The world has turned upside down. (As a Broadway fan, I have the Hamilton version of that line running through my head on repeat these days.) Small businesses all over the nation find themselves in a rapidly changing climate and making decisions based on state requirements needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are faced with brutal choices and will need to employ creative solutions as the pandemic changes the landscape of our lives.
If you have a service that meets the needs of your community during the pandemic, getting information out to potential customers is a necessity. People right now want to help small businesses thrive, and they are looking for ways to spend their money conscientiously. What are some ways to navigate the balance of marketing a product during difficult times?
Before we look at marketing, it’s important to look at your business: Right now, more than ever, it’s crucial to understand what is an essential business and what is not. I just watched in real-time the complete viral annihilation of an owner’s decision to keep her consignment mall open because she deemed her store and all the vendors paying rent in her store (and all their employees) as “essential business.” (She, herself, was self-isolating in a different state. And three hours after her initial post, she changed her mind.) People are dying — if anyone susses out that you are here for profit/being greedy/to exploit a tragedy — I guarantee the karma (Facebook’s comment section) is swift.
Merchant Maverick’s COVID-19 hub has many resources to weather the storm, but if in doubt — sit it out.
And if your business has a role here as we move forward, then keep on reading, and we’ll explore the best practices together.
The Best Marketing Channels For Small Businesses
Parts of the nation are on full shelter-in-place orders, and others may soon follow. That means that millions of workers and their children are home, in their family rooms, most definitely on their computers or phones, with near-constant access to the internet. We are lucky to live in a digital world that can adapt to the needs of consumers during this pandemic — and the digital world is where you are going to access your potential customers.
Building a newsletter is an essential part of doing business. Why? Because when you have access to someone’s email, you have direct access to that person. They may not open your newsletter, but when they check their email, they will see your name and your subject hook: It’s the best resource you have. Building a newsletter should be seen as an essential part of doing business.
(How can you tell a writer has been a little too self-isolated? I just deleted an attempt to write this section to the tune of Over the Rainbow. I wish I were kidding.) Social media is where you will find your people. Maybe you already have a thriving community on your social media, or perhaps you are building one. Either way, it’s important to think of ways to use various platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat…maybe in that order, depending on your marketing audience.
Direct communication is the best! If you have access to phone numbers, maybe send a quick text update. A skincare business in Portland I have been to once texted to let me know its physical store was closed but is still selling products and gift certificates online. If you have a website, consider blogging about your own experiences. Now is the time, more than ever, to tell your narrative and build a community around your business’s story. Who are you, and how is this pandemic affecting you and yours?
The Ground Rules For Online Marketing
The entire world is really hoping that we can all flatten the curve of this virus and return to normalcy. However, until then, every person and every business needs to make socially responsible choices. That means your business needs to comply with social distancing and follow your governor’s mandates. As with any marketing campaign, be sincere and run your words by many different sets of eyes to ensure your tone is professional and sensitive to the mood of the nation.
If you are asking people to opt-in to your newsletter for freebies/deals, make sure you follow local privacy laws. Also, a good tip is to require only two fields (say: name and email) — any more will cause hesitation, and you might lose the lead.
Build An Email List
One small business owner mentioned that he sent out a newsletter, not to pitch anything, but simply to ask his subscribers how they were doing: How are you? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Small businesses are the bedrock of the community, so first, reach out to your community and see how people are feeling. With self-isolation in full swing across the nation, many people need your words of comfort and offers of help.
You can also use this time to build your list by offering discounts or freebies to people who sign up for your newsletter. (For a gym or yoga studio: If they sign up for your newsletter, maybe they can receive free daily quarantine exercises?)
Create A Social Media Following
There are opportunities to pay for ad campaigns within social media platforms, but it’s important to use your platforms to communicate with your customers and community directly in addition to running ads. People want to help small businesses in their community, but they need to know who is open and how social distancing needs are being met. Use your social media channels to inform and engage.
Keep Your Customers Updated On Changes
I have a local store I love, and I went to all of its social media pages for a COVID-19 update and didn’t find anything. Tell your story and make it easy for people to support you and to know how — put that information far and wide.
If you can still provide curbside or delivery during the pandemic, your business has pivoted and adapted with the changes, or if you are changing your hours or working with a reduced staff, let people know. Use all necessary means to communicate with your customers and encourage people in your community to share your message far and wide.
Use Hashtags & Branding
A hashtag is a way to group your message in with broader messages to attract new followers. As you can imagine, right now, pandemic hashtags are trending along with #stayhome, #stayhomesavelives, and #socialdistancing. Creative hashtags such as #savesmallbusinesses can gain momentum across platforms and will help categorize your information. You can create a hashtag specifically for your business to boost name recognition and your business’s story. Our local used bookstore (and Portland icon), Powell’s, had to shut its doors and lay off the majority of its staff, prompting a #savepowells hashtag to surge and ignite a successful online buying campaign to help keep it afloat.
