Finding the perfect gift is hard enough. The thought of wrapping it can be enough to throw even the most satisfied gift-giver over the edge.
Your online store can help with the first part of the equation, by giving customers great products at great prices. And if you can find a way to help with the second part, by adding a gift-wrap option to your checkout, you can not only ease your customers’ gift-giving experience but also increase their satisfaction and cement their loyalty to your brand.
The Benefits Of Offering Gift Wrapping To Your Customers
No matter the occasion â a holiday, birthday, anniversary, birth, graduation, housewarming, or just because â nothing makes a gift more special than beautiful gift wrap. The problem is, not everyone has the time, energy, interest, or ability to perfectly prepare packages.
Although many retailers offer holiday gift-wrapping services, the truth is that your customers are shopping for gifts year-round. And especially during times (like during a global pandemic) when it’s hard to deliver gifts in person, many customers will appreciate having the option to purchase, wrap, and deliver gifts with one click of the mouse.
Remember: The easier you make it for customers, the more likely they are to return to buy from you again. So why not test out offering gift-wrapping services, and see how it can affect your bottom line?
11 Gift Wrapping Tips For Your Online Store
If you’re ready to offer a gift-wrapping service as an option in your online store, remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. Read through the list below, pick something to try, see how customers respond, and then add another element once you’ve gained confidence in your abilities and seen how customers respond. Before you know it, you’ll be a gift wrapping pro!
1. Make Sure You’re Up For The Job
It should go without saying that if you offer gift wrapping services to customers, the packages you send out need to look top-notch. You want the wrapping to increase your products’ perceived value, and a sloppy wrap won’t do the job.
Maybe you’re a wrapping wiz, and you already know what you’re doing. But if not, don’t despair. Head over to your favorite video-sharing site and search for some wrapping tutorials. Practice a time or two to hone your technique before wrapping orders start to roll in.
2. Show Your Stuff
Don’t just tell customers you’re offering a gift-wrapping service. Show them! Add a photo of a beautifully wrapped sample package to each product page or at checkout â wherever the gift wrapping option appears. If there’s anything special about the wrapping materials you use or the things you add to the package, say so.
3. Offer Multiple Gift Wrap Options
You can increase the appeal of offering gift-wrapping services by giving customers a limited number of choices for how they’d like their gift to look. Maybe you can offer a choice of wrapping paper, or a couple of different types of ribbon. After all, the option to customize can make it feel more personal.
Don’t make it too complicated, though, because having too many choices can quickly become a negative for shoppers. And you don’t want to make gift-wrapping a headache on your end, either.
4. Give A Gift Message Option
Allow customers to enter a simple message to the gift’s recipient. It’s okay to keep the message short; you can limit the character count so you don’t end up with book-length messages. Just make sure that the recipients will be able to tell who sent them the gift, and why.
You may be able to simplify the process by suggesting a few options, like “Happy Birthday!” and so on, and prompting customers to enter only the “to” and “from” information.
5. Take It Easy On Yourself
Who is going to be the chief present-wrapper? If you are going to do it yourself or at least keep the wrapping in-house, make sure you’re set up to succeed. That means creating a wrapping station that is well stocked with everything you’ll need to wrap quickly, neatly, and efficiently, so this extra step doesn’t become too much of a distraction from everything else you’re doing to keep your business up and running.
At a minimum, you’ll need a large, flat surface that’s kept clear of clutter. Keep two kinds of tape nearby (clear cellophane and double-sided), ribbons, a good pair of scissors, boxes, notecards, tissue paper â everything you’ll need to get packages prepared quickly and ready to mail. As you ramp up and begin to offer wrapping services year-round, you may find it wise to invest in spools to hold wrapping paper rolls and a paper cutter to make the job neater and faster.
6. Pre-Wrap Popular Products
Every business has its busy seasons. Maybe yours is around graduation, or Mothers’ Day, another major holiday, or a certain month or season where your orders peak. Whenever it happens, that’s definitely not the time when you want to spend too much time wrapping gifts for customers.
So play it smart. Think about the way you know your customers tend to order, including what and when. If you know that your sales of a certain product tend to double around a certain holiday, go ahead and wrap up a few of those items now, before you get slammed with business. If you allow customers to make choices about wrapping paper and ribbons, you might need to hold off on the final steps. But you can at least place items in the gift box with tissue paper now, for example. When the orders start to rush in, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.
7. Keep Expenses Low
When you’re just starting, you may not need a lot of supplies. But once you see how your customers respond to the option of gift wrapping, you may be able to keep costs lower by buying supplies in bulk. The worst thing you can do is continue to buy individual ribbons and rolls of wrapping paper at your local store.
Eventually, as you do more and more wrapping, you’ll probably want to sign up for an account with a wholesale service like PaperMart, Nashville Wraps, or WrapSmart. That will allow you to buy larger rolls of paper and bulk up on other supplies at discount prices.
8. Customize Gift Wrap To The Occasion
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting small and testing the waters by offering limited numbers of choices for wrapping paper and finishing touches. As you become more comfortable with fulfilling your customers’ gift wrapping expectations, think about expanding your offerings and changing them by season.
Let’s say you sell a toy for infants. People may want to give that toy as a gift to the parents during a baby shower, when a baby is born, for a holiday like Hanukah, or for a birthday. Offering a generic baby print and a holiday print may be enough to cover your bases without overly complicating things. After the holiday passes, simply replace the holiday print with another fairly generic pattern to maintain the number of choices.
9. Consider Outsourcing
If your online store is hosted by a service like 3DCart, Shopify, Etsy, BigCommerce, or others, you may be able to partner with that host to make gift wrap easier to manage. With 3DCart, for example, you can download a free module that, when activated, automatically adds gift wrap options to your store.Â And it’s not a one-size-fits-all module. You’ll be able to customize the options you offer to your customers. For example, you can offer gift wrapping only during certain times of the year, adjust the price you charge for gift wrap, and omit the gift wrap option from certain products that might be a little too tricky to wrap.
If you use a shopping cart solution like Shopify or Amazon that offers fulfillment services, you may be able to outsource your gift wrap services as well. Shopify Fulfillment, for example, allows you to provide custom packaging for your products. You’ll probably have fewer options to offer customers, but it may be worth it to hand off wrapping duties.
10. Adjust Your Returns Policies
Any time you’re mailing out gifts for your customers, you run the risk of encountering product returns. That’s complicated by the fact that orders may be placed well in advance of when the product will be opened. A holiday gift, for example, could be sitting under the tree for at least a couple of weeks, and if it’s damaged or the wrong size, you should allow a couple more weeks for the recipient to return it to you.
If you haven’t already written up a return policy for your online store, there’s no time like the present! Add in some information about returning gifts, too. After all, when gift-giving enters the equation, you’re really working with two customers, not just the one who placed the order. That means you have two chances to get it right, make a good impression, and earn repeat business.
11. Add A Soft Marketing Touch
You don’t want your gift wrap service to be all about you. But could you add something inside the box that lets the recipient know where the present came from? A simple message saying “We hope you enjoy your new ____ ,” followed by your business name and contact information or instructions for returning or exchanging the gift, can be seen as an additional service — and not an intrusion — if it’s done right.
How Much Should You Charge For Gift Wrapping?
While complimentary gift wrapping is sure to please your customers, it may deliver a hit to your bottom line. Is the cost of wrapping worth the potential increase in sales and customer satisfaction? Or should you charge a reasonable fee when customers add a gift-wrapping service to their order? You may need some time to figure out the best approach. Think it through, start small, analyze the results, and adjust as you go forward. Here are some considerations and suggestions as you decide how much to charge for gift wrapping:
Know Your Costs
Anytime you add a service, you have to consider the cost. Do the math. How much will you spend on wrapping paper and other supplies per package? If your products vary greatly in size, it’s okay to use an average.
Don’t forget to calculate the costs associated with the person who will be doing the wrapping. How much time will that person need to wrap a typical package? You may be surprised at how much time you’ll be investing in gift-wrapping. Knowing the true costs upfront can help you decide if you should pass all or part of those costs on to your customers.
Consider Outside Costs
If you choose to outsource gift-wrapping duties to a fulfillment center, you’ll be able to see exactly how much each package costs to wrap. Maybe you can split the difference with customers, and adjust your prices slightly upward to cover at least half the cost. Or you may decide that the convenience is worth the price you’ll pay to outsource the wrapping.
Use Gift Wrap As An Incentive
If you want to offer complimentary gift wrapping to customers, one way to contain the costs is by setting a price threshold for the service. Suppose your most popular product costs $20. Offering free wrapping to customers who spend $25 provides an incentive for customers to shop a little longer. The extra $5 or more that they spend on your site may be enough to offset the cost of gift-wrapping â and may even result in a little extra profit in your pocket. Or maybe you can offer complimentary gift wrapping to customers who join a loyalty program, if you offer one, or agree to sign up for your mailing list. The point is, even if you don’t charge for gift wrapping, you don’t have to give it away for free.
Mix It Up
One way to keep costs down while still satisfying customers is by offering different levels of service. In this case, that might mean a free gift wrap service and a deluxe option that customers can pay for, if they choose. Keep the free option fairly basic, and charge enough for the deluxe option to cover your costs.
Extend The Giving
If you decide gift wrapping charges are a must for your small business, you can make customers feel good about paying for it. Just promise to donate a portion of the wrapping charges to charity â and post the total you’ve donated so far. Choose a reputable nationwide charitable organization that almost everyone can feel good about supporting, and you’ve developed a win-win for your customers and your small business.
Start Offering Gift Wrapping Services
You’ve already got great products and customers who want to buy from you. Adding gift wrapping services puts a great big bow on your offerings. Start small by offering gift wrapping for a trial period or around a certain holiday. You may be surprised by how your customers respond. At the very least, you’ll gain the data you need to decide if it’s worth offering year-round.
The post How To Offer Gift Wrapping To Your Customers & Boost Your Online Store This Holiday Season appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Best Website Builder For Selling Products via ShivarWeb
E-commerce is booming. And not just Amazon. With better fulfillment, COVID-19 changes, and more familiarity, buying online has become normal for everyone. As more people buy products online, the sites that businesses use to sell their items are becoming more critical for competition.
Website builders can help small businesses make attractive and functional sites to sell their products. They not only make building a website accessible & convenient, they also bundle technically complex functionality like shopping carts, payments, and order management into a single subscription.
However, it can be overwhelming to wade through all the options. The truth is, there isn’t an absolute best website builder for selling products.
All builders have tradeoffs, and you should pick the one with the right mix of features for your particular budget, resources, and expertise.
In this article, I’ll dive deep into what considerations you should be thinking about during your website builder search. The important thing is that you know how to choose the best option for your needs. Once you’ve got that down, knowing what to choose comes easily.
Summary – Best Website Builder for Selling Products
Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available to try. They are each best if you want…
Focus on Simplicity
Small Site Appeal
Drag + Drop Design
Focus on Usability
Lots of Options
Focus on Ecommerce
Online Store Appeal
Focused on content + products?
WordPress.com is a website builder focused on publishing & content that has also has capability to sell products. View Plans.
What Are The Benefits Of Selling Products on Your Own Site?
We will start by taking a look at the benefits of having an e-commerce site for your products.
More Money Gets Spent Online Every Year
In the first quarter of 2019 alone, consumers in the US spent over $99 billion on e-commerce. If you want your business to remain profitable as online shopping increases, having an online store is vital. More than that, you need an online store that can deliver a quality shopping experience.
A Website Costs Less Than An Actual Store
Suppose you decide to run a brick-and-mortar store. In that case, there are plenty of costs to consider, including rent, staff salaries, licenses and permits, utility bills, maintenance bills, supplies, and design.
Meanwhile, running a website provides savings on these costs. Sure, running an e-commerce website comes with its own set of fees, including hosting, marketing, plugins, and feature costs. However, in the long run, these expenses are lower than those of running a physical storefront. Lower costs, in turn, means that the return on investment could be much higher.
A Website Enables You To Provide Convenience To Your Customers
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. When they’re feeling a little lazy, tired, or sick, they’ll appreciate the convenience of doing their shopping without having to walk or drive to a store.
By allowing people to find what they want faster and more easily online, you encourage them to spend more. The selling proposition is higher, and the friction is lower.
You Benefit From Online Search Traffic
Did you know that about 33 percent of people start the search for products they want on Google?
By having an e-commerce website, you put your products in front of all those eyeballs, making it easier for them to discover your merchandise.
Assuming you have some solid SEO, which is easy with the right website builder, all the products you list on your site get indexed by Google and other search engines. This indexing drastically increases your chances of making sales, simply because you have more reach.
Primary Considerations When Choosing Selling Your Products on a Website Builder
There is a broad spectrum of online e-commerce platforms out there, and you need to choose one that fits your particular needs. Choosing a website builder is a lot like buying a car. No matter which car you buy, they will all get you from one point to another.
However, you might want other features depending on your specific needs, such as your budget, the type of products you sell, how many shoppers you expect to have, the maintenance costs, and the number of changes you have to make during operations.
With an e-commerce website builder, you’re getting the same core functionality across the board. You get the ability to build a platform on which you can list your products, have a shopping cart that people can add products to, and a payment processor.
However, there may also be other considerations you might have that would ultimately influence your decision. Below are some of the most important of these:
How User-friendly Is The Website Builder?
Some website builders are more interested in offering as many features as possible, rather than making their platform user friendly for consumers.
A feature-packed builder isn’t necessarily wrong; it is just a trade-off that you should understand. You might not mind looking through the platform’s knowledge base or asking questions on how to solve particular problems in the forum.
On the other hand, you might instead prefer something easy to use that lacks advanced features. It depends on how much time you want to spend building and managing your website.
This consideration is also important for selling products. Are you looking to build a full ecommerce operation with hundreds of SKUs or are you looking to selling a dozen pieces of merchandise?
For example, Shopify is far and away the most versatile ecommerce website builder. But it has a lot of ecommerce features that some website owners don’t need (like inventory management) in addition to missing some website publishing features that some website owners might need (like blog comments).
Other website builders like Wix might provide a super-simple setup with easy product integration while limiting growth into a large ecommerce operation with strong organic traffic.
How Is The Customer Service?
A related issue is customer support. In case you’re stuck, it’s a great convenience to ask someone for help. Whether you have the technical knowledge, you should see what customer service options the website builder offers.
Having the opportunity to ask for help via phone, email, or chat application can be valuable during the website design process, and if you have any questions during regular business operations.
Additionally, think about how you prefer to solve issues. Some platforms like Shopify and WordPress have huge numbers of freelancers available to help with any task in addition to internal support.
What Is Your Budget?
Just like your budget helps you narrow down your list of options at a car dealership, so does it thin down your choices for website builders.
The more money you spend, the more feature-rich your platform. Fortunately, however, most of the essential features for a simple e-commerce website are quite affordable for most business owners.
You want to get the most that you can for your budget without wasting money on extras features that you will never use.
Does The Platform Allow For Custom Designs?
A significant consideration you will need to make when choosing an e-commerce website building platform is whether it allows custom design.
Most platforms have a range of “themes” from which you can choose. However, some of them make it especially hard to build a custom design or change existing themes.
A simple drag-and-drop interface with lots of themes is easy to use, but you run the risk of having an e-commerce website that looks like other e-commerce websites (or struggling to make it *just right*). This is the track that Wix & Weebly take.
On the other hand, a platform that allows for custom designs might be a little harder to use, but it gives you endless options for how your website will look. This is the track that Shopify takes. They have a drag & drop builder, but really push you to buy or build your own custom design.
A compromise could be a builder that allows you to alter existing themes to make them look different from competitors.
Secondary Considerations: What Else Do You Need to Think About When Choosing a Website Builder
When choosing the best website builder for selling items online, you need to consider more than the basics. Here is what else you should be thinking.
Can You Add Extensions or Apps?
If you want to add plugins and extensions to your website, you should probably go for a platform that allows you to make such additions.
Note, however, that the more leeway a platform gives you to customize your site with plugins and extensions, the more complicated things will be.
It may also mean spending extra as many third-party extensions are for sale.
Will You Be Doing Content Marketing?
Is an online store all you want, or would you like to incorporate a blog or social media feed for some content marketing? Some website builders only offer pure e-commerce stores, while others provide lots of features to build marketing strategies right into your store.
Such content marketing tools can save time in the future because they make marketing more straightforward and cheaper.
Does The Platform Allow For Offline Sales?
Standard e-commerce platforms allow you to manage your inventory and orders. However, some are better at managing your offline sales than others. Depending on how heavy your offline sales traffic is, you might want a platform that syncs well with this aspect of your operation.
SEO & Marketing Tools
SEO is an integral part of making your website and products easily discoverable online. Look for an e-commerce platform that employs SEO best practices and gives you as much control as you need over your website’s SEO features.
Some e-commerce platforms will include hosting in some form while others only provide you with a website builder, leaving you to arrange the hosting. An all-in-one e-commerce platform will make your life easier, as the hosting will be taken care of as part of the package.
However, this option might be more expensive than shopping for your host on your own, and you might have less control over things like domain ownership and SEO. Some platforms like WordPress.com allow you to move to a self-hosted website easily since it runs with the same WooCommerce plugin that powers a self-hosted ecommerce store.
It is crucial to pick a platform that meets your needs in this area.
General Tips on Choosing Specific Site Builders
What kind of options are available? There are plenty of website builders on the market, but some stand out.
While there are plenty of options on the market, there are some examples of what you can expect from different ranges of website builders.
Getting A Highly Customizable Builder
Some website builders offer innumerable options and plugins.
The challenge with customizable builders is that you might face a steep learning curve. Especially for beginners, navigating a website builder/content management system can be challenging. You’ll also need to explore (and possibly pay for) third-party plugins for your store.
Powerful site builders with endless options can enable you to create the ideal storefront, however. The catch could be that you have to hire someone to handle the store setup if you don’t have the time or the tech skills to do it yourself.
Getting A Site Builder And Hosting In One Package
There are plenty of site builder plus hosting options to choose from when it comes to e-commerce.
Building a website via drag-and-drop design is simple. You get high uptime, unlimited bandwidth on many tiers, a fast content delivery network, and the ability to buy and own your domain name.
The flip side of bigger site builder plus hosting packages is that they are not free. There are paid plans that you need to invest in, which means you should budget to spend some money on the platform every month. You need to understand that package options are not a one-time expense and plan accordingly.
Should You Choose A Recognizable Name?
There are many recognizable names in the e-commerce industry, like BigCommerce, Shopify, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and more.
With many big-name site builders, you can expect everything to be handled for you, including shopping carts, email forwarding, and even a free domain, depending on the platform.
The great thing about bigger platforms is that they save you from the headache of trying to figure things like security and hosting all by yourself.
The flip side is that many of these site builders will cost you a monthly subscription that varies according to the features you choose to include in your store. This investment may be too significant if you are only selling a few products or focusing on marketing instead of sales.
One other thing to note about more recognizable site builders is that it is very easy to research their services because so many people use them. Ease of research is one of the reasons to go with a recognizable name.
As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to e-commerce website builders. You have lots of choices, but that also makes it easy to get overwhelmed.
Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available to try. They are each best if you want…
Focus on Simplicity
Small Site Appeal
Drag + Drop Design
Focus on Usability
Lots of Options
Focus on Ecommerce
Online Store Appeal
Focused on content + products?
WordPress.com is a website builder focused on publishing & content that has also has capability to sell products. View Plans.
By taking stock of your specific needs and comparing them to what is available in the market, you can pick an e-commerce website builder that fits your needs.
The good news is that the platforms listed above will meet the needs of most online store owners, so choosing from among them makes the work easier. Whichever option you go for, the important thing to remember is that having an online store is better than not having a store at all.
Yup, it’s that word again, and this time it’s not just a cheeky Friends reference.
Pivot. The word for 2020, undeniably, is pivot.
When small businesses shut down in early March as a response to the threat of the novel coronavirus, a new normal began to emerge from the changing landscape. Now, midway through August, questions about the future still linger, but business owners — a tenacious bunch to start with — are no longer thinking about short-term solutions.
COVID is here to stay, additional government support is in limbo, and if a small business is going to survive, it needs to embrace the eCommerce pivot, specifically. Business Insider said eCommerce growth is expected to rise 18% this year:
“Our 18% growth forecast for US eCommerce in 2020 reflects a notable increase in both the number of digital buyers and the average spending per buyer. These gains reflect the pandemic’s impact on new buyers joining the online retail space, including 12.2% growth for those ages 65 and older,” Business Insider said.
It didn’t take long for businesses to realize the value of giving their traditional brick and mortar stores a bigger eCommerce presence.Â A report by Square stated that according to their data, may sellers moved online just weeks after shelter-in-place orders took effect. “Sellers in cities large and small are embracing eCommerce as omnichannel selling becomes a necessity for long-term success,” the report said.
Businesses & Consumers Embrace New Habits
Back in March, when shelter-in-place and mandatory shut-downs for non-essential work began, eCommerce sellers reported to Digital Commerce 360 their initial projections for how their businesses would fare. The report was a mixed bag with 38% of retailers projecting increased overall sales and 36% losing sales.
Grocery eCommerce certainly saw the biggest gains in growth with many consumers turning to online ordering as a result of grocery shortages or initial concern of grocery safety. The other industries that did well were household cleaning supplies, pet supplies, beauty/health products, at-home fitness products, and home entertainment. Subscription services also saw an increase in consumer demand.
Consumers increased their spending on groceries by 15-20% and said they increased the amount they spent on at-home fitness by 35-40%. In general, consumers were admitting they were spending more online, even though they weren’t terribly hopeful about the state of the economy.
Morning Consult, a global data intelligence firm, reports that nearly a quarter of surveyed adults said they wouldn’t feel comfortable shopping at a mall in the next six months. (An equal percentage said they had no idea when they would feel comfortable returning to normal shopping habits.) Those trends are holding steady — which means that it’s not too late to embrace the eCommerce trend for your small business.
The market research company Neilsen looked at consumer behaviors linked to the pandemic and their results on markets. Neilsen said consumers were:
Proactively buying health and wellness products (flu medicines; cough and cold medications)
Reactively buying health management products (hand sanitizers; N95 masks)
Buying to stock their pantries
Buying to stock for quarantine
Buying to prepare for restricted living (in the instance of mass COVID cases, communities are relegated almost entirely to online purchasing)
Buying as they live a new normal (preparing for eCommerce to replace many buying options in the wake of the pandemic’s aftermath; accepting a permanently altered supply chain)
Source: Civis Consumer Survey 2020
A survey from Civis Analytics says that while traditional consumer activity has increased since March, most industries are still operating below pre-Covid earnings.
Unsurprisingly, the two biggest eCommerce options that surged in popularity amid the pandemic were click-and-collect and curbside pick-up. And those are likely here to stay as shoppers have continued to show an affinity for using these options even as economies open back up fully around the country. With CDC guidelines asking restaurants to limit contact, many organizations used Square or Toast systems to set-up online or contactless payment systems. A switch to self-ordering kiosks might become the norm in places that do not want to accept the risk of exposing their employees.
Your Business’s Next Steps To Make The eCommerce Pivot
A survey showed that 92% of small businesses have had to pivot in some way due to COVID. And according to our Merchant Maverick post on the subject, “For 58% of businesses, pivoting has included incorporating ‘a new online delivery channel.’ Other common tweaks mentioned in the survey include adding a new virtual service (40%), offline delivery channel (36%), or product (31%).”
For brick and mortar businesses wanting to expand into online options, services like Shopify are even advertising to help provide some type of crisis support to assist owners through the changes. If you are looking into moving into eCommerce, you can follow these steps:
Research and compare eCommerce platforms — decide on the right fit for your business. Compare Shopify and BigCommerce or WooCommerce to other online shopping centers like Etsy.
Research shipping options.
Set up and research the best payments system for your type of business.
Research how to market your new online presence.
The new reality is that has COVID pushed us into the future at record speed. This pivot into the world of eCommerce might not be what small business owners had imagined for 2020, but consumer expectations and pandemic restrictions will continue to shape spending — we want your business to be ready.
Check out our Coronavirus Hub for all things pandemic and small business-related.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected].
The post Small Businesses See Success With eCommerce Pivot appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re looking into building an online store, you’re likely spending a lot of time bargain hunting, comparing prices, and contemplating features of a few different software. One software app to include in your comparisons is BigCommerce. BigCommerce is easy to use, fully hosted software that you can use to build a brand new online store.
BigCommerce is a great option because the software is accessible to users of all skill levels, comes with plenty of features built-in, and includes 24/7 customer support. BigCommerce is certainly competitive software in terms of features and support, but is it competitive in price?
Let’s take a look.
How Much Does BigCommerce Cost?
BigCommerce pricing is based on your annual sales as well as available features. BigCommerce offers four pricing plans, with more advanced features available on more expensive plans. BigCommerce pricing plans range from $29.95/mo to $299.95/mo, with custom pricing available for enterprise-level businesses.
BigCommerce makes its software available on four different pricing plans. Each plan includes its own feature set with more advanced features becoming available on higher-level plans.
BigCommerce is different from other software programs because the pricing also includes an annual sales cap. Each plan lists a total amount of sales that you can earn on that plan. When your sales over the past twelve months total more than your annual sales cap, you are automatically bumped up to the next pricing plan.
All of these plans are billed monthly by default, although if you choose to purchase the software on an annual basis (and you subscribe to the Plus or Pro plans), you can save 10%.
BigCommerce offers a few basic features on all pricing plans. Every plan gives you access to unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts. BigCommerce also does not charge any transaction fees (although, you will still pay payment processing fees to your processor of choice).
BigCommerce’s Standard Plan costs $29.95/month and includes:
Up to $50K in sales
Branded online store
Multiple sales channels: eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Google Shopping
Point of sale
Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
Coupons, discounts, gift cards
Real-time shipping quotes
Professional reporting tools
Product ratings and review
Sitewide HTTPS and dedicated SSL
20,000 API calls per hour
24/7 live agent support
BigCommerce’s Plus Plan costs $79.95/month and includes everything in the Standard Plan, plus:
Up to $180K in sales
Customer groups and segmentation
Abandoned cart recovery
Persistent shopping cart
Stored credit cards
20,000 API calls per hour
24/7 live agent support
BigCommerce’s Pro Plan costs $299.95/month for up $400K in sales. However, you are not limited to $400K in sales on this plan. If you earn more than $400K, you may stay on the Pro plan, and add $150 to the monthly rate for each additional $200K in online sales.
The Pro Plan includes everything in the Plus Plan, plus:
Google customer reviews
Faceted (filtered) search
60,00 API calls per hour
24/7 live agent support
BigCommerce Enterprise is available at custom pricing. Pricing for these plans is based on your business’s needs and annual online sales. BigCommerce Enterprise includes everything in the Pro Plan, plus:
Custom facets (in product filtering tool)
Unlimited API calls
24/7 live agent support
Priority customer support
Strategic account management available
BigCommerce Pricing Plans Compared
Take a look below for a visual representation of the features available on each pricing plan:
Up to $50K
Up to $180K
Up to $400K
Unlimited File Storage
Unlimited Staff Accounts
Coupons and Gift Cards
Abandoned Cart Tools
Persistent Shopping Cart
Google Customer Reviews
Faceted (Filtered) Search
Priority Customer Support
Additional BigCommerce Fees
Although BigCommerce does not charge any hidden fees, there are a few additional expenses that you should budget for as you plan your online store. Here are a few of the additional costs associated with running a site on BigCommerce.
Payment Processing Options
In order to accept online payments via credit or debit cards, you must integrate a payment processor with your online store. This is true no matter what eCommerce software you use to build your online store.
Typically, payment processing for card-not-present transactions (which is every transaction for an online store) costs around 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. These rates are true for big-name payment processors such as Square and Stripe.
For BigCommerce users, however, there is another option. BigCommerce has negotiated a deal with PayPal powered by Braintree to offer lower payment processing rates for credit and debit transactions. These reduced rates are available only to US-based merchants. Rates are lower for merchants on higher-level BigCommerce pricing plans. Here’s a breakdown:
All BigCommerce users are automatically given a free BigCommerce subdomain upon signup. This subdomain (for example: www.your-store.mybigcommerce.com) is a great temporary option, but once you launch your online store, you should transfer over to a custom domain (www.your-store.com) in order to cement your brand identity.
You can choose to purchase a domain directly from BigCommerce, or you can purchase one elsewhere and direct it to your BigCommerce site. Domain names typically cost $10-$20 per year.
Premium SSL Certificate
BigCommerce includes a free, basic SSL certificate in every plan. This SSL certificate works on all stores with a custom domain. Users on the BigCommerce subdomain are protected through a free shared SSL certificate.
However, if you’d like a premium SSL certificate, you’ll have to purchase one. This premium SSL certificate comes with additional security features like site seals, increased protection, and Extended Validation.
BigCommerce offers three premium SSL certificates ranging from $59/year to $299/year. If you choose to purchase two years upfront, you gain access to discounted pricing.
Users on the Pro and Enterprise plans can also choose to purchase a third-party SSL certificate and install it on their BigCommerce site.
BigCommerce Integrations & Add-Ons
While BigCommerce offers plenty of features built-in, many sellers find that they need to add a few integrations to the software in order to customize it to their needs. BigCommerce has a large App Marketplace with 750+ integrations and applications for managing marketing, accounting, order processing, customer service, and more.
Many of these applications and integrations are free, although others come at a monthly price. Pricing for apps and integrations ranges from $0/month to $300/month, with many options available for $49/month.
A few options you might consider adding to your BigCommerce store are ShipperHQ, Mailchimp, and QuickBooks. Take a look at the BigCommerce App Marketplace for more options.
How To Save On BigCommerce
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the various expenses related to running an online store. Fortunately, BigCommerce offers a few ways to save, and there are some strategies you can use to avoid overpaying for your eCommerce software. Here’s how to save on BigCommerce.
Monthly VS Yearly Billing
BigCommerce offers both monthly and yearly billing options. The yearly billing comes with a 10% discount on the Plus and Pro plans, which may tempt you to jump immediately into the annual plan. However, this choice may end up costing you more in the long run! If you decide later on that BigCommerce isn’t right for your business, you are not able to get a refund on your annual purchase.
For this reason, we advise that you stick with the monthly billing option for your first year with the software. Once you have some experience with BigCommerce, and you are sure it works for your store, then you can switch to the annual billing plan and save 10% on the Plus and Pro plans.
Choose The Right Plan
One of the best ways to save on your BigCommerce store is to simply choose the right pricing plan. BigCommerce’s annual sales caps can actually help you with this process, since larger stores are automatically signed up for plans with more advanced features.
Perhaps counterintuitively, going with a cheaper plan can actually be more expensive in the long-run if it doesn’t offer the features you need. Business owners who attempt this route often end up paying more in the form of integrations, add-ons, software customizations, and wasted time.
In the same vein, some Pro Plan users (especially users with over $400K in annual sales) may find that BigCommerce Enterprise can offer them more features at a lower price. If you make over $400K in sales annually, I suggest reaching out to BigCommerce to find out how much Enterprise would cost for your business.
Start With A Great Design Theme
Users who don’t have experience with web design can save money by choosing a design template that works well for their online store.
Although BigCommerce provides a few tools for editing your site design, in order to make major changes, you have to alter the code. Many users find that they need to hire a site designer in order to make these changes, which can get expensive very quickly. Choosing a theme that doesn’t require extensive customization is a great way to save money.
Get Cheaper Payment Processing With PayPal
As we mentioned previously, BigCommerce has negotiated with PayPal (powered by Braintree) to offer sellers discounted rates on credit and debit card processing. These rates are only available to US-based sellers on the Plus, Pro, and Enterprise level plans.
Which Version Of BigCommerce Is Right For Me?
Choosing the right pricing plan is a great way to save time and money when you set up your online store. As you consider which pricing plan to use for your business, we recommend using BigCommerce’s annual sales caps as a guide. BigCommerce’s pricing plans are designed to scale up as you scale your business.
However, if you find that BigCommerce offers a certain feature that you need and it’s only available on a higher-level plan, you can purchase that plan for your store (even if your annual sales are lower than the recommended range). Here are a few factors you should consider as you select a plan for your business:
Choose The Standard Plan If…
Your sales total less than $50,000 a year
You need a basic online store
Choose The Plus Plan If…
Your sales total less than $180,000 a year
You want an abandoned cart saver tool
You want to store customer credit card information for future purchases
Choose The Pro Plan If…
You sales total between $180,000 and $1 million a year
You need a filtered search tool
Choose BigCommerce Enterprise If…
Your sales total around $1 million a year
You need priority support
You need API support and unlimited API calls
Calculating The Cost Of BigCommerce
With all this in mind, it’s time to estimate the cost of using BigCommerce for your business! Here are the expenses you should include in your calculations:
Payment Processing: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction to 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction
Integrations: $0 – $300/month per integration
Design Expenses:Â Pricing depends on your customization needs.
Clearly, BigCommerce is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the exact pricing for your business depends on a number of factors. We can say, however, that BigCommerce is competitively priced when compared to other popular software like Shopify and 3dcart. So if you are still weighing your options for building an online store, don’t count BigCommerce out!
BigCommerce is a great solution for many sellers, offering secure hosting, plenty of built-in features, and reliable customer support at an attainable price. Sign up for a free trial to try it out for yourself.
To learn more about using BigCommerce for your online store, check out our article What Is BigCommerce? as well as our complete BigCommerce review.
The post BigCommerce Pricing, Plans & Fees Explained appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’ve looked into using a DIY website builder service to create a website for your business, it’s likely that you’ve come across Squarespace. Squarespace is a tool that allows you to create a great-looking and functional website without having to possess coding knowledge or hire a team of developers.
However, you may not be familiar with the particulars of how Squarespace works and how it stacks up against other website building software apps. That’s why we’ve set out to define exactly what Squarespace is and clarify how you can use it to benefit your small business. Read on for a full exploration.
What Is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) website builder. You can try it out for free for 14 days without being required to enter your payment information. To continue with Squarespace after your trial period is up, you’ll have to choose from between Squarespace’s four subscription plans, each of which is offered both on a month-to-month basis and on an annual basis. Because the annual option is offered at a discount and comes with a free domain for a year, we recommend it over the monthly option.
A Squarespace subscription includes hosting for your website, SSL security, and 24/7 customer support.
Perhaps the main factor that distinguishes Squarespace from the competition is its commitment to elegant design. Squarespace’s templates look and perform better than just about any templates you’ll find in a DIY website builder, making Squarespace a particularly good website solution for artists, photographers, and others for whom sharp aesthetics are of paramount importance.
How Does Squarespace Work?
Like nearly every other website builder, Squarespace uses the SaaS model, meaning the software is cloud-based and that you won’t have to install anything. As I mentioned earlier, Squarespace is a paid subscription service with four different subscription plans. These plans run from $12/month to $40/month with an annual subscription. For more details on the cost of using Squarespace, including hosting and payment processing fees, read our Squarespace pricing article.
Squarespace brings together a wide array of elements and features that give freelancers and business owners the ability to create gorgeous and functional websites. Here is but a sampling of them:
Smart Image Handling: Squarespace gives you some nice tools to refine your custom images, such as optional Image Zoom, Set Focal Point (to ensure the best part of your image is centered in any thumbnail), galleries, automatic image scaling, automatic text wrapping, and display effects. Another feature photographers will appreciate is progressive image loading — enabling this will ensure that the images on the top of your website load first, speeding up loading times for visitors.
Device View: Squarespace lets you check out your site in three configurations: desktop, tablet, and mobile. As you build your site, this feature means you can make sure your site performs well on each device type.
Conversion Metrics: View your siteâs performance, learn about your siteâs traffic, and identify sticking points for your visitors.
SEO Features: Customize image file names, product tags, and meta descriptions.
Forms: Squarespaceâs editor gives you access to a number of attractive prefab contact forms. You can easily customizable these forms to fit your business needs. Add as many form fields as you wish, along with checkboxes, radio buttons, and the like.
Blogging: Squarespaceâs blogging system is one of the platformâs highlights. From the ability to schedule posts to the option to have multiple authors posting to the same blog, Squarespaceâs blogging capabilities are excellent. You can even host a podcast on a Squarespace blog. The commenting system is pretty sophisticated as well.
Sell Physical & Digital Products: Squarespace’s capable eCommerce system lets you sell and deliver digital content as well as physical offerings. You can also use your Squarespace store to accept donations.
Inventory Management:Â Track inventory for products and product variants.
Shipping Calculator:Â Use the real-time shipping calculator to charge precise shipping rates for USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
Subscriptions:Â Sell recurring and limited subscriptions.
Squarespace Commerce App: The Commerce App allows iOS and Android device users the ability to run their businesses from anywhere. The App includes an integrated barcode scanner, inventory management, discount creation, and the ability to process in-person sales.
Squarespace Point Of Sale: Squarespace just introduced its new Point of Sale system, which allows you to connect your Squarespace Commerce App with a Square Reader for magstripe, contactless, and chip transactions. The system connects to your inventory management, making it easy to manage a store with both in-person and eCommerce elements. Square POS is included with a Basic/Advanced Commerce subscription, and no Squarespace transaction fees are charged beyond the base cost of Squareâs payment processing.
The Benefits Of Squarespace
Squarespace’s appeal lies in the fact that it offers both accessibility and advanced functionality. While there are website builders out there that are even simpler and easier to use, just as there are circumstances that call for a more sophisticated solution such as a custom developer-built website or a WordPress site, Squarespace aims for the sweet spot that encompasses ease of use, sharp aesthetics, and utility.
What’s more, Squarespace is a relatively cost-effective website solution. While you will find website builders offering cheaper subscription plans, the differences aren’t huge, and the cost of hiring developers to build you a custom website with the kind of aesthetic precision Squarespace offers is going to be several orders of magnitude higher.
Easy to use
Great for photography and blogging
Capable eCommerce system for online and in-person selling
Free 14-day trialÂ — you don’t need to give your payment information until you sign up for a paid plan
The Drawbacks Of Squarespace
As I mentioned above, Squarespace isn’t the cheapest website solution out there. Many other website builders offer a bare-bones free plan, while Squarespace only offers a 14-day free trial. However, this lack of a free plan shouldn’t trouble most business owners — the free plans offered by the likes of Wix and Weebly are quite limited in the features they offer.
Another drawback: Although Squarespace can host a good online store and can even facilitate offline commerce with its new POS system, it still doesn’t quite measure up with the likes of Shopify when it comes to eCommerce. You simply won’t get access to as many merchant features as you would with Shopify. Furthermore, Squarespace only offers two payment processing options for online sales (and only one — Square — for offline sales).
Squarespace’s customer support comes in for its share of criticism as well, with many users noting the lack of phone support.
Limited eCommerce features
No free plan
Limited customer service options
Who Should Use Squarespace?
Squarespace’s capabilities match up very well with the needs of artists, photographers, podcasters, bloggers, and freelancers in general. The software allows you to create a professional, elegant website without breaking the bank. It’s as simple as that.
Likewise, Squarespace’s eCommerce features make it a good choice for smaller eCommerce outfits as well as certain types of brick-and-mortar establishments. Larger, high-volume eCommerce businesses are better served by dedicated eCommerce services like Shopify or BigCommerce, however.
How Does Squarespace Compare To Wix, WordPress, & Others?
As I’ve said, Squarespace’s eCommerce chops don’t quite compare with the likes of Shopify. Read our Shopify VS Squarespace piece for more on this comparison. While smaller sellers will find a lot to like about Squarespace, more ambitious merchants will find even more to like about Shopify.
Another Squarespace competitor you’ve likely come across is Wix, which is currently the most widely used website builder on the planet. As we wrote in our Wix VS Squarespace comparison article, we give Wix the overall edge; it’s even easier to use than Squarespace, and it offers a much greater range of add-ons and integrations through its Wix App Market. However, that’s not to say that Wix is better for everyone. Squarespace’s superior aesthetics still make it a more fitting choice for art, photography, blogging, and podcasting.
Another Squarespace alternative we should discuss is WordPress. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), not a DIY website builder, so this isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison. However, a WordPress site can integrate with a much wider range of products and services than can Squarespace and is almost infinitely customizable. If you need a business website with more advanced functionality than Squarespace can offer and/or you want to retain the option of taking your site to a different web host should you grow dissatisfied with your current one, you should look into creating a website with WordPress instead.
That said, WordPress is nowhere near as user-friendly as Squarespace, and unless you possess some serious web development skills, you’ll likely need to outsource the creation of your site to a team of web developers and designers, thus making a WordPress site cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses and freelancers.
How To Get Started With Squarespace
Getting started with Squarespace is a cinch. First, you sign up — you don’t need to enter your credit card information at this stage, just your email address and a password. If you want to continue using Squarespace for free, you can do so for a period of 14 days. If you’re ready to purchase a subscription plan, you’ll be able to immediately buy a domain for your site from Squarespace. If you get an annual subscription, you’ll pay nothing for your domain for the first year. Domains cost $20-$70 each subsequent year when purchased through Squarespace. And if you opt to use Squarespace for free for the free trial period, you’ll get a temporary Squarespace-branded URL.
After answering some basic questions about the purpose of your site, you’ll be able to choose a template. You can narrow down your search by selecting a category (templates are organized into categories based on site purpose) or by simply typing your site’s purpose into the box provided (“To sell my artwork” for example). After choosing a template, you’ll be taken to the dashboard to start editing your site.
At this point, you’ll be able to add pages to your site and edit them to your heart’s content. Squarespace’s site editing system is fairly self-explanatory, and to the extent that it isn’t, Squarespace provides a knowledgebase, tutorial videos, webinars, and more to help you understand the editor.
At this point, you can edit your site and integrate some of the more basic tools on offer. For access to the more advanced features, including many of the eCommerce tools, you’ll need to sign up for a paid subscription. For a look at some of Squarespace’s best feature add-ons, read our post detailing Squarespace’s 8 best integrations.
Is Squarespace For Me?
Squarespace is an excellent tool for those who want to create a design-forward website for their business without spending a boatload and without having to learn code. Artists, photographers, bloggers, podcasters, and owners of smaller online stores are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of what Squarespace has to offer.
If you’re curious, give Squarespace a try and explore it thoroughly during your 14-day trial period. See if the template designs are to your tastes and if the editor works to your liking. If you find Squarespace to be a good fit for your business — or if you don’t — drop us a comment and let us know about your experience!
If you think another website builder might better fit your needs, check out our article on the 10 best Squarespace alternatives.
The post What Is Squarespace & Is It Right For You? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
These days, eCommerce is big business. In 2019, annual online sales totaled $365.2 billion, and that number will only continue to rise. One forecast from Statista estimates that annual online sales will reach $419.9 billion in 2020.
Now is a great time to enter the eCommerce industry, and whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to expand your reach online, BigCommerce might be a good eCommerce solution for your business. The software is easy to use, accessible for businesses of all sizes, and feature-rich. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is BigCommerce?
BigCommerce is cloud-based eCommerce software. You pay a monthly rate to BigCommerce, and in exchange, you gain access to a securely-hosted online store. In addition to your online store, you get an admin panel for managing your products and orders, 24/7 customer support, and a range of marketing tools.
BigCommerce is known for its ease of use. Even if you have no experience with running a website, you can still set up a site with BigCommerce. If you’re hoping to run an online store and you don’t want to worry about any of the technical aspects of hosting a website, BigCommerce is a great option.
What Can You Sell On BigCommerce?
BigCommerce can accommodate many types of online selling, including physical products, digital products, and more. Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of products that BigCommerce supports:
Physical Products: Sell clothing, home goods, beauty products, and more. BigCommerce even allows you to sell CBD products; just make sure you pick a payment processor that allows CBD sales.
Products With Multiple Variants: BigCommerce lets you sell products that come in multiple sizes, colors, or styles. You can set different weights and prices for each product variant.
Digital Products: Sell digital products for download. TheÂ maximum file upload size is 512 MB.
Subscriptions: Sell subscription products like beauty boxes or subscription cleaning supplies and toiletries. Recurring billing features let you bill customers automatically.
Event Tickets: Sell event tickets in the form of digital downloads. Customers can select event dates and immediately download and print their tickets
It’s important to note that BigCommerce also restricts the sale of some products. You cannot sell illegal or obscene goods (e.g. illegal drugs, fraudulent goods, or obscene images). BigCommerce users are also restricted from selling any products that infringe on copyright laws. For more details, read BigCommerce’s Acceptable Use Policy and Infringing Materials Protocol.
How Does BigCommerce Work?
BigCommerce operates entirely in the cloud. You don’t need to download anything to use the software. In order to get started, all you have to do is create an account and register a domain name. BigCommerce then gives you access to an unpublished website, a design editor, and an admin panel for uploading products and managing sales.
Once you have created an account, you can add your products (through a streamlined import feature or manually), configure settings for shipping and taxes, design your website, plan a marketing campaign, and launch your store.
BigCommerce’s integrations with popular payment processors allow you to accept payments securely on your site. As customers begin to purchase your products, you can use BigCommerce’s built-in features to process orders, keep in contact with customers, and continually adjust your selling strategies.
BigCommerce offers numerous features that allow you to sell on your own website, on other sales channels, and around the world. Take a look at what BigCommerce has to offer:
Unlimited Products:Â BigCommerce allows you to list unlimited products on every plan.
Sell On Multiple Sales Channels:Â Sync your BigCommerce site to your seller accounts on multiple marketplaces. BigCommerce connects to eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, Pinterest, and Amazon. You can also sell in person with Square POS.
Sell Globally:Â BigCommerce offers integrations that let you sell in multiple currencies and calculate international shipping and tax rates. The software also supports multiple languages.
BigCommerce Shipping Manager: This built-in shipping feature lets you display calculated shipping rates at checkout.
Inventory Management:Â Track inventory levels for your physical products.
Marketing Tools: BigCommerce offers multiple marketing tools, including a discount engine, social sharing features, product reviews, and more.
Create A Blog:Â Host a blog on your online store.
SEO Tools: Earn more traffic with custom URLs, titles, header tags, and meta descriptions.
Analytics: Use BigCommerce’s reporting features to track traffic, sales, bounce rates, etc.
The Benefits Of BigCommerce
BigCommerce’s biggest advantage by far is its ease of use. Even if you have no experience running a website, you can build an online store with BigCommerce. The admin panel is well organized and easy to navigate, and the help center has answers to many of your initial questions.Â What’s more, users on BigCommerce don’t have to worry about hosting or site security. BigCommerce handles all of these technical aspects for you.
Users also appreciate how many features come built into BigCommerce’s basic software. Users say you don’t need to add many integrations (compared to other eCommerce software) because so much is already included with BigCommerce.
Finally, BigCommerce includes multiple support options for all users. Everyone gets access to support via phone, email, and live chat. There is also a thorough help center, useful guides, and a community forum that you can reference when you want to find answers on your own.
Ease of use
Good customer support
Good built-in features
The Drawbacks Of BigCommerce
While there are many advantages to using BigCommerce, there is no perfect eCommerce software. BigCommerce still has some areas in which it could improve.
One of the biggest drawbacks of BigCommerce is its lack of easy design tools. BigCommerce lets you change small elements of your site (like colors, photos, and text) without adjusting any code. However, in order to make large changes, you have to edit the code, or hire someone to do it for you. Unlike some eCommerce software (such as Shopify) BigCommerce does not have any drag-and-drop design tools.
I have also seen some user reviews that mention poor customer support. It seems that BigCommerce support representatives are not always as helpful as they should be.
Another disadvantage of BigCommerce is that not all features are available on all pricing plans. In order to gain access to advanced features like faceted search or abandoned cart recovery, you have to pay a higher monthly subscription rate.
Missing some advanced features
Expensive for some users
Who Should Use BigCommerce?
BigCommerce offers affordable pricing plans for businesses ranging from startup to enterprise.
User reviews suggest that BigCommerce is best suited to small to mid-size businesses since some features reportedly do not accommodate larger businesses very well. That said, there are a number of enterprise-level companies that use BigCommerce’s Enterprise software. These include Ben & Jerry’s and Skullcandy.
How To Get Started With BigCommerce
Getting started with BigCommerce takes only a few minutes. You can sign up for a 15-day free trial, no credit card required. All you need to do is enter your email address, phone number, and name. Then, you can create a password and select a name for your store (you can change this name later on).
Use your first 15 days with BigCommerce to really put the software through its paces. Add products, customize your shipping and tax settings, play around with the design tools, and test customer support. Make sure BigCommerce includes all the features your business needs so that when it comes time to choose a plan, you’re confident in your purchase.
Once those initial 15 days are up, BigCommerce will ask you to choose a paid plan to continue using the software. If you’ve decided BigCommerce is a good option for your business, go ahead and sign up for a paid plan (although we recommend sticking with the monthly billing option–not the annual billing option–for your first year).
Then, you’re off to the races! Launch your site, begin your marketing campaigns, and track your site’s traffic. For more detailed advice on setting up a successful online store, try How To Start A Successful eCommerce Business In 8 Easy Steps.
The Bottom Line
BigCommerce is an easy to use eCommerce software for small to large online sellers. The software is feature-rich, and the company offers numerous customer support options. Users of all sizes and skill levels can take advantage of what BigCommerce has to offer.
If you’re interested in learning more about BigCommerce, head over to our complete BigCommerce review. Or, for a detailed breakdown of BigCommerce’s pricing options, take a look at our BigCommerce Pricing post.
The post What Is BigCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Essential Guide To Choosing A Website Designer via ShivarWeb
So you need to know how to choose a website designer.
But here’s the problem.
“It depends” is both the most correct and the most unhelpful answer.
There have never been more choices in the website design industry than now. But paradoxically, all those choices make actually choosing more difficult than ever.
The secret to choosing wisely is to understand exactly what you need rather than attempting to sort & filter all the choices on offer.
Like any other large purchase… a house, car, appliance, etc – ditch the idea of a “best” – and instead, write out your exact needs, requirements, and goals. The best option for you will usually self-select itself.
In other words, choose a website designer through elimination based your goals rather than searching out the one right fit.
With that concept in mind, here’s how to walk through the process of elimination to choose the right website designer for your project.
1. Define Your Technology Needs
How do you need your website to function?
Are you looking to build a “brochure site” – a place with your basic information and contact information?
Or are you looking to build something with certain functionality?
This step is critical because it decides what type of web designer or developer or agency you’ll need to hire.
Back-end technology involves databases, scripts, and APIs – and generally making sure the computers are all talking to each other correctly.
Now – you’ll likely hire someone who is an expert in one, is knowledgeable in another, and is familiar with the third. If you hire an agency, then they’ll have all three.
Additionally, many designers / developers / agencies will work with certain platforms that already have core functionality built-in. When they work with these platforms, it will speed up the process and lower the costs…but also means that the client (you) needs to have some familiarity with what tools they are using.
But the main thing you need to think about is how much functionality does your site need? This will determine what type of website designer you’ll need, and how to discuss their process.
What To Consider
What functionality do you want now?
How do you want your website to grow?
Do you need to edit & manage your site content?
Do your visitors need to work with the site at all?
What To Avoid
Avoid using vague concepts or ideas.
Avoid accidental technology lock-in.
Think about a new fashion brand. Are you more focused on developing content or retailing clothes? Do you need to manage inventory? Do you want to build a community? How do you want to integrate your social presence?
A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website to handle the content and then add-in ecommerce with an ecommerce plugin, but it might be harder to manage inventory & social integration. They could also build an online store with Shopify to focus on ecommerce & social, but might hamstring your big content plans.
Think about a new non-profit website. Do you have expertise to manage & maintain the website? Do you need donation abilities or portal logins? Do you need to integrate with certain profiles?
A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website that could easily integrate donations and would be cheap upfront, but it would be harder to maintain long-term without someone who can train on the platform. They could also use a hosted website builder like Wix or WordPress.com that might have fewer upfront capabilities, but would be much easier to maintain in-house over the long-term.
Now – the designer that you choose should be flexible but also knowledgeable. It’s better to trust someone that you trust…but also verify that they deeply understand your needs.
2. Define Your Design Needs
How do you want your website to look and feel?
Unless you’ve had to design something for a client, it’s hard to understand how difficult it is to translate a vague idea in someone else’s brain into a tangible creation.
Sure, there are bad designers out there, but usually, the more specific you are about your design needs, the better product you’ll get.
Draw out something – anything – to show even the most basic direction you’d like to go.
Collect websites that you like – and note what you like about them. Here’s a bunch of example round-ups that I’ve written.
Wix Website Examples
WordPress Website Examples
Professional Personal Website Examples
Online Portfolio Examples
Weebly Website Examples
GoDaddy Website Examples
Restaurant Website Examples
Church Website Examples
Shopify Website Examples
Write out your frustrations with existing designs.
Additionally, keep in mind that it’s possible to develop some design assets yourself and let a web designer translate those existing assets into a website design.
For example, I’ve had clients use a photographer and bring in a web designer to build a site layout around their amazing professional images. I’ve built sites around a 99designs logo that clients have already made. Some clients even use automated design generators like Tailor Brands to create a look that a web developer can plug & play into a theme or template.
Once you have all your specifics down – you can use it to choose the right web designer.
What To Consider
The right web designer will be able to tell you how achievable certain features, looks, etc are.
Think about what process you’d like to work with. Do you want choices at every stage? How do you like to give and receive feedback? What are the most important parts of the design? When budget inevitably comes up, what are you willing to cut or prioritize?
What To Avoid
Avoid designers who can’t tell you how they’ll approach a design problem. Look for designers who do not have a stated process.
A written design process is best for you and them. Feedback stages can go on forever and make everyone frustrated.
Avoid vague wishes – even with emotions, be as specific and as concrete as possible.
Think about a restaurant website. An established restaurant will likely already have quite a bit of design assets in its physical location. Between logos, fonts, colors, ambience, etc – a web designer should already have a good bit to work off. Hiring a designer will be less about getting the design right and more about the layout, navigation, and design asset conversion right.
Think about a brand-new yoga studio. A startup might need a website design that can translate offline and throughout social media. Here, the owner will need to make a choice about developing a logo & brand feel separately (via a specialist graphic designer or logo contractor or AI brand software) or letting the website designer drive the look of the business.
3. Define Your Business Needs
What role does your website serve in your business?
Some of this will go back to your design and technology needs, but it’s especially pressing to consider before you define your budget & scope.
Think about how your business gets customers and how you do your marketing.
How will/does your website drive leads/sales? Is it something that your referrals & salespeople will offer as a brochure…or will your website need to drive new leads from online visitors?
Will it need to integrate with any business processes such as inventory or bookkeeping or order-taking? Do you want to move your business processes to the website via marketing/sales automation?
Are there any existing software providers that you want to integrate with your website now or in the future?
What To Consider
Think about both the near and medium term needs of your business.
Think about your domain names – and how you want to setup your email and online services.
Think about the incremental value of your website – what number of leads could it drive? What is a new lead worth?
What To Avoid
Avoid too much complexity – integrations and versatility make your website last.
Avoid thinking of your website as a cost – it’s an investment.
Avoid designers who do not work with integrations or cannot build out features that you need.
Avoid designers who cannot make a business case for changing your existing business processes.
Avoid designers who cannot explain how & why their approach will work through the medium term.
Avoid quick, “duct-tape” solutions.
Think about a local property management. An accounting firm could do well with a “brochure website” that simply funnels people to the phone and in-person consults. A nice brochure website (i.e., a website that simple provides information) might do fine. But what if the firm wants to add in client tools, secure portals, content marketing, direct listings, etc? Those features would require a website that can expand and develop over time. It might be worth developing a self-hosted website with a designer on retainer.
Think about a new jewelry business. A jewelry business might do business exclusively on Etsy, and want a blog to connect with customers. It might be easy to get a custom theme on a hosted platform like WordPress.com. However, it also might be a better choice to go a different direction at the beginning to integrate Etsy or lay the foundation for a non-Etsy online store.
4. Define Your Budget & Scope
How much money and time do you have to spend right now?
And “as cheap as possible” is not an answer – if this is your thinking, you should not be looking for a custom website designer. You should look for alternative options.
Your website is an investment, not a cost. If you approach it the same way you’d approach bulk-buying office pens…then you’re not going to get the result you want.
Now – I understand the desire to get the biggest return for your investment. But remember that it’s usually better to maximize your return rather than minimize your investment.
What To Consider
Think about your existing cashflow situation. Write out what a single new lead is worth.
Write out existing costs of having a poor or non-existent website.
Write out features, functionality, and design choices that you’d prioritize.
Think about payoff period and amortize your budget. In other words, if you budget $10,000 – and you expect the site to last 50 months, then that is $200/mo. Does that match your expected value?
What To Avoid
Avoid thinking about your budget in a silo – always tie it to scope or value.
Avoid thinking that you can have everything. Think about keeping your options open.
Avoid thinking about having a one and done project. Think about ongoing costs to either you, your staff or your designer.
5. Define Your Sources & Alternative Options
What type of designer do you want? And how do you find them?
The bad news is that most good website designers are not super-easy to find.
The good news is that your competitors don’t know that. If you put in a bit of work to find the right website designers – you’ll have a much better range of choices.
What To Consider
Good website designers have plenty of work. If someone is spending a lot of money on advertising & acquisition, then they are probably a giant agency with a churn and burn process.
Good website designers want to work with good clients. I used to work with web design clients, and I would take a great client for half-pay over a bad client. In fact, at a certain point, there’s not enough money in the world to take on a bad client.
Conversations and back and forths are not billable. That is not good for you or the designer. The more specific you are, the better.
What To Avoid
Googling what everyone else is googling.
Expecting more from a person or platform than is reasonable given how much effort you’ve put in.
Where To Look
Now – you could always do a Google Search. But I promise that you will likely be disappointed. Here are some better places to look.
For local designer / developer
Local web designers are usually horrendous at marketing their services. But many clients want a local designer that they can talk to in person.
Your approach will depend on your metro area, of course, but here’s where I’d look.
Look for meetups to stalk. Web designers are always looking to upgrade skills and you can usually find some at a local workshop, class or meetup.
Do a really specific Google search – one with search operators. Like this.
Ask your favorite local businesses for referrals.
Use city specific directories – this works especially well in smaller metros.
For a WordPress designer / developer
WordPress is an incredibly versatile content management system. It’s not ideal for every site, but it’s like 4 door SUV / Sedan of the Internet. It’ll probably do the job for you.
Now – the issue is that basically anybody can call themselves a “WordPress developer” – even if they really don’t know how the software works at its core.
It’s important to do #1 and #2 – because you’ll need to know if you are hiring a designer / developer who works with WordPress as their software of choice vs. someone who actually develops websites with WordPress.
Here’s where I’d look –
Stalk local WordPress meetups.
Stalk the attendees of WordCamps – big gatherings of designers who use WordPress.
Stalk the community support forums of WordPress.org
Do an incredibly specific Google search with something like intext:”Work with me”
One side note about WordPress designers – since they’ll likely use certain themes/theme frameworks – you’ll be able to negotiate a bit more on scope and do more with DIY.
For [other platform] designer / developer
Now there are plenty of other software options out there – especially “hosted options” like Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, etc.
The key here is to understand the technology and what exactly you are buying (ie, you are paying more for a custom design over functionality since the hosted option bundles lots of functionality in with your hosting).
Lean heavily on the services’ support forums and Experts Exchange to find prospective designers.
For a general designer / developer
The great thing about web design is that you can work with a global talent pool if you want. There are challenges to working remotely but a lot of upside if you can do it well.
Again, for this search, I’d recommend relying more on internal platforms over random searches. Here’s a few examples.
99designs is a good option for contest-run design only competitions. I’ve implemented designs that my clients have bought through them. Here’s my general review.
Dribbble is the big hangout for designers doing cutting edge work.
Most developers will have a profile on Github or StackExchange or HackerNews. Look for ones who have good answers.
Fiverr is a surprisingly good platform if you are willing to try a few gigs before committing to a single designer. I’ve used them for several side projects.
Upwork is also good if you are willing to do a test project with several designers before choosing.
Tailor Brands is an AI-powered self-service platform that will develop a logo and entire branding setup for less than $100.
You’ll also find that vendors on ThemeForest will do custom work in addition to other marketplaces like CreativeMarket.
The point here is that a bit more effort into searching for good designers will give you much better options than general googling.
Alternatives to a Custom Website Designer
Now if you’re thinking “ok – I just need a simple, straightforward website, not a roundabout search” – then you’ll want to look into some Alternative Options.
Skip down to some alternate ways to get a website without having to choose a website designer.
6. Ask for Proposals
Now that you have a few website designers to choose from, the next step is to send out a proposal.
The better your proposal, the better your options will be.
Think about how you would like to be approached if you were a web designer.
Would you prefer a vague email asking how much a website costs? Or would you prefer a detailed description of a the project along with a ballpark budget range?
What To Consider
Providing a ballpark budget is the fastest, simplest & most accurate way to get on the same page as a website designer. Your budget does not determine your end cost – but it does determine who you even talk to. As an analogy – it’s how website designers know whether you are shopping for a used Toyota Corolla or a brand-new Ferrari.
Make your project easy to say yes to. Keep the next step & primary ask simple and straightforward (ie, “are you interested in the project?”, “if interested, what additional details do you need?”)
What To Avoid
Avoid sending lots of feeler emails with no intention of hiring.
Avoid sending an email with too much information or too many asks.
7. Follow up with Questions & Request for References & Portfolio
However the designer communicates upfront is how the project will progress. Communication never improves over a project – it only degrades. Look for a high benchmark to start.
What To Consider
You are using your requirements, questions, and details to get prospective web designers to rule themselves out.
Think about your priorities – sending too many questions is just as bad as too few.
What To Avoid
Avoid dictating the entire process. Remember that the designer’s questions for you can tell you as much as your questions for them.
Avoid making the designer do too much back and forth. If you think a call will be necessary during the design process, do this entire step via a phone call.
8. Request Contract & Project Plan (and declines)
Tangible expectations in writing help everyone in every engagement.
At this point, you should be able to choose a website designer.
The next step is to request a contract and a project plan from the designer that you want to work with.
A written contract helps *everyone* in the project. The contract should spell out “deliverables”, costs, responsibilities, intellectual property rights, and an adjudicating body.
A project plan helps *everyone* understand expectations, responsibilities, and timelines. This does not have to be complicated. It should communicate clearly though who is responsible for what and when.
Lastly, for the designers that you did not choose, be sure to send a polite decline. Even if it’s as simple as “Thank you for providing this information. We have decided to work with another company. We will keep your company in mind for future project & referrals.” You’ll save the everyone needless follow-ups.
9. Follow up & Communicate Clearly
A good website designer cannot help a bad client.
What To Consider
The website is going to be *yours* so you need to make sure you have all the information you need to make decisions.
Make sure you have all the technical documentation in your control.
Remember that a lot of design work depends on fast, accurate feedback.
Budget for not only time but also money for incidentals (ie, photography) and technical issues.
What To Avoid
Interrupting the project plan and micromanaging.
Providing the wrong feedback at the wrong stage.
Avoid verbal conversations without follow-up written documentation. Phone call notes are essential.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Choosing a website designer does not have to be a daunting process full of frustration and unknowns.
It does require that you clearly understand what you want, when you want it, and to clearly communicate your expectations.
If you are trying to find a good website designer – follow the process and you’ll be set!
Alternate Conclusion & Next Steps
Now – if you have read this post and found it useful…but…
You’re thinking “I just need a website! It’s 2020 – I just need a simple, affordable, quick standard website – not a complicated purchase with contracts and whatnot”
I hear you. I have friends who have been there. And there are options out there – but it’s not a quality custom website designer.
Here’s some options –
#0 – DIY w/ Automated Branding & Design
Many design options (including the ones below) require you to coordinate your branding, even if you are able to purchase assets like a logo or social media photos. But that leaves a lot up to you.
There is one company that focuses on completely automated branding – Tailor Brands. I’ve begun using them for my side projects. They AI and machine learning to create a whole range of design assets & guidelines.
They also have a bundled website builder or you can use them to complement #1 through #3. Check out Tailor Brands here. Read my review here.
Other website builders also bundle a logo designer with their software. Wix has a template driven logo designer as does Shopify.
#1 – DIY with a Website Builder
There are companies that specialize in businesses with a budget and no design or technical expertise. They provide hosting and pre-made templates all for a single monthly subscription. You might not get all the functionality that you want…but you will get a secure, fast, good looking website.
To find the right website one, take my website builder quiz or see my recommendations here.
I also have an online store builder quiz with recommendations here if you need ecommerce.
#2 – DIY with self-hosted WordPress
WordPress is a the most popular, most supported, and most versatile “content management system” on the Internet. It’s free community supported software that you install on a hosting account (ie, you rent part of a server from a hosting company). The software has a learning curve, but you’ll have 100% control and 100% of your options open. You’ll also be able to call in specific experts on specific problems. Or install do-it-all themes / templates.
I wrote a WordPress Website Setup Guide here.
#3 – Purchase Website Design from a Hosting Company
This option is a blend of #1 and #2 – if you want full control over your site with unlimited options for the future…but don’t want the learning curve of setting up a design yourself, then you can sometimes purchase website design services from a hosting company. They are usually able to provide these services much cheaper than an independent website designer since you’re also using their hosting services.
For these projects, I recommend InMotion Hosting – they have great support and are the hosting company for this website. See their design services here.
Other resources include –
How To Try WordPress Before Purchasing
Choosing Your Website Color Palette
Features Customer Want in a Local Website
Building Different Types of Websites with Templates
This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb
There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.
But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.
And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.
And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.
Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On
This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.
The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone
For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.
But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.
This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.
Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.
Platform Choice > Tool Choice
The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.
Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.
Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform
In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.
In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.
In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.
Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.
Convenience Killed Cost & Control
The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.
The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.
If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.
If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.
Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been
I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.
But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.
For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.
For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.
Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.
Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.
Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented
Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.
Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.
Organic Traffic Is A Bonus
Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.
Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.
Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been
More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.
*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.
For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.
Users Killed What Could Have Been
Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.
For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.
1,000 True Fans Is Still True
That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.
Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.
Opportunity Costs Are Very Real
When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.
In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.
Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.
Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.
Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.
Lookalikes Killed Privacy
I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?
Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.
But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.
Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.
Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.
Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.
Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.
So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*
*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.
Alternative Channels Matter
In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.
In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.
Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.
You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.
Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.
Web Hosting Is a Utility
Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.
That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.
There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.
Website Builders Are a Feature
I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.
Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.
If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.
All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.
SEO Is a Tactic
For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.
If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.
It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).
But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.
In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.
But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.
IRL Original Content Is Underestimated
The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.
But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.
In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.
Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.
Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?
On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.
It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.
IRL Data Is Underestimated
On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.
That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.
Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More
Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.
The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.
Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and say that you probably have a PayPal account. As of the third quarter of 2019, PayPal has reported a total of 295 million active accounts worldwide. PayPal has become so embedded in people’s lives that many use their personal PayPal account to conduct business. However, by doing this, you give up the advantages that come with a free PayPal Business account.
We’re here today to explain why, if you’re a PayPal user doing business under your personal account, you should really sign up for a PayPal Business account and do business under that account instead.
Why Use PayPal For Business?
When you use PayPal for Business, you gain access to a plethora of services, both free and paid, that can be immensely helpful to any merchant making money from online sales. You’ll get three options for taking payments, two of which carry no monthly fees. You’ll get access to a plethora of eCommerce integrations, including Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Offline merchants will get access to a number of POS integrations, as well as PayPal’s in-house mobile card reader and mPOS app, both of which are bundled together under the PayPal Here brand.
Other features available through PayPal include online invoicing, a Marketing Solutions package, a Virtual Terminal, a recurring billing service, and a lengthy list of developer tools. Of course, other payment processors sport similar tools, so is there truly any advantage to using PayPal for Business? PayPal itself would argue “yes,” and in favor of that argument,Â a recent study found that when a customer chooses PayPal as their payment method, they go on to complete the transaction 88.7% of the time — an average conversion rate 60% higher than that of other digital wallets and 82% higher than the average conversion rate of all other payment methods.
All things considered, a PayPal business account makes it simple and easy to send money back and forth. Whether you’re in the business of offering online subscription services, selling your wares at “meetspace” events like crafting shows and conventions, or even collecting donations for a nonprofit organization, PayPal for Business has plenty to offer.
Differences Between PayPal Personal & Business Accounts
Both personal and business PayPal accounts allow you to send and request money, make purchases, and even receive payments for sales you make — so long as you mark these sales as being for “Goods and services,” thus incurring transaction fees (and PayPal will check to make sure you’re not dodging transaction fees by mislabeling transactions). However, without a business account, you won’t have access to a host of commerce-facilitating features such as creating shipping methods, inventory tracking, allowing employees partial access to your account, and signing up for services like PayPal Here.
PayPal Business Account Requirements
The requirements to set up a PayPal business account are pretty minimal. You’ll need the following:
An email address
A business phone number
Your legal business name — your own name is fine if your business is a sole proprietorship
The last four digits of your SSN
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) — if you choose individual/sole proprietorship as your business type, you don’t need to provide an EIN
Your date of birth
Your home address
Your bank name, account number, and routing number
This will be sufficient to start selling, but note that after you start actually accepting payments and making money, PayPal may request further documentation, such as bank statements. Third-party processors like PayPal and Square are notorious for their stringent scrutiny of merchants and their tendency to subject merchants to holds or terminations at the slightest hint of trouble. Just be ready to provide whatever information PayPal might ask for in the event that they detect something slightly suspect.
Check out our piece on avoiding account holds, freezes, and terminations to learn more.
How To Set Up Your PayPal Business Account
Start off by clicking on the “Sign Up” box in the top right corner of PayPal’s page. Note that if you are signed in to your personal PayPal account, PayPal will prompt you to either sign out of your current account and set up a separate business account under a different email address OR delete your current PayPal account and set up a business account using the email address previously associated with your old PayPal account. I assume most of you will want to choose the former option.
Next, you’ll be prompted to enter some information about your business. Enter the legal name of your business contact, the name and phone number of your business, and your business address.
Next, you’ll be asked to describe your business type. The options you’ll have to choose from are as follows: Individual/Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Nonprofit organization, or Government entity.
Next, you’ll be asked to further describe your business. You’ll be asked to choose the product or keyword that best describes your business, your estimated monthly sales, and your website (this one is optional), and you may also be offered the chance to receive a PayPal Business Debit Mastercard after you receive at least $250 in payments.
Now, if your business type is anything other than Individual/Sole Proprietorship, you’ll also be prompted to enter your Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you chose Individual/Sole Proprietorship as your business type, you won’t receive this prompt as you won’t have an EIN.
Next, you’ll be asked to supply some more personal information: the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, and your home address.
Once this step is complete, your PayPal business account will have been created. You’ll now be asked whether you want to request or send money and whether you want to send out an invoice (which will start the process of setting you up with PayPal Invoicing, a free service that allows you to create and send customized invoices)
After that, you’ll be prompted to select other PayPal services you may want to use. You can choose which online payment package you’d like to set up for online sales. If you’re in the business of offline sales, you’ll be offered the chance to set up a PayPal Here account. And if you want to sell goods through online marketplaces that PayPal integrates with, you’ll be offered the chance to connect to such a marketplace.
Keep in mind that you can always return to the set of signup options listed above by hovering over the “More” option on your PayPal toolbar at the top of the page and then selecting “Business setup.”
Let’s go back to setting up online payments for a moment. Click on “Set Up Online Payments” and you’ll be presented with the choice of processing all your payments through PayPal or adding PayPal as a supplementary way to get paid.
Depending on which option you select, you’ll then choose how you want to sell online. Choose “Process all payments through PayPal” and you’ll be offered two further options. With Option A, you work with an eCommerce solution that’s already integrated into PayPal. Option B lets you add HTML buttons to your website yourself. Below both options, you’ll see a “Compare options” link. Click it to see the following comparison:
Now, if you chose “Add PayPal Checkout as another way to get paid”, the two subsequent options will be different. Option A will be “I want a pre-built payment solution” while Option B will be “Use our APIs to add PayPal Checkout to your website.” Clicking “Compare options” will then display the following:
After you establish your payment setup, you’ll find an “Account setup” tab next to the “Payment setup” tab. Click on that to finish setting up your account.
From there, follow the links to confirm your email, link your debit card for Instant Transfers to your bank if you wish, link your bank account, make your business name clear for customers, and, should you so desire, get the PayPal Business Debit Mastercard.
Depending on the payment options you selected earlier, you’re going to need to choose between the three available payment packages for accepting payments online:
PayPal Checkout (formerly Express Checkout)
PayPal Payments Standard
PayPal Payments Pro
If you want to add PayPal as a supplementary payment option to your existing website or if you already integrate with an eCommerce provider, PayPal Checkout is a solid choice. You’ll get PCI compliance (PayPal redirects customers to its secure site to complete the transaction), contextual checkout buttons, and localized payment methods for European customers.
PayPal Payments Standard is a more fully-featured payment solution than PayPal Checkout. Payments Standard offers the same eCommerce integrations and PCI compliance offered by PayPal Checkout along with a healthy dollop of additional features. Here’s the full list of what you’ll get with Payments Standard:
Accept credit and debit cards (your buyers don’t need a PayPal account)
Accept PayPal payments
Send invoices online for fast payment
Accept payments in 25 currencies from 202 countries
Simplified PCI compliance
No long-term contracts, setup, withdrawal or cancellation fees
Nonprofit discount available for PayPal transactions
Toll-free phone support
Offer special financing on purchases $99 and up
Both PayPal Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard have the benefit of being free to sign up for with no monthly fees. PayPal Payments Pro, by contrast, costs $30/month to use. Let’s take a look at what you’ll get for the money:
Hosted Checkout page: With Payments Pro, you can keep your customers on your website throughout the entire checkout process and customize the design of your checkout page. If you want to provide your customers with the most seamless checkout experience possible, Payments Pro is the way to go. However, this means that you’ll have to take care of PCI compliance yourself.
Virtual Terminal: PayPal’s virtual terminal allows you to accept payments via phone, fax, or mail. Once you have your customer’s card number, you can key in those numbers from a browser window. It’s definitely a handy feature, and it always helps to be able to take payments by as many means as possible. However, competitors like Square and Shopify offer access to a virtual terminal without having to pay any monthly fee whatsoever.
Recurring Billing: If you’re in the business of selling subscriptions, Payments Pro offers recurring billing tools to power your sales. Unfortunately, recurring billing will cost you an additional $10/month. Oddly enough, PayPal Checkout offers recurring billing tools for no cost whatsoever.
Bear in mind that to implement many of the features on offer with a PayPal business account, you’ll need a developer to help you do the heavy lifting.
Another feature you can sign up for on PayPal’s website is PayPal Here, a suite of services that allows you to accept offline payments via a mobile POS app and a PayPal card reader of your choosing. You’ll find the PayPal Here page under the Tools drop-down menu in the toolbar on your PayPal dashboard.
The first thing you’ll need to do is sign up for PayPal Here. Once you’ve done that, download the PayPal Here mPOS app onto your mobile device. Next, sign in to the app and order your card reader. Of the three card readers currently available, the Mobile Card Reader and the Chip and Swipe reader are both free until June 30, 2020, for new PayPal Here account holders. Also available is the Chip and Tap Reader + Charging Stand combo which you can purchase from PayPal for $79.99.
For a full rundown of the features included in PayPal Here, read our PayPal Here review.
Are There Any Paypal Business Account Fees?
There are no fees incurred when you set up a PayPal business account. It’s completely free to have a PayPal business account (unless you sign up for the PayPal Payments Pro plan). Of course, free payment processing doesn’t exist, and PayPal is no exception. This means that payment processing fees will apply when you make a sale through PayPal. If you’re a US-based merchant, Here’s what you’ll be paying per transaction in the based on the nature of the transaction:
2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped offline transaction (when you use PayPal Here or integrate with one of PayPalâs POS partners)
3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction
2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits (check out PayPal For Nonprofits to learn more)
5% + $0.05 per transaction under the MicroPayments plan
3.1% + $0.30 per Virtual Terminal transaction
Keep in mind that the Virtual Terminal is only available if you have a PayPal Payments Pro plan, which costs $30/month. Overall, PayPal’s fees are comparable to those of other third-party processors, though as I mentioned earlier, both Square and Shopify offer a virtual terminal without a monthly fee.
One recent policy change that has sellers chagrined is that when a transaction is refunded, PayPal will not return the processing fee to you. That means that if you refund a $100 online purchase to a customer, the processing fee won’t be returned to you and you’ll lose $3.20. This may not sound like that much, but if you’re issuing a significant number of refunds, these costs add up quickly. For more on refund policies in the payment processing industry, check out our article on credit card refund fees.
This article doesn’t cover every single fee associated with using PayPal. For more on the costs of such things as card readers for offline sales, conversion fees, chargeback fees, and more, our article on PayPal pricingÂ has the full story. And if you’re a seller outside the US, have a look at PayPal’s complete list of merchant fees, as the fixed portion of your transaction fees (when considering a 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee, the 30 cents is the fixed part) will vary based on the currency you use.
The Bottom Line On PayPal For Business Accounts
We’ve established that if you’re going to use your PayPal account for business purposes, you really should get a PayPal business account. But how does PayPal stack up against competing payment processing solutions?
Overall, despite its shortcomings, PayPal is a solid option for merchants. With its relatively simple, transparent pricing and extensive eCommerce integrations, PayPal works particularly well as a starter option for new businesses and will scale with your business as it grows. What’s more, online sellers can always choose to use PayPal as a supplemental means of accepting payments. This isn’t the case with most of PayPal’s competitors.
PayPal has plenty to offer offline sellers as well — with PayPal’s in-house mPOS app along with its robust POS and accounting integrations, you’ll be able to take payments anywhere with ease. Read our full PayPal review for an even deeper look into what the payments giant has to offer your business.
That being said, PayPal obviously isn’t an ideal solution for everybody. If you’re not happy with PayPal’s business practices or if you’re in the process of comparison shopping, check out our article on PayPal alternatives. You may want to have a look at our merchant account comparison chart as well.
As always, if you’ve used — or are using — a PayPal business account to accept payments, we’d love to hear about it! Please drop us a comment!
The post Why You Need A PayPal Business Account If You Want To Take Payments Via PayPal appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.
Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set
Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide
WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.
Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).
In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.
Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.
So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
What is WooCommerce?
To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.
Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.
And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.
It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.
WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.
WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).
And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –
domain (your address on the Internet)
hosting (where your website files live)
software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)
In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.
Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.
Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.
But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.
That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.
But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.
Pros of WooCommerce
Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.
Long-term Cost & Value
WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.
Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.
WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.
That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.
For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.
If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.
To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.
For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.
All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.
Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.
And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.
For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.
If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.
And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.
If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.
Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.
Integration with WordPress
WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.
And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.
This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.
For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.
There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.
The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.
Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.
f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).
Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.
Support from Automattic
Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.
WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.
They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.
Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.
But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.
There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).
But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.
Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.
WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.
Versatility & Compatibility
A few fun facts about WooCommerce –
You can use it to sell memberships
You can use it to sell recurring licenses
You can use it to sell digital goods
You can use it to sell apppointments
You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine
The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.
The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc
It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.
In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.
3rd Party Integrations
WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.
If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.
But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.
You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).
Control & Customizations
Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.
You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.
You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.
There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.
Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.
Cons of WooCommerce
Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.
Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.
There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.
But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.
For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).
For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.
But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.
Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?
Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.
In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.
Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.
But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.
Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.
This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.
Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.
But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*
*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.
Speed & Security
With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.
Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.
WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.
Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.
But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.
For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.
In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.
Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.
It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.
Growth & Scaling
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.
And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.
This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.
And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.
Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.
But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.
Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.
That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.
Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.
Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.
All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.
If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.
But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.
Potential Long-term Costs
WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.
However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.
One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.
She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.
Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).
Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.
Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.
Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.
In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.
In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.
Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.
And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.
All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.
However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.
It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.
All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.
There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.
WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –
Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.
WooCommerce vs. Wix
Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.
WooCommerce vs. Magento
Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.
WooCommerce vs. OpenCart
OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce vs. Ecwid
Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.
WooCommerce vs. Prestashop
PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce Review Conclusion
WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –
Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.
If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.
If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.
Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.
The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.