How Much a Website Costs Per Year Explained

Website Costs Per Year

So, how much does a website cost per year?

Wait for it…. it depends. 🙂

But yes – “it depends” is not helpful at all.

The Short Answer to Website Costs Per Year

Annual website cost = domain + hosting + software + labor + annualized upfront costs

  • Domain costs range from $9 to $15 per year for a .com or .org
  • Hosting costs range from $60 to $240 per year for shared web hosting
  • Software costs range from free to $100 per year for backups & security to much higher
  • Labor costs range from free to thousands of dollars
  • Annualized upfront costs are how you want to budget upfront costs like design & themes

I highly recommend “annualizing” your upfront costs because that is a big consideration in how you want to approach actually building a website.

If you use a “hosted website builder” like Wix, Weebly or WordPress.com, then you’ll be paying all these costs in a single bundled subscription price. Your annual costs are elevated, but predictable.

If you build your website a la carte with self-hosted WordPress (even if it’s with a “builder“), then you can control a lot of your costs and get access to a lot of features that a hosted website builder might take away (e.g., actually having a custom domain or SEO features).

The Long Answer to Website Costs Per Year

But here’s the thing, your annual website costs really do depend on your choices & goals. I’ll break down how much a website should cost, and what variables you can play with to make sure your costs fit what you want to get out of it.

Consider a few websites that I have personally been involved with.

Website #1 cost $0 upfront and now costs $8 per year to maintain. It is a single page and written in HTML/CSS that I wrote. It lives on a Google Cloud account with a $300 promo credit with my low-traffic website generating all of pennies worth of traffic every year. It runs on a custom domain name that is $8/yr to renew. That’s it.

Website #2 cost $20 upfront and now costs $0 per year to maintain. It is a personal photo blog that lives on WordPress.com. I bought a nice premium theme at the beginning for $20. Now I keep it on a free *wordpress.com subdomain with limited ads & links to WordPress.com in lieu of annual fees. That’s it.

Website #3 cost $120 upfront and now costs more than $1500 per year to operate. It started with a free WordPress theme and a year of shared hosting plus a custom domain. Now, it requires a VPS server with secondary backup & security software in addition to premium software plugins and a small budget for a few hours of developer / designer time.

Website #4 cost $300,000 upfront and now costs $30,000 per year to operate. It started with custom branding & design in addition to extensive custom development and deployment to dedicated hosting (now moved to cloud hosting). It also requires monthly staging for software updates, in addition to technical maintenance, and a extensive suite of 3rd party plugins for email, A/B testing, etc.

So there’s a lot of factors involved in website costs. But that’s not a reason to throw up your hands and just say that “it costs what it costs” – or worse, get started on a project and have to quit after a year because it’s more expensive than you wanted the project to be.

Let’s look at the factors individually, how they work, and how they add up.

And while we look at each factor, I’m going to use an analogy that has worked well for readers in my other post about ecommerce. I’m going to compare building a website to building a house since most people are somewhat familiar with what goes into living in a place.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

To start, begin imagining a hosted website builder like a townhome in a gated development. You have more control & say over your house than a Facebook page (a hotel room in the analogy), but a lot of things are taken care of with a Homeowner’s Association or Condo fee. A self-hosted website will be a detached single-family home in a neighborhood. There’s no recurring HOA or condo fee, but you are responsible for everything.

Domain Costs

Unless you want your website as a subdomain on someone else’s domain, then a custom domain name is the one critical cost variable for your website.

In our real estate analogy, a domain name is like your street address. You technically don’t need it…unless you want people to be able to find your house / website.

Thankfully, an annual domain does not cost that much. Even if you maintain a WHOIS privacy add-on, a .com domain should not cost more than $12 per year from somewhere like NameCheap which specializes in cheap long-term renewals.

In fact, many hosting companies will usually bundle a free domain for a year with the purchase of a hosting package. And other domain companies like GoDaddy will do very deep discounting (though will be more expensive at renewal). Some hosted website builders will bundle a domain name as well.

Either way, you really only need one, unless you have strong reasons to buy extras.

I’d budget $12 per year for this annual cost.

Hosting Costs

Hosting is where your actual website files live. Whether you are bundling with a website builder or self-hosting on your own hosting account, it’s a cost that you can’t really get away from.

In our real estate analogy, your hosting account is like your land / property. You not only need it, but it can dramatically affect how much of a headache / cost your website is.

Think about land in the real world, sure, there is plenty of super-cheap or even free land…but it usually has some tradeoffs. The land might be distant from highways or it might not have the best neighbors or it might not come with water or electricity.

Hosting is the same way. You can get super-cheap hosting for your website. But you will generally get what you pay for. In fact, paying for a good host can make a lot of your other costs much, much cheaper.

Many hosting companies include domain names, drag & drop tools, high-touch customer-support, and security / backups that take pressure off your domain, software, and labor costs.

For example, the host that runs this site (InMotion Hosting) has WordPress plans that are a bit more expensive than typical web hosting plans. But they come with a subscription to JetPack (speed, security & backups) in addition to high-touch support and a drag & drop design tool.

InMotion Support

 

And plenty of other hosts offer similar setups (like SiteGround, Bluehost, and others). But, of course, the extras can only go so far since hosting costs will likely be your single largest annual cost. Thankfully, it’s also a cost that will generally only rise as your number of visitors rises (and so, presumably, your ability to pay for it).

For a good shared hosting plan, I’d budget $120 per year.*

*Note that many self-hosting plans allow multiple websites on a single account. If you have several websites, then self-hosting makes your per website costs even less. And again, for a hosted website builder, this cost is bundled, but is per website no matter what.

Software Costs

Software is what you’ll use to actually build & operate your website. Now, technically, you don’t need software to build a website.

In our real estate analogy, your software is what makes your actual house. It’s the framing, plumbing, electricity, roofing, drywall – the actual pieces that make the house.

You can hand-code HTML / CSS files and upload to your hosting account for no costs. I’ve done that before. It can be useful. But…almost all website owners (and visitors) want the interactivity, ease of use, versatility, and management functions of modern website software (just like you could cut down trees to make a log cabin…or you could have a house).

Website Hosting HTML Files

There are also a lot of 3rd party software that you might want in addition to your actual website. Think about the costs for email marketing software or design costs / themes or specific plugins (like ecommerce). Sometimes these costs are even greater if you go the hosted website builder route, since sometimes they won’t have native features. You’ll have to add them via a premium app.

For software, you could do $0 per year…but I’d recommend adding in at least $100 per year for backup & marketing software.

Labor Costs

Every website requires time, thought & expertise to actually build & operate. This factor is where you’ll encounter a massive range of costs that is totally up to you.

In our real estate analogy, labor is literally who builds & maintains your property. Do you want to hire an architect or build off pre-made blueprints? Do you want to hire as things come up or have someone in charge of everything? Do you want to outsource cutting the grass or just electrical issues?

If you are self-hosting your website, your software will take care of most of the “bones” of the website, but you’ll still be in charge of choosing an off-the-shelf design / theme. You’ll need to run software updates. You will have access to support via your hosting company, but some things will be out of their scope & expertise.

If you go the hosted route, you’ll have labor pre-paid for that will take care of all the maintenance…but a lot of the design choices will still be up to you. Think of it like an interior designer – most everyone does it DIY…but you can also tell who has spent the money to hire everything out.

I’ve written a guide to hiring a web designer and a marketing consultant, but I also have a guide to building a minimally viable website. There’s a lot of way to budget – all depending on your goals & expertise. I personally do most everything DIY, and spend very little on labor to maintain my website.

But last year I also paid $100 for someone to remove a hack from a client site. I paid $50 for a few image designs. I’ve also paid $500 for a custom plugin. The costs can widely vary, but it’s important to think through your ideal budget and the “what if X happens” budget”.

Annualized Costs

Annualized costs are upfront costs that you smooth out over the course of a project to get a sense of true annual cost.

In our real estate analogy, there are going to be a lot of things that you purchase upfront for a house…that you use but don’t pay for year after year even though they will need to be replaced at some point. Think about your appliances, your roof, your HVAC, etc.

With a website, your annualized costs will mainly be things like a prepaid hosting bill (most hosting companies give big discounts for multi-year commitments), a premium web design or theme, a premium plugin purchase, setup costs, course subscription, etc.

Whatever you have budgeted to spend upfront, I’d recommend smoothing that out and combining it with your annual costs so that you have a good sense of the true cost of your website project.

Sticking with a commitment is usually a mix of good habits and good expectations. I’ve seen too many good website projects start and fizzle because expectations were set too low or too high.

Adding your total website costs will help you back into what your commitment will actually require.

Adding up Total Website Costs per Year

Now, let’s talk about adding it all up. The formula is pretty straightforward. Take all your costs and add them up.

For a small blog project that is self-hosted on WordPress, you’d likely end up with –

  • Domains = $10
  • Hosting = $100
  • Software = $100
  • Labor = $0
  • Annualized = $10 (for 5 years)
  • Total Annual Costs = $220 per year

For a small ecommerce store on Shopify, you’d likely end up with –

  • Domains = $15
  • Hosting = $0
  • Software = $400
  • Labor = $200
  • Annualized = $35 (for 5 years)
  • Total Annual Costs = $650 per year

But here’s the thing. Your costs won’t just vary based on your plans, but also based on what happens.

In large organizations (like the US Army), they refer to “scenario planning”. It’s where you map out several scenarios, determine what costs go with each scenario, and assign probabilities.

It sounds complex, but it doesn’t have to be. It just means that you need to come up with a range of costs depending on what actually happens.

For the small blog project, there’s a scenario where you find out that theme editing is quite easy and you don’t need a premium theme upfront. There’s also one where your site gets hacked and you need to pay Sucuri to clean it for $100.

For the small ecommerce store, there’s a scenario where you really need custom shipping rates and have to upgrade from Basic Shopify, thus increasing your software costs. In another scenario, you get the ropes of installing apps & editing designs, so you don’t need to hire anyone to setup the store.

Add up your range of website costs – you’ll be able to figure out what the project is worth. And what you want to get out of it.

Next Steps

So the true answer to “how much does a website cost per year?” really is… “it depends.”

But there is a way to breakdown your costs with your goals and your resources.

Thinking through your own costs can set the right expectations and set you up for success.

Learn how to find the best web host here and how to find the best website builder here and the best ecommerce hosting here.

Explore my other explainers here. If you found this post useful – do please share 🙂

The post How Much a Website Costs Per Year Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business?

The post How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Accounting Software For Freelancers

Best Freelance Accounting Software

There are over 55 million freelancers in the US. With perks like being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and the flexibility to work from anywhere, it’s easy to see why freelancing is becoming such a popular choice. Whether you are self-employed full-time or are freelancing on the side to earn some extra income, there are key software tools that can help you run a more effective and profitable business — the most important being accounting software.

As a freelancer, it’s easy to focus on growing your business, finding new clients, creating marketing campaigns — anything but accounting. However, having a strong accounting process and being in control of your business’s finances is the key to running a successful business.

Luckily, there are plenty of easy to use, affordable accounting solutions that will help you manage your freelance finances and taxes quickly so you can get back to doing what you love.

In this post, we’ll share the top accounting software for freelancers. We’ll also share some other great freelance tools that you should know about to help your business succeed, including everything from email marketing software to website builders to mobile payment apps and more. We’ve spent hours researching and testing software so that you can find the perfect software solutions to run your freelance business.

heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Characteristics Of Good Freelance Accounting Software

In terms of accounting software, freelancers have very specific needs. Most traditional small business accounting software simply won’t fit the bill. Freelancers need an easy-to-use financial management solution designed specifically for the self-employed. Here are some of the key characteristics a good freelance accounting software should have:

  • Affordable: For freelancers, every penny counts. With a slim or nonexistent accounting budget, freelancers need a solution that is free or offers affordable, low monthly payments.
  • Easy To Use: Good accounting software should be easy to use as most freelancers don’t have time to spend hours balancing the books. Many also may have little to no previous accounting experience so they need something that is easy to learn and understand.
  • Time-Saving Automations: All accounting software should feature automations, but freelancers are in particular need of any way to save time. Standard automations include automatic receipt uploading, mileage tracking, and live bank feeds.
  • Manage Personal & Business Finances: While freelancers should open a separate business banking account to safeguard against tax audits, this simply isn’t the reality for many self-employed individuals. Because of this, many freelancers need to be able to separate their personal expenses from their business expenses using their accounting software
  • Good Organization: As a freelancer, it’s easy to put finances on the back burner, but knowing your exact income and expenses is key to running a successful business. Accounting software should help you stay organized, run key financial statements, and make more informed business decisions.
  • Tax Support: With estimated quarterly taxes and ever-changing deductions, freelance taxes can be overwhelming. The best freelance accounting software will include tax support to help you manage your self-employed taxes.
  • Support Resources: Good accounting software will also provide you with ample learning materials to help you better your business.

We weighed all of these factors when selecting the best accounting software for freelancers. Each of the top three accounting options displays many, if not all, of the features listed above to help make managing your freelance finances as simple as possible.

1) QuickBooks Self-Employed

Best For…Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Overall freelance accounting and tax support. Ideal for filing directly with Turbo Tax.

Created in 2014, QuickBooks Self-Employed was designed specifically to help freelancers manage their finances and file their taxes easily. QuickBooks Self-Employed is incredibly easy to use, offers great mobile apps, and has the best tax support of all three programs on this list. The software helps you calculate your estimated quarterly taxes, track your mileage, find other deductions like the home office deduction, and even has a Turbo Tax integration for easy filing. On top of tax support, QBSE also helps freelancers keep track of their income and expenses.

The software is ideal for freelancers looking for tax support, a way to separate personal and business expenses, and basic expense tracking.

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

Limited invoice features

Calculates estimated quarterly taxes

No state tax support

Easy to use

Turbo Tax integration

Pricing

QuickBooks Self-Employed offers two pricing plans ranging from $10 – $17/month. The difference between the two is that the larger plan includes a built-in Turbo Tax integration and the ability to pay estimated quarterly taxes online.

Features

Best Freelance Accounting Software

QuickBooks Self-Employed supports a good amount of features, especially where taxes are concerned. Here’s an idea of what QuickBooks Self-Employed has to offer:

  • Track income and expenses
  • Separate personal and business expenses
  • Invoicing
  • Record tax deductions
  • Fixed asset management
  • Calculate estimated quarterly taxes

Ease Of Use

QuickBooks Self-Employed is incredibly easy to use. It has a modern, well-organized UI that takes very little time to learn and offers strong mobile apps that are also easy to navigate.

Customer Support

QuickBooks Self-Employed’s customer support has its pros and cons. There’s no phone support, but there is a live chat feature if you want to get in touch with a representative directly. The good news is that QBSE provides a great selection of learning resources for freelancers including a comprehensive help center and a small business center chock full of business advice.

Takeaway

QuickBooks Self-Employed is one of the best accounting and tax support solutions out there for the self-employed. The software offers the most advanced level of tax support on the market, and while this isn’t a full-fledged accounting app, it allows freelancers to manage their income and expenses.

Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review to find out if this software is right for your business.

2) AND CO

Best For…
Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Freelancers looking for strong accounting, good customer support, and the ability to create and send contracts to clients.

Founded in 2015, AND CO is an up-and-coming freelance accounting software that was recently acquired by Fiverr, one of the leading freelance marketplaces. The software is easy to use, offers great customer support, and provides traditional accounting features like time tracking and project management. While the software does not offer tax support, it does have a one-of-a-kind contract feature that allows you to create legal contracts for projects that are compliant with the Freelancers Union. This allows you to dictate who retains rights to your work and accept signatures directly from clients.

AND CO is ideal for freelancers who don’t need the extra tax support of QuickBooks Self-Employed and would rather have more traditional accounting features, contracts, and better customer support.

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

No tax support

Easy to use

Unsuited for product-based businesses

Good customer support

Limited integrations

Strong mobile apps

Pricing

AND CO has a free plan for freelancers with a single client and a paid plan which costs $18/month. The larger plan includes unlimited reports and more advanced proposals and contracts.

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

While AND CO may be lacking in tax support, the software has a lot of great features going for it. Here are some of the features AND CO has to offer:

  • Invoicing
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Project management
  • Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Subscriptions

Ease Of Use

AND CO is incredibly easy to use. The software was originally designed solely as an iPhone app so the mobile apps are also easy to navigate.

Customer Support

AND CO offers great customer support. Representatives are generally kind and quick to respond to questions. The company also offers great business tools and support resources for freelancers, as well as all of Fiverr’s extensive freelance resources.

Takeaway

AND CO is a great accounting and finance management tool for freelancers. The main drawback is that there is no tax support. However, you won’t find such developed proposal and contract features anywhere else.

Read our complete AND CO review to see if this freelance tool is right for you.

3) Wave

Best For…Best Freelance Accounting Software

Freelancers looking for a complete accounting solution for free.

Wave is a free accounting software solution that offers an incredible number of features for $0/month. While the software wasn’t designed specifically for freelancers like QuickBooks Self-Employed and AND CO, Wave is one of the best accounting programs to fit the needs of freelancers. It’s affordable, easy to use, and allows business owners to separate personal and business accounting.

The software is ideal for self-employed individuals looking for a full accounting solution or those who need an affordable way to manage their freelance finances.

Pros Cons

Free

Limited integrations

Easy to use

Poor customer support

Good feature set

Limited mobile apps

Positive customer reviews

Pricing

Wave only offers one accounting package and it’s completely free. There are no user limits or feature limits. You get all of the great features of Wave for $0/month. The only extra costs are payment processing, payroll, and professional bookkeeping services.

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Of all three options on this list, Wave offers the most features. While you won’t find tax support, Wave does offer strong accounting and is full-fledged accounting software. Because of Wave is actual accounting software, it’s the only program on this list that will allow you to actually balance the books. Here are the features you’ll find with Wave:

  • Invoicing
  • Estimates
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Accounts payable
  • Inventory
  • Reports

Ease Of Use

Wave is well-organized and its modern UI is easy to navigate.

Customer Support

Wave offers many great support resources; however, getting in touch with an actual representative is difficult. There is no phone support and response times are slow.

Takeaway

Wave is an affordable accounting program that gives you strong accounting and tons of features without breaking the bank. The software does not offer tax support, but it does offer payroll, making it a scalable solution if you plan on growing your freelancing business. The professional bookkeeping services are also great for freelancers who aren’t comfortable doing their own accounting or simply don’t have the time.

Read our full Wave review to see if this accounting software is right for you.

Other Great Freelance Tools

Your freelancing business is your baby, and as it takes a village to raise a child, it can also take an army of integrations to run a business. There are tons of great freelancing tools that can help you manage and grow specific areas of your business, like email marketing, invoicing, ecommerce, and more. Here are some of the top freelance software tools we recommend.

The Best Invoicing Software For Freelancers

If your freelance business relies heavily on invoicing and isn’t quite ready for all of the other features included with accounting software, invoicing software could be a simpler alternative to meet your business needs.

Zoho Invoice

Best Invoicing Software for Freelancers

Zoho Invoice is an easy to use, cloud-based invoicing program with incredible invoicing features. With over 15 invoice templates to choose from and international invoicing options, Zoho Invoice has a lot to offer. Read our complete Zoho Invoice review to learn everything this software is capable of.

InvoiceraBest Invoicing Software for Freelancers

Invoicera is also a could-based program with a good feature set and attractive invoice templates. A forever free plan and over 35 payment gateway integrations are just a few of the perks of this invoicing option. Read our complete Invoicera review to learn if this software is right for you.

Visit our invoicing software reviews for more options or compare our top favorite invoicing solutions for small businesses.

The Best Receipt Management Software For Freelancers

Business owners are all too familiar with the dreaded receipt shoebox. Receipt management software or expense tracking software can help freelancers get organized and handle reimbursements with ease.

ExpensifyBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

Expensify is a cloud-based expense management solution with mobile receipt scanning, expense approval workflows, and next-day expense reimbursements. The software also integrates with key accounting programs for a seamless expense tracking experience.

ShoeboxedBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

Shoeboxed is also a cloud-based expense management solution with receipt scanning, mileage tracking, expense reports, basic CRM, and even tax prep. Shoeboxed also integrates with key accounting programs.

The Best Payment Processing Software For Freelancers

Need to accept mobile payments from your customers? Mobile payment apps allow freelancers to accept payments anywhere — whether that be at a home show, a small storefront, or even a client meeting at Starbucks. If your freelance business could benefit from accepting payments on the go, mobile payment processing is a must.

SquareBest Payment Processing for Freelancers

Square is one of the most popular mobile payment apps. It offers affordable flat rate pricing and free tools for selling online, making it easy to accept payments from your customers in multiple ways. Read our complete Square review to learn how Square could benefit your business.

Take a look at our other mobile payment processing reviews or compare our top five payment processing solutions for businesses.

The Best Website Builders For Freelancers

A website is key for many freelancers who sell goods online or who need a professional online portfolio to showcase their work to clients. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable, easy to use website builders that can give your freelance business the edge.

WixBest Website Builder for Freelancers

Wix is an easy to use website builder that is ideal for ecommerce and blogging. Wix offers a compelling free version with unlimited pages and hundreds of customizable templates to choose from. Read our complete Wix review to learn more about this affordable website solution.

SquarespaceBest Website Builder for Freelancers

Squarespace is a website builder that is perfect for ecommerce and blogs While there’s no free plan, the software offers amazing templates with a huge degree of customizability. Read our complete Squarespace review to see if this website builder is right for you.

Read our other website builder reviews and ecommerce reviews to find the perfect solution for your business.

The Best Email Marketing Software For Freelancers

One of the most challenging parts of freelancing is finding clients. Email marketing software can be a great way to market your services and target clients so you can grow your business.

MailChimpBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

MailChimp is an easy to use email marketing software with affordable payments. The software offers email campaigns, email automations, and even analytics and reporting. Read our complete MailChimp review to learn how this software could help your business.

BenchmarkBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

Benchmark is another great email marketing option that is easy to use and offers good customer support. The software has hundreds of templates to choose from and the unique ability to send video emails and online surveys. Read our complete Benchmark review to see if this software is right for your business.

Read our other email marketing software reviews or compare the best email marketing solutions to find the right option for your business.

Picking The Perfect Freelance Accounting Software

Choosing Accounting Software

Running a freelance business can be difficult, but with the right tools, you can set your business up for success. With accounting solutions like QuickBooks Self-Employed, AND CO, and Wave, you can manage your finances and gain valuable insight into your business’s income and expenses.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is ideal for freelancers in need of tax support; AND CO is ideal for legal, professional contracts; and Wave is ideal for the complete accounting package. Identifying your freelance needs and examining your current financial process can help you decide which program is the perfect fit for your business.

Then ask yourself, what other tools could benefit my business?

Email marketing software could help you grow your clientele. A website builder could help you create a professional brand. A payment processing app could help you increase your sales. Here at Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you find the best software to help your business succeed. We have hundreds of reviews across multiple software industries so you can find the perfect software combo. Check out our comprehensive reviews and our other freelance resources as well.

Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Loans For Freelance Businesses: Your 13 Best Options

heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

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6 Free Square Tools To Make Running Your Small Business Easier

If you own a business, you don’t need anyone to tell you about the value of time-saving tools. Personally, whenever I uncover something that unexpectedly makes business run more efficiently, it can almost feel like winning the lottery — time is that important to me. If you juggle a lot of responsibilities during your day, you probably feel the same way. That’s why I was pretty stoked to pull back the curtain and see what’s really behind the scenes when it comes to Square — one of the most popular payment processing apps available. 

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the tools you may not have heard about that are available with any standard Square account. While I also get pretty excited about some of the premium options on offer (like Square’s email marketing and CRM tools), we are going to stick with the freebies in this post. Keep reading to learn about tools you can start using today that may help you do business a little smarter.

Note: Keep in mind, we’re not touching on all of the free software and tools you get with Square — just some of the most valuable ones. Check out our in-depth Square review for a closer look at everything Square has to offer.

Inventory Management

When we talk about what is waiting when you open up a free Square account, one of the most important tools is your inventory management. Good inventory management is so important to keep your customers happy and ultimately help support your bottom line. Understanding what is most popular and identifying your best sellers can help you not only maintain the right amount of stock but support your promotional efforts as well.

So let’s start with the basics. After you enter in an item in your Square dashboard or the POS app, you can add the current stock amount, enable tracking, and set up a low stock alert right from the same screen. Whether you ring up the item from your POS, virtual terminal, or send an invoice, Square adjusts your stock automatically.

You can add item variants as well. Add different price points for sizes, add-ons, or customize however you like. Just name the variant, set the price, and add a unique SKU if needed. And if you sell in bulk, you can use Square’s variable price point feature to leave the price open based on the weight/quantity sold. 

Need a customizable option like a topping change, a special dietary adjustment, or another type of swap-out? You can create modifiers for that, too! Unlike item variations, modifiers don’t decrease inventory accounts. You can opt to assign a price to your modifier, however.

When it comes to managing your physical stock, it is worth mentioning that the free POS account isn’t set up to print barcodes for your SKUs. Some business owners use a Dymo label printer as a workaround. If you have a lot of inventory and need a more robust solution for advanced inventory management (including barcode scanning and printing) in one solution, Square for Retail may be worth your while. Check out our full Square for Retail review for pricing and a better look at all the extra inventory-related features included with the POS. 

Customer Directory

small business loyalty program

When you use Square’s customer directory, the amount of data you have access to automatically builds with each sale. With just a swipe of the card, your list collects data such as your customers’ names, when they visited which location, and their visit frequency. During the sale, your customer may also have entered in their email address with you to get a digital receipt. Of course, if you are feeling bold, you can also ask your customers one-by-one for their email addresses so you can start building a healthy list.

Square’s customer database is accessible through Square Point of Sale or through the Square Dashboard. Under each customer in your directory, you can add a note, upload a file, view any feedback they have left you on their receipts, or create an invoice to send directly (more on that below).

When all of these customer insights build over time, you can start to get a clearer picture of who your loyal customers are, who has visited more than once, and who hasn’t visited you in a while. You can also see what their favorite products are — all of which is useful data for your business in general, and especially for marketing purposes. 

Again, the Square Customer Directory is entirely free to use, and it syncs with all of Square’s other tools — that includes paid software options such as loyalty and email marketing. The Square email marketing tool lets you segment customers, then customize email campaigns based on their habits. Square has pay-as-you-go pricing at 10 cents an email, or you can opt for a monthly subscription to send unlimited emails. Square offers a 30-day free trial for an email marketing subscription, and pricing starts at $15/month for up to 500 customers.

Card On File

deferred interestYou can make it easier for your repeat customers to order by phone or for a future invoice by saving your customer’s credit card information using Square’s Card on File feature. Be aware that your customers have to “sign off” so you can appropriately save their card on file, however. If you are completing a sale on your computer through Square’s Virtual Terminal, you will be prompted to print out the approval release and have your customer sign it. Keep this document in a safe place, because it proves you received their permission to store their card and can protect you from chargeback issues.

If you are at your free Square POS app, your customer can approve saving the card on file by entering in their zip code at the permission screen. After that, you can process their payments quickly and easily with no need to present the card. While it costs nothing to store a card on file or use the feature regularly, keep in mind that you will pay a little more with each transaction (3.5% + $0.15 per transaction instead of 2.75% per swipe/dip/tap) because they process as card-not-present, rather than card-present.  

Is Card On File Secure?

What’s the Difference Between Chip-and-PIN and Chip-and-Signature Cards

Square lets you store your customer’s credit card information with their approval, and yes, it’s fully compliant with the payment security standards set up by the PCI-DSS. That’s because when you enter credit card data, it is only going through the secure Square app. Also take note that when you enter in credit card data — whether during a sale or saving a card on file, the full number isn’t viewable to your or your staff once it’s entered in the system.

Securely saving customer card data is vital to your financial protection as a business and prevents very costly fraudulent risks. For more about Square’s security, check out our related post, Is Square A Secure Way To Accept Credit Card Payments?

Gift Cards

Gift cards may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to business tools, but here are some pretty neat statistics for you: In a 2018 press release, First Data shares a study that found that consumers, on average, spend $59 over the original value of the gift card they receive. Not only that, but shoppers plan to spend 55% of their annual gifting budget on gift cards. That is no small potato when it comes to amping up your revenue.

If I’ve piqued your interest, I have some more good news. Square’s digital gift cards are completely free for you to sell. If you want to offer physical gift cards, you could start with a stock of 20 for $40 or opt for higher quantities with a significantly lower cost with each tier. When your customer pays for the gift card using a credit or debit card, standard processing fees will apply. (There’s no charge for payments made with cash.) When it comes time for the gift recipient to spend with you, you won’t face any additional costs. Square treats this transaction like cash, and they only deduct the amount of the sale from the card. And it’s great that you don’t need to pay any monthly fees to accept gift cards — you just pay the cost of the physical cards (if you want them) and any associated payment processing when purchased. 

Invoicing & Installments

Square Invoice Tutorial

When it comes to invoicing clients, Square makes it pretty easy. First, you can send an unlimited amount of professional-looking invoices for free. And instead of your customer having to call you with their number or waiting for a paper check, they follow the prompts and pay securely online. You can also send files, images, contracts, or attach information along with the invoice.

If you sell larger ticket items and want to finance your customers, you may also be interested in Square Installments. With this service, you can let your customer pay over time, while getting all of the funds upfront from Square. That’s because Square takes the risk by checking their credit and approving or denying the purchase. To find out more about letting your customers pay by installments, check out How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work?

If you want to assume more of the risk or set up a layaway program, however, you can also send out a regular invoice to request a down payment or partial payment as well. There is simply a lot of flexibility afforded with invoicing and installments. Read our Square Invoices Review to find out more about this tool and how to use it for your business.

Virtual Terminal

 

Don’t have a card reader handy? Does a customer want to pay over the phone? You can accept payments securely at your own computer when you log into Square dashboard and go to your Virtual Terminal. There are many scenarios when taking payments at your virtual terminal can empower your business model — and it makes for a great backup if other devices are misbehaving. 

In any case, you can still take payments quickly via Square’s Virtual Terminal. You can manually enter in the credit card information, or you can pull up a customer in your directory and charge a card you have saved on file. If you have a Mac or Chromebook, you can still connect a basic magstripe reader and swipe the card at your computer, too! 

Square charges no software fees to use the virtual terminal and it’s included with all free Square accounts, but you will still have to pay transaction costs. With keyed entry, you’ll pay 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction, or 2.75% for swipe transactions.

Square Card

At first glance, the Square Card may seem like just another line of credit, but it isn’t. The Square Card is a debit card that gives you instant access to any of the funds that are in your Square account in real time. So why are so many business owners stoked about the Square Card? For one, it can help manage and organize cash flow. One way to separate business expenses from everything else is to keep all of your business expenses on your Square Card. It makes sense because you’ll also always have an itemized list of exactly what you spent at the Square app under “Card Spend.”

Keep in mind that once you get the ball rolling with your Square Card, your funds are automatically going to sit in your Square balance unless you manually transfer funds into a different account. You can do so at any time and Square will deposit funds in the next 1-2 business days. If you want your funds deposited into your main bank account faster, you can also opt for a same-day instant deposit for the fee of 1% of the total amount.

When it comes time to spend your balance, the Square Card is a debit card accepted at any merchant that takes MasterCard. As far as cost, the Square Card is completely free with no annual or usage fees whatsoever. The other cool bonus is that you get a 2.75% discount at all other Square merchant locations. If you have a Square account, you can request your free Square Card under Deposits at the Square Dashboard. Note that Square doesn’t automatically send you a card when you open your account.

Is Square Right For You?

There is no doubt that Square offers an abundance of tools and add-on software apps that can help you run your business more efficiently. Utilizing inventory management tools can help you stay on top of the ebb and flow of demand, and payment processing options offer flexibility when you need it.

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to Square’s tools because there are many layers to Square’s solutions. Check out our Square Review to get even more details about features and pricing so you can make the decision that’s right for you. You can also set up a free Square account and play around in the dashboard and check out the tools yourself.

The post 6 Free Square Tools To Make Running Your Small Business Easier appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Set Up A Free Square Account

Thinking about using Square to process payments for your business? Whether you are a solopreneur or a busy boss running multiple locations, you can quickly set up an account with Square with little to no fuss. Square offers several time-saving benefits for the small business owner looking to start processing payments, including no credit checks, a free magstripe reader to get you started, and a free Square POS app which enables you to start taking credit card payments right away. Not only that, but the Square dashboard offers analytics reporting, inventory management, alerts, and (with optional add-on software) even the ability to plan email marketing campaigns!

With all of these conveniences and freebies, you can expect slightly higher transaction fees than you’d get with a traditional merchant account. However, as a third-party processor, Square offers a very transparent pricing plan that starts at 2.75% per swipe dip or tap, and 3.5% + 15 cents for keyed-in transactions. You won’t be surprised with hidden fees or contracts, and you can enjoy the same processing rate for all major credit cards. Square also offers payment dispute assistance, chargeback protection, and secure, PCI compliant software — all included.

If your interest in Square is piqued, but you need a little more information before getting started, then you’ve landed on the right post! Below, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process of signing up for a new Square account. As you will see, setting up your Square account is relatively straightforward. And the best part? It’s completely free and requires no commitment on your part whatsoever.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

Before we get started, here is the main information you’ll need to set up your Square account:

  • Email address
  • Last four digits of your Social Security number (to confirm your name)
  • Home address
  • Shipping address
  • Legal name
  • Phone number
  • Bank account number to set up your direct deposit schedule

You don’t need:

  • Bank statements
  • Proof of revenue
  • Your full social security number
  • Tax documents
  • A credit check

We are going to get pretty detailed in this tutorial, but rest assured, the application itself takes less than ten minutes. Follow along with the guide below to discover how to set up and make the most of your new Square account!

How To Create A Free Square Account

First, visit Square’s sign-up page and hit the “Sign Up With Square” button.

Sign up with Square

 

The first step asks for your email address and prompts you to create a password and choose your country. You also must agree to Square’s terms, privacy policy and e-sign consent policy. We strongly suggest that as with any contract, you take the time to click on, read, and understand the details before agreeing to them.

 

Square set up account

 

The next screen is straightforward and asks if you are an individual or represent a larger business, charity, or religious organization. Enter in your business name or another title that you would like to appear on your receipts. I’m typing in “Blue Heron Content” as my business name.

Create an individual square account for business

 

Now we are getting closer to the meat — Square wants to know where you plan on processing payments. In this example, I don’t want to limit myself, so I am choosing all of the possibilities!

 

Square processes payments mobile online and square invoices

It’s important to mention that even if you don’t plan to use some of these options right away, you can still access them later at any time.

Next, Square asks what else they can help you manage. I am also going to select all of the options again to get a better idea of what Square may suggest right off the bat. I don’t personally need employee tracking for my business, but let’s see what it can do!

Now it’s time to make decisions. Because I selected that I was interested in restaurant-related products, I am offered a free 30-day trial of Square for Restaurants, one of Square’s premium iPad POS apps. (Check out our full review of Square for Restaurants for a more detailed look at pricing and features.) If you are a restaurant owner, check out some of the perks Square lists below. For this particular tutorial, though, we are going to stick with the free POS system.

Square Point of Sale and Square for Restaurants

 

Now that I have selected Square Point of Sale as my preferred POS app, I’ve made it to the “Let’s talk about you” page. This is the place to plug in the rest of your information. Note that Square is not going to perform a credit check on you or your business, they just need the last four digits of your social security number or ITIN, your legal name, street address, and phone number. They use this information to verify your identity.

I’ve finished filling in this form, so I am going to hit “continue” and see what’s next on our journey.

 

Square setup form

 

Choose A Magstripe Reader

Great news! By the time you arrive at the next screen below (3-5 seconds, give or take), Square will have successfully verified your identity. Now it’s time to select a credit card reader to accept in-person payments. For my part, while the Contactless + Chip Reader looks very enticing at $49, I am going to accept the free reader for now.

Square Reader

 

Now there’s another choice to make. Square would like to know if I would like the 3.5mm magstripe reader that is compatible with the traditional headphone jack, or the Lightning connector version for iOS devices. I’m choosing the reader that plugs into a conventional audio jack. You’ll obviously choose the option that works best for your business setup.

Compatibility Note: Square’s magstripe and chip card readers and the Square Point of Sale (POS app) are compatible with most Apple iOS and Android devices running the latest software updates. After this tutorial, check out our Square POS Review for more about system requirements, integrations, and a lot more details about Square POS.

Free Square Reader

After selecting the type of magstripe reader that fits your needs, Square will give you the options to find a retailer close to you and pick up the reader or have it mailed. Personally, I’m opting for Square to send me the reader in the mail. After entering my shipping details, I am one step closer to getting my own Square reader. Oh, and shipping is free, too! Just note that it could take up to 10 days for yours to arrive. 

Order A Square Reader

After entering my information and clicking continue, the setup process is officially complete! That was very easy. Square has already sent me an email letting me know when to expect my reader and another to confirm my email address.

It’s time to head to the new dashboard to set up the backend. 

How To Set Up Your Square Dashboard

Right away, you can see that the dashboard has a clean layout and is pretty straightforward. Since this is the first time I am visiting this new dashboard, Square is offering up these green bubbles as a setup guide. Let’s explore the dashboard and start setting up inventory, customizing the layout, and checking out the reporting features.

Square Dashboard setup

 

Compatibility Note: You’ll be able to access the full Square dashboard from any web browser, but the Square Dashboard app is only compatible with iPhones at this time. You can still take payments on any compatible iOS and Android device with the Square POS app, however.

Add Items & Build Your Inventory

From your home screen, you will see the teal Items button (pictured in the screenshot above). The place to add inventory is under Items>Item Library. To the right on the screenshot below, note the blue button that says “Create an Item”:

Adding an Item in Square Inventory

Here is what the “Create an Item” screen looks like in the Square Dashboard before adding a product:

Create an Item Screen in Square Dashboard

I went ahead and uploaded a product image and filled out my first item below. I can add the amount of stock I have, a price, and set up low-stock alerts for myself here, too! Square will even let me color-code items if I prefer to group categories by colors. 

It’s also possible to create variant items if you sell the same product in different colors and/or sizes. Plus, for cafes and restaurants, there’s a “modifier” option. Say, for example, that you want to offer coconut, soy, and almond milk alternatives for customers in your coffee shop. You can do that, and even set an upcharge fee for these items using the modifier feature. There’s also an option to specify at which locations an item is available if you have more than one shop. 

Add an Item in Square Inventory

Create & Manage Locations

You can create multiple locations from within your Square Dashboard by going to “Accounts and Settings” and then to “Business” and selecting “Locations.” Square will even let you specify a mix of physical locations with a set address and mobile locations without one.

Square’s location management features can help you manage inventory and gather data from multiple stores — and it is totally free:

  • Linked locations and deposit options
  • Per-location item libraries
  • Device management for security
  • Reporting tools to compare/contrast sales or other data

Square also offers advanced tracking and reporting tools for individual employees across your locations. More on those features and cost in the Employee Management section.

Manage Sales Tax Settings

You will find Square’s sales tax settings nestled under the Items menu in your dashboard.

When you create a tax at your Square Dashboard, the tax will automatically sync to every device in your account, and you can specify which taxes apply to which locations. You can even build the tax into the price of the item if you prefer, rather than adding the tax to the price afterward. Square also lets you modify tax settings from within the mobile POS app as well, which is useful when you need to make changes on the fly.

In addition to multiple tax rates, you can create conditional tax rules, which are preset conditions in which a tax won’t be applied — whether you need that to apply to one item or the entire order. This is especially helpful for restaurants that handle online orders.

Now, let’s head back to the home screen and customize our dashboard layout, and then check out the reporting features!

Customize Your Dashboard Layout

Customizing the layout of your Square Dashboard is super easy. First, you can get rid of anything you know you won’t need right off the bat by scrolling through and unchecking anything in the drop-down menu (pictured on the right-hand side of the screenshot below). Don’t worry about making the wrong decision, because you can reset the whole thing or click to re-check one box.

Square Dashboard Customize

The other way to easily adjust your view is by dragging and dropping the tiles to configure them exactly how you want them. For my store, I switched tiles to move the feedback tile up from the last row. This drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to get the information you prioritize first, and then scroll to other options whenever needed.

Moving Square Tiles in Dashboard

As you can see, it’s simple to move things around, and if you change your mind, just as easy to change it back.

Review Square’s Reporting Features

The extensive, user-friendly and (mostly) free reporting features are what make Square a fantastic, no-fuss choice for any small business. As you can see in the screenshot below, there is a long list of possible reports. Every business has unique needs, and Square does a good job of supporting a wide range of small businesses with various options and features.

Square reports

All of the sales reports, such as Sales Summary, Sales Trends, Items Sales, and Modifier Sales, are free. Custom Reports is another handy and entirely free reporting tool that can help you combine and compare your reporting data. Custom Reports allows you to aggregate reports with multiple filtering options. This feature makes it easy work to create a report that breaks the data down for a single location, or you can pick and choose certain pieces of data and compare them across different locations. For instance, you could create one report that compares Gross Sales and Returns for a particular device and/or location. 

To find out even more about what Square’s dashboard can offer you in terms of reporting features, check out our post Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App.

If you are looking for even more robust reporting and tracking across multiple locations for your employees, it may be worth it to you to learn more about the Employee Management tools, featured below.

Manage Your Employees 

Within the Dashboard, you’ll find the Employee section, which is the foundation for Square’s Employee Management feature set. Adding a new employee into your dashboard is easy — and adding in separate email logins for Square POS is entirely free. However, if you want advanced reporting on timekeeping, individual employee sales, and sales vs. labor costs, you need to subscribe to Employee Management, which will cost you $5 per employee. 

Square Employee Reporting Tool

Here, I have chosen to select the free “Mobile Staff” option to show you that you can invite employees using the email address that they will then use to log into the Square app. You can also enable or disable permissions for accepting payments in Offline Mode and set or remove Issue Refunds permissions.

It’s important to note that employees assigned to mobile staff can only access their own sales data in the Square POS app. 

Square Employee Permissions Mobile Staff Free

If you want something a bit more substantial in terms of employee reporting, Square offers that, too.  To track individual employee sales through the day, keep better performance accountability across multiple locations, and closely monitor administrative permissions, the $5/mo per employee cost for the advanced Employee Management feature seems like a pretty fair deal. You also get timekeeping, so your employees can clock into their shifts through the Square POS app. 

If you want to get started with Employee Management, there are a few ways to do it: Head to Employee Sales or Labor vs. Sales under Reports and start adding employees. It’s free to try for 30 days!

Employee Management Sales Reporting

 

How To Set Up Square Deposits & Funding

When it’s time to get all of that revenue into your bank account, Square has several options for getting your money, all found under Deposits.

Square Instant Deposit and Deposit Schedule Tutorial

Square will automatically deposit your funds on the next business day. You can also change your ‘close of day’ to adjust for your time zone or business hours if you would like. The close of day determines when Square cuts off payment deposits for the next business day. If you need your money even faster, Square offers Instant Deposits that transfer your current Sales Balance immediately — whether it’s a business day or a weekend. This faster service will cost you 1% of the transfer amount. You can even use Scheduled Deposits to get your money deposited at each day’s close of business. 

Find out all the details about the instant deposit feature, and more about how Square’s deposit options work in general, by checking out our post, How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work?

To set up your deposit schedule or choose an instant transfer, you’ll need to link your debit card (in addition to your bank account). However, you have yet another option for disbursement. You can request your very own Square Card, a personalized business debit card that holds your Square balance.

Square Card Small Business

You can use your card anywhere MasterCard is accepted. If you’d like to order one, you’ll find “Square Card” tucked right under the Deposits tab. To be clear, you can request a Square Card and also choose to have funds deposited into your bank account.

Explore More Square Software Options

Square offers a myriad of specialized software options to make business more productive. Here are some of your options:

  • Customer Engagement: Square’s customer engagement tools include a customer database, feedback management, and CRM software. The database and feedback tools are free, but the CRM starts at $15 month. The image above is a sample CRM campaign I could send to my lapsed customer list. Email campaigns are easy to customize and segment for those reachable-by-email customers.
  • Loyalty Program: This tool starts at $25/month. Read our Square Loyalty Program Review for an in-depth analysis.
  • Advanced Employee Management: As outlined in a previous section, pay $5/month per employee for advanced reporting and employee management tools.
  • Payroll: Square Employee and Contractor payroll starts at $29/month plus $5/employee. Contractor-Only Payroll is just $5/month per contractor.
  • eCommerce: Square offers free space and setup for an online store, and you can integrate with major shopping carts. Read our Square Online Store and eCommerce Review.
  • Invoicing: Invoices are always free to send, pay 2.9% + 30 cents per invoice when your customer pays with credit or debit online. For more on the pros and cons, pricing, and an in-depth look at invoicing with Square, check out our Square Invoices Review.

Choose Another Square Point of Sale App

While the free Square POS app will likely fit the bill for many small businesses, Square has developed more specialized tools for retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses.

Square For Retail:

This POS system works with an iPad and has a redesigned interface and usability geared for retail businesses that have substantial inventory. Instead of scrolling to an item in your inventory, an item is easily searchable by name. The barcode scanning and printing features make keeping up with inventory a bit easier, too. Check out our Square Retail Review for more on price, pros and cons, and all a lot more details.

Square for Restaurants:

If you are familiar with Square’s POS system, you may be surprised to see how different Square for Restaurants really is. And it has to be. Sit-down restaurants usually require more specialized tools to cover their everyday business needs, and this POS delivers — from table mapping, menu creation, table management, and reporting tools — there are a lot of specialized features here. Check out our full Square for Restaurants review to find out if this is the right choice for your restaurant.

Square Appointments:

If your business relies on creating and maintaining appointments for just yourself or an entire team, Square Appointments might be just what you need. Note that this POS option is an iOS exclusive. It’s free for individual users, and pricing starts at $50 a month beyond that. Check out our in-depth Square Appointments Review, including functionality, customization, and features.

Choose Hardware Options

Square has expanded to offer so much more than the free magstripe credit card reader. As I mentioned earlier, Square offers a Contactless + Chip reader that lets you accept chip card and contactless payments for $49, which is a smart move to improve payment security.  

If you need something more robust in terms of hardware, however, you can probably find what you need. Square offers countertop POS systems with customer-friendly displays, and if you want to toe the line between countertop vs. mobile, Square also offers a fully portable credit card terminal with a built-in receipt printer.

Square’s countertop POS devices include:

  • Square Stand: This hardware option is a tablet stand with a built-in card reader (along with contactless and chip reader) with an affordable price tag, minimal cords, and a swivel stand.
  • Square Terminal: A more portable option, Square Terminal accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions. It’s sleek design, built-in receipt printer, and generous display size make it a nice, versatile option.
  • Square Register: Need something more robust? The Square Register offers a 13.25-inch display to run your Square Point of Sale, and on the opposite side, you have a 7-inch customer display ready for magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions.

For an in-depth look at each of the POS options or to take a gander at all the Square POS kits and bundles, head over to A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles.

Where To Go Next With Square?

When you consider that Square is a secure, PCI compliant option with a transparent pricing plan and offers lots of bells and whistles, it truly is an excellent solution for any small business. I like that it’s so easy to set up an account with Square, and that they don’t ask for much in terms of personal information. When it is time to get set up or find reports, the dashboard is intuitive and easy to navigate. I also love that Square offers affordable hardware and software when it comes time to scale the business.

Not quite ready to make a decision? Check out our Square Review or head over to Square and set up your own account to see for yourself.

Already have an account? Square support provides great resources to help answer your questions as you navigate your options.

Have questions, comments? Leave us your thoughts below! (Just make sure you check our comment guidelines, first!)

The post How To Set Up A Free Square Account appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS Etsy

Shopify VS Etsy

Tie

Pricing

Tie

Tie

Hosting

Tie

✓

Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Ease Of Use

✓

✓

Features

✓

Web Design

✓

Integrations & Add-Ons

✓

Payment Processing

✓

Customer Service & Technical Support

Tie

User Reviews

Tie

Tie

Security

Tie

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Compare

If you’ve arrived at our comparison of Shopify and Etsy, I’m guessing you’re an online seller (or an aspiring one) of the “artsy” or “craftsy” variety. Perhaps even “artsy-craftsy.” Whichever identifier you prefer, you’ll be pleased to know that both Shopify and Etsy can help you sell all sorts of unique, handcrafted, and/or vintage items.

I’ll admit that in some respects, it’s a little unfair to compare Shopify and Etsy head-to-head. Shopify is a shopping cart platform/website builder you can use to create and manage your own, standalone ecommerce store. The Shopify brand itself operates almost completely in the background from your shoppers’ point of view. (If you build your store correctly, no one will know that it’s really powered by Shopify.)

By contrast, Etsy is an online marketplace that allows you to set up shop directly alongside other ecommerce vendors, all with a similar artsy and/or craftsy vibe. All the while, Etsy’s involvement in the whole operation is directly front and center for your shoppers.

You could also argue that a direct comparison between Shopify and Etsy is quite fair and appropriate. People often wonder 1) which of the two software platforms provides the best starting place to sell online, 2) under what circumstances it makes sense to use one or the other (or both), and 3) at what point a seller might need to transition from Etsy to Shopify.

Plus, the introduction of Pattern by Etsy a few years ago made the comparison between Shopify and Etsy even more apropos. For a monthly fee, Pattern makes it possible for Etsy sellers to maintain a standalone, inventory-synced site of their own. Sites built with Pattern can even offer additional products and services that don’t meet the handmade/vintage/craft supply restrictions of normal Etsy shops.

Pattern aside, a huge draw of Etsy in its original form is the built-in traffic and existing customer base from which you can directly benefit as a seller. (You don’t get that with a standalone Pattern site.) The downside, of course, is that you must share your customers with similar stores.

So, with Pattern thrown in, can Etsy compete directly with Shopify? Does the magic combination of Etsy and Pattern render Shopify completely unnecessary for some Etsy-type sellers? You can already tell from our chart at the top of this article that we are still fans of Shopify, but we think all sellers should understand precisely how these two services stack up on all the important dimensions. Ultimately, the right fit is up to you.

Shopify’s eCommerce Options

Mobile POS Online Social Media
Mobile App + Free Card Reader Point of Sale Online Store Social Media Selling
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels Build a store or integrate with your current website Sell on Facebook and other platforms
Starts at $9/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $9/month
Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial

Pricing

Winner: Tie

Despite some overlap, there’s no getting around the fact that Shopify and Etsy have very different pricing structures. The differences are significant enough that we can’t call a clear winner for cost.

Here’s a very generalized way to compare the two:

  • Sellers who are just getting started, are very concerned about cash-flow, and simply can’t afford a monthly subscription fee will find an initially cheaper option in Etsy.
  • Once you have a moderate and fairly predictable stream of transactions and need a full website for your store, Shopify starts to become more cost-effective.

That’s the condensed version of our pricing comparison. For the full breakdown, strap in and keep reading!

When comparing these two platforms, you should first wrap your mind around the main categories of fees involved. It will also help to keep the following overarching difference in mind: Shopify’s main charge is a monthly fee for using the service, while the main component of Etsy’s cost is a fixed 5% transaction fee charged on every sale that occurs on the platform.

Here are the different categories of costs you should keep in mind when comparing Shopify and Etsy:

  • Monthly Fee: Subscription fee for using the platform.
  • Listing Fee: Cost of listing a product (or group of products that make up one listing) in your shop.
  • Transaction Fee: Percentage commission per sale charged by Etsy or Shopify itself.
  • Payment Processing Fee: Not the same as a transaction fee! This is a per-sale fee (usually a percentage and a dollar amount) charged by your credit card processor/payment gateway. While this entity is usually a third-party company, it turns out both Etsy and Shopify have an in-house, pre-integrated option that most sellers use (Etsy Payments and Shopify Payments, respectively).
  • Standalone Website: Cost of having your own, hosted website with a customizable theme template.

Let’s take a close look at the numbers, shall we? All prices will be shown in USD.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify plans have a monthly fee, no listing fee, and a variable transaction fee that only comes into play if you do not use Shopify Payments as your credit card processor. Starting at the $29/month level, you get your own store website. This involves choosing a free Shopify template or purchasing a premium template from the Shopify theme store. As you look through Shopify’s five pricing plans, remember that you can completely avoid Shopify’s extra transaction fee if you use Shopify Payments as your credit card processor.

Shopify Lite Plan 

  • Monthly Fee: $9/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 2.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online)
    • Shopify Payments: 2.9% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Unavailable. Sell on an existing website, Facebook, or in-person only.

Basic Shopify Plan

  • Monthly Fee: $29/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 2.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.9% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Shopify Plan

  • Monthly Fee: $79/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 1.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.6% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Advanced Shopify Plan

  • Monthly fee: $299/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 0.5%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.4% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

With each bump in subscription level, Shopify sellers have access to additional features, as well as more staff accounts for their stores. Check out our full Shopify review, or our quick guide to Shopify pricing, for a more complete breakdown of features by plan.

Basic Shopify Advanced

Monthly

$29.00/mo

$79.00/mo.

$299.00/mo.

Yearly

$26.10/mo.

$71.10/mo.

$269.10/mo.

2 Years

$23.20/mo.

$63.20/mo.

$239.20/mo.

3 Years

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Etsy Pricing

Etsy has two main plans — Standard and Plus — and a Premium plan that will launch sometime in 2019. Most Etsy sellers use the Standard plan with no monthly fee, whereas the Plus plan is $10/month. Other components of Etsy’s cost include a fixed listing fee, as well as 5% transaction fee on every sale. There is no avoiding this 5% fee, even when you use Etsy Payments as your credit card processor.

Also, keep in mind that your only web presence is your shop page within the Etsy marketplace. If you’d like your own store website separate from (but synced to) your Etsy shop, you can create and maintain a Pattern site for an additional $15/month.

Here are the plans:

Etsy Standard

  • Listing Fee: $0.20/ea.
    • Lasts 4 months
    • Charged when listing is first published or when renewed
  • Transaction Fee: 5.0%
    • Etsy’s commission per sale
    • Also charged on the shipping price
  • Payment Processing Fee w/Etsy Payments: 3% + $0.25
  • Standalone Website: None, or $15/month with Pattern. Pattern site templates are free.

Etsy Plus

  • Monthly Fee: $10/mo.
  • Other Costs Same As Above
  • Additional Features:
    • A monthly budget of credits for listings and Promoted listings ads
    • Access to a discount on a custom web address for your Etsy shop
    • Restock requests for shoppers interested in your items that have sold out
    • Advanced shop customization options
    • Access to discounts on custom packaging and promotional material like boxes, business cards, and signage

Etsy Premium

  • Launching 2019
  • Will include premium customer support and advanced management tools for businesses with employees

One final note about pricing before we sum up this section: if you want a standalone site built on Pattern, you’ll also need to purchase and/or connect a domain name. The annual cost varies, but should be comparable to purchasing a domain for a Shopify store. Of course, if you stick to just selling on Etsy and not on Pattern, you don’t need your own domain URL.

Again, this is one of those comparisons you’ll have to decide the winner of for yourself. You can see that once you have a steady flow of significantly-sized transactions, avoiding that 5% Etsy fee on every sale and ponying up $29/month for Shopify instead (and using Shopify Payments to have the Shopify transaction fee waived) starts to make more sense.

Hosting

Winner: Tie

Shopify and Etsy stores are both fully-hosted solutions based in the cloud. You don’t need to download or install anything to use either. If you create an Etsy-connected website using Pattern, your site’s hosting is covered by your $15/month Pattern subscription. Similarly, Shopify store hosting is covered by the monthly fee.

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

Shopify deserves the win in this category for accommodating a much wider range of business sizes. For just $9/month, you can start selling on Facebook with no additional transaction fees (beyond payment processing itself) if you use Shopify Payments. From there, Shopify scales all the way up to enterprise-level merchants. Etsy, on the other hand, is better geared toward small to mid-sized operations and doesn’t scale nearly as well. That said, for those who just want to test the ecommerce waters and dabble in selling a few handmade or vintage products, Etsy is ideal.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

No special hardware or software is required to open and manage a shop on either platform. You do have the option to add hardware (like card readers) if you wish to sell in-person.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Etsy

Shopify usually earns our top rating for ease of use in the ecommerce software category, and with good reason. In this case, however, I’m awarding Etsy the narrow win. As a marketplace with a uniform structure across all web shops on the platform, the whole Etsy setup process is much less open-ended, so it’s easier to start selling right away. Once you fully dive into the admin dashboard and start manipulating individual features, however, I think the two platforms are equally easy to use.

Let’s peek inside the setup process and backend structure of each system, so you can see what I mean.

Shopify Setup

Shopify offers a two-week free trial of the platform — all you need is an email address. You’re free to test the software to your heart’s content, short of making actual sales.

Shopify Dashboard

Once you’ve started a trial account, you’ll gain immediate access to your store’s admin panel. The Shopify dashboard is quite streamlined, with daily operation menus contained in the left sidebar. There are even a few tips to get started setting up your store in the center area:

Shopify — Add A Product

Listing your first product is typically one of the first tasks inside Shopify, but it doesn’t have to be. Adding a product involves completing a simple interface:

In addition to configuring products and setting up the rest of the backend of your store, you can work on customizing your online storefront at the same time. We’ll have more on this process in the Web Design section.

While Shopify is easy to use, you are ultimately responsible for locating and configuring all the settings (shipping, tax, billing, etc.) to get your store going.

Etsy Setup

The cookie-cutter look of Etsy shops is no accident — it’s achieved through a simple, highly-controlled system behind the scenes. In fact, Etsy guides your hand to such a strong extent that by the time you’re taken through the basic setup process, you already have a store that’s up and running.

Unfortunately, there is no free trial of Etsy. Instead, you must enter a product, your bank account routing number, your credit card info, and other personal/business details before you can even enter the admin dashboard. Coming from the land of ecommerce software where no-credit-card-required free trials abound, I find this system annoying. However, I can’t deny that it is also very effective.

From my personal Etsy account, I’ve used to make Etsy purchases in the past, I simply clicked “Sell on Etsy.” I was then taken through a very detailed setup wizard, all the way from setting my country, to listing my first product, to inputting my billing and payment methods. As you can see from the dots across the top of the wizard interface, it’s a five-step process:

Etsy Dashboard

When you finally make it to the main admin panel (called Store Manager), you’ll find it’s actually fairly similar to Shopify. In my own testing, I could find all the menus and features I was looking for in the left sidebar:

Etsy — Add A Product

The most detailed piece of the store setup wizard is step three: adding products (a.k.a, listings). As I mentioned, you’re forced to list at least one item before you can even complete the Etsy signup process and see your main dashboard. Below is the third screen from the setup wizard. Yep, it’s long. Click it to enlarge, if you dare.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it kind of is. Mercifully, Etsy makes it all extremely straightforward. You just need a touch of patience. As part of this process, you’re actually also setting up a shipping profile that can then be reapplied to other products. And, once you choose the type of product you’re selling, Etsy is very good about predicting the type of attributes and variations you might need for that product. I walked away from the processing thinking, “Wow, Etsy knows its sellers and their products really well.”

Side note: Once you finally make it to your dashboard, you can load additional products with a similar interface:

As soon as I was (finally) done with the initial setup wizard, my shop was online and ready to sell. I received so much guidance steering me directly to the goal that I almost felt like I was tricked into suddenly having an active store. In a good way, I guess!

I’ve focused on getting a store up and running in this section as an illustrative example — there are lots of other components of each platform to consider. As you’ll see in our Feature section below, though, Etsy has fewer features than Shopify overall. This makes it easier to quickly get a handle on the entire software platform’s capabilities and scores Etsy another point for user-friendliness. Still, the ease of going from zero to ready-to-sell is what really puts Etsy on top.

Features

Winner: Shopify

Let’s acknowledge right away that comparing the features of Etsy and Shopify is hardly an apples-to-apples endeavor. One is an online marketplace including multiple sellers, while the other is a platform on which to build a website that you ultimately own. Etsy has a specific target market of crafters, vintage resellers, and the like, while Shopify’s merchant pool is much wider. The feature sets of each platform work really well for sellers within their specific contexts. Once we add Etsy’s Pattern to the mix, the comparison gets a little closer, but it’s still slightly unfair to both systems.

I do think the best “features” of Etsy have already been highlighted — it’s very easy to get started selling, and you’ve already got a built-in traffic base. Beyond these important advantages, there’s not a lot you can do on the back or front end of your Etsy and/or Pattern shop that you can’t do with Shopify. And, if the core Shopify platform doesn’t have a specific tool you’re looking for, I can almost guarantee you’ll find a solution in the immense app store (more on that later).

All in all, I’m giving Shopify the win because I think it’s a more advanced system for ecommerce. Shopify adds several features that Etsy and Pattern are missing, like checkout on your own domain (customers are redirected back to Etsy if they purchase through your Pattern site), manual order creation, a built-in POS system, and bulk product import/export/editing. In addition, many of the features the two platforms share in common are more robust or flexible with Shopify (I’m thinking of their respective discount engines, abandoned cart recovery systems, SEO tools, etc.).

Despite their core differences, Shopify and Etsy/Pattern still have a lot of great things in common. Thus, I’d like to end this section with a list of some features both platforms share:

  • Sell unlimited products
  • Sell physical or digital products
  • Free SSL certificate (with Pattern)
  • Built-in blog (with Pattern)
  • Social media sharing
  • Automatically calculate shipping & tax
  • Purchase/print shipping labels
  • Shipping discounts
  • Inventory & order management
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout
  • Analytics & reports
  • SEO tools
  • Mobile store management app

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

Shopify easily wins this category, even after you throw Etsy’s Pattern software into the mix. Shopify’s frontend template options have Pattern’s beat on all counts — the sheer number of options, the variety of styles, and the overall quality of designs. Not to mention that once you’ve chosen a theme, Shopify gives you much more flexibility to perform further customizations. Allow me to illustrate!

Shopify Design

Shopify offers 70 templates, most with 2-4 style variations. Ten themes are free and supported by Shopify developers, while the remaining third-party themes are offered at $140-$180 as one-time purchases.

I think most of the free themes from Shopify outshine Pattern themes, but we’ll get to Pattern in a moment. For now, you should know that Shopify has tools to adjust fonts and colors (via the Theme Editor), and to drag-and-drop page elements up and down your layout (via the “Sections” tool) — all without touching any code. You can also make further adjustments with code if you have those skills, but this is not necessary for the average user.

Here’s a quick screen-grab of Shopify’s visual, non-coding editor:

For more information on how these tools work, check out our full Shopify Review.

Etsy Design

Your Etsy shop comes with just one design template that’s the same as everyone else’s on the marketplace. You already saw the default store layout that popped up when I initially created my store. In the backend admin panel, you can customize your homepage by adding a banner image, your logo, a featured area to highlight products, an About section, and a few other basic elements. Each piece is fixed in place, though — no drag-and-drop tool to be found. Anywhere there is a little “+”, you can add a specific element:

With the $10/month plan, you have a bit more flexibility in your design. For example, you can insert a rotating image carousel in lieu of a fixed banner image across the top. And yet, there’s still no dragging nor dropping allowed.

If you decide to create a standalone website with the Pattern feature (remember, that’s another $15/month), you can choose from 10 possible templates. Pattern will recommend an option for your shop depending on your current Etsy store, but you can easily swap it out later:

Once you’ve chosen a theme, you have the option to customize your colors, fonts, text, and images — but again, all with pre-defined placement: Here’s the interface after I added a logo and header:

You can also add a few select pages to your site, like an About or Contact page. You just have to be okay with your layout being completely fixed for each page. Even if you wanted to try tweaking the template code, it’s just not an option.

Sorry, Etsy. Shopify has some of the best designs and editing tools of all shopping cart platforms on the market, so I’m not surprised that Etsy is completely overshadowed in this area. Pattern is only ideal for the most basic of websites. Fortunately, it does offer a 30-day free trial of a live site (once you’re already signed up for Etsy) if you’d like to test the site builder for yourself.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

Etsy and Shopify each offer a collection of free and paid add-ons to integrate with your shop. The big difference is in the quantity. Etsy’s selection of a couple dozen apps just can’t compete with Shopify’s approximately 2500 offerings. If you’re worried about the quality of these Shopify add-ons, you have access to thousands of user reviews in the app store. You’re likely to find anything and everything you need to expand your store beyond the core Shopify platform.

A large selection is certainly great, but with the important caveat that the vastness of it all could end up becoming too overwhelming, costly, and unnecessary for small sellers. I was happy to see that Etsy at least offers a few well-known accounting and tax integrations (e.g., Quickbooks, Wave, TaxJar, TaxCloud) and email marketing apps (e.g. AWeber, or MailChimp if you use Pattern). You’ll need to decide if you will ultimately need the store expansion capability that Shopify provides, or can settle for Etsy’s offerings. If you set up a Pattern store, you’ll definitely want to add a good SEO integration.

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

Payment processing is a complicated and nuanced topic, so we’ll just cover some basic comparisons. Your mileage on this verdict in favor of Shopify will vary depending on your location, currencies, risk level, etc.

We’ve already mentioned that Shopify and Etsy both have their own self-branded payment gateways. Do note that Shopify Payments is actually built on Stripe’s infrastructure, while Etsy Payments is largely powered by Adyen, another big payment gateway company.

At any rate, most sellers on either platform end up using these pre-integrated options. Why? Well, even though you have over 100 processor options with Shopify, recall that you’re penalized with a separate transaction fee (usually 2%) if you don’t pick Shopify Payments. Meanwhile, Etsy Payments (formerly Etsy Direct Checkout) is essentially your only credit card processor option with Etsy. The only reason you wouldn’t use Etsy Payments is if it’s not yet available in your location. If you’re not operating from one of the approximately three dozen approved countries, you can only accept PayPal or manual payment methods (like check or money order) that you arrange separately with your buyers.

Etsy Payments allows you to accept credit and debit cards, Etsy gifts cards and credit, PayPal (pre-integrated), a few bank transfer services, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Shopify Payments offers similar options but adds Amazon Pay and Shopify Pay to the mix. Meanwhile, Etsy Payments does allow you to accept a few more currencies than Shopify Payments (Danish or Norwegian krone, anyone?).

Below is a quick look at the processing fees for Shopify Payments versus Etsy Payments (shown in USD). As you’ll see, Shopify Payments it the better processing deal, especially as you climb the subscription ladder. Of course, you need to factor this into the larger picture of costs we discussed earlier.

Shopify Payments:

  • $9 Lite Plan
    • 2.9% + $0.30 Online (including manual entry)
    • 2.7% In-Person
  • $29 Basic Plan
    • 2.9% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.7%  In-Person
  • $79 Shopify Plan
    • 2.6% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.5% In-Person
  • $299 Advanced Plan
    • 2.4% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.4% In-Person

Etsy Payments:

  • 3% + $0.25 Online
  • In-Person (with Square integration only):
    • 2.75% Swiped/dipped/NFC
    • 3.5% + $0.15 for manually-entered online transactions
    • + $0.20 for any Square product not synced with your Etsy store

An “in-house” payment processor can really streamline this aspect of your business, so it’s nice that both platforms offer one. Neither is a 100% perfect processor for everyone, as you’ll see when we discuss user reviews later. Nevertheless, Shopify Payments comes out ahead because it offers better rates, more payment methods for shoppers, and a native system for in-person transactions. Plus, if Shopify Payments doesn’t work for you, you’ve got plenty of other gateways from which to choose. Not so with Etsy.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

This particular contest was closer than I expected. Both platforms offer 24/7 email and phone support, but Shopify adds a third contact channel via 24/7 live chat. That’s really the main reason for Shopify’s win here. I know a lot of online sellers prefer this option over email and phone, since it works like a nice blend of the two. Etsy does offer a callback option when waiting on hold, which is very handy. On the flip side, I’d like to see Etsy’s contact number and ticket system more easily accessed from the help center page — it’s much too buried for my taste at the moment.

While both platforms also offer great self-help resources such as blogs, forums, knowledgebase articles, and videos, the information for Etsy sellers is mixed in with support resources for Etsy shoppers. This can feel a bit cluttered and confusing at times.

I will say that Etsy does go beyond the support of a typical ecommerce platform in a unique and specific way. As a marketplace that gathers lots of merchants together in one place, sellers are automatically part of a built-in community. There’s even an opportunity to join Etsy Teams — groups of sellers in the same location, selling the same types of products, or with other unifying aspects to their stores. Some teams even meet up in real life or organize special events together. While Shopify users can tap into the strong community of developers and merchants offering mutual support in forums, the overall camaraderie can’t compete with Etsy’s community vibe.

You also may have more access to seller protections as part of a marketplace, but this can heavily depend on the specific situation. Etsy aims to look out for its shoppers as well!

User Reviews

Winner: Tie

Because Etsy is a marketplace full of buyers as well as sellers, buyer complaints abound. When something goes wrong with a sale, it’s more accessible and more public for a shopper to point a finger at Etsy than the actual seller, even when the seller was primarily at fault. Shopify mostly operates behind the scenes from a shopper’s point of view, so it’s easier to isolate feedback about the platform that’s specifically from store owners.

For these reasons, Etsy’s reputation on review sites can be skewed quite negatively, so I can’t make a truly fair comparison with Shopify. Nevertheless, I’ve teased out some seller-specific feedback, just so you can get an idea of the common threads that appear.

First, the good. Not surprisingly, Etsy sellers like how easy it is to set up shop. They enjoy access to an existing customer base and the effective site search tools that make it easy for shoppers to find their products. Some users have mentioned their positive experiences with Etsy’s customer service, and the help they’ve received resolving disputes with customers (or even other sellers).

Of course, some Etsy sellers mention bad experiences with customer service, saying the marketplace isn’t taking enough responsibility for regulating seller behavior. I found several complaints that Etsy gets away with being a “neutral” party, shifting blame to its users on either end of transactions. At the very least, people are confused about Etsy’s role.

Other Etsy shop owners contend that the marketplace is too saturated with similar sellers, and that competition is simply too tough to sustain their shops. Still others have issues with payments or chargebacks or claim their shops were suddenly closed without warning. I’ve also seen plenty of sellers lament the increase in Etsy transaction fee from 3.5% to 5% in mid-2018 — that wasn’t so popular.

On the Shopify side, the top accolade is typically its ease of use. Sellers also like the opportunity to add functionality and scale their stores using add-ons from the app store. Shopify’s web design is highly praised, especially among those who appreciate the ability to easily customize their sites without code.

Like with Etsy  — and many other large software companies — Shopify’s customer support receives mixed reviews. Other common Shopify complaints include the added cost of integrations and the extra transaction fees if you can’t use Shopify Payments. Sellers do sometimes have problems with the payment system itself as well — their funds were held, or their Shopify Payments accounts were terminated due to various factors.

If that all sounds a bit scary, understand that a lot of the problems that pop up for Etsy and Shopify are common across the ecommerce world. The good news is that the research you’re doing now will help protect you against some of the more avoidable issues!

Security

Winner: Tie

Etsy and Shopify are both PCI complaint systems, offering site-wide SSL certificates for data encryption. If that all sounded like nonsense and jargon, don’t worry. You should know, however, that part of the reason Pattern websites meet security requirements set out by the data regulatory folks is that your shoppers are directed back over to Etsy checkout pages to complete their transactions. This kind of ruins the illusion that your site was actually your own site, but it does at least help with security. With Shopify, your customers can check out directly on your site with the same level of security in place.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

 

Shopify won this battle handily, coming out ahead in most of our individual comparison categories. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that the one-sidedness of our comparison does not do the key selling points of Etsy justice. The main advantages to Etsy — the ability to get a shop up and running quickly on a shoestring budget, and built-in access to the traffic of an entire online marketplace — are absolutely huge for beginning sellers. If you’re not ready to go whole-hog into selling online and would prefer to test the waters first, Etsy is definitely the way to start. For first time sellers, it’s akin to setting up your craft booth at an established craft fair, versus plopping your stall on a street corner in the middle of nowhere.

This is all to say that Shopify only really wins if you’re ready to take responsibility for maintaining and drawing traffic to your own website. You’ll need to learn and implement an effective SEO and marketing strategy, for example. This is no small feat for the budding online seller and should not be taken lightly. If done well, however, any customers you obtain are your own, and this is the big reward that accompanies your efforts with Shopify. Your sales and growth will not be limited by super-direct competition with other sellers within a marketplace. You’ll completely sidestep this major downside to Etsy.

When we start talking about actual ecommerce features and web design, Shopify is a more powerful ecommerce tool. Specifically, we’ve seen that Etsy’s Pattern software can’t compete with the standalone storefront-building capabilities of Shopify. For most sellers who are ready to launch their own websites, I’d suggest skipping over Pattern and heading for Shopify. Yes, a Pattern subscription is cheaper than Shopify, but it seems like too much of an intermediate, half-way step that won’t get you fully where you want to go. Besides, there’s no reason you can’t keep your Etsy shop open in the meantime as you grow your Shopify-based store — and, you could ultimately connect an app to sync up your inventory between the two. Etsy could then become one marketing channel of many for your main online store’s top products. Something to consider!

I think if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready to at least test the capability of Shopify with a free 14-day trial. Of course, if you’re already an Etsy seller, you can also play around with Pattern’s tools for free before even connecting a domain and going live with your site. Since you’ve got nothing to lose with either platform in that respect, why not set up your own mini-showdown between Pattern and Shopify?

Let us know how it goes in the comments. Happy artsy, craftsy, or artsy-craftsy selling!

Shopify’s eCommerce Options

Mobile POS Online Social Media
Mobile App + Free Card Reader Point of Sale Online Store Social Media Selling
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels Build a store or integrate with your current website Sell on Facebook and other platforms
Starts at $9/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $9/month
Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial

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Find The Best eCommerce Website Builder For Your Business

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

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

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Wix Squarespace

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

$25 – $40

$26 – $46

eCom Features

Excellent

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

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

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

How To Choose An eCommerce Website Builder

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

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

Cost

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

Website Design

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

Features

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

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

1. Shopify

Pricing & Payment Processing

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

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

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

Editing Tools: 

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

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

Features

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

Admin

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

Storefront & Checkout

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

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

Best Fit

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

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

2. BigCommerce

Pricing & Payment Processing

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

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

Editing Tools:

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

Features

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

Admin

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

Storefront & Checkout

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

Best Fit

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

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

3. 3dcart

3dcart

Pricing & Payment Processing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

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

Editing Tools: 

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

Features

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

Admin

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

Storefront & Checkout

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

Best Fit

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

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

4. Wix

Pricing & Payment Processing

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

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

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

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

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

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

Editing Tools:

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

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

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

Features

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

Admin

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

Storefront & Checkout

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

Best Fit

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

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

5. Squarespace

squarespace

Pricing & Payment Processing

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

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

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

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

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

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

Web Design & Editing

Theme Options:

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

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

Editing Tools:

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

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

Features

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

Admin

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

Storefront & Checkout

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

Best Fit

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

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

Quick Pricing Comparison

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

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

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

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

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

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Squarespace

Business: $26/mo.

Commerce Basic: $30/mo.

Commerce Advanced: $46/mo.

  • Available features
  • Squarespace’s commission per sale

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Happy software testing!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Wix Squarespace

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

$25 – $40

$26 – $46

eCom Features

Excellent

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

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

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

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Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

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

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

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

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

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

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

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

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

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

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

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

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps

It’s almost 2019, if you can believe it, and more than fall leaves or pumpkin spice lattes, tech fans like myself relish the smell of a freshly unboxed smartphone (thanks to Apple’s annual September unveiling). But it’s not just consumers who love mobile tech; businesses do too.  As mobile technology becomes more powerful, businesses — including restaurants — enjoy increasingly robust mobile hardware which can handle more powerful and nuanced software functions.

Indeed, restaurant managers, in particular, have an increasing number of mobile management applications at their disposal. From tablet-based POS systems that accept mobile payments to online reservation services that let customers reserve a table with an app, more restaurant management functions are being conducted online and on mobile devices. But with all the restaurant apps out there, how do you know which ones you should use? Think of it kind of like cooking: if you use too much or too little of an ingredient, it ruins the dish. Similarly, if you use too many management apps, there’s too much overlap in services (not to mention the fact that you’ll run out of bandwidth and money), and if you use just one or two services, you may miss out on critical features.

To help you out, I’ve put together this list of the top restaurant management apps in terms of both quality and popularity. From employee management to accounting to raw ingredient tracking, modern mobile restaurant software can help you with every restaurant management task you can imagine.

I’ve divided these top 10 best restaurant management apps into restaurant point of sale (POS) software apps—which are often complete restaurant management systems with few if any third-party add-ons required— and other restaurant management apps which offer more specific, targeted functionality.

Restaurant POS Systems

Toast TouchBistro Breadcrumb ShopKeep Lightspeed Restaurant

Toast

TouchBistro

Breadcrumb POS by Upserve

ShopKeep

Lightspeed Restaurant

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Compare 

Review

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Review

Visit Site 

Review

Monthly fee

$79+

$69+

$99+

Get a quote

$69+

Cloud-based or Locally Installed

Cloud-based

Locally installed

Cloud-based

Hybrid

Cloud-based

Compatible credit card processors

Toast only

TouchBistro Payments, Square, PayPal, Moneris, Cayan, Chase Paymentech & more

Upserve Payments only

Shopkeep Payments & some others; contact your processor to see if they are supported

Cayan or Mercury in US; iZettle in Europe

Business size

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to medium

The awesome thing about today’s app-based restaurant point of sale systems is that they are often complete restaurant management systems. Or if they do not include essential restaurant management functions, they will typically have integrations that work together with other restaurant management apps (for accounting, staff scheduling, inventory management, etc.). As such, your restaurant POS system is a good basis on which to build any other add-ons to your restaurant application suite.

1. Toast

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Android-based restaurant POS
  • All-in-one restaurant management system
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Add-ons for kitchen display system, kiosk POS, online ordering, delivery management, and more

Try it out: Schedule a Toast demo

Toast is a complete, Android-based restaurant point of sale system and restaurant management system for restaurants of any size. With strong front-end and back-end features, Toast not only takes payments with integrated payment processing, but also tracks your sales, labor, and inventory, organizing that information into useful, internet-accessible reports.

With mobile POS tablets, servers can send orders directly to the kitchen and even process payments right from the table. Kitchen display system and kiosk ordering are some other high-tech add-ons available for purchase from Toast.

Useful Features:

  • Customer data management system
  • Menu creation with comprehensive modifier system
  • Labor management including employee time tracking
  • Inventory management system that includes a recipe costing tool, food cost calculator, and menu engineering chart that shows you your best-selling and most profitable menu items
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Online ordering (extra monthly charge)
  • Delivery management system (extra monthly charge)
  • Customer loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Gift cards (extra monthly charge)

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Compeat
  • PeachWorks
  • CTUIT
  • CrunchTime
  • PayTronix
  • Bevager
  • GrubHub (online ordering and delivery)
  • Samsung Pay
  • Kitchensync

Toast also has an open API which lets you create your own applications, should you be so inclined.

The Quick & Dirty:

Pricing for this complete POS and restaurant management system starts at $79/month. Overall, Toast is a good option for restaurants that want a complete restaurant POS and management system and prefer a non-iPad POS.

2. TouchBistro

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

 

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • iPad POS system for restaurants
  • Affordable
  • Locally installed
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Table management with reservations add-on

Get started with TouchBistro: Get a custom quote

TouchBistro is a bestselling iPad POS app for restaurants. While it isn’t an “all-in-one” restaurant management system like Toast, it’s cost-effective, easy to use, and very good at what it does. TouchBistro runs as an app on via one or more iPads, with multi-iPad setups keeping in sync via a local Apple server.

TouchBistro does have some online reports allowing you to view your restaurant metrics anywhere with an internet connection, but it does not require a WiFi connection to operate, other than to process credit card payments. TouchBistro integrates with multiple payment processors.

Useful Features:

  • Tableside ordering
  • Table management with visual layout
  • Menu management
  • Kiosk option
  • Employee management
  • Loyalty program (extra monthly charge)
  • Reservations function with TouchBistro Pro

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • 7Shifts
  • Xero
  • Shogo
  • Square
  • Quickbooks
  • JUST EAT (for online ordering)

The Quick & Dirty:

In summation, TouchBistro a very capable iPad POS for small-to-medium restaurants that are budget-conscious and may not have a powerful internet connection. Pricing starts at $69/month.

3. BreadCrumb POS By Upserve

Review

Highlights

  • All-in-one restaurant POS and restaurant management system
  • iPad-based
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Fully integrated online ordering
  • Must use Upserve for payment processing

Compare: Compare Breadcrumb with other top-rated iPad POS software

Breadcrumb is an all-in-one restaurant management and iPad POS system which could perhaps be considered the iPad-based answer to Toast. Comprehensive restaurant-centric management features that let you manage tables, employees, and menu items with a few finger taps make this restaurant software application suitable for any full-service or quick-service restaurant, no matter the size.

Breadcrumb is fully cloud-based and requires no on-premise server. In-house payment processing is provided exclusively by Breadcrumb’s parent company, Upserve.

Useful Features:

  • Customizable interface
  • “Offline” mode allows you to continue using POS and taking payments if internet goes down
  • Table management with color coding and meal progression graphic
  • Choice between “Server” mode with table view and “Quickserve” mode for bartenders and other quick orders
  • Fully-integrated online ordering system
  • Detailed online reporting suite
  • 24/7 support

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • Grubhub
  • Shogo
  • Restaurant 365
  • CTUIT
  • Peachworks
  • 7Shifts

The Quick & Dirty:

Breadcrumb pricing starts at $99/month. Again, it’s a solid all-in-one restaurant POS system for iPad with an array of restaurant features. When compared to Toast, however, Breadcrumb might come up slightly short in some respects, such as inventory management. However, Breadcrumb offers integrations with third-party restaurant apps to help fill in any functionality gaps.

4. ShopKeep

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Powerful retail and restaurant tools
  • Available on iPad (Analytics app on iOS)
  • Multiple hardware options available
  • Pricing based on custom quotes 
  • Loyalty program only as add-on

Excellent all-around POS: Get your custom quote

While it can be used for either restaurant or retail environments, ShopKeep is a great all-around POS software system that’s reasonably priced and extremely easy to use. Aimed at small businesses in particular, this iPad POS software has a pleasant, Apple-centric interface with convenient register buttons for the most popular menu items. ShopKeep uses a “hybrid” data storage system in which data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPads, and then syncs back to the cloud when there is an internet connection.

As with the other restaurant POS apps on this list, ShopKeep has integrations to make up for any restaurant management features it doesn’t have, such as advanced inventory management and online ordering.

Useful Features:

  • Integrated ShopKeep Payments payment processing
  • Comprehensive register functionality
  • Extensive back-office reporting suite
  • Raw ingredient inventory management
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Staff management tools
  • ShopKeep Pocket App to track restaurant metrics from iPhone or Android

Integrations With Other Restaurant Software:

  • MailChimp
  • ChowBot (online ordering and delivery)
  • Quickbooks
  • AppCard

The Quick & Dirty:

ShopKeep is an affordable and capable iPad POS that works well for small restaurants of any type. ShopKeep pricing is customized based on your individual business’s needs and is comparable to TouchBistro or Lightspeed Restaurant. Note that while Shopkeep does provide fairly priced in-house payment processing via Shopkeep Payments, you can also use an outside payment processor.

5. Lightspeed Restaurant 

Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • Affordable iPad POS for restaurants
  • Fully cloud-based
  • Also works on iPhone and iPod touch
  • Best for small-to-medium restaurants

Try out Lightspeed Restaurant: Free trial offer

Lightspeed Restaurant is an app-based iPad POS system built specifically for—you guessed it—restaurants. Lightspeed is not the most complete restaurant POS out there, but it is highly mobile-friendly and certainly delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

The Lightspeed Restaurant app requires iOS 9.3 or later to operate and you can access the backend via any internet-connected web browser. In addition to iPads, Lightspeed can even be used on an iPhone or iPod touch, though using the app on those two devices is best for basic features such as clocking in and quick orders.

Useful Features:

  • Intricate employee management
  • Raw ingredient tracking
  • Tableside ordering lets servers show pictures of menu items to customers
  • Floor planner
  • 24/7 phone support excluding holidays
  • Ability to set up timed promotions
  • In-depth reports

Integrations With Other Restaurant Management Software:

  • Resengo
  • Orderlord
  • QuickBooks
  • Xero
  • MarketMan
  • AppCard
  • Multiple online ordering services

The Quick & Dirty:

Lightspeed Restaurant pricing starts at $69/month. This cloud-based iPad POS app is perfect for small-to-medium restaurants of any type.

Other Restaurant Management Apps

What follows are some more restaurant management apps. Rather than the complete restaurant management tool that POS systems provide, these apps have a limited, specific function — like reservations or email marketing — and may integrate with your POS system or be used separately.

opentable

6. OpenTable

OpenTable is an online reservation and waitlist system that’s convenient to use for both restaurateurs and customers. You can access the app on your smartphone or tablet to view or change reservations, and to see your waitlist in real time. OpenTable is a highly useful tool for restaurant managers and waitstaff alike.

Useful Features:

  • Guests can make online reservations from your website, the OpenTable app or website, or third-party
  • Monitor status of each table in your restaurant
  • Shift management tool

POS Integrations:

  • Aloha
  • Micros
  • POSitouch
  • Heartland Dinerware
  • Squirrel Systems
  • Toast (coming soon)

The Quick & Dirty:

OpenTable is online reservation software for restaurants of any type, especially favored by trendy, upscale bars and eateries. OpenTable’s “Connect” option has limited features but only costs between $0.25 and $2.50 for each booked guest. The “GuestCenter” option with more advanced restaurant management features and POS integration is $249/month + $1 per reservation.

7. Fivestars

fivestars logo

Fivestars is a mobile rewards program for local businesses such as restaurants. Customers sign up for Fivestars’ loyalty program either at your restaurant or via the Fivestars mobile app and start earning rewards and receiving promotional offers via text, email, or push notification. Your staff then redeems your customers’ rewards and offers from your POS or a mobile device.

Fivestars also has a lot of cool marketing features that vary depending on which plan you choose. Whether you want to encourage repeat business or gain a competitive edge on other restaurants in your area, Fivestars will help you do both.

Useful Features:

  • Automated rewards and promotions
  • Send one-time offer anytime your sales need a boost
  • Multiple options for setting up rewards system, e.g., customers could earn points per-dollar, per-visit, etc.
  • Social media integration
  • Customer data collection

POS Integrations:

  • Clover Station
  • Clover Mini
  • QuickBooks POS
  • Harbortouch
  • Aloha
  • Aldelo
  • Windows POS

The Quick & Dirty:

Fivestars online loyalty software is especially popular among cafes and coffee shops, but it’s also used by full-service restaurants, bars, bakeries, smoothie shops, and every other type of brick-and-mortar eatery. Fivestars’ starter plan—which includes two customer-facing tablets, POS integration, the Autopilot program, onboarding and three training sessions—is $279 per month.

Best Accounting Mobile Apps

8. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks is essential accounting software for small businesses, and restaurants are no exception. In recent years, this quintessential business software has become has become more online and mobile-friendly, with the introduction of QuickBooks Online and excellent mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Besides making accounting tasks simple and affordable for independently owned restaurants, cloud-based Quickbooks Online also integrates with most modern restaurant POS systems.

Useful Features:

  • True double-entry accounting
  • Live bank feeds for easy bank reconciliation
  • Unlimited estimates and invoices
  • Accounts payable with ability to create purchase orders and convert them to bills
  • Easy-to-use payroll and other employee management features (for additional cost)

POS Integrations:

Quickbooks Online integrates with most restaurant POS systems. Usually, the question is not whether Quickbooks integrates with your POS, but rather, the quality of the Quickbooks/POS integration. A direct, seamless integration is ideal. Here you can read about 7 POS system that have direct integrations with Quickbooks.

The Quick & Dirty:

QuickBooks online is cloud-based accounting software for any internet connected device. Depending on which features you need, QuickBooks online will set you back between $15 and $50/month.

Xero logo

9. Xero

Xero is a QuickBooks alternative which many restauranteurs around the world use every day to manage their restaurant’s accounting tasks. Just like QB Online, Xero has both iOS and Android apps and can be accessed via any internet-connected device. Xero also integrates with many cloud-based restaurant point of sale systems.

Xero doesn’t have as many features as QuickBooks; for example, payroll support is limited to only 37 states and there is no job-costing feature. However, Xero also costs a lot less than QuickBooks.

Useful Features:

  • Accounts payable feature with recurring bills and purchase orders
  • Unlimited users with extensive user permissions controls
  • Double-entry accounting
  • Excellent customer service
  • Easier to use than QuickBooks (in most respects)
  • 500+ integrations

POS Integrations:

While Quickbooks is the most popular accounting software system, Xero is catching up and most major POS systems integrate with Xero as well as Quickbooks. Some of these systems include:

  • Square for Restaurants
  • Nobly POS
  • TouchBistro
  • Lightspeed
  • Vend
  • Shopify POS

The Quick & Dirty:

With pricing starting at just $9/month, online accounting app Xero is a more affordable QB alternative for restaurants that don’t need every advanced accounting feature.

10. MailChimp mailchimp logo

MailChimp is email marketing software you can use to boost the online marketing efforts of your restaurant. While most POS apps include some email features, they are usually somewhat lacking. With a fully featured email marketing program like MailChimp, you can set up automated email campaigns to build customer loyalty, advertise promotions, and grow your social media following.

MailChimp is entirely cloud-based; the company also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

Useful Features:

  • 23 basic templates and hundreds of theme templates
  • Easy list segmentation
  • Advanced email campaign reporting
  • Robust free plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and sends up to 12,000 emails per month.

POS Integrations:

  • Revel Systems
  • Shopkeep
  • Lightspeed
  • Epos Now

The Quick & Dirty:

MailChimp has a very decent free plan and paid plans start at $25/month, scaling up depending on how large your list is (and how many features you want). This easy-to-use ESP supports both small start-ups and large corporations.

Final Thoughts

A successful restaurant business has the same basic ingredients it did 20 years ago or even 200 years ago: delicious food, happy customers, excellent service, and organized behind-the-scenes processes to keep everything running smoothly. However, the tools used to achieve restaurant success have changed with advances in technology. Everything from taking payments, to advertising, to bookkeeping, to employee management has been digitized.

One important job of restaurant management that can’t be replaced with automation is the restaurant manager herself. Being awesome at your job, I’m sure you will do a great job selecting the management apps that work for your unique restaurant business. Have fun with the selection process and make sure you utilize free trials of all of these apps so you can be sure the restaurant management software you choose works great for your needs before you commit.

The post The 10 Best Restaurant Management Software Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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ShippingEasy VS Ordoro

ShippingEasy VS Ordoro
✓ Pricing
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
✓  Customer Service & Technical Support
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Winner Final Verdict
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Compare

Every online seller knows that one of the best ways to keep your prices low is to keep your shipping costs low. And in order to do that, you need a robust shipping software that can help you find the best shipping rates every time.

ShippingEasy and Ordoro are two such shipping software apps. Both of these services are SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, meaning that they are fully-hosted programs that you can access through a monthly subscription. But the similarities don’t stop there. Both companies have headquarters in Austin, TX and both offer steep discounts on shipping rates. And most importantly, both software give merchants the power to easily generate shipping labels and purchase and print postage.

So, how do you choose between them?

In this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at both ShippingEasy and Ordoro to see what they have to offer in terms of features, ease of use, customer service, and pricing. Keep reading to learn how these two programs stack up again each other and discover which option is best for your business.

Pricing

Winner: ShippingEasy

Pricing for both ShippingEasy and Ordoro is based on the number of orders you ship per month. Pricing increases as you ship more orders. Moving up the pricing scale will also give you access to stronger customer support options and more advanced features.

Here’s a quick breakdown of ShippingEasy’s pricing scale:

Starter

  • $0/Month
  • 50 Shipments/Month

Basic

  • $29/Month
  • 500 Shipments/Month

Plus

  • $49/Month
  • 1,500 Shipments/Month

Select

  • $69/Month
  • 3,000 Shipments/Month

Premium

  • $99/Month
  • 6,000 Shipments/Month

ShippingEasy has an enterprise level plan for merchants with over 6,000 shipments/month. Enterprise is available for $149/month.

ShippingEasy also offers features for customer relationship management and inventory management at an additional monthly cost. These additional costs range from $3/month to $50/month for each service.

Ordoro offers their services in two forms: Basic and Pro. Basic includes features for shipping only. Pro plans include features for shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro has a free plan available that comes with only email support. Paid plans include both email and phone support.

Basic: Shipping Only

  • Free
    • 50 Orders/Month
    • 1 Sales Channel
    • 1 User
  • $25/Month
    • 700 Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users
  • $49/Month
    • 3,000 Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Logos On Shipping Labels
      • User Permissions
  • $129/Month
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Multiple Ship-From Locations

Pro: Shipping + Inventory Management + Dropshipping

  • $299/Month
    • 1,500 Orders/Month
    • 5 Sales Channels
    • 5 Users
  • $499/Month
    • 4,000 Orders/Month
    • 7 Sales Channels
    • 7 Users
  • Enterprise (Pricing By Quote)
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users

Pricing is comparable between the two apps, and they both offer similar features at similar price points. However, ShippingEasy is a bit more affordable when you consider the add-on features of customer management and inventory management. These features cost just a few dollars more with ShippingEasy compared to the minimum $299/month you’d have to pay to get these features on an Ordoro Pro plan.

Ease Of Use

Winner: ShippingEasy

With a name like ShippingEasy, I had high hopes that the software would be a breeze to use. Fortunately, ShippingEasy lives up to its name. I had no trouble at all learning to use the software during my initial trial.

Setting up my free 30-day trial was a simple process. When I connected my ShippingEasy account with my Shopify shopping cart, all my orders transferred over immediately.

To process orders, just click “Create Shipments.” Then, click on the “Shipments” tab and set up your shipping parameters. Those parameters include the carrier, postage rate, packaging, and weight. Once you’ve done all that, you can purchase and print your postage

On this page, you have to option to print a shipping label, a packing slip, or both.

Ordoro is similarly user-friendly. The dashboard is clean and simple.

When you link your account to your eCommerce platform, your orders will automatically import in. All new orders will transfer within an hour of the time they are placed.

You can then select any pending orders (individually or in bulk) and start processing. When you select an order, you’ll be presented with a shipping and return label generator on the side of your screen.

Then, you can select a carrier, a package type, and a shipping method to create a shipping label.

Try out Ordoro for yourself with a free 15-day trial. You have to hand over some basic information and a credit card number to sign up, but you’ll only be billed in you stay beyond your first 15 days. Don’t forget both ShippingEasy and Ordoro also have free plans that you can sign up for instead.

While both of these shipping programs are very user-friendly, I prefer ShippingEasy’s dashboard. I think it’s just a little more intuitive.

Features

Winner: Ordoro

All ShippingEasy users have access to shipping features. Customer management and inventory management features are available at additional cost.

Shipping

  • Low Rates: ShippingEasy partners with the USPS to provide savings up to 46%.
  • Multi-Channel: Manage orders from multiple sales platforms in one dashboard. Upload orders in bulk using a pre-built integration or using CSV files.
  • Automatic Emails: Send automatic emails when orders ship. Include your branding in those emails.
  • Shipping Rules: Automate your order fulfillment process with shipping rules
  • Batch Order Processing: Generate and print multiple shipping labels with one click.
  • Returns: Send scan-based return labels or email out return labels upon request.
  • Customs Forms: Ship internationally with automatically generated customs forms.

Inventory Management & Customer Management

If you subscribe to a plan that grants you inventory and customer management, you’ll have access to a few more features. Set low stock alerts, create purchase orders, enable multichannel customer management, and utilize email marketing.

In the same way, all Ordoro users can use the shipping features. Dropshipping and inventory management features come at an extra expense.

Shipping

  • Batch Printing: Process hundreds of orders at once.
  • Discounted Rates: A partnership with USPS provides discounts of up to 67%.
  • Multi-Channel Capabilities: Manage everything in one place.
  • Shipment Tracking: View tracking information and forward tracking numbers to your customers when their orders ship.

Dropshipping & Inventory Management

Ordoro’s dropshipping features let users dropship through multiple suppliers with ease. Inventory management features let you sync inventory, set stock thresholds, and create purchase orders.

Ordoro’s dropshipping features get a whole lot of love from their user base. Merchants who use Shopify as their shopping cart are especially fond of those features.

We think Ordoro’s dropshipping features give them a slight advantage over ShippingEasy. Ordoro is the winner here!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

ShippingEasy and Ordoro both integrate with eCommerce’s most popular software. You can find pre-built integrations to the leading shopping cart software, accounting software, and shipping carriers.

These solutions include the following:

eCommerce Platforms

  • Shopify
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • BigCommerce

Accounting

  • Xero
  • Intuit Quickbooks

Carriers

  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • DHL

ShippingEasy and Ordoro also both have APIs that your developers can use to build any connection that the software does not already include.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: ShippingEasy

ShippingEasy offers customer support through a variety of avenues. While the free plan only allows access to self-help support, every paid plan includes personalized support via phone and support tickets. ShippingEasy’s self-help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, and a blog. Users say representatives are helpful, friendly, and quick to respond. My own experience lines up with these reviews.

Ordoro also offers support via self-help resources in addition to phone and email. While I’m glad Ordoro provides various ways to contact support, I was a bit disappointed by some of the pages in their documentation. I found that a few articles and videos were out of date. Fortunately, Ordoro users report that the company’s support reps are top notch.

This category is closely matched, but ultimately we’re awarding the category to ShippingEasy. All of their documentation is up to date with the current software version.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both ShippingEasy and Ordoro get plenty of praise online. Review boards are full of positive reviews of both software; however, neither service gets many negative reviews. Here’s what the very few negative reviews I’ve found have to say about each software.

Users on ShippingEasy complain that there is a slight learning curve to getting started with the software. In addition, they say some features could be improved or adjusted to make workflow smoother.

A few of the cons I personally encountered with Ordoro include the outdated documentation I mentioned earlier as well as the limited features included in the software’s basic plans. In order to access dropshipping, kitting, and inventory management features, you have to be on at least the Pro plan at $299/month. While it is true that you must pay to access these features on ShippingEasy as well, they are much cheaper with ShippingEasy (the highest price for customer management and inventory management is $50/month each).

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

As I’ve said, reviews of ShippingEasy and Ordoro are overwhelmingly positive.

Users of ShippingEasy love that the software is easy to use and that it integrates with lots of popular platforms and marketplaces. They also praise ShippingEasy’s support team for their excellent and speedy assistance.

Merchants who ship with Ordoro are fans of both the support team and of Ordoro’s multiple integrations. In addition, users love Ordoro’s dropshipping features, especially in connection with Shopify.

How can you choose a winner for this category? We’re calling a tie.

Final Verdict

Winner: ShippingEasy

In the end, ShippingEasy emerges the victor of this matchup. This app’s stellar customer service, ease of use and pricing make it a formidable opponent in any comparison. To find out if ShippingEasy could work for your unique business, take a closer look at the software with our full review or by signing up for a trial yourself.

And while you’re at it, you might as well look into Ordoro as well. Ordoro matches ShippingEasy in many areas, only barely falling behind in our comparison. They also offer a free trial so you can test out the software before you commit, or you can read our full review.

Whatever you choose, we hope these shipping software solutions help you move product more efficiently and profitably!

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