If you are using your social media consistently to communicate, think about your company’s branding — can someone look at a post and identify your company? What is the overall tone of your company’s message? Keep your social media messages consistent and on-brand. Branding also means you understand your audience and their needs: If you are in a community that is struggling and feeling scared right now, you might want to avoid a tone that feels trite or dismissive of the current news.
5 Marketing Tactics You Can Use To Keep In Touch, Inspire, Motivate & Otherwise Encourage Customers
We are not living in the same world that we were a few months ago. Consumers and attitudes have shifted, thriving businesses have shuttered for the time being, and people have major anxieties. They are scared about the virus, worried about the health of loved ones, scared about their jobs, scared about the overall health of our economy, maybe food insecure or feeling alone, and/or possibly balancing remote work/home school for the first time. Right. So when consumers are dealing with a national emergency, priorities shift. Consider that as you move forward with a marketing campaign.
Marketing is two-fold. Yes, you want to sell the product/service you can offer, but you also want to market your story/your company’s ethos. Here are some marketing tactics that might work well as you look forward.
Promote A Good Cause
Larger corporations have made donations of coffee and sandwiches to health workers, and many smaller businesses are reaching out with offers to donate a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits helping assist communities most impacted by COVID-19. Can you provide free food for kids or the elderly? People want to spend money and know it’s helping small businesses and the people impacted by this emergency: What does your community need, and how can you help?
Run A Contest Or Challenge
Can you drum up some business by offering a contest or challenge to your customers? A game store in Kansas is offering up a $50 gift card to the store to anyone who shows their “19 painted miniatures in 19 days challenge.” A bakery in a suburb of Portland is offering “frost your own cookie kits,” selling them curbside and then highlighting the beautiful cookie art with a hashtag; daily winners via votes get a gift certificate to the store. Take an opportunity to engage your community with an activity or challenge (Bake with Me challenge or Tap with Me challenge; a toy shop near us that sells Legos is running a 30-Day Build-It challenge). All of these things build brand awareness and provide your potential customers with something to engage with.
Use Promo Codes For Online Orders
Are you moving your business online? Or have you already been equipped for online ordering but need to get the word out? Provide a financial incentive to order from you! I ordered some books from a bookstore owner directly over the phone, and she shipped the books free (and they arrived the next day!), and online delivery services are running promotions for free delivery. Entice new customers with a first-time buyer code or offer deep discounts for large orders.
Sponsor A Giveaway
At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too: the toilet paper giveaways. Order a pizza? Get some TP. Drive-thru to our coffee shop? TP while it lasts! If you don’t have 2020’s luxury item on hand to pass out with your product, that’s okay; there are many other things besides toilet paper you can give. This might be an opportunity to team up with a collaborator (another small business in your community) and give away gift certificates to a different business in the neighborhood. If you are a clothing boutique, can you have some fun with quarantine-outfits and sponsor a giveaway of clothes that are perfect to wear at home? This is about what you can offer and how you can help while building your brand and responding to the virus ethically.
Feature Your Customer/Community Stories
This is what speaks straight to my heart: stories. We are all a giant community of humans, and it is local families and local businesses that keep things afloat. Tell your own story but also reach out and see if you can feature other stories, too. Build a community from this isolation, and encourage people to reach out and connect with you and others. Also, feature people who may be asked to work as essential employees — put a name and story to the faces of the people in your business: Let the community know who they are supporting. They are not supporting a business; they are supporting the people behind the business.
The Bottom Line For Online Marketing During A Pandemic
How you face this pandemic can say a lot about your business and your brand. Don’t take the messages you send lightly, and run them through a filter of sensitivity and practicality. But if you have a service you can offer safely to others, yes, communicate that in any way you can to get the word out about how you can help people in your community. Email your list, send a newsletterÂ or a text; be sure to communicate honestly and often, and let people know how they can help you. Have you seen any brilliant or cringe-worthy marketing campaigns related to the pandemic? Share with us in the comments! And stay safe out there.
The post 5 Clever Marketing Tactics For Small Businesses During The Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
With areas facing even more mandatory closures and other restrictions across the country, small businesses are doing everything they can to stay in business and pay employees. While larger businesses may have more resources and available cash flow to manage these disruptions, that’s not usually the case for our local shops and restaurants.
They may be struggling, but many small businesses are also rising up to the occasion. Many are offering delivery and curbside pickup, and getting their sites set up to take orders online for the first time. American small business owners are a resilient bunch, and the best part for us is that they offer culinary delights, artisan talent, resources, and sometimes just whimsy you just can’t find anywhere else. And these are all good things, especially during uncertain times. The truth is that our local small businesses offer us just as much as we can offer them, so let’s think big and shop local. Here’s what you can do to make the best of things and help keep the economy going!
Note to small business owners: Check out our post on how to get online ordering set up!
Let Small Businesses Be The Answer To Social Distancing
Right now, many people are hesitant to do any local shopping because of social distancing, but that certainly does not have to be the case. This is the 21st century, after all! We have technology that can help us circumvent the need to physically enter a store to get what we need.
It’s important to keep our wits about us and not panic during this time so that we can see the opportunities right in front of us. Let’s focus on helping one another, stopping the virus from spreading, and supporting the economy in the process.Â Our local businesses are sometimes the answer we need when we are sitting at home and low on supplies — or even on not-so-essential materials that help pass the time.
10 Ways To Help Your Local Small Business
We all can support small businesses in our area while making life a little easier, healthier, and more fun for our whole family in the process.
1. Order Take-Out
While some restaurants have always provided carry-out options, you might be surprised to find out your local pubs, coffee shops, and bakeries are changing how they serve, too. Visit their sites, check their social feeds, or just give them a call and see how they are handling the changes. And if your favorite local restaurant has always offered take-out, keep them in mind when you’ve been asked, “What’s for dinner?” for the twelfth time today.
Experts generally agree that take-out is a safe option, as COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted by food, and businesses are following strict health code regulations right now regarding employee illness and sanitation.
2. Sign Up For Deliveries Or Curbside Pickup
Continuing the thought from above, many local businesses that don’t normally offer delivery or curbside pickup are now providing this to their customers. Even retail and specialty shops are scrambling to adapt. Of course, third-party delivery services (e.g., Grub Hub, Postmates) are facing a surge in local business sign-ups, too, so there may be more opportunities now than you think.Â To find out who is doing what, check social media feeds and/or websites. Many local restaurants are also offering promotions to help encourage ordering from their patrons, too, so check the company’s Instagram and Facebook feeds for updates and offers.
Some small shops that sell non-food items now offer curbside options, too, so if you need supplies or just want to shop, give the business a call and see if they can put an order together for you for pickup. We know of one store that’s even offering curbside knitting supplies!
3. Shop Online
Here at Merchant Maverick, our behind-the-scenes research reveals a huge uptick of businesses finding ways to sell and fulfill orders online that have never done so before. While we are keeping up with the demand and offering more how-tos and other Covid-19 resources, we encourage you as the patron to check your local shop online and see what’s changed. You may now be able to place a to-go order online, shop supplies, health and wellness, toys, and books while supporting small businesses right from your home. Restrictions may last for months, and shopping can be a good self-isolating pastime that’s supporting the long-term health of your community.
4. Buy Gift Cards & Certificates
Now more than ever is a fantastic time to buy gift cards or pre-order from local businesses. Not only can you give them much needed cashflow during this time, but you can also get some holiday shopping done ahead of time! Buying a gift card for a neighbor or friend who is struggling with reduced hours at work or is temporarily out of work is also an apropos way to spread kindness and show support.
5. Follow Your Local Stores On Social Media
Following your local shops on social media platforms will keep you up-to-date with changes, and you’ll be showing your support to local business owners when they need it most. Social media is often the cheapest and easiest way a business communicates things like promotions, so it makes sense to follow and like things you see to show your support and take advantage of any promotions yourself, too!
6. Buy To Give
It’s been wonderful to see how many helpful people offer to pick up supplies for others during this time. If you put in a delivery or pick-up order or even brave the outdoors yourself, order a bit extra for someone who you know could benefit. Whether that’s buying for someone who has pre-existing conditions or an elderly neighbor or ordering supplies to be dropped off to your local shelter, we can all do something during this time to support those in our community who need it.
7. Get Gas From Local Stations
With the only things to do being in our house, more people are taking a drive just because. Supporting your locally-owned gas station is another great way to boost up your local economy. And of course, many people still have to commute and work during this time, so being mindful about where you fill up your tank can make a huge difference.
8. Pay It Forward
We are probably all familiar with the term pay it forward, but in times like these, it’s understandably hard for some to get out of the fear-based mindset. Paying it forward can be a wonderful way to train your mind to think outside yourself and your current situation. You’ll feel your anxiety and your spirits lift, without receiving anything in return. Pay-it-forward moments are here, we just have to look for them. Whether that means you have a membership that you can’t use but still pay for, you purchase something you wouldn’t have normally, or you send extra to a local shelter or non-profit business, these opportunities are what elevate our communities and our spirits.
9. Tip More Than Usual
For those who don’t work from home âwhether that’s delivery drivers, shoppers who bring your groceries curbside, or the staff at the pick-up window at your favorite restaurant â these folks are keeping it going for the rest of us. Tip more than usual — even in situations you may not have before. You might be adding the cash needed to re-stock food to a family’s dwindling pantry, or at the very least, showing someone you appreciate them. And we need more of that now more than ever.
10. Don’t Forget Your Local Businesses When COVID-19 Is Over
When all of this is over (yes, it will be!) remember to keep supporting your local business. They will likely have been hit pretty hard, and while there is some COVID-19 small business relief available in the form ofÂ SBA disaster loans, it will likely take extra support from all of us to help them recover. So keep small businesses in mind when restrictions finally lift and you’ve got a hankering to do some shopping.
Stay Loyal To Local: Small Businesses Will Thank You
When you support a small business, you are not only supporting a creative endeavor, you’re supporting your neighbors, too! According to the Small Business Administration, small companies create 1.5 million jobs and account for 64% of new jobs. Small businesses really do make our communities a better place to live in, so let’s show them some support to sustain these friends during tough times.
We have a growing library of resources available for businesses navigating through the ever-changing restrictions of COVID-19. Check out our Coronovirus Guides & Resources page for the support you need. Are you supporting your local business in a different way we didn’t mention? Let’s hear it! Are you a small business owner with questions related to COVID-19 transitions? Leave us a comment or question below, and we’d love to help all we can!
The post How You Can Help Small Business Stay Afloat During The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
For many crafters and makers, Etsy has been a life-changer. This marketplace dedicated to independent artists has opened up the door for many to turn their hobbies into careers. Etsy has enabled artists to start selling their wares online by eliminating many of the difficulties involved with running an online store. Sellers don’t need to worry about building a website, attracting web traffic, or calculating shipping expenses and taxes. Etsy is an easy way to sell, and it has gained incredible popularity for it. With 1.8 million sellers currently on the platform, it’s clear that Etsy is a major player in the eCommerce space.
That said, Etsy also has a few downsides. Perhaps the biggest complaint among sellers regards Etsy’s fee structure. Etsy charges a variety of fees from listing fees to transaction fees and payment processing fees, and it can be difficult to keep things straight (and to calculate how much you’ll owe Etsy for each sale). What’s more, Etsy has been known to increase these fees or add new ones, leaving many sellers wanting a way out. Most recently, Etsy has unveiled a new Offsite Ad service that comes with its own fees, and which is mandatory for some sellers.
In this article, we’ll break down Etsy’s pricing and fees. We’ll explain how you can know if Etsy is worth the cost, and then we’ll give a few strategies for succeeding in the Etsy marketplace. And if you ultimately decide that Etsy isn’t the right choice for your business, we have a few suggestions of alternatives you can turn to.
Let’s get into it!
Etsy’s Pricing Plans
Etsy offers users two subscription options for seller accounts: the free Standard Plan and the for-purchase Plus Plan. Take a look below to find out what each plan offers.
Etsy’s Standard Plan is their free seller account, complete with all the basic tools that Etsy offered before the Plus Plan was created. The Standard Plan allows users to list products on Etsy, buy and print discounted postage, and market their products with sales and coupons. The Standard Plan also gives you access to the Sell on the Etsy App.
The Plus Plan is available at $10/month, and it includes all of the basic features of the Standard Plan, plus a bit more. The Plus Plan includes some additional features, such as advanced shop customization options (banner options, new layouts of featured listings, and more) and restock requests for sold out items.
The Plus Plan also offers credits and discounts on additional Etsy services. Here’s a quick list:
15 listing credits monthly (the equivalent of $3 in listings)
$5 USD in Etsy Ads credits monthly
Free .store domains
50% off select domain extensions: .com .net and .ca
Discounts on custom web address
Discounts on custom packaging and promotional materials
The 7 Types Of Etsy Fees All Businesses Need To Know
In addition to the monthly subscription listed above, Etsy sellers must juggle a variety of other fees charged by the platform. Etsy has a rather complicated fee structure, and it’s worth taking a look at their legal terms and policies to really get a grasp on all the nitty-gritty elements of how taxes may or may not apply to fees in your region. For more digestible information on Etsy’s many different fees, take a look below.
Etsy charges a $0.20 listing fee for each item you put up to sell on their platform.
This fee truly applies to each product you sell. For example, let’s say you have 10 identical ceramic bowls, which you are selling individually. You can list all of these identical bowls under the same product page, but after each one sells, you much pay another $0.20 to renew the listing. If you sell all of these bowls, you pay a total of $2.00 in listing fees.
If, however, you sold a pack of ten bowls as one product, you would only pay one $0.20 listing fee.
Listings expire after four months, when you’ll have to pay the listing fee again to renew.
Etsy’s transaction fee (not to be confused with their payment processing fee) is a fee that Etsy charges to cover the cost of using their platform. Etsy’s transaction fee is 5% of the price you charge your customers, including the cost of shipping, product customization, and gift wrapping.
For sellers in the US and Canada, Etsy does not charge transaction fees on sales tax (unless you include the cost of sales tax in your listing price). However, for sellers outside of the US and Canada, these transaction fees might include the cost of some applicable taxes.
Payment Processing Fees
In order to accept online payments, all merchants must pay payment processing fees. Payment processors (such as PayPal and Square) typically offer their services at around 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Etsy Payments is Etsy’s own in-house payment processor, which sellers must use to accept payments if they are in one of the 36 eligible counties (including the US, UK, Australia, and Canada). If Etsy Payments is not available in your country, you can use PayPal to accept online payments.
Etsy Payments charges 3% + $0.25 per transaction.Â This allows you to accept payments by credit card, debit card, Etsy Gift Card, Etsy Credit, PayPal, some bank transfer services, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also allow your customers to pay using their PayPal accounts. Etsy Payments rates will apply to these payments instead of PayPal rates.
In-Person Selling Fees
Etsy has partnered with Square to offer sellers an option for in-person selling. In order to accept in-person payments, you’ll need a Square card reader (take a look at our review of Square for more information). When you accept payments in person for items that you have listed on your Etsy site, you’ll pay the usual listing fees as well as Square’s payment processing fees (2.6% + $0.10). You will not pay the 5% Etsy transaction fee.
If you’re looking to build a more personalized website to sell your products, Etsy has an option worth trying. It’s called Pattern, and it’s website building software that allows you to develop your own store that is still connected to your Etsy seller account. Pattern is available for $15/month.
Listing fees also apply to Pattern, although there is a bit of additional complexity. If you list a product only on Pattern and not on Etsy, you must pay a listing fee. If you already had a product listed on Etsy, and you want to also list it on Pattern, you do not need to pay an additional listing fee (you have already paid one to Etsy). What’s more, Pattern listings do not expire.
Currency Conversion Fees
Etsy recommends that sellers list their pricing in the same currency as their payment account currency. This will allow sellers to avoid foreign exchange charges. Customers are able to select the currency in which they view listings, so listing your products in one particular currency shouldn’t impact your sales at all. However, if you do not do this, and you list your products in a different currency than your payment account, you will be charged a 2.5% currency conversion fee.
Over the past few years, Etsy has rolled out some marketing tools for users. These include on-site and off-site ads, which of course come with their own fees.
Etsy Ad Fees
Etsy allows sellers the option of marketing their products within the marketplace via Etsy Ads. These ads are available on pay-per-click pricing, and the cost of each click will vary depending on demand. You can set a budget that limits the amount you’re willing to pay for on-site ads daily, and Etsy will only list your ads until you reach that daily maximum.
Offsite Ads Fees
Etsy’s Offsite Ads are the newest development in Etsy’s advertising. All users are currently being set up to use Offsite Ads, with the option to opt-out available to sellers who have made less than $10,000 in sales in the last year.
With the new Offsite Ads program, Etsy will market your products on major sites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing. When someone clicks an ad that includes one of your products and then purchases one of your products within 30 days, you are charged an advertising fee on that order. This fee is either 12% or 15% depending on your annual sales. For those who make under $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads is an optional service, and the rate is 15%. However, for those who made over $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads are mandatory. Etsy charges these sellers a rate of 12% on purchases made from the ads.
What Real Users Have To Say About Etsy Seller Fees
Etsy sellers have mixed opinions regarding fees. Some sellers say that Etsy is the most affordable option for their business while others say that Etsy’s increasing fees are forcing them to leave the platform. Take a look below at a couple of comments I found on Etsy’s community forum from 2019. I think both of these quotes encompass user sentiment:
“I think Etsy’s fees have got ridiculous. I am getting charged nearly 13% (incl VAT). This is not viable for me, I will either have to close my shop or put up my prices. Etsy used to be a viable platform for crafts people, designers and sole traders but their fees are too high and too complicated. I have complained.”
“It’s still much cheaper than eBay, where it’s 10% on sale price and shipping. I think the new billing system did us all a favor by making us much more aware of what our profit margins actually are, and forcing us to take a hard look at our business model. My big revelation was that I seriously need to eliminate ALL the low priced items – a $3 item that sites for 2 years before it sells is actually losing money. Planning to flea market half my inventory when the weather warms up.”
More recently, Etsy has caused a stir with its announcement about mandatory Offsite Ads for some sellers. There are a couple of comments from the community forum in March 2020 that represent the conversation currently underway about this new policy:
“This may be exciting for those who WANT to advertise, but for those of us who do not want to advertise, this is a strong-arm technique. We deserve the right to opt out.”
“…I am capable of working out my own costs and I have. And that INCLUDES advertising. Time will tell but for my shop I think these adverts will increase my profits. Everyone screamed about the current adds, but guess what? Yep, they worked really well for my shop. Business is booming, each month I am up. The only thing I do disagree with is the fact that for successful sellers, its mandatory. That isn’t fair.”
Is Etsy Worth The Cost For Your Business?
So, is Etsy worth the expense for your business? That depends on a few factors: your profit margins, and the value you derive from the marketplace.
In order to really use Etsy to your advantage, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your profit margins. If you aren’t careful, Etsy fees can easily eat into your profits, causing you to actually lose money on a sale. Here’s a reminder of Etsy’s fees:
Transaction fee: 5% of total
Payment processing fee: 3% + $0.25
Listing fee: $0.20 of total
Total Fees: 8% +$0.45
So, let’s imagine that one of the products you sell costs you $5 to make, and you sell it on your platform for $15 with “free shipping.” Here’s a breakdown of what associated fees would be.
Shipping costs (estimate): $5.00
5% transaction fee: $0.75
3% + $0.25 payment processing fee: $0.70
Listing fee: $0.20
Total expenses (including shipping): $6.65
When we subtract the cost of making the product and the expenses related to fees, we end up with a $3.35 profit margin. In this example, you’d likely need to raise your pricing in order to increase your profit margins and better account for the cost of offering free shipping.
Another factor you’ll want to keep in mind is the value your business derives from the platform. What value does Etsy provide to your business? Is it the ease of being found by new customers? The ability to sell products online without having to maintain a website? This value, whether or not you can put a dollar sign in front of it, is a huge factor in your decision to use Etsy despite the fees.
How To Offset Etsy Seller Fees
As I mentioned above, in order to succeed on Etsy, you have to pay close attention to your bottom line. Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay on top of Etsy Seller Fees:
Increase Prices: The most obvious way to protect your profits is to increase product pricing. Often, sellers are worried that increasing the cost of their goods will make them less competitive. While this is sometimes the case, I have also seen Etsy users reporting that even after they increased their pricing, their sales did not experience any decrease. This could be because buyers often view higher-priced items as higher quality. Perhaps shifting your pricing will surprise you by having a positive impact on your brand.
Cut Costs: This is the next obvious step. Rethink the way you handle both production and shipping. Is there any way you can make your products faster or more affordably without significantly impacting quality? And when it comes to shipping, are you comparing options from multiple shipping carriers to make the best decisions possible? If there’s an area where you can lessen your expenses, do so. It’ll make a big difference.
Weigh The Pros & Cons Of Ads: If you have the ability to choose whether or not you use offsite ads, I would consider this very carefully. If you opt in, you’ll likely get a number of sales that you wouldn’t otherwise, but you will also need to leave space in your profit margins for the occasional 15% fee.
Don’t Keep Stale Listings:Â Because your listings renew every four months (for an additional $0.20 fee), you want to make sure that the products you list on your store move within four months. Don’t keep stale listings around. Over time, they may end up costing you more than the product is worth.
Get Help From The Community: The Etsy community is a strong bunch of sellers. Ask the Etsy community forum for ways they are handling Etsy’s fees, and to get more specific advice on your own store.
Tired Of The Fees & Ready To Switch?
While some merchants choose to navigate Etsy’s ever-shifting fees and guidelines, many sellers are tired of constantly adjusting their prices to reflect new fees. If you’re one of those sellers who is fed up with Etsy’s various fees, it might be time to try something different.
There are plenty of other ways to sell online, including opening your own online store or just trying out a different marketplace. For some advice on leaving Etsy, read our article 8 Signs You’re Ready To Leave Etsy (And How To Do It). And for a few suggestions on quality selling tools, check out our article on The Best Etsy Alternatives For Online Sellers.
So keep making great products, and keep an eye on your profit margins. Whether you choose to stick with Etsy or switch to something else, we wish you the best of luck.
The post The Real Cost Of Selling On Etsy: Etsy Fees, Pricing, & Offsite Ads Explained appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 (or coronavirus) pandemic has changed the world we live in. This global emergency is all that anyone’s talking about, whether you flip on your TV or log onto social media. One thing that has been circulating throughout the news in recent days is the term “social distancing.” For consumers, social distancing may be an inconvenience that ultimately helps slow the spread of the virus. For business owners, on the other hand, social distancing has a much bigger impact. With states putting restrictions in place and the majority of consumers opting to self-isolate, many businesses are shuttering their doors. It may feel like too much for you and other small business owners to handle.
It is a scary time for everyone. And while we don’t know what the future holds, there are a few things you can do starting now so that your business can adapt to and survive the coronavirus. In this post, we’re going to take a look at social distancing. We’ll talk about what it means, how it may affect your business, and how you can adapt and grow closer to your customers during this challenging time.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a strategy designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that events or gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the virus. If you do go out in public, it’s important to stay at least six feet away from other people, as one of the ways that the virus is spread is through close contact.
It’s also recommended to limit going out in public unless necessary, such as when buying groceries or receiving medical care. Travel bans are being put in place by countries around the world, and unnecessary travel should be canceled or rescheduled.
What Does Social Distancing Mean For Small Businesses?
Many businesses are also taking steps to protect their employees and customers, either by law or simply by choice. In states like Illinois and Ohio, all bars and restaurant dining rooms have been required to close. Other states may follow suit, while some businesses are choosing to close their doors before it’s even required. This includes retail stores, gyms, daycares, movie theaters, hotels, and casinos. Others aren’t completely shutting down but are closing public spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms and hotel conference rooms.
Unfortunately, social distancing means that most small businesses will see a downturn in their business. Reduced operating hours, closures, and fear and uncertainty among the public all equal a reduction in customers. The good news, though, is that there are ways that you can better connect with customers and continue to bring in revenue — strategies that we’ll discuss a little later.
With all that’s going on in the world today, there’s no better time than right now to evaluate your business policies for now and the future. For starters, take a look at your staffing policies. It’s a good time to inform employees that anyone that is sick should stay home to protect themselves and others. Not only does this apply to the coronavirus, but also to other contagious illnesses such as the flu.
Next, reevaluate your cleaning and sanitation policies. It’s likely that you already have some in place, but are you doing enough? In addition to your typical cleaning and disinfecting routine, consider cleaning more frequently. Many businesses are changing their hours so that employees have extra time to clean and sanitize surfaces before opening again the next day. Taking the time to clean and sanitize your business helps protect you, your employees, and your customers from the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Another thing to take a closer look at is your payment policy. Will this remain the same, or will you only accept payment cards? If you’re now taking orders online or by phone, do you have a way to do that securely? If not, it’s time to explore your options to make payments safe and convenient for customers. Learn how to get started by checking out Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments.
No matter what you choose to change within your business, there’s one thing that you must do: keep your customers in the loop. Send out emails, post signage (if your business is still open), or use social media to provide updates, such as new hours, online ordering options, and measures your business is taking to protect customers.
4 Ways You Can Adapt To Social Distancing & Keep Your Business Afloat
The coronavirus has already made its impact on the world, and there’s no predicting what will come next. Instead of sitting around and waiting, it’s time to take initiative and find new ways to serve your customers and keep the money flowing. You may have to get creative, but there are options that can help keep your business operating despite social distancing. And the best news? Many options don’t even require a huge financial investment!
Unsure of the next steps for your business? Consider adopting one (or more!) of these strategies:
Self-ordering kiosks & checkouts
Online ordering & carryout
Selling on social media
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these strategies to help you determine which is best for your business.
Adding Self-Serve Kiosks & Checkouts
If your business is a retail shop or quick-service restaurant, consider adding self-serve kiosks and checkouts. Implementing this technology into your business allows your customers to scan products they’re buying, place orders from your menu, and even pay for their purchases all through a kiosk or checkout terminal.
How does this benefit your business? There is less interaction with other people, so this strategy can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. If you’ve reduced your staff due to illness or expenses, self-serve kiosks and checkout terminals help ease the burden that falls on your remaining staff.
However, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. First, not every business will be able to use this tech in their business. Retail stores and quick-service or fast-food restaurants would benefit the most from the addition of self-serve kiosks and checkouts. And while these conveniences can lighten your load, you’ll also need to remember that your equipment must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly, and often.
Another drawback is the expense. Installing self-serve kiosks and terminals can get pretty expensive, and businesses that were struggling prior to the epidemic may want to look at more cost-effective options. However, it may be well worth the cost for a number of small businesses. Adding this technology to your business can help you better compete with your competitors — and in some cases, even give you a leg up. More businesses are moving to the latest point-of-sale (POS) systems and terminals, so now could be the time for your business to get set up.
If pricing still has you on the fence, know that there are options. Some POS providers provide financing, allowing you to make affordable payments over time. You can also write your equipment off come tax time.
If the concept of self-serve kiosks and checkouts is foreign to you, learn more about this technology and why it could be right for your business by checking out, A Basic Guide To Self-Service POS Systems.
Adding Online Ordering, Delivery, & Carryout
Many governments around the world are ordering the closure of restaurant dining rooms. Whether a closure is mandated in your area or you simply choose to close the dining room on your own, there are still ways to bring in revenue. Many restaurants are now offering online ordering, delivery, and carryout services.
If this sounds like a lot of work, in many cases, it’s hardly any work at all. In fact, you may already have everything you need to start serving your customers in new ways. Before you get started, determine what strategies will work best for your restaurant. For example, do you have an unused drive-thru window? Do you have servers and bussers that you could keep on staff to deliver orders or box up takeout options?
Now is a good time to get really creative, too. For instance, if you plan to shorten operating hours in the evenings, consider offering “take and bake” meals that customers can heat up at home for a quick and tasty dinner. Or you could take a load off of your fatigued customers by offering curbside pickup — they place an order, park their vehicles, and one of your staff members brings their order right to their car.
How do you get started in offering these new options to customers?Â It may be easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.
How To Accept Call-In Orders
Some customers may not have access to the internet or simply prefer to call in their orders. Call-in orders can be used for delivery, in-store pickup, or curbside carryout. There’s a good chance that your restaurant’s POS system already offers this feature. If you’re unsure of how to do this, contact your POS company to learn if this feature is available.
If your POS system doesn’t have this feature, it’s possible to do this manually. Have someone man the phones, take down orders and relay them to the kitchen, and ring up each customer.
How To Accept Online Orders
During the pandemic, many people will be at home placing restaurant orders online. The easiest way to offer online ordering is by seeing if your POS system integrates with third-party services such as GrubHub, Postmates, or DoorDash. Customers can easily place online orders for pickup or delivery, and you won’t have to add extra staff to handle your deliveries.
If you want to keep your employees busy, consider adding in-house delivery services. While this will require more work on your part, you can utilize current employees to take on this task. The benefits of this option are two-fold: you’re providing a needed service for customers while allowing your employees to continue to work and get a paycheck. Like the other strategies in this post, this is also one that you can maintain after restrictions have been lifted and life begins its return to normalcy.
If you’re in the restaurant industry, this time can be a challenge. Keep serving your customers and bringing in revenues by checking out our Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants.
Expanding To eCommerce
If you are a retailer, you’re in luck. Even if your doors remain closed during the pandemic, you can still provide your products to customers that shop online. If you’re new to eCommerce, making the switch can seem long, difficult, and expensive. But you’d be surprised at how easy this is for may retailers.
This option will be easiest for retailers with limited inventory. If you’re a larger business with a lot of inventory, setting up an online store isn’t impossible but may take extra time and effort.
While you can certainly set your web store online manually, first look into the capabilities of your POS system. Many systems already integrate with popular web store options and even offer automated features like importing inventory.
New to eCommerce? Learn how to get started in just five easy steps.
Selling On Social Media
If you’re unable to easily set up a web store or you have a large online following, you can put social media to work for your business by selling on selling on Facebook or using Instagram Shoppable Posts. The advantages of selling on social media are that it’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. This is a great option for any retailer that doesn’t want to set up a full eCommerce site but still wants to reach customers and bring in revenue.
The Best Ways To Stay Close To Your Customers (While Practicing Social Distancing)
Social distancing may mean that your business sees fewer customers. Even when the pandemic is over, it may take some time for business to return to normal. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop off the radar of your customers. Use these strategies to continue to connect with customers while practicing social distancing.
Use Social Media
Many people are stuck at home right now checking their social media. Why don’t you let your posts be among those that they see? Use your social media pages to keep customers updated on what’s happening with your business. Post updated store hours, closures, and any other changes to your regular operating schedule. You can also use social media to announce new services (such as your new online store or delivery services), post current and upcoming promotions, and keep your customers excited for what you have to offer during and after the pandemic.
Use Email Lists
Not everyone uses social media, so make sure to keep all customers updated that have signed up for your email list. If you don’t already have an email list set up, make sure to add a sign-up option on your website and social media pages. Just as you did on your social media pages, you can update customers on changes within your organization. You can also use your email lists to offer exclusive promos to subscribers.
Offer Gift Cards
Now is a fantastic time to offer gift cards that can be purchased now and used later. This is a great way for customers to plan future purchases or even provide a quick and simple gift for their loved ones. E-gift cards are easily purchased online and sent right to the customer — no plastic cards or in-store pickup required. Many POS systems, payment processors, and online stores integrate with gift cards, so check with your provider to learn more. You can also read our post How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business to learn how to get started.
Promote A Good Cause
While you want to remain top-of-mind for your customers, don’t just think about the hardships of your own business. Instead, spend time encouraging your community to give back in any way possible. Donations to food banks or local organizations and volunteering are just a few options that can bring the community together during these difficult times. You may even consider launching a fundraiser or directing customers to other fundraisers, events, and news in your area.
It’s a scary time for all of us out here, so try to remain positive and keep your customers in good spirits. There is enough negativity throughout the news and social media that can raise fears and anxiety. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening in the world around us, but instead, put out positive and encouraging messages. There’s no better time than right now to connect with your community and offer your support for your followers and customers.
Adapt Your Business To Social Distancing To Weather The Storm
People are dealing with a lot of fear and uncertainty worