Developer skills required
PrestaShop is free to download and use.
That said, you will still need to account for a few expenses related to running an online store. PrestaShop users pay for their own hosting, domain name, site security, payment processing, and technical support.
PrestaShop offers over 600 features already built into their free software. Here’s a bit of what those features include:
Create coupons and discounts
Reports and analytics
Despite these positives, however, PrestaShop is not a perfect solution. The software shares many of the drawbacks that are typical of open-source software. Although the program is free to download, users still have to account for the cost of hosting and integrations, as well as expenses related to hiring a developer. In addition, in order to get the best use of the software, you really need to understand how to code.
Similarly, PrestaShop is like most open-source software in that support is available primarily through self-help resources. You can use the knowledge base, user forum, and some web ticket support to find answers to your questions about the software. In order to get a dedicated support representative, however, you’ll have to pay an additional cost.
When To Use PrestaShop
Because of the technical challenge involved with using the software, PrestaShop is best suited to mid-size businesses that have the resources to hire a developer. PrestaShop is great for businesses that need advanced features, including the ability to sell internationally.
Square Online Store
Best for sellers who already use Square to process in-person payments.
Square is a payment processing company that has revolutionized the way small businesses are able to accept payments. Now, Square is expanding its offerings to provide sellers with an omnichannel selling platform. You can now create an online store that connects seamlessly with Square’s Point of Sale system. And the best part is, this online store (with hosting, domain name, security, and customer support) is completely free for merchants who use Square.
Square Online Store was designed using Weebly’s website building software. This means that the software is incredibly easy to use. Square Online Store is available for free to anyone who processes their payments via Square, and they also offer a few paid plans that include additional features and payment processing options. We’ve been impressed with Square Online Store as a free, cloud-based option for online selling. Keep reading to find out why.
Easy to use
Ideal for low-volume merchants
Sell in-person and online
Integrates with the Square ecosystem
Only one payment option
Square Online Store Pricing
Square Online Store’s free plan includes a basic feature set, up to 500 MB of storage, and the ability to process payments through Square. Three paid plans are also available, ranging in price from $16/month to $79/month. These paid plans include additional features, storage, and payment processing options (lower processing rates and access to PayPal processing).
Square Online Store’s free plan includes:
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
Automatic inventory, orders and items sync with Square POS
Free SSL security
Order status text alerts
Automatic tax calculator
Square gift cards
Lead capture and contact forms
Support via a community forum, email, chat, and phone
Square Online Store’s free plan gives users access to only the basic features that you need for online selling. Here’s a quick list of some available features:
Sell digital and physical products
Sell memberships, services, and carry-out orders
Sync with Square POS
Automatic tax calculator
Create coupons and discounts
Sell and accept gift cards
As with all free plans, Square Online Stores comes with limitations. You can only process payments through Square, and you do not get access to real-time shipping rate calculations.
Fortunately, there are no limitations placed on customer support. You can reach customer support via phone, email, and live chat. You can also always access the help center, community forum, and tutorial videos. We’re impressed that Square Online Store offers personalized support even on their free plan. This is a very uncommon benefit.
When To Use Square Online Store
Square Online Store is best for merchants who already sell using Square Point Of Sale, and who are looking for a way to take their store online. We recommend Square Online Store’s free plan to individuals and startups, and we recommend the paid plan to small businesses.
Best for individuals and beginning sellers who need an easy to use platform.
Ecwid is a cloud-based shopping cart widget that allows you to add an online store to any website. With Ecwid you can choose to build an entire website from scratch, or you can add an online store tab to your pre-existing website by just copy-pasting a couple of lines of code. Ecwid allows you to sell on multiple different channels at the same time, including on social media sites, on marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay), and in person.
Ecwid is a very affordable platform, with the highest pricing plan set at just $30/month. They also offer a free plan, which we’ll be discussing here. Ecwid is user friendly, which makes it an excellent option for small businesses and startups. Many individual sellers will likely find that Ecwid’s free plan offers the features and usability they need to venture into online selling.
Suited for startups
Easy to use
Add an online store to any existing site
Basic design tools
Ecwid’s free plan comes with a paired down feature set. In order to get access to the full selection of features, you have to subscribe to a paid plan. These plans range in price from $15/month to $35/month. Each step up in pricing includes more features, more products listings, and more available sales channels.
Here’s what’s available in Ecwid’s Free Plan:
List 10 products
Advertising on Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Snapchat
Instant Site builder
Sell on multiple sites
Apple Pay (via Stripe)
Self-help support options
Ecwid’s free plan includes only the fundamentals of online selling. You can list up to ten products, market your products on social media, adjust the look of your online store, accept payments, and process orders. Here are a few available features:
Sell on multiple websites and in-person
Social media integrations
List product variants like size and color
Automatically translate your store in 50 different languages
Although Ecwid certainly has a lot to offer its users, it has a few limitations as well. The biggest drawback of Ecwid’s free plan is the limit they place on available features. You do not get access to features like automatic tax calculation, inventory tracking, discount creation, or digital products. You are also restricted to just ten product listings. This makes Ecwid’s free plan only good for the smallest online sellers (those who are just starting out, or artists who sell their pieces as a profitable hobby).
Support for users of Ecwid’s free plan is available via email. You can also find answers in self-help resources like the help center, tutorial videos, and community forums.
When To Use Ecwid
Ecwid’s free plan is best for individuals and beginning sellers who are looking for an easy way to take their products online. Growing sellers will quickly have to transition to a paid plan, but Ecwid’s free plan is a great starting point for many.
Best for mid-size and large businesses that want a customizable solution and can handle a technical challenge.
Magento is a software company that offers multiple solutions for online selling. In this article, we are focusing on Magento Open Source (formerly called Magento Community Edition), which is a free, downloadable selling software. Magento Open Source is completely customizable, and it comes with loads of features already built-in.
As an open-source solution, Magento is not known for its ease of use. In fact, you really need to have a good amount of experience with software development in order to implement this platform. With that in mind, we recommend Magento primarily to mid-size businesses that have a team of software professionals on hand.
Free to download
Impressive feature set
Active, global user community
Developer skills required
Steep learning curve
No customer support
Magento is free for users to download and use.
However, Magento is not a “cost-free” selling solution. In order to get your online store running, you’ll have to pay for web hosting, a domain name, integrations and extensions, and payment processing. Also, if you don’t have experience with code (especially PHP), you’ll have to hire a developer.
Magento offers an incredible number of features, even without any add-ons. Here are a few available features:
Coupons and discounts
Share on social buttons
Sell digital products and bundles
Tax and shipping calculations
Unfortunately, in order to access these features, users have to overcome a steep learning curve. Without the support of a developer, this learning curve may be too much for some businesses. In addition, while Magento is free to download, the platform can quickly turn into an expensive option when you consider the cost of hosting and integrations, as well as the cost of hiring a developer.
Magento is also a challenge for some users because of its limited customer support. Magento does not offer any support through phone, live chat, or email. Instead, you have to figure things out on your own with the user guide, community forum, and developer documentation.
When To Use Magento
Magento is a great solution for mid-size to large businesses that need a customizable and feature-rich selling software. Magento is only a good option for smaller businesses if they have the resources to hire a developer.
Free Shopping Carts VS Open Source eCommerce
All of the solutions we present above fall into one of two categories: a free plan on a cloud-based software, or an open-source downloadable software. Lets take a closer look at these two categories to find out which option is best for your business.
What Is Open Source eCommerce?
Open source eCommerce software are software that are made available to the general public. You can typically download the software for free, and all of the documentation that was used to build the software is available for public use. In general, open-source software is highly customizable, with strong features. Typically, companies that create open-source software make money on software extensions and technical support, rather than sale of the software itself.
The Pros & Cons Of Open Source eCommerce Platforms
Take a look below for the common advantages and disadvantages of open source eCommerce platforms:
Free to download
No monthly subscription costs
Web hosting not included
Users manage their own security
No personalized customer support
More difficult to learn and use
Developer support often required
Businesses that benefit from open source software are typically mid-size to large businesses. These businesses need customizable software, and they often have access to a developer.
What To Look For With Good Free eCommerce Software
Here’s how to identify a secure, high-quality free software option:
Open Source: For open source software, look for an option that is free to download and doesn’t make you pay for software updates. Look for lots of built-in features and a strong user community. Dive into the community forum and online reviews of the software to find out if general opinion of the software is positive or negative.
Cloud-based: When it comes to free plans on a cloud-based software, you should look for the ability to list at least 5-10 products. Double check that the software offers free hosting and domain names, as well as customer support options. It’s also a good idea to look for affordable paid plans in case you need to upgrade from the free plan in the future.
As you look for a free eCommerce software, you should also keep your eyes peeled for warning signs that a software may not be worth your time. Be wary of free plans that are so limited they are largely unusable. You should also be cautious of software that are not well reviewed online. Software without a significant number of reviews or software with a large number of negative reviews are often out-dated and clumsy to use.
Look below for answers to some Frequently Asked Questions regarding free eCommerce software.
Which free eCommerce software is best?
We think the best free eCommerce software overall is WooCommerce. WooCommerce provides the tools that most businesses need to sell online, and it is relatively easy to use. For sellers who prefer an all-in-one selling solution, however, we recommend Square Online Store. This software has the advantage of including web hosting, even though the feature set is much more limited than WooCommerce’s.
Are there free website builders with eCommerce built-in?
BigCartel, Ecwid, and Square Online Store (built on Weebly’s software) all offer elements of both website building and eCommerce. However, many popular website building software, like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, do not offer any free eCommerce features.
Do any free eCommerce platforms have unlimited products?
All open-source eCommerce platforms allow users to list unlimited products. Square Online Store is the only cloud-based eCommerce solution we know of that has unlimited products on their free plan (although, they do place a limit on data storage).
When would I have to upgrade to paid eCommerce software?
Typically, you have to upgrade to paid eCommerce software in order to list more than ten products and access features like real-time shipping and tax calculation. This only applies to cloud-based software since most open-source platforms are always free.
How To Choose The Right Free eCommerce Platform
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business is a process that involves careful consideration. In order to land on a great choice, you’ll have to make a number of smaller decisions along the way.
The first choice you should make is between cloud-based software and open source software. This decision should be based on your technical experience and your preferences regarding customization. Sellers who’d prefer to have their site’s hosting and security managed on their behalf should choose cloud-based software, while sellers who prioritize customization should choose open-source software.
Now that you’ve decided between cloud-based and open source software, you should take some time to come up with a list of features that your business absolutely must have. These should include key features like the ability to list digital products, calculate taxes and shipping costs automatically, and track your inventory totals. You should also look into customer support options–make sure that your business can manage with the support options available.
Once you’ve found a few software options that might work for your business, dive into the available customer reviews. Find out if users have a generally positive experience with the platform. If not, look elsewhere!
Finally, once you’re narrowed your options to one or two platforms, take the plunge and sign up for (or download) the software. Since it’s free, you’ve got nothing to lose, and there’s no harm in testing multiple products. Trying out the software for yourself will give you a good understanding of whether or not a software can work for your business.
If you choose to use any of the software on this list, we feel confident that you’ll have a positive experience. Even if the software isn’t a perfect solution, it is free, and it’s hard to go too wrong with a free option! No matter which software you select, we wish you the best of luck in your venture into online selling.
For more information on setting up an online store, check out our Complete Guide To Starting An Online Store For Your Brick & Mortar Business as well as our free eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
The post The Best Free eCommerce Platforms & Shopping Carts appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The retail industry is facing massive, unprecedented closures as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the country and state and city governments announce “shelter in place” orders. In much of the United States, the only type of retail stores that remain open are superstores and “essential retail” stores that sell food, medicine, or other life-sustaining goods. While business is thriving for major retailers, such as Costco, Walmart, and Amazon, small retailers are bearing the full brunt of this crisis. In this article, we want to be informative about the effects on retail, but we won’t stop there — we will also give actionable steps to help your retail store survive and even stay profitable during the outbreak.
What Coronavirus Means For Retail
The retail sector has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as much of the industry is deemed “nonessential” — though states have some leeway in how they define what is and what isn’t essential retail. In a growing number of states, residents have been advised to shelter in place and only leave the house to buy food or medicine. Even in regions without strict shelter-in-place orders, many governors and mayors have called for the closure of nonessential retail businesses. As COVID-19 cases continue to mount, most or all of the United States may soon be under such orders.
This grave situation requires the closure of a large portion of small retail businesses, though it is still possible to sell online. In fact, eCommerce sales are expected to surge in 2020Â as consumers stock up on essentials, such as food, healthcare items, cleaning products, household items, and even consumer electronics to stay entertained while at home.
Generally, the following types of stores are considered essential retail and can remain open for in-person sales:
Liquor stores (depending on the state)
Healthcare supply stores
Marijuana dispensaries (depending on the state)
Superstores (Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.)
Hardware and home improvement stores
Office supply stores
Auto parts stores
Pretty much all other types of retail stores are considered nonessential retail and have been forced to close in many states and cities. As follows are some examples of nonessential retail businesses (though this list is certainly not comprehensive):
Clothing and shoe stores
Hobby and craft stores
Sporting goods stores
Of course, you’ll need to check with your local authorities to find out if your retail store must close or if it can remain open.
Some retailers may find their goods in high demand, while others may be in less-popular industries and will have to get more creative about how they run their business. As mentioned, essential goods — soap, food, cleaning products, and, of course, toilet paper — are seeing record-high demand. Many nonessential retail goods, such as clothing and fashion, are expected to be harder hit.
Social distancing is being mandated by a lot of states, so even if your store remains open (at least, for the time being), social distancing will affect foot traffic and people’s desire to go shopping. In some cases, stores are limiting how many people can enter the premises at the same time to allow for adequate social distancing.
Increase In Online Shopping & Deliveries
Because of social distancing, there has been an upsurge in online shopping and an increased need for curbside pickup or delivery options. Especially as Amazon Prime shipping times increase — Prime delivery times on some items are now as long as a month — this may result in higher demand for smaller retail businesses that offer online sales, as these businesses may be able to provide a level of service that big-box stores are unable to offer right now.
10 Tips To Keep Your Retail Business Strong During COVID-19
If your retail business can adapt to these strange new times, you have the potential to keep it going strong throughout this crisis.
Create An Online Store
If your retail store is strictly brick and mortar, now is a great time to add an online store. Plus, there are many easy eCommerce platforms out there to get a site up and running quickly. Retailers should also promote their online buying and shipping options for their store (if you’re still open), especially on social media and via email marketing. Learn more about how to start an online store by checking out the resources listed below.
The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
What The Coronavirus Means For eCommerce & What Your Business Can Do About It
Shopping Cart Comparison
Offer Personal Shoppers
There are a couple of ways your business can use personal shoppers to deliver products to customers without them having to enter your store. The first way is for your employees to act as personal shoppers for customers by taking their orders online or over the phone and personally delivering them. The second way is to use a third-party delivery service, such as Shipt or Instacart. Note that third-party delivery services may charge a fee and only deliver for certain industries.
Third-Party Delivery Services For Restaurants & Retailers: Your Best Options
Add Curbside Pickup
In addition to or instead of delivery services, it may make sense for your retail business to offer a curbside pickup option for those who don’t want to go out to shop. Customers order online, choose a “pick up in-store” option, and when they arrive at the store, an employee comes out and delivers the order. Some big-name retail stores that have implemented curbside pickup options include Target, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Books-a-Million, and DSW.
Create Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes are a great way to supplement income and increase brand awareness. Mail may be one of the few ways people can still buy (nonessential) things in the near-term, and subscription boxes will likely become even more popular as consumers remain more or less stuck at home. Plus, subscriptions can help your business guarantee regular monthly income.
How To Start A Subscription Box: 7 Steps To Launch A Thriving Business
Appeal To Consumer Needs
As shoppers are encouraged to self-isolate and practice social distancing, think about what your business can offer during this difficult time. For example, art stores can provide drawing kits for kids home from school; gyms can provide online workout recordings; travel companies can offer discounts for planning 2021 vacations; landscaping business can build indoor garden starter kits; beauty stores can offer sample boxes or at-home spa kits.
Host Virtual Events
For retailers that have strong communities, consider hosting virtual events on Facebook or another online video platform. For example, board game stores can host virtual competitions; bookstores can create a weekly book club discussion (and customers can pay for that book to be shipped to them); cooking supply stores can offer weekly bakeoffs or demonstrations (and customers can buy kits with the tools and ingredients they’ll need).
Get Creative With Marketing
Even in these trying times, you can still market your business and the products and specials your retail business is offering. You can grab customers’ attention using email, text, and social media —Â while appealing to consumer needs and respecting social distancing guidelines. Read up on what other small and large brands are doing and start thinking about what you can offer that no one else is. Even if you’re brand-new to email marketing, now is a great time to start.
How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy
Simple Email Marketing Best Practices Every Merchant Should Know
Communicate With Customers
Be clear with customers about your hours and how you’re handling the virus in general. Even if you have to close your business, it’s good to let people know, and if you are able to reopen your shop, make sure you tell customers about that too. Let your fans know if you’re offering curbside pickup, deliveries, subscription boxes, a percentage of your sales donated to a charity to fight COVID, or anything else. Again, you can use email marketing for this purpose.
In addition to trying to create sales, another huge part of successful cash flow management and managing a financially strong business is limiting unnecessary expenses. Sadly, this may mean cutting your payroll or closing locations. You might also consider reducing your interest costs by consolidating all of your outstanding debt into one low-interest loan and putting any new business expenses on a 0% APR credit card.
How To Use (& How To Avoid Using) Business Credit During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Consolidating Small Business Debt: A Complete Guide
0% APR Credit Card Offers: The Complete Guide
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Some businesses might just need a helping hand to get through this rough patch instead of closing down altogether. A couple of examples of how you could obtain assistance include starting a business crowdfunding campaign or applying for an SBA Disaster Loan. Refer to the list below for resources on financial assistance and loans — many loans are 0% interest right now.
Small Business Loan Resources & Guides For Businesses Affected By The Coronavirus
What SBA Disaster Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
Can’t Make Your Credit Card Payments Due To The Coronavirus? These Credit Card Issuers Are Offering Assistance
The Fed Has Cut Interest Rates To A 12-Year Low: Here’s What It Could Mean For Your Business
Keeping Your Employees & Customers Safe From Coronavirus
If your brick-and-mortar retail store is open in any capacity, you need to educate yourself and your employees about how coronavirus is spread. Then, you can provide helpful tips on how to keep the virus from spreading to employees and customers in a store environment.
Encourage Good Health & Hygiene
Educate your employees and enforce proper hygiene practices to ensure they follow the necessary health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of disease. This includes both cleaning and employee health practices. Specifically, make sure you are following the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Revisit Sick Leave Policies
Make sure you and your employees understand your store’s sick leave policy. Update the policy if needed and help employees feel stable in their income so that they can stay home if need be. To prepare for a probable increase in employee absences, you might consider cross-training employees so that your store can continue to operate even if key employees are not present. Again, you can find advice on employee sick leave policies in the CDC’s official COVID-19 guidance for businesses.
Have Clear Communication
People are understandably worried. Customers and employees want to know what you as a business owner are doing to keep them safe, so be sure to communicate clearly about the measures your business is taking and help ease those fears. You should help employees, in particular, feel safe and hopeful during this time, maybe consider giving your employees a way to give back or options to hold their job if they choose not to come to work right now.
Keep Calm & Sell On
This is a tough time for the retail industry, for America, and the world overall. Nevertheless, you will make it through this; we all will. By exercising patience, diligence, and ingenuity, retailers can keep their business safe, operational, and even profitable during these unprecedented — but temporary — times. Again, eCommerce will play an especially vital role for retailers in the age of social distancing and beyond. While brick-and-mortar retail will likely not disappear entirely, now is the perfect time to augment your online sales options.
Do you want to read more about how small businesses can manage during the coronavirus pandemic? Refer to our hub dedicated to this subject: Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The post The Business Owner’s Retail Guide To Surviving The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Twitch began its life as a humble service for broadcasting and viewing video games online. Now the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform pumps out endless hours of content created by millions of broadcasters each month. With so many eyeballs locked on Twitch content every waking hour, it’s unsurprising that this digital entertainment behemoth makes money for more than just a few folks.
Some high-profile Twitch streamers have managed to build incomes high above the national median. For many more, Twitch has become an excellent source of supplemental income. For the dedicated enough, Twitch promises the opportunity of a potential part-time career down the line.
It’s also worth noting that while Twitch is primarily focused on live-streaming video games, you don’t just have to play video games to stream on Twitch. Some broadcasters have become famous for their IRL (“in real life”) streams while artists have built dedicated communities of people watching them create. Still other streamers are known for simply chatting with their viewers.
Ready to learn more about how Twitch streamers make money? Keep on scrolling for all the deets!
How Streamers Make Money On Twitch
Streamers make money on Twitch through several avenues. The primary (and easiest) way of making money through Twitch is to take advantage of the service’s built-in features. These features, which allow viewers to sign up for paid subscriptions and hand out donations, are only available for streamers who have been invited to Twitch’s affiliate and partner programs.
Streamers can also profit off their following outside of Twitch proper. Example moneymakers here include utilizing third-party donation platforms, selling merchandise, and signing sponsorships.
If you choose to dip into Twitch as a professional pursuit, don’t expect streaming to be an instant cash machine. Simple economics means that you’ll earn more money the more followers you have. Because it takes time and effort to grow your following, it is unlikely you’ll be raking in the Benjamins right away.
A caveat to this above rule of thumb is if you already have a large following on some other platform. For instance, if you have a large YouTube subscriber base to draw from or have a number of Twitter followers that want to watch you make art, you may be able to qualify for one of Twitch’s programs faster than other new streamers. This will allow you to start receiving Twitch subs and donations — the core to a streamer’s revenue — sooner than you might have otherwise.
Twitch Monetization Programs: Affiliates VS Partners
Twitch offers two programs that help content creators earn money through streaming: one for affiliates and one for partners.
The affiliate program is something that most people can qualify for. It has very clear qualification guidelines. Once you meet those guidelines, Twitch will automatically invite you to join the affiliate program. After joining the program, a streamer can take advantage of the subscription and donation tools baked into Twitch.
The partner program, meanwhile, is a bit more complex. It is only for the most popular streamers (around 1% of Twitch’s active broadcasters are in this program). Additionally, Twitch doesn’t have clear guidelines for what it takes to become a partner. As such, new streamers will want to focus on becoming an affiliate first.
How The Twitch Affiliate Program Works
The easiest way to make money directly through Twitch is by becoming part of the affiliate program. Affiliates can receive subscriptions and bits from views — both ways will help you generate revenue. Besides the monetary value of becoming an affiliate, other perks include additional emote slots, channel points and polls, and priority transcoding.
How Much Do Affiliates Make Per Sub?
The exact amount you can earn from each subscription will depend on the tier number. Essentially recurring monthly donations, tiers 1, 2, or 3 run viewers $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99, respectively, a month.
Streamers can also earn revenue from viewers who subscribe through the free subscription that comes with every Twitch Prime account. This is basically the same as the $4.99 tier 1 sub. However, viewers must manually resubscribe each month — there’s no auto-subscribe function with a Twitch Prime sub.
Generally speaking, you’ll receive a 50% cut of each subscription. In some cases, Twitch partners may receive more than a 50% cut. However, Twitch only shares larger pieces of the pie with very popular streamers, so this isn’t something that most newcomers will experience.
Beyond subscriptions, Twitch affiliates can also receive “bits” as one-time donations by viewers. Bits are basically Twitch’s currency — for every bit a streamer receives, they’ll receive $0.01 in return. When a viewer donates bits, they do so by “cheering” for the streamer, which generates a “cheermote” — essentially just a GIF that pops up in the stream’s chat log, notifying the streamer and other viewers of the donation.
How To Get Affiliated On Twitch
To become an affiliate, Twitch requires that you meet these specific guidelines of at least:
500 total minutes broadcast in the last 30 days
Seven unique broadcast days in the last 30 days
An average of three concurrent viewers over the last 30 days
After you’ve met these requirements, your channel will be automatically invited into the affiliate program. Once invited, you’ll be prompted to fill out basic information, accept the program’s agreement, and finally provide Amazon/Twitch with your tax and payment info.
How The Twitch Partner Program Works
Once a streamer has gotten really popular, they may be invited by Twitch to join the partner program. Those who join the partner program will receive access to more emote slots, custom cheermotes, better video tools, and a dedicated Twitch support team.
This exclusive club isn’t for everyone, however. According to Twitch, only 27,000 of their 2 million active streamers are partnered. This program is certainly reserved for the cream of the crop!
How Much Do Partners Make Per Sub?
Just like affiliates, partners earn the money from their subs at the same 50-50 split. And, as mentioned above, some of the most popular partners may be able to earn a higher percentage from their subscriptions. Partners also qualify for the same $4.99, $9.99, $24.99, and Twitch Prime subs that are available to affiliates.
Bits cheered on from viewers are another popular earning method for partners. As previously mentioned, for every bit a streamer earns, they’ll collect $0.01 from Twitch.
Besides subs and bits, Twitch partners can also make additional revenue by running ads on their stream. On average, Twitch doles out $2 per 1,000 viewers. Because this is such a paltry sum, ads shouldn’t be a primary source of income — even for those who average hundreds of viewers each stream.
How To Become A Twitch Partner
Becoming a Twitch partner isn’t a clear cut as becoming an affiliate. This is because Twitch doesn’t market any sort of specific requirement to receive an invite into the partner program. However, Twitch does offer some general guidelines to help prospective partners along. According to Twitch, you can help you chances to become a partner by:
Maintaining a healthy ratio of organic viewers over hosted or raided viewers
Bringing a large viewership or following from other services and/or platforms
Twitch also has a “Path to Partner” achievement, which can also help your partnership chances once unlocked. However, note that unlocking this achievement won’tÂ guarantee you an invite into the partner program. The Path to Partner achievement can be unlocked by doing the following:
Stream for 25 hours
Stream on 12 different days
Average 75 viewers per stream
Other Ways To Make Money From Your Twitch Following
Should you still be working your way to affiliate status or maybe you are wanting to tap into other revenue sources, there are a few ways to earn money outside of Twitch’s built-in monetization features. Let’s consider some of the options below!
If you aren’t a Twitch affiliate yet, you can still set up third-party donations. While third-party donations won’t give you access to bits or cheermotes, you’ll still be able to receive revenue from your viewers. PayPal has a popular donation platform that is used throughout numerous communities online.
Another way to receive donations could be through a membership platform like Patreon. These platforms enable users to set up monthly donations to content creators they like for perks like exclusive Discord access, bonus content, physical merchandise, and more.
For more ideas about accepting online donations, check out Merchant Maverick’s article on the topic.
While you will need an audience to actually buy your merchandise, selling such products as t-shirts, sweatshirts, or mugs with branding associated with your streaming personality could be an excellent way to diversify your revenue. There are an array of services that can help you with branded merchandise — Teespring, Redbubble, and Zazzle, to name a few.
Besides producing products branded with your logo, you can also brand products with the channel emotes your chat likes and uses often. Another alternative would be to reach out to artists (either on a site like Fiverr or within your own community) to create fresh designs that resonate with your audience.
Brands like using influencers to promote their products. Once a streamer has enough of a following, a brand may reach out to them to promote a video game or other product in the form of sponsorship. The exact details of these sponsorships will vary from brand to brand as well as the agreements made with individual streamers.
Like with many facets of life, brand sponsorship places a heavy importance on who you know and who knows you. To grow your web of connections, reach out to industry decision-makers via social media or at expos and conventions.
Note that like with the other revenue streams discussed in this article, you’ll need to have a sizable following for brand promotion to be successfully profitable. Of course, if you find a brand that aligns with your following’s particular niche, you may be able to strike a deal even if you aren’t pulling in thousands of views each stream.
Even if you can’t get directly sponsored by a brand, you might still be able to make money by promoting products via an affiliate program (note that this type of affiliate program is separate from Twitch’s affiliate program we talked about above). These affiliate or referral programs will generate you a small share of the profits each time someone clicks on your link and buys a product.
For instance, if you use specific accessories, hardware, or software during your streams, you could provide links to those products through the Amazon Associates program. Your viewers can then click your link and purchase your tools of the trade — giving you a bit of extra cash too.
Amazon Associates may look especially appealing for streamers: Twitch affiliates earn higher commission rates through Amazon Blacksmith — Twitch’s built-in Amazon Associates tool — than standard referral accounts. This means that once you reach Twitch’s affiliate status, Amazon Associates could be a more viable revenue stream compared to other referral programs.
Some specific brands also offer their own referral programs. For example, the gaming hardware company Razer has an affiliate program that dishes out up to 10% of each sale to affiliates — a much higher rate than you might see with Amazon Associates.
Ultimately, becoming a Twitch millionaire isn’t something that happens overnight. While there are plenty of avenues to earn money through Twitch, it takes work and dedication to grow a following (with a little bit of luck sprinkled in too!). The money just won’t come unless you have plenty of eyes watching whenever you stream. Plus — for most of us anyway — it takes time and effort to improve performing in front of camera and interacting with chat — all while playing a game.
Instead of focusing on the money first, Twitch should be an outlet for fun and social interaction. Besides, aren’t those what video games are all about?
The post How To Make Money Streaming On Twitch: Your Guide To Affiliates, Partners, & Other Sources Of Revenue appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve witnessed a lot of changes. In an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), state governments have taken some dramatic measures, closing schools, banning public gatherings, and temporarily closing the dining areas of bars and restaurants.
During such an uncertain time, many business owners are wondering what impact this virus will have on their businesses. In eCommerce, in particular, there are mixed worries. While some sellers are concerned about selling out of high-demand products, others are worried about supply chain, or that they won’t be able to ship their products to an anxious nation.
In this article, we’ll be explaining a few of the eCommerce trends and concerns related to COVID-19. We’ll also be giving some tips and resources to help you stay profitable and safe during this time.
How Coronavirus Is Affecting The eCommerce Industry
Let’s first take a look at a few of the ways the coronavirus is affecting online sellers.
Increase In Sales
Already, we’ve seen consumer buying habits shift during this crisis. First, hand sanitizer vanished from shelves. Then it was toilet paper. Now, following guidelines to practice social distancing, many people are staying at home. Instead of tackling the crowds at grocery stores, many consumers have taken their shopping online, purchasing household goods like cleaning products, medical supplies, paper products, and shelf-stable foods.
There is some evidence that online sales will increase during this crisis. Sales on grocery delivery services such as Amazon Fresh and Instacart almost quadrupled between March 12th and 14th compared with the same period last year (Rakuten Intelligence). And according to research from Marketing Land, this year online spending is supposed to reach 12% of total retail spending (up from 11.4% in Q4 2019), depending on the virus’s impact on the economy. As more people turn to online shopping, you can expect to see an increase in sales among some industries.
Possible Delivery Changes
With an influx of online orders, it is possible that there will be changes and delays in shipping times. A surge of packages could overwhelm shipping carriers’ abilities. In response, Amazon is currently offering customers the option of choosing No-Rush shipping to allow Amazon to serve customers with the most urgent needs first.
Worries about shipment times are further complicated by Amazon’s recent announcement regarding Fulfillment By Amazon. On March 17th, Amazon announced its plan to serve customers by placing a hold on warehouse deliveries. They are currently only accepting deliveries of household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products. This rule will be in place until April 5th at the earliest. This rule could be a major obstacle for some sellers who usually rely on Fulfillment By Amazon. Amazon states that if your inventory runs out in their warehouses, you can continue to sell on their platform, but you must organize delivery of products on your own.
Concerns About Supply Chain
We have already seen the coronavirus disrupt the supply chain. Ever since the virus began to ravage China, it has closed down many manufacturers, leading to significant delays in shipments, even as Chinese factories begin to reopen. Now, concerns are turning to other global factories. According to research by Statista, 44% of the American retailers who participated in one survey expect to face production delays, and 40% expect to have inventory shortages throughout the year.
Changes In Industry Demand
While some industries may see an increase in sales, others, like salons and services, may see a decrease because of social distancing. Below, we’ll mention trends we expect to see among some eCommerce industries:
Fashion: Fashion purchases related to travel (i.e. swimsuits and luggage) will likely decline.
Health & Wellness: Spending on health and wellness products have already increased, especially on products directly related to reducing the spread of the virus (face masks) or handling its symptoms (cough medications).
Household Goods: Online purchases of household supplies such as detergents, foodstuffs, paper products, and cleaning supplies are expected to increase as consumers limit their time spent in public.
Books & Movies: Purchases on books and movies, especially on digital streaming, are expected to increase.
8 Tips For eCommerce Business During COVID-19
Despite all of the difficulties that the coronavirus has brought, merchants are still pressing on. Here are a few of the strategies that other merchants are using right now to deal with the uncertainty of the current times.
Take A Deep Breath & Create A Plan
I encourage you to take a minute to step away from the constant stream of media. Go on a walk, and take a few deep breaths. Good decisions are not made in the fog of panic. Make sure you have steadied yourself and eased away some of the anxiety before you start making big decisions for your business.
Now that you’ve had a minute to refocus, it’s time to create a game plan. Take a serious look at your business and identify areas of strength, areas of risk, and areas of need. Do you need to limit purchases or reduce advertising in order to keep up with an increase in sales? Or, do you need to find another sales niche in order to target a new market? Are there any risks or needs in your supply chain?
Once you’ve identified these three areas in your business, you can start formulating plans to address them.
Find Your Sales Niche
Do your best to find a new sales niche within the changing landscape. As schools close and parents begin working from home, customers are looking for ways to meet their new needs. Consider what your customers’ needs might be and work to develop a solution for them. For example, if you sell art supplies, you might create an art kit for parents to buy from their children who are suddenly stuck at home. Or, if you sell personal care items, try creating an at-home spa kit for people who looking for comfort in a stressful time.
You might even try reaching out to your customers via email or social media to find out what they need. Then, work to develop a marketable solution for that new need.
Adjust Your Marketing
You’ll likely need to change your marketing strategy in order to better fit with the changing economic environment. Americans will be spending an increasing amount of time at home. Consider investing in marketing that you can direct to consumers in their homes. Now might be a good time to invest in video advertising that can be broadcast on local TV or even featured in some YouTube videos. Continue investing in advertising on social media and search engines. People are looking to the internet for both news of the current crisis as well as diversion and distractions, so investment in online advertising has the opportunity to reach many eyes.
You should also carefully consider the content of your marketing. For example, as more people stay home and cancel trips, you should rethink any of the travel-based summer marketing you may have had planned. Focus instead on summer marketing that prioritizes living locally.
You should also come up with a few marketing themes that are line with new policies surrounding social distancing. As big brands like KFC and Hershey’s pull ads that feature actors licking food from their fingers and hugging, you should also consider the way your advertisements will be received in a health-conscious culture. Keep in mind that some actions featured in your former advertising could be considered inconsiderate in the current crisis. Consider featuring families at home or people engaging in solo outdoor activities. Do your best to stay relatable in changing the cultural norms.
Maintain Good Relationships With Customers
One thing that hasn’t changed in the past few weeks is your relationship with your customers. Keep this relationship strong by communicating frequently with the people you serve. Let them know about any measures you have taken to ensure their safety and to prevent the spread of the virus. Be honest and upfront with any potential delays in shipments and production. Customers want to be able to anticipate the arrival date of their products, and advising them of any delays beforehand can help customers shift their expectations early on.
If your supply chain has been significantly affected by the coronavirus, you might also consider putting a note about your inventory issues on relevant product pages. Mark products that are out of stock, and enable pre-ordering for those products if you’d like. Letting your customers know about potential fulfillment delays before they place an order will go a long way in keeping customers happy.
Analyze Your Cash Flow & Expenses
If you haven’t already, take a serious look at your cash flow. Are you able to make payroll for the foreseeable month? Will you be able to purchase inventory?
If things are tight, you may be able to get a working capital loan. A loan will give you the flexibility to make the moves you need to make, even while revenue is low. The US Small Business Administration announced on March 12th that they will be providing disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus. For more information, check out the SBA announcement and our article: What SBA Disaster Relief Loans Are & How To Qualify For One.
Work On Other Productive Tasks
If your orders have slowed, and you find that you have a lot of time on your hands, now might be a good opportunity to turn your attention to a project you’ve been putting off. If you have the resources and abilities, try giving your website a new look. Easy-to-use website builders like Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, and Weebly, make this a task that you can do on your own. Or, perhaps now is a good time to create an emergency plan for what you’ll do if the current condition stretches out beyond a couple of months. Alternatively, you could spend available downtime strengthening your marketing campaigns. Hopefully, that will help you to get the orders coming in soon!
Take Care Of Yourself & Your Employees
Your businesses can’t operate without people, and your people need to stay safe right now. If it’s possible, organize a way for your team to work from home. Here at Merchant Maverick, we’ve been a remote team for years. We use communication tools (like Slack and GSuite), as well as project management software, to plan, organize, and execute our projects.
If working remotely isn’t an option, make sure you follow government guidelines about social distancing and that you provide sick time for anyone who may need it. Let’s take care of each other in this stressful time.
Give Back To Your Customers & Community
Giving back is one of the best ways to feel better during a stressful time. Look for opportunities to support at-risk groups in your community. We’ve been particularly inspired by this list from Forbes of 50 ways larger companies are helping their communities.
At Merchant Maverick, we are giving back by working to supply business owners with the tools they need to overcome this crisis. We hope the resources in this article have been helpful to you, and we hope you are able to find help elsewhere on the site as well.
Getting Your eCommerce Business Through Tough Times
There’s no doubt that things are hard right now. But keep hope in knowing that your business has overcome hard times before. The businesses we’ve come to know here at Merchant Maverick are innovative, resilient, and resourceful. We can get through this together.
Take a look below for a list of resources that can help you find solutions to the current crisis:
Merchant Maverick Resources
Our Hub for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources
Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition
What SBA Disaster Relief Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants
How To Use (& Avoid Using) Business Credit During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Facebook’s Business Resource Hub
CNBC Article: Treasury and IRS to delay tax payment deadline by 90 days
US Small Business Administration (SBA) Webpage: SBA to Provide Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The post What The Coronavirus Means For eCommerce & What Your Business Can Do About It appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Credit card companies across the board have been stepping up their rewards game recently, but one program has consistently come out near the top. That program is — as you can probably guess by the title of this article — Chase Ultimate Rewards.
With a plethora of redemption options — and bonus rates for travel redemption — Chase Ultimate Rewards makes a great case for being one of (if not the) best rewards program on the market. Most business users shouldn’t have difficulty utilizing the points they earn with one of Chase’s credit cards.
So how does Chase Ultimate Rewards work? We’ll take a peek into the nitty-gritty below, so read on through to find out!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Basics
There’s not really too much to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It’s basically just Chase’s way of marketing credit card rewards. The program enables card users to earn reward points with purchases and then redeem those points for a variety of options. Note that even Chase’s cash back cards earn points usable through Chase Ultimate Rewards — these types of cards are merely marketed as “cash back” earners.
By signing up for a credit card that’s a part of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll be able to access a slew of ways to redeem the points you earn with your card. From travel to cash back to Amazon purchases, there should certainly be a redemption method to suit your fancy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has been around for over a decade — the New York City-based bank launched the program way back in 2009. Originally kicked off with just two credit cards, Chase Ultimate Rewards now basically touches the entire stable of Chase’s first-party cards.
What Is The Point Value For A Chase Ultimate Reward Point?
The exact point value for points obtained within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program will vary on how you redeem them. However, the general value will range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.
Let’s take a deeper look at what you can earn through Chase Ultimate Rewards based on the redemption method:
Travel: Depending on the credit card you have, your points value can equal anywhere from 1 cent to 1.5 cents on travel redemption.
Gift cards: Gift cards picked up through Chase Ultimate Rewards usually earn 1 cent per point. In some cases, however, you may be able to collect gift cards at a slightly better rate.
Cash Back: When you redeem your points as cash back in the form of direct deposit or statement credit, you’ll receive 1 cent per point.
Experiences: Should you book an experience through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the marketed cash value normally equals 1 cent per point. Note, however, that Chase sets the value for these experiences, so the true value of booking experiences with points may be difficult to calculate.
Apple Purchases: Buying Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards will net you 1 cent per point.
Amazon Purchases: Using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at checkout on Amazon.com will earn a fairly unimpressive 0.8 cents per point.
Additionally, if you transfer your points to a travel partner outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to redeem points for multiple cents per point.
Is Chase Ultimate Rewards Different For Businesses?
While Chase credit cards marketed towards businesses may earn points at different rates than their consumer counterparts, Chase Ultimate Rewards itself doesn’t really function differently for businesses. You’ll still be able to use the points you picked up with a business credit card for travel, gift cards, cash back, and retail purchases. Transfer of points to partner programs outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards is also possible for business users.
Instead, the primary difference is how fast you collect points and on what purchase categories earn you those bonus points. For instance, the Ink Business Preferred credit card can snag 3 points per dollar spent on shipping purchases. That purchase category is unique to Chase business cards — it’s not possible to specifically earn bonus points by using a Chase consumer card for shipping purchases.
When looking at the benefits outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may notice other differences between Chase’s consumer and business credit cards. This might include stuff like employee cards or cell phone protection — two benefits exclusive to cards within Chase’s business card stable. However, these differences come via the cards’ benefits packages and not from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Credit Cards Eligible For Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase has a number of first-party credit cards that dole out points for Chase Ultimate Rewards. To start down this journey, let’s look at Chase’s business-specific cards first.
Ink Business Unlimited
Chase’s unlimited cash back credit card for business use is the Ink Business Unlimited card. With an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you’ll be earning rewards at a fine clip.
While the card is marketed as a “cash back” credit card, you technically earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spent. Because of this, rewards earned with an Ink Business Unlimited card can be redeemed for the gamut of Chase Ultimate Rewards methods. This includes cash back, gift cards, and travel.
Beyond its base rewards scheme, Ink Business Unlimited features no annual fee and a slew of benefits aimed at businesses, such as free employee cards and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
For more information, read our review.
Ink Business Cash
The second cash back business credit card on offer from Chase is the Ink Business Cash card. You can collect 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases every account anniversary year. Plus there’s an additional 2% back on gas station and restaurant purchases (also with a $25,000 annual cap).
Just like Chase’s other cash back business card, Ink Business Cash technically gathers its cash back in the form of points. As such, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, gifts cards, travel, etc. through Chase Ultimate Rewards’s portal.
For benefits outside of rewards, Ink Business Cash has no annual fee, employee cards at no additional cost, and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
To take a deeper dive, check out the Merchant Maverick review.
Ink Business Preferred
Savvy business travelers may like Ink Business Preferred. That’s because this card dishes out 3 points per dollar spent on travel (as well as shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and select internet advertising). On top of that 3x bonus rate, points are worth 25% more when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Besides travel, you can redeem points for Chase Ultimate Rewards’s other methods. However, booking for travel will likely be the most economical choice. There’s also the option to transfer points to one of Chase’s travel partners on a 1:1 basis — this may see you saving even more money than just cashing in for the 25% bonus rate.
Ink Business Preferred also has no foreign transaction fee, as well as cell phone protection and free employee cards. Note, however, that all these perks come at a cost — Chase requires a $95 annual fee to use the card.
If you’re curious to learn more, our in-depth review has you covered.
Beyond business credit cards, there are plenty of consumer cards that are eligible for Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even though you might be looking at a credit card for your business, a consumer card might work for you. Here are the first-party consumer credit cards that work with Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Freedom (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter)
Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back)
Sapphire Preferred (2X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 25% more when redeemed for travel)
Sapphire Reserve (3X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 50% more when redeemed for travel)
Chase’s other, co-branded cards with hotels and airlines don’t use Chase Ultimate Rewards. To see the full list of Chase credit cards, check out our deep dive into Chase’s cards.
How To Earn Rewards
The simplest and most obvious way to earn rewards for Chase Ultimate Rewards is by spending money with your Chase credit card. Depending on the credit card you have, you can earn between 1 and 5 points for every dollar spent. Chase’s cash back cards will also earn points despite the “cash back” moniker.
Additionally, all of Chase’s Ink Business credit cards currently earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides. This limited-time partnership between Chase and Lyft runs through to March 2022. Chase’s array of first-party consumer credit cards can also take advantage of this partnership — the Sapphire Reserve card takes the cake here by earning a whopping 10x points on Lyft rides (the other three Chase consumer cards collect at the same 5 points per dollar rate as the business cards).
Beyond spending cash, there is at least one other way business users can earn rewards to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you already have an Ink Business Unlimited or Preferred credit card, you can refer your card to up to five other businesses per year. You’ll collect the equivalent of $150 per referral sign-up if you have the Unlimited card (so up to $750 per year) or 20,000 points per referral if you have the Preferred card.
It’s worth noting that the referral program is also available for those with Chase’s Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Sapphire Preferred consumer cards. If you have one of these cards, each friend referred to the card will net you either $100 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 15,000 bonus points (with the Sapphire Preferred). You can earn up to $500 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 75,000 points (with the Sapphire Preferred) annually with this method.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption Options
There are plenty of ways to use your points on Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s take a deeper look below.
The most marketed way to utilize Chase Ultimate Rewards is by booking travel. Trip booking options include airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
Chase has partnered with travel booking site Expedia since 2018 to run the back-end of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s travel service. As such, you should generally see similar prices when comparing Chase Ultimate Rewards and Expedia.
If you have a cash back card through Chase, booking travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the standard 1 point equaling 1 cent. Points cards are where things get interesting. Both Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred users will snag 25% more value out their points when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase’s premier consumer card, the Sapphire Reserve, garners a whopping 50% more value.
While booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards can be convenient and may save a bit of cash, a major drawback is the fact that you won’t be booking directly with airlines or hotels. This means that if something goes awry with your trip, you’ll need to contact Chase. Chase will then reach out to customer service on your behalf, potentially costing you time and giving you a headache.
If you’d like your points to go to something outside of travel, Chase provides the option to redeem points for gift cards. At the time of writing, Chase advertises that Ultimate Rewards offers “over 195 gift cards” from various brands.
Generally speaking, 1 point equals 1 cent when redeemed for a gift card. However, Chase will occasionally run “sales” on cards from specific brands. For instance, you might be able to get a Lowe’s gift card for 5% off or a Jiffy Lube one for 10% off.
Unless you are snagging a gift card during a sale, getting gift cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards may not be the most economical way to use your points.
The simplest Chase Ultimate Rewards method is to redeem your points for cash back. If you go this route, you have the option to deposit the cash directly into your bank account or receive statement credit. Cash back usually takes three days before being posted to your account.
No matter the Chase credit card, a single point is worth 1 cent. This means that Chase Ultimate Rewards’s cash back isn’t spectacular — however, it does allow you to use your rewards more freely than if you redeemed them for travel or gift cards.
Another redemption method Chase includes with its Ultimate Rewards program is “experiences.” Here you can use your points to book “experiences” from a selection of options, including fine dining, sports games, and music concerts.
During writing (in February — some of these events are seasonal), example experiences redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards included:
Ski lift tickets in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont
Tickets to professional sporting events, including basketball, hockey, and golf
High-class dining experiences
In general, these experiences were valued at 1 point equaling 1 cent. However, because Chase sets the “cash value” for each experience, it may be difficult to gauge the true value when redeeming points for experiences.
As far as total value, some packages are as cheap as 13,000 points for a Squaw Valley lift ticket. Others are vastly more expensive: two Saturday-Sunday tickets to the 2020 PGA Championship with access to Chase’s hospitality chalet and three nights at a hotel will run you a cool 265,000 points.
Note that because most available experiences are situated in large cities, you’ll want to live near a highly populated place or be traveling in one to take full advantage of this Chase Ultimate Rewards perk. Card members who live in rural Alaska, for example, may have difficulty finding a local experience to take advantage of.
If you like Apple products, Chase has partnered with the tech company to allow you to pay for all or part of an Apple purchase. To use your points this way, you’ll need to make your purchase through an Apple-branded online store accessed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While this method does make it easier to buy the latest iPhone or AirPods, you won’t be saving anything extra here: 1 point is worth the standard 1 cent when redeemed for Apple products.
By far the measliest way to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards is on Amazon purchases. After you link your Amazon account with your card, you’ll be all set to use your rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. However, keep in mind that points redeemed for Amazon purchases are only worth 0.8 cents. As such, we can’t really recommend redeeming points in this way.
If you want to maximize your Amazon rewards and you also want to sign up for a card through Chase, it may be worth going with the bank’s co-branded Amazon credit card. This card, which can earn up to 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, features a rewards scheme that allows you to use rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. Note, however, that rewards obtained through Chase’s Amazon card don’t earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
We’ll go into more depth below, but if one of Chase’s own redemption methods don’t suit your fancy, you can transfer your points out to one of 13 travel partners. These travel partners include both airline and hotel loyalty programs and can be one of the more lucrative ways to use your points.
Additionally, you can transfer points between multiple Chase accounts if you have several credit cards. Consolidating points can be a great way to save a bit extra cash when booking travel or if you’re planning to close a card.
Chase Transfer Partners & Best Ways To Transfer
With 13 different transfer partners, Chase has a nice array of loyalty programs where you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis. These partner programs include both airlines and hotels.
At the time of writing, Chase’s airline partners are:
Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways Executive Club
Flying Blue Air France/KLM
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For hotel loyalty programs, Chase is partnered with:
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to these loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis, the value of your points will vary depending on where you transfer your points to.
Determining the best loyalty programs to transfer to will often depend on your situation. Generally, however, World of Hyatt delivers the best bang for the buck when it comes to hotels — free nights start low as 5,000 points. For flights, check out British Airlines — its trans-Atlantic flights can be had for as little as 9,000 Avios (what British Airlines calls its points). Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program can also be a great deal if you snag a monthly promo.
The Best Ways To Use Chase Points
All told, if you have a rewards credit card from Chase, you’ll likely find that redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel (either through Chase’s own booking portal or by transferring out to a partner program) will stretch their value the furthest. This makes Chase’s point cards great options for businesses that require frequent voyages.
If you have one of Chase’s cash back cards, it’s hard to go wrong with redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Most methods output rewards at 1 cent per point value. This means that you can be flexible by redeeming your rewards just the way you want to.
This flexibility is probably one of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s strongest attributes and it helps make the program one of the best out there. Whether you are transferring points to one of Chase’s travel partners or redeeming points for the exact gift card you want, Chase gives you the freedom to choose — that’s pretty hard to beat.
The post Everything You Need To Know To Earn & Maximize Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you want to start a subscription box company. I bet you’ve come here with questions, and if so, you’re in the right spot! We’ve got answers, inspiration, and plenty of resources ready for you to check out. Keep reading to discover how you to find niche subscription box ideas that will turn heads, how to keep your company running like a well-oiled machine, and how to reach more customers and expand your business once you launch. Let’s get going!
Step 1: You Need An Interesting Subscription Box Idea To Succeed
How will you find that amazing idea to dazzle your would-be subscribers? In part, the foundation of a successful subscription box company is that extra something that sets you apart. Interestingly, one of the most successful boxes in the last few years started with a regular old hygiene product we all probably purchase. I’m thinking about what the Dollar Shave Club did with a simple self-care item: the razor. Their campaign used visual textures, packaging, and smart, fun messaging to connect with potential subscribers. While they initially marketed to men, their brand has grown to target both men and women. The idea is that people sign up to save on a razor (something everyone needs anyway) and soon enough they’re adding non-essentials to their box as well. While you might have more of a whimsical idea than just a plain razor, this company shows that anything is possible with the right planning and execution.
There are a lot of exciting possibilities out there, so get a notepad out, grab a refreshing beverage, and let’s explore how to create a very successful subscription box business.
14 Subscription Box Business Ideas To Get You Started
The sky is the limit when it comes to curating a subscription box. It’s true that subscription boxes are becoming a competitive market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach a particular group with a new angle. As we saw with the Dollar Shave Club, sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that take off when coupled with a good message and imagery.
First, you’ll want to figure out your target audience and demographic and do the needed research on these folks. Will your box provide convenience, discovery, whimsy, and/or special interest? Here are some general ideas to help you narrow down the focus and come up with something unique for your subscribers:
Gourmet foods, exotic snacks, coffee, tea, candy, etc.
Pregnancy and baby
Arts and crafts
Gaming and “geek” interests
Fitness and health
Curated clothing and accessories
Self-care and pampering
Inspirational / encouraging
Beauty and grooming
Pet care and toy
Home (plants, cleaning, candles, art)
If you are feeling inspired, keeping brainstorming those ideas and write them down — you’ll need them for the research and discovery steps coming up. Keep reading to find out what you need to know to expand your business or start a brand-new business based on the subscription box model.
Step 2: Before You Start Planning In Earnest, Make A Business Plan
A business plan acts as a blueprint for success. It keeps you on track, aligns your goals, and helps you cover the basics. You’ll also need a business plan should you seek out funding or investors for your subscription box endeavor. The most important person this business plan serves is you, however.
Of course, you’ll need to do some more preliminary research and get your ducks in a row before creating your plan, but it certainly does not have to be complicated. We suggest starting with a lean business plan, which is a one-page document that follows this basic structure:
If you need a little more direction, check out our post, The How-To For One Page Business Plans
Research The Competition & Check Out Other Subscription Box Companies
As a part of your business plan, you’ll want to research the competition. The best way to start that is via a Google search. Go through the first few pages and click through the businesses there. The most important thing you can learn here is the average price point. You also can find product ideas there, but it’s more useful to identify what’s not in those boxes so that you can provide a unique angle.
Step 3: Consider How To Fund Your Subscription Box Business
There are several ways to go about funding expenses. You’ll need to consider a few things to help you assess what exactly you’ll need here.
Will you be paying the full price for some or all items?
Can you source wholesale to save costs?
Can you approach local artists or specialty shops for unique and specially priced inclusions?
Can you reach out to pitch suppliers for special pricing or free samples (more on this later)?
You can certainly do a combination of the above list. But whatever you decide, you’ll need to cover initial costs in marketing, setup, shipping, and inventory. Once you have an idea of what’s going in the box and your costs to fill it, then you can consider how you’ll go about funding the business.
Here are some options to consider:
Borrow money with a startup loan.
Use funds from advanced orders from subscribers.
Utilize a business credit card.
Another approach is to start small and limit quantities initially so you can cover your own costs. By doing this you can reduce your financial risk, not to mention create some urgency in the sale thanks to limited inventory.
Should You Crowdfund Your Subscription Box?
You could think about crowdfunding your fledgling business idea. Crowdfunding certainly has its advantages, along with some unique challenges. For one, you’ll need to devote marketing dollars to outreach and exposure for your campaign. And with that, you’ll need to lead with a great story to stand out and get attention. The best part of all this strategy, however, is that if you get your backers to support your start-up costs, you can reduce your debt and gain supporters while you’re at it. This strategy would likely be best for unique, cause-related, and highly niche ideas, as you’ll have the most potential for excitement from your backers.
There are several types of crowdfunding and (even more platforms to choose from), but rewards-based crowdfunding is likely the most appropriate choice for your subscription box business. Interested in exploring this option for your business? For more ideas and information on crowdfunding, check out Crowdfunding for Startups: 8 Tips For Launching.
Step 4: Seek Out A Supplier For Your Subscription Box Service
You’ve got a few options on how you’ll actually fill your box. You could choose to purchase directly from a wholesale company, pay full-price, or use a combination of both. For some or all of your products, initiating a long-term relationship with a supplier becomes the smartest option.
You can start finding some amazing things for your subscription box by networking and establishing good relationships with vendors, suppliers, or artists. Those of you who focus on unique or one-of-a-kind items will particularly need to get relationships going with specialty shops, sellers at trade shows, local artists, and crafters. Etsy can be a wonderful source for contacting niche and specialty item sellers in all kinds of categories — not just handmade items. Many sellers would be more than happy to supply samples or a discount, and some may even be open to sharing in exchange for exposure.
If you end up creating a full website for yourself (more on that coming up), make it easy for vendors to get in touch with you through a dedicated page and instructions for how to submit a request. While you may not be fielding a lot of inquiries when you launch, get it set up so you’re ready to respond to those requests when they start pouring in.
Why You Need To Perfect Your Pitch Before You Talk To Suppliers
We recommend creating your one-page business plan (discussed in Step 2) before approaching suppliers. If you already have an email list or social following, lead with these resources; suppliers will be more than happy to work with you if additional exposure to their product is in the mix. Whether you’re asking for sample sizes or a discount, remember that transparency, a good plan, and confidence in your approach will go a long way in your pitch.
Step 5: Build Your Web Presence & Customer Service Channels
You can approach selling your subscription boxes online a few different ways:
Hire a firm or freelancer to build a fully custom site.
Integrate a shopping cart with an existing site.
Choose an eCommerce platform including a site builder with website templates and a payment gateway all in one (e.g. Shopify, Read our review).
Sell via social channels only with a Facebook Store or Instagram Shoppable posts.
If the website part makes you a bit nervous, I have some good news for you. It really has never been easier to sell online — with little to no experience or technical expertise — by going with a website builder. Some platforms even offer all-in-one solutions with payments (including recurring billing), website templates, and a plethora of integrations for easier shipping and tracking built right in, too!
Where To Find eCommerce-Friendly Website Builders
Because they are both feature-rich, easy to use, and provide a lot of room to scale, we recommend Shopify and Square to business owners who are starting from the ground up with little to no tech expertise. And for those that do have coding expertise, you’ll have customization tools at your disposal, too! What makes me most excited about Shopify is that it enables multi-channel selling across platforms, including Facebook stores, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Amazon. With these options, you can take advantage of more opportunities for growth while meeting potential customers where they’re hanging out anyway. And what I love is that everything including your inventory and reporting is all synced no matter where you sell!
Whether you’re looking for just a shopping cart integration or a full all-in-one platform, I recommend checking out The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business as you can compare options side-by-side and get a lot more information regarding what to look for to match what you need.
I will leave one final thought in regards to eCommerce website builders â take advantage of any trial periods or demos to give yourself time to play around and explore your possibilities.
Why Your Choice Of Payment Processor Matters
Your payment processor is how you’ll actually accept payments, so this is an important business consideration. If you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, you’ll likely find yourself below the monthly volume of what many traditional payment processors serve.
Third-party processors like Square, PayPal, and Stripe (the backend processor of Shopify) make it possible for smaller businesses to start taking payments, and they provide an exhaustive set of (oftentimes free) tools to help you manage your business. ThisÂ convenience comes at a cost however: an increased risk of account freezes if you have an uptick in chargebacks or your account is considered higher risk.
Regardless of what type of merchant account you go with, however, you will have this risk, unfortunately. That’s why we recommend arming yourself with knowledge. Check out How To Keep Your Payment Processor From Holding Funds Or Terminating Your Account.
So what should you look for in a merchant account? Here is what you can keep in mind as you research companies:
Product Features: What comes with the account? Are there any beneficial add-on services like email marketing? Reporting tools?
Recurrent Billing: Allowing your customers to save and automatically be charged is a must!
ACH: Automatic bank transfers can lower your processing costs, and it’s another payment method to offer your customers.
Forms of Payment: Some payment flows like Shopify Payments let you easily add PayPal and digital wallets to your checkout.
Card Automatic Updating: This feature can prevent billing issues and ensures you don’t have to chase someone down for updating billing information if their card expires or gets replaced.
Check The Contract: Always read your contract! We recommend merchants avoid long-term contracts as they are often also laced with lots of fees.
Customer Service: It’s important to get the help you need when you need it. Companies that have several active customer service channels and generous customer service hours are a must for the eCommerce subscription box business.
Check out some of our top picks in payment gateways for online payment processing in our post The Best Payment Gateways For Online Payment Processing.
Solving The Customer Service Question
The customer service issue can also happily be solved with the right eCommerce platform, too. For instance, many web builders, like Wix, for instance, now include chatbots that allow you to communicate in real-time to field any incoming questions. Some companies direct their customers to send any order issues or inquiries via Facebook Messenger.Â If you’ve linked a Facebook business account with Shopify, for example, you can take advantage of order tracking as well. Of course, there are always reliable phone and email options. Whatever you decide, make it clear how your customers can contact you, along with the expected response time.
Regardless of customer service channels you ultimately choose, we suggest making it easy for your subscribers to alter their box or skip a month. Enabling them to easily skip a month may feel like losing a sale, but you’ll likely retain them for longer (and keep them less frustrated).
Step 6: Build A Marketing Plan To Draw In Customers
Getting a marketing plan down on paper is an absolute must, but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. The subscription box biz is a bit competitive at the moment, and that’s where being savvy and making the most of the opportunities you already have can go a long way.
Social Media Marketing For Your Subscription Box
Social media can work wonders to establish your brand and get people excited. Follow the strategies below:
Start Posting Regularly: If you already have followers on social, you’re at an advantage, but if you don’t, consider building your following by posting regular content, tagging larger accounts, and networking.
Test A Paid Social Ad: If you’re up to it, I recommend testing a sponsored post or two to get people excited during your pre-launch focus and beyond. Facebook advertising is a very cheap way ($20-30 bucks) to get in front of potentially thousands of people, and your ad will go to Instagram automatically, too. It’s also easy to target your campaign (even down to niche interests).
Excite With a Giveaway: A giveaway is a tried-and-true method of increasing your footprint with every post! Ask your followers to tag friends, share, and direct them to your site to sign up with an email. You increase your reach exponentially while building an email list of people who are interested in you. It’s a win-win.
Tap Into Influencer Marketing: Whether you have a lot of followers or not, an inexpensive way to boost your brand is through influencer marketing. By offering your box to an established YouTube personality in exchange for a shout-out or review on their page, you can reach potentially thousands with your brand name. Influencers will likely be happy about to devote some screen-time to your sub box, as it’s not always easy coming up with fresh content.
Email Marketing For Your Subscription Box
If you already have an established business or a robust email list, email marketing is a great way to promote your subscription box service. Email is still one of the cheapest and easiest ways to advertise new products and services. I love that Square offers this as an add-on service for only $15/month and includes analytics, templates, and targeting.
Don’t have a list? Consider reaching out to another local business and paying a small fee for a shout-out in their next newsletter. Make sure you create an email form on your site to make it easy for people to show their interest in your box. You could even use a credit card number to reserve a spot for a limited quantity of boxes before you’ve even launched! Fanning the flames of FOMO (fear of missing out) is never a bad idea in marketing.
To get the most bang for your buck when it comes to emails, check out How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy (all skill levels).
Step 7: Create A Strategy For Headache-Free Shipping & Fulfillment
There are two major pathways to take with shipping and fulfillment: doing it yourself or outsourcing fulfillment. Of course, the size of your operation and your budget are factors, as well as logistical and space considerations.
Creating a strategy that gets your boxes out on time is key, but you are probably looking for the lowest possible overhead and tools that can help you save time. There are a plethora of integrations that work with Shopify and other eCommerce platforms to make it easy to print labels and ship from your home.
When it comes to costs, your shipping fees can vary widely depending on what’s in your box, size, and materials you need. In your planning stages, do research on which carriers are most economical and if it’s best to use multiple carriers. Most importantly, when it comes to packing up your goodies and shipping out your subscription box, keeping everything protected and beautiful (not to mention eco-friendly) goes a long way in customer retention. The truth is that when you’re starting out, you’re building your reputation one box at a time.
Thankfully, we have a library of comprehensive and easy-to-digest resources to help you find the right solutions and make the best choices for your business. For answers to questions about shipping and fulfillment, check out our posts, 8 Hacks For Saving On Shipping CostsÂ and Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your eCommerce Fulfillment.
5 Tips To Keep Your Subscription Box Business Growing
Create Referral Campaigns:Â Make the time-tested and powerful technique of word-of-mouth advertising work for you through a referral campaign. All you need to do is incentivize current subscribers to refer your box to their friends and family. Whether that’s through a bonus box or a few extra treats in their next shipment, those who successfully recruit friends and family to your brand deserve some celebration!
Stellar Customer Service:Â Nothing creates a solid reputation better than stellar customer service. To be the best, it’s not just about answering inquiries or solving problems, it’s about being proactive and listening to your current customers. Send them an email and ask them how they like their box, make amends right away for any issues (even if they weren’t your fault), and generally bring a “service with a smile” approach. Turning a customer into a brand ambassador is the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, and providing excellent care is how you’ll accomplish it.
Check Your Reports & Recognize Trends: Whatever eCommerce platform you go with, take advantage of any and all reporting and insights. Is there a certain geographical area that stands out? A peak time of year for sales growth? What is your “deadzone” in terms of new signups? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you target marketing and encourage growth through marketing when you need it most.
Identify Opportunities & Always Be Closing:Â Knowing what your customers love most about your boxes and looking at your sales reports gives you key insights into what items to purchase for upcoming boxes and new opportunities for growth. Once you have established customers, consider offering related or additional products that you know they’ll get excited about (because you’ve done your research). Remember Dollar Shave Club’s expansion from just the humble razor to a full line of personal care products? You want that potential growth for your business, too! Whether that’s through expanding into a new niche, identifying a new under-served market, or just boosting your sales with your current subscribers, always be closing!
Understand Cash Flow & Plan Ahead:Â Absolutely essential for any small business, including your subscription box company, is knowing your cash flow. You’ll need to figure out your cash flow so that you can make better decisions about your finances. To do this, you must understand how to create a cash flow statement, which breaks down your operating cash flow, cash flow of investments, financial activities, and net cash flow. We make this easier to understand and show you what tools can help in our post, How To Calculate & Analyze Business Cash Flow.Â
Are You Ready To Launch Your Subscription Box Company?
Launching a successful subscription box service requires some smart legwork, including researching your potential customers, curating irresistible products, buzz-building advertising, and structuring a plan of action. With the right eCommerce tools and a well-thought-out business plan, you can whittle down what feels like a giant, overwhelming project into something that’s more manageable.
For more startup resources, check out Small Business Startup Loans: Your 8 Best Options and The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
The post How To Start A Subscription Box: 7 Steps To Launch A Thriving Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordPress hosting product.
See WPMU Dev’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’m currently a WPMU Dev member and had free access to the new hosting product. The WordPress & web hosting world is constantly evolving with new & interesting products.
Given that I use & love some of their plugins, I tried out the hosting product as well. Here are the pros, cons, use cases & alternatives for WPMU Dev hosting.
What is WPMU Dev & WPMU Dev Hosting?
WPMU Dev launched their first major plugin years ago. They became best-known for their multisite & network plugins.
A couple of years ago, they open-sourced most of their smaller, outdated plugins and doubled-down on a suite of premium plugins focused on agencies, web consultants, designers & developers.
The suite includes security, backup, SEO, and form plugins. They all work well and integrate together. I personally use the Video Tutorials plugin and their Forminator Pro plugin.
Their hosting product is just another part of that product suite. In the flight to platforms, hosting is WPMU Dev’s flight to be the platform of choice for premium WordPress developers and site owners.
Background on WPMU Dev Hosting
Like most WordPress plugins & theme makers, WPMU Dev has been constantly reworking their business model to keep up not only with the Internet but also with software and open-source trends.
Years ago, they sold premium plugins a la carte for a support subscription.
Then they moved to a library subscription model. Then they made all their small plugins free and switched to a subscription for plugin services model.
As hosting companies moved in on plugin & theme makers’ territory, WPMU has moved into hosting companies’ territory by bundling hosting with their plugins.
Whatever the business model, WPMU Dev has always focused on super-high quality code & support. They have always focused exclusively on the WordPress world. I use their plugins for critical parts of my website, and lean on their support for especially tricky code questions.
How WPMU Dev Hosting Works
WPMU Dev hosting, though, is a bit of a hosting hybrid. It’s hard to compare the product to anything else on the market.
When you sign up for WPMU Dev, you get 3 hosting accounts bundled with unlimited access to their plugins. A WPMU Dev subscription is $49/mo.
Their hosting product is neither true cloud hosting, nor true WordPress hosting, nor true web hosting. I’ll get into all these in the pros & cons, but here’s the short version.
They use Digital Ocean’s cloud to actually run your website. But it’s not true cloud hosting….because, well, it’s a flat rate and you don’t run the containers.
They have it pre-configured for WordPress. But it’s not true WordPress hosting…because, well, there’s no real definition for WordPress hosting. It’s one way to host some WordPress websites for sure…but the point of WordPress is that it can run fine in a variety of environments depending on your needs & resources.
And they have it marketed as web hosting. But it’s not true web hosting…because, well, it’s managed cloud hosting with all the limitations that come with it.
But it does have some upsides & use cases, especially in a world of platforms. So let’s look at the pros.
Pros of Using WPMU Dev Hosting
WPMU Dev hosting has a lot going for it. They are a bit of a hidden gem. They aren’t the biggest brand on the Internet, and not even a big brand in the WordPress world. But their size & focus creates a lot of advantages.
Platform Quality & Performance
WPMU Dev is already known for their high-quality plugins. They are also known for their high-quality WordPress support.
Their hosting product actually lives on Digital Ocean’s cloud infrastructure. Digital Ocean is one of the “name-brands” of cloud hosting along with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Between WPMU’s WordPress expertise and Digital Ocean’s performance, you really don’t have to worry about your website install. Here’s a speed test from the first, unoptimized install.
Here’s a screenshot of the backend. It’s clean and fast.
Overall, the quality & performance of the product itself is right on.
Total Platform Pricing & Value
WPMU Dev structures their pricing with hosting credits. To be a WPMU Dev member, you pay $49/mo. You get access to full-versions of all their plugins, plus support, plus 3 credits per month for hosting.
Now, $49/month for just a single managed hosting account is super-expensive. $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts is super-expensive. In fact, I’ll get to this part in the disadvantages. But WPMU Dev isn’t selling hosting. They are selling hosting as part of a platform.
So, looking at the whole platform, $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts plus full versions of all their premium plugins plus support plus all the built-in services that come with their premium plugins brings the total value well past $49/mo.
For example, a subscription to a security plugin, backup plugin, and form plugin can all run ~$20/month. Competitive managed WordPress hosting can run ~$20/month – even more for 3+ sites. Add in a CDN, backup storage, etc – and you’ll likely end up well over $49/month.
Now, you might see where I’m going with this, and I will address the pricing assumptions in the disadvantages. But, for now, the hosting product makes WPMU Dev’s platform an excellent value.
Integrations & Simplicity
WPMU Dev has all the must-have plugins for WordPress taken care of. One of the biggest obstacles for running a self-hosted WordPress website is simply making everything work well together.
If you buy into WPMU Dev’s platform, all the plugins work together, which all work well on their hosting configuration.
You won’t have to worry about your SEO plugin conflicting with your backup plugin and both of them burning through your server limits.
Data Centers & Features
WPMU Dev has a whole suite of “sweet” hosting features. By using Digital Ocean, you get a choice of data center location for each website. That’s a huge appeal for anyone & everyone ex-US or with a global readership.
They have plenty of advanced developer-friendly features like staging. migration tools, free SSLs, etc.
If you build WordPress websites for clients, they are a very appealing option. All their features are a value-add for the client but don’t add to your workload at all.
Even though they do not have phone support…and their knowledgebase is still getting built out. They do have stellar chat & forum support.
Every interaction that I’ve had over the years has resulted in above & beyond support. All the support agents specialize in WordPress and have the actual developers who build the plugins on call.
Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, support is a bit anecdotal. Usually, I try to look for a “proxy” for good customer support. Here though, I’ve been a customer of WPMU’s plugins for so long that I feel like I can say that their support is solidly top notch.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using WPMU Dev Hosting
Every product is going to have complaints online. Every product will have tradeoffs. Sometimes complaints & tradeoffs come from a poorly designed or executed product. But often it’s because the product does not fit the customers’ needs, goals & resources.
That’s especially true with WPMU Dev’s hosting product. The product is well-designed & well-executed. But…it has quite a few disadvantages when it comes to customer fit. Let’s dive in.
Use Cases & Pricing
Like I said in the pros section, WPMU Dev’s pricing is expensive for hosting. But their pitch is that they are more than hosting. They make plugins, have add-on services, and amazing general WordPress support.
But all of that assumes that you’ll actually be using their plugins and add-on services.
I’m a long-time customer, but I don’t use many of their plugins & services…because I don’t like some of them.
Their SEO plugin is solidly fine….but anyone serious about SEO will be using RankMath or Yoast at the very least.
Their Hummingbird / CDN plugin is solidly fine…but I find it to be clunky and not comprehensive. I pair WP Fastest Cache with MaxCDN / Stackpath.
I use JetPack for security & backups instead of WPMU Dev…because I use it anyway because they have a WordPress Android app in addition to Related Posts and more.
And I still don’t use their hosting, even though it’s technically “free” for me, because I just don’t like the limits or workflows…and I don’t want to get locked into a platform anyway.
Platforms are great…but the big reason I use self-hosted WordPress instead of a website builder or even WordPress.com is because I don’t want to be locked into a platform.
Once you start to add up WPMU Dev’s pricing with other services…it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And even for stand-alone pricing, it’s expensive. Hosts like InMotion have true, managed WordPress hosting with staging, developer features and everything else (including a JetPack subscription) for half the price of WPMU Dev’s member price.
There’s only one use case where WPMU Dev’s pricing makes sense – and that’s for a consultant, agency, designer (or solo site operator) who has several sites (ie, for clients) and wants to dramatically simplify site management.
In fact, if I was still doing pure-play WordPress web design for clients, I would likely just run the whole thing on WPMU Dev. They would allow me to white-label and bill out everything under my name, and it would reduce my workload.
That use case makes a lot of sense…but I don’t think that use case is too common.
But outside of that use case, the whole single price for a single membership to get bundled hosting is just not a good value.
Upgrades & Pricing
All that said, their hosting upgrades & pricing are still expensive regardless of use case.
You can get fully-featured managed WordPress hosting elsewhere for a much better price…or at least more flexible.
The sites that fit their hosting specs are pretty specific. For example, If you run a media-heavy blog, you’ll have to pay extra attention to your WordPress settings to keep your install in line….which leads to the next disadvantage.
Jargon & User-friendliness
To be “easy” and common website software, WordPress has a lot of jargon. Most hosts lean into removing that jargon and making it user-friendly.
WPMU Dev’s hosting product is clean and well-thought-out…but it still puts a lot of trust in their average user’s knowledge. I even had to look up terms when working with my install.
Additionally, since it’s hosted with Digital Ocean…and they don’t operate their own DNS…there’s an extra layer of setup to connect the domain to the DNS to the actual website.
Many of the features that could make operating a site for a non-developer or non-advanced WordPress use (like site staging) still come with prompts that assume knowledge or direct to a concise, but not quite comprehensive knowledgebase.
Like the value pricing, the product is user-friendly….for a certain type of user. For a broad market appeal, it has a bit too much jargon to truly be user-friendly.
Versatility & Usefulness
Since WPMU Dev’s hosting product is part of their platform and not a stand-alone product…it does not have the versatility or usefulness that a Linux web hosting account or even a stand-alone WordPress hosting account would have.
Since the entire product is built around the primary use case that I mentioned earlier, they prioritize the non-sharing of resources as the main priority. That’s fine and all, but it leads to tradeoffs that not everyone may realize. For example, here’s what they say in regards to the low storage limits.
It’s also important to understand that the speed, security and stability of WPMU DEV hosting relies heavily on a highly-structured server environment in which each member’s files exist in a dedicated virtual private server. When we refer to “your files” we’re not talking simply about your content, but also your WordPress core files, backups, staging sites, plugins, integrations and themes—all of which are protected in their own virtual world with zero shared resources.
Again, that’s fine. And it’s a pretty typical setup for cloud & VPS plans. But their plans are very low considering the price point that they are operating at ($49/mo)…that it’s hard to decide how much it’s truly worth paying.
Stand-alone hosting products have known limits that you can cross-compare. You can factor in offloading email to Google or running local scripts elsewhere…but since WPMU’s product is so focused and so specific, it’s hard to really judge versatility and usefulness with costs.
Product Novelty & Company Structure
While WPMU Dev has been around as a plugin and theme maker for years, their hosting product is very new. They launched it in 2019, and still seem to be making changes to the product based on customer feedback.
In fact, their system of hosting credits is even more recent than the product itself. Since the company is originally a plugin maker, not a hosting company, I would expect a continued learning curve as they understand the market better.
Additionally, WPMU Dev as a company has been continually moving upmarket and up the pricing ladder in the past few years. My pricing has been grandfathered in thanks to a Black Friday deal several years ago (I pay $19/mo for my plugins). Hosting seems to have been paired with a push to the $49/month pricing tier.
Again, I think the value is still there for many use cases but I am curious just how much further they will try to push the membership fee. Price increases and constant business model changes are part of any Internet business. But for a product like hosting where I just want it to work – and work for a long-time, it’s a bit disconcerting.
WPMU Dev Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases
Here’s who I think WPMU Dev is a good fit for.
WPMU Dev Fans & Multisite Owners
WPMU Dev makes some super-useful and high-quality plugins. I use & love the Forminator Pro plugin on multiple websites. If you are already planning on using (and paying) for their plugins, their hosting product makes sense – if only because it’s already bundled.
Just be aware of the limitations and tradeoffs.
WordPress Website Designers
If you run a WordPress shop and want a fast, standard, quality all-in-one package to present to clients, WPMU Dev’s hosting makes a ton of sense.
You can pay the single membership fee for your shop, but then sell a recurring all-in-one website hosting / maintenance / security package to your clients.
If you stick with WPMU Dev’s plugins, you could easily have a single client “pay” for the membership fee every month, while pocketing additional client retainers. You could manage all the sites from a single dashboard with auto-updates.
Now, for everyone else, I think there are a few other options that would give you all the benefits of WPMU Dev without the downsides.
Managed WordPress Hosting w/ Bundled Plugins
If WPMU Dev is a plugin maker that offers hosting, this alternative is to find a hosting company that offers bundled plugins. This setup is actually quite common, especially among hosting companies that offer “true” WordPress hosting, rather than just web hosting with WordPress trained support.
The upside is that you get all the managed parts of hosting, high-quality plugins, all bundled into a better price point.
The best alternatives here are –
InMotion Hosting – They offer managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more – just like WPMU Dev. They also bundle the JetPack suite of plugins (what I use for security & more). Their interface also offers a WebPro linking feature so that agencies & designers can resell white label hosting options. All this ends up at a much better price point than WPMU Dev. See InMotion Hosting’s WordPress plans here.
WP Engine – They offer highly managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more. They also specialize in highly technical support. While they don’t bundle any plugins, they do bundle the super-high quality StudioPress themes (which I use on this site). They also have unique tools for designers and white-label options. All this ends up being right around WPMU Dev’s price point but with arguably more value and less lock-in. See WP Engine’s plans here.
WordPress.com – Technically, this isn’t a hosting company. WordPress.com is a website builder platform that uses self-hosted WordPress software. This means that they have all the benefits of a full-platform with much of the versatility of WordPress software. Their Business Plan allows 3rd party plugins but also comes with a huge range of built-in functionality. They operate at a lower price point that WPMU Dev. See WordPress.com’s plans here – though do note that this option is not “apples to oranges”.
Bundled Plugin Maker w/ choice of hosting
This option is what WPMU Dev used to be (and technically still is). Here, you’d commit to a maker of a suite of plugins such as WPMU Dev, iThemes, OptinMonster, JetPack, Elegant, etc to keep you costs consistent and then pair it with a WordPress host that fits your budget.
Your costs will be your costs – they might be higher than WPMU Dev with hosting, but they will likely be lower and you’ll have the versatility to move & switch as needed.
A la Carte Everything based on Needs / Budget
If reading this has made you budget-conscious and worried about the costs of running your website, don’t worry. The beauty of WordPress is that the software is free. All you need is a good host that fits your budget, a domain name, and the wherewithal to build your site and purchase premium products as needed. There are more than enough free themes & plugins out there to run a solid website.
And if you are a budding developer or designer, note that you can give Digital Ocean a run on their own – or through a cloud hosting manager like Cloudways.
Next Steps & Conclusion
WPMU Dev hosting is an interesting & welcome addition to the web hosting world. If you fit in the right use cases, it’s an incredible product. But if you aren’t in their target market, you will likely find more affordable and more versatile options elsewhere.
Explore their product line here.
Check out other WordPress hosting options here and other premium plugin makers here.
WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives
WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordP
This post originally appeared at Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users.
They allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to create an entire “brand identity” with logos, typography, color patterns, and other elements across the web & print.
See Tailor Brands’ Current Plans & Pricing
In other words, Tailor Brands a toolset that makes your project “look good” everywhere from your Facebook page to business cards to website.
There are plenty of Tailor Brands reviews on the Internet – some good, some bad. This Tailor Brands review will look at how the software works, the upsides, downsides, and ideal use cases for the product based on my experience as a digital marketing consultant.
What is Tailor Brands?
Tailor Brands is a suite of tools to help you create & manage your business designs everywhere that your brand appears. They were founded in 2014.
They use software & artificial intelligence to not only create your business’ look and feel but also maintain that look and feel everywhere that you want.
Their main tool is their logo maker. Rather than use templates or quiz questions like traditional automated logo makers, they have you answer whether you like or dislike styles. Their AI does a version of NetFlix’s recommendation algorithm but with design styles.
Once you approve a certain design style, their software creates an entire brand identity and uses rules to apply it to applications ranging from a stand-alone logo to Instagram profiles to website headers to presentation headers.
Background on Tailor Brands
There has always been a plethora of DIY design tools on the Internet. I use Stencil for my Featured Images. I’ve used Canva for social images. I’ve used native tools with Buffer & social networks to customize my logos & images. I had a guy from Fiverr help edit my website CSS to match with my logo colors. I had a professional graphic designer on UpWork create a custom blog image for me. I’ve run contests for clients on 99designs.
In other words, the world of DIY design has been here for a while. You don’t need a Mad Men-esque setup of paying $$$ for graphic designers to create a pitch deck.
But the world of DIY design is also a bit of a frustratingly hot mess. It’s a world that’s good enough to be dangerous.
In other words, it’s accessible enough to let non-designers think they are designing a nice brand…when it’s a jumble of mismatched fonts, misaligned layouts, and conflicting colors.
It’s the difference between “Yeah, that’s nice” and “Damn, that is right on! How’d you do that?”.
Tailor Brands is an interesting product that is trying to use software, AI, and automation to take those details away from humans and just automatically apply it wherever you need it – to create a “brand identity with a stylebook” as it were.
How Tailor Brands Works
Tailor Brands works by moving you through its logo maker, which doubles as a brand identity developer. You are given options…and you can run the software as many times as you want.
Once you’ve approved your design, you’re taken to a studio with mockups & style guidelines. You then have a choice of 3 pricing plans*.
First, the $3.99/mo plan provides access to your logo, social media tools, and graphic design library. You can also connect your domain to a basic landing page builder.
Second, the $11.98/mo plans provide access to EPS vectors (for outdoor and print use) in addition to a full website builder and advanced design tools.
Third, the $25.98/mo plan provides access to social media schedulers and analytics so that you can bring your social media management under a single platform. You can also accept payments and run an online store.
*Note – you can cancel and keep all your design assets. So technically, if you just need a logo – you can get that for less than $50 (the $3.99 is billed for 12 months).
The plans all provide ongoing access to tools to manage your brand designs. You retain full ownership of all brand designs & assets even after you cancel.
Pros of Using Tailor Brands
For a relatively new product, Tailor Brands’ actual product is well-executed. There are few bugs or real complaints that I found with the actual core product.
Their real advantage (and disadvantage) is their unique positioning as a tool suite. Here are some of the main pros of using Tailor Brands not only for logos but as a design management tool suite.
Product Focus on Branding over Assets
As mentioned in the introduction, one big issue with the DIY design tool world is the focus on design assets. It’s easy to create a Facebook post on Canva or bulk generate Google Ads with Display Ad Planner. Those tools are easy and usually free. But they are inherently separate. *You* have to manage your images across different tools.
A huge pro for Tailor Brands is that they have an entire tool suite that focuses on unifying your entire brand everywhere. They focus on keeping that brand identity right on, rather than focusing on giving you the best kerning tool or biggest font library or the most intuitive CSS editor.
If you look at some of their design tools one on one with direct tool competitors, they may or may not be “the best”. But Tailor Brands can keep everything looking good everywhere, which is their main pitch to customers who would benefit from their product.
In my experience especially with small and local businesses, it’s a consistent brand identity (paired with a good product / service) that allows them to compete with established big name brands.
If you can just remove the infamous pixelated cover photo, you’ll probably beat your competition. And if you can ensure that your new assistant can quickly handle good looking Instagram posts…all the better.
That outcome is Tailor Brands’ main focus, and it comes off well in the product.
Pricing Structure & Cross-Sells
Every software as a service (SaaS) struggles with business models and pricing. You want your service to be accessible, but also profitable.
This balance is especially hard to strike with design assets where it’s usually a one-and-done proposition.
Tailor Brands runs on a subscription business model. But the subscriptions focus on the design tools rather than the design assets.
This structure creates a couple of of useful incentives.
First, it means that there’s no question of ownership of design assets. You own your brand, period.
In fact, it means that you can get a really cheap logo if that’s all you want. You can pay for one month, download your assets, and cancel. You’ve got a high-quality logo in a range of file types for less than $50.
Second, it means that while Tailor Brands has to keep optimizing their logo maker to bring in more customers, they also have to keep developing better design tools to keep customers around. There’s no disincentive to extort customers over their design assets or to drag their feet over product development.
Third, the subscription encourages use from customers rather than a one and done download. The real productivity boost for businesses is having a go-to design tool with everything in one place where you (or a new team member) can quickly create new designs & assets on an ongoing basis. And usually, the more you use a tool, the better you can get.*
*also you’ve got software that will adapt to frequent social media image requirements.
Ideally, there’s a virtuous cycle for everyone involved. Tailor Brands is one of the few companies where I think the cross-sells and upsells are not annoying, and generally useful.**
**also, small quibble, but do note that the prices are billed annually – so you are purchasing a full 12 months of access, even if you only pay monthly.
Turnaround Speed & Feature Versatility
Since Tailor Brands is fully automated, there are no constraints on time, speed, revisions, requests, or redos.
If you want to try graphic design a 2 AM Eastern, you can. If you want to completely redo your design, you can. If you need a mockup right now, you can get it. There’s no delay in turnaround or schedule to meet.
There’s no back and forth or waiting for your designer or virtual assistant. There’s just the software that is working 24/7/365. That’s a huge advantage for Tailor Brands. It works on your timeline.
And if you are trying to actually run a business, working on design any time means that it will get done. If you are running your business full-time, you likely don’t have time during business hours. And if you are working on a side project…you have to work on it outside business hours.
Additionally, since Tailor Brands has a whole suite of design tools, there’s no downloading or cropping or exporting or importing. Everything is just there to use.
Convenience generally beats everything. And when it comes to branding, Tailor Brands makes brand design convenient above all else.
Backend Quality & Usability
Even though Tailor Brands focuses on the branding aspect of design across their suite of tools, the tools themselves are high-quality and rock-solid.
They’ve built some tools in-house, but others they’ve high-quality 3rd party tools and customized them. For example, their website builder is built on top of the Duda website builder, which is one of the best website builders that I’ve used.
Same with their social media tools. It looks like they’ve white-labeled a 3rd party tool. But whatever it is, it’s legit and high-quality. Same with the design editor and others.
Each tool is solid & highly-usable on its own. But when they are all bundled within Tailor Brands’ suite, it makes each tool even more useful than it would be on its own.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Tailor Brands
Every product has disadvantages, but especially a relatively new product like Tailor Brands.
Here are a few tradeoffs & complaints that I found with Tailor Brands. Some are simply the flip side of an advantage, but some are inherent to their approach.
Branding Process & Revisions
Tailor Brands’ fully automated, AI-powered design process leaves humans out of the process deliberately. That choice cuts costs, increases efficiency, increases choice, and makes the platform what it is.
But the tradeoff with this choice is that…it leaves out humans.
And humans are still critical to produce truly unique or truly outstanding brands. Brands are built on stories, and stories are what makes us human.
Humans can also ask pertinent questions, push-back on scope, implement creative deadlines, and invent completely new concepts.
Tailor Brands’s software can create a brand design and a brand style guide, but it cannot assign meaning or purpose of symbolism or even provide a reason why a certain design works over another – it only knows what “works” based on other user data.
The story / meaning part of branding is either your job or a job for another human. If you assign it to another human, that’s going to cost time & money.
And if you take on the job yourself, it’s something to be aware of and learn about.
Either way, it’s something to keep in mind when using Tailor Brands. There’s no process of “brand discovery” or mapping your customer’s psychographic persona. There are no revisions based on client feedback.
All that is for better and for worse. Before online design tools, agencies gave away the process and sold the assets. Now, you can get the assets affordably, but you still have to understand a bit about branding.
And that leads to the next tradeoff.
Customer Education & Brand Identity
Even though Tailor Brands does a lot of the branding & design work for the customer, they still leave a lot of creative work up to the customer.
The tradeoff of any service that claims to do “everything” for you is that the customer’s expectations are not set correctly. When it turns out that there is *some* work to be done, it’s easy to bail instead of figuring the work out.
A Tailor Brands customer still needs to be prepared to think through where, when, how they’ll need to use designs. The logo maker sequence is great, but after creating the logo, there’s very little guidance for a new customer.
There’s a ton of options with no real onboarding guidance or customer examples. Their welcome email series is limited to deals & coupons rather than “here are common next steps” or “here are some common use cases”.
I can imagine that customers who don’t have a strong sense of direction would churn quickly after getting a logo idea.
If you do end up using Tailor Brands, do note that you should have an idea of what *you* need to get out of it, rather than just using it for using a new tool’s sake.
Platform Product Lock-in
Tailor Brands is a hosted platform that focuses on convenience. And there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control on the Web.
The more convenient a product is…the less control you have. And the more control you have…the less convenient the product is. Think about RSS vs. Twitter. Think about hosted website builders vs. self-hosted CMS’. Think about an Amazon Seller listing vs. your own ecommerce store.
Tailor Brands makes everything downloadable. And they ensure that you truly own all your intellectual property.
However, like a hosted website builder, your work is inherently tied to their platform in many ways. The longer you commit to their platform, the harder it becomes to leave.
That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a disadvantage that’s the flip side of their big advantage.
But it’s an important tradeoff to understand. If you use the Tailor Brands’ platform over your own copy of Adobe Illustrator, email or Paint, do ensure that you are downloading and backing up *all* of your brand assets on your own computer for the sake of preserving your own intellectual property.
Company Structure, Age & Competition
Tailor Brands has been around since 2014. They are still considered an “early-stage venture-funded” startup. In other words, they are privately held and using investor money to focus on the product rather than profit or market share.
Like the platform lock-in tradeoff, this disadvantage is more of a consideration. Right now they are still at a stage where pricing & product can change rapidly. They also probably have a small team with limited resources. They also will have copycat competition from publicly held competitors like Wix, Fiverr, Squarespace, Vistaprint, and others.
The upside to being a customer at a young venture-funded company is that you can count on more resources going into a better product. The downside is that there’s still a risk that they could get bought or “pivot” in the future.
Tailor Brand Alternatives & Use Cases
A product / service is only as good as its customer fit. Tailor Brands is not for everyone. But for some, it would be amazing.
Here’s 3 use cases where I think they’d be a really good it.
New Business or Organization w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a new business or organization with no brand assets and no large budget for a human-led design process, Tailor Brands would be a perfect fit.
Now, I would think through which features & tools that you’ll need from them. If you need a more robust website presence and/or email with lots of features, you might want to look at a dedicated website builder, ecommerce platform, or even shared hosting. You could use Tailor Brands strictly for design tools and social media. Either way, a new small business is their bread & butter. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Personal but Online Project w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a small personal project that you want to look just right – think resume site, hobby site, non-profit idea, family project, etc – Tailor Brands would be a solid fit. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Existing Business or Organization w/ Redesign
If you have an existing business or organization and you want to refresh your look without committing to a design firm or outsourcing to several providers, Tailor Brands would be a good fit. You can use what tools you need. You can also download & use the EPS file to get any signage or custom assets made offline.
Now, Tailor Brands is not for everyone. If you feel comfortable coordinating designs and brand assets across different platforms or if you have the budget to pay a human for graphic design, then something else might be a better fit.
Here are a few direct competitors to Tailor Brands and how they compare.
Tailor Brands vs. 99designs
99designs is a contest-led marketplace for graphic design. You set a budget and run a “contest” among human designers based on your design briefing. I wrote a 99designs review here. But in short, 99designs is sort of the halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. 99designs is much more expensive than Tailor Brands, but you do get human ideas based on a design brief. 99designs also has a huge range of design contest options…but not the design management tools of Tailor Brands. Technically, you could (and should) check out both. See Tailor Brands here and 99designs here.
Tailor Brands vs. Fiverr
Fiverr is a huge marketplace for humans working on “gigs”. You think of a task that you need to be done, find a person to hire, and quickly get it done for you within Fiverr’s platform. Fiverr is also a halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. The price ranges depending on skills and reputation. While you can great design assets from Fiverr, you are also in charge of managing all your design assets. You also have to expect to pay for several logos / designs before coming away with a good one. Tailor Brands would be a simpler, more affordable, and versatile fit.
Tailor Brands vs. Wix Logo Maker
Wix is the big brand name in the website builder world. I wrote a Wix review here. Technically Wix competes directly with Tailor Brands, even if they have a different focus. Tailor Brands focuses on how your brand designs are presented *everywhere*. Wix has similar tools, but really focuses their tool on website applications. In other words, Tailor Brands is a design tool with a website builder and Wix is a website builder with a design tool. Check out Tailor Brands here and check out Wix’s logo maker here.
Tailor Brands vs. DIY Tools
Between Canva, Stencil, and every other random logo generator on the Internet, Tailor Brands has plenty of competition for DIYers. If you have the time and wherewithal, you could get everything that Tailor Brands offers for free. The issue would be that all your designs would be dispersed among a bunch of tools…and you would be relying on your own design taste rather than a professionally built tool. In the end, I think that Tailor Brands is worth the money for the convenience and the designs. But for a quick sketch up of something you have in your head, Stencil is the simplest.
Next Steps & Conclusion
Tailor Brands is a unique and useful addition to the design world. In fact, for many businesses, it could do a full end around the traditional “upload your logo to a website builder” model.
By bundling design management tools, including a social media editor and quality website builder with an automated logo & brand designer, Tailor Brands has figured out something new & different.
If you are a non-designer trying to build a consistent brand identity across the Web & offline, Tailor Brands is worth a try.
See Tailor Brand’s Current Plans & Pricing
You might also be interested in my review of 99designs, my post on layouts, and my post on color palettes, and my post on hiring a web designer.
Good luck with your project!
Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users. They allow businesses, organizations, and indi
Out there on marketing blogs and community forums, the comments pop up from well-intentioned commenters: Stop pitching loss leading as a strategy! Don’t you know it’s illegal?!
Their hope, I imagine, is to prevent small business owners from involving themselves in a loss leading scandal which leaves their business ruined and all their personal relationships scarred forever. However, shouting that loss leading is illegal is a bit like saying that crossing the street is illegal without explaining that crosswalks exist in some locations. The reality is that loss leading laws are aimed to protect small businesses against big businesses that can employ this strategy without a threat to their bottom-line.
Let’s dive into the world of loss leaders, learn what’s predatory — and what’s not –, and examine smart strategies that could work for your business.
The Definition Of A Loss Leader
What is a loss leader? The loss leader market strategy is ubiquitous and time-honored, and once you know what it looks like, you will see evidence of loss leaders everywhere. When a business prices a popular or flagship item below its value and subsequently encourage sales of higher-valued items, this is loss leading. In order for the strategy to work, buyers must spend enough elsewhere on a different product to make up for the loss of profit. Loss leading is about attracting consumers to your store with a low-priced item and enticing them to buy additional items once they are there.
For example, we see loss leading strategies in supermarkets where milk is placed at a discount in the back of the store. During the course of the walk to the milk, strategists hope shoppers will pick up more expensive items: cereal, cookies, freshly-baked pastries. In the publishing world, book one of a series may be sold at a loss with the hope that readers will be hooked and read through the series. Game consoles are another product that uses a loss leader strategies to encourage sales. The game consoles themselves are often sold at a loss because profit is made from the sale of individual games and gaming accessories.
Pros & Cons Of Using Loss Leader Pricing
Is this strategy right for your business? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of loss leaders:
Increases customer traffic
Builds customer loyalty
Gives a price advantage over the competition
Can purge inventory
Promotes other sales
A chance of lost profit
Savvy shoppers/bargain hunters won’t bite
Customers become conditioned for cheaper prices
Increases Customer Traffic
A sale price, especially a great deal on a worthy product, will drive customers to your store — whether it’s brick and mortar or online. The sheer volume of customers is why the strategy works; people flock to the loss leader product.
Builds Customer Loyalty
If your loss leader strategy involves bringing customers back for different and subsequent items (think games with gaming devices or more books in a series), this is a great opportunity to build brand loyalty. Loss leaders encourage customers to come back specifically to your store for the items they need/want.
Gives A Price Advantage Over Competition
One of the reasons loss leading is banned in Europe and some states in the US is because it is seen as anti-competitive. It’s true: if you have the resources to take a loss on an item that your competitor may not be able to price at a loss, you have an advantage over the competition. Fortune favors the bold, but it also favors those who are already fortunate. Big stores like Amazon and Walmart offer loss leaders without risk and in those cases, loss leading is used to eliminate competition.
Perhaps you have an excess number of items in your inventory and you are looking to move them fast? Pricing them at a loss and then bundling them with other items is a great way to use the loss leader strategy.
Has The Potential To Lose Money
However, there are downsides, too. If your marketing doesn’t work, you have the potential to lose money. If you can’t promise profit or sales of other items, taking a huge loss on any item in your inventory could be bad for the bottom-line.
Savvy Shoppers & Bargain Hunters Won’t Bite (Watch Out For Stockpilers, Too!)
Customers are getting savvier and they can recognize market strategies a mile away. If you have a bunch of savvy shoppers and bargain hunters who won’t bite on other items and just buy your loss leader, you may run into a problem with making a profit. Beware of stockpilers: these are the bargain hunters who come en masse to buy you out of loss leaders. These shoppers exist (ever seen the show Extreme Couponers?) and they do hurt your profit margin.
Customers Might Become Conditioned For Cheaper Prices
Another drawback is the chance to condition your customers to expect loss leader prices all the time. Once the price returns to normal, customers won’t be incentivized to continue shopping if there isn’t a deal available.
The Ethics & Legality Of Using Loss Leader Strategies
But is loss leading legal? Predatory pricing is illegal, so where is the line between a loss leader marketing strategy and a predatory pricing strategy?
In general, it comes down to a business’s size. If a business is able to continually undercut and take a loss on an item, eliminating competition, the practice is unethical and might be illegal depending on where you live. The rules were made to protect small businesses from larger businesses and box stores that benefit from loss leading and can afford to take a loss. However, a loss leader strategy used by a small business for a temporary sale or price promotion is not predatory by nature, and chances are it is perfectly acceptable. However, it’s always important to check with a legal representative from your own state to check the laws in your location.
(The EU and Australia do have broad bans on predatory pricing and loss leaders, so if you do business in these countries, please double-check that your pricing is within ethical and legal requirements.)
3 Tips For Using Loss Leader Pricing The Smart Way
Don’t do anything illegal, shady, or unethical. If your marketing strategy is foundationally about hurting another business or tricking consumers, we can only hope you steer back into ethical territory; at Merchant Maverick, we’re in the business of helping all businesses! Does that mean the loss leader strategy is out completely? No. So, how can you use a loss leader in a smart way?
Here are three tips to assist you with potential loss leader strategies.
Tip #1: Know Your Profit Margins
Price your loss leader and the other items in your store with a perfect balance. Know your margins and have a specific sales goal in mind. A loss leader sale can fail on several fronts, but if you do not price your items accordingly, you have a greater chance of losing money to savvy shoppers and stockpilers. Also, a loss leader is a marketing tactic and promotional strategy; it is not intended to be used full-time on a particular product. (As that would drive the item’s value down permanently.)
Tip #2: Choose Impulse Items With High Margins & Display Them Strategically
What can you sell around the loss leader as impulse buys? Easy. If they’re around a sale on milk, expensive cereals and fancy milk-drinking bendy straws can become temptations. Discounted razors are great if there are premium shaving creams and additional blades within grasp. A loss leader that functions without a connection to your other products could result in a loss in profit. What will your loss leader encourage others to buy more of? Place those things within reach.
Tip #3: Market Items Correctly
Promote your temporary pricing, send out newsletters and social media blasts. Encourage others to share! Your loss leading marketing strategy needs bodies, so don’t just set the price and wait for magical sales. Find ways to promote your price and don’t forget to create smart displays at the point of purchase. Encourage and nudge customers to the items with higher margins that go with your loss leader; you have to help them make the connection that since they are saving on this one item, they can afford to buy these three other items, too.
Should You Try Loss Leader Strategies?
If loss leading is problematic or illegal where you live, it is best to steer clear. However, loss leader strategies do have the opportunity to work for some products and for some companies. With all marketing strategies, sometimes you will need to tinker and explore, run numbers and assess value. If you don’t have a suitable product that couples well with goods with higher profit margins, this strategy might not be a good bet. However, if you sell something that warrants repeat sales (a subscription service, books in a series, consumables), loss leading could give you and your business a nice promotional boost.
The post Why Small Businesses Need To Beware of Loss Leader Pricing Tactics (& How To Do It The Right Way) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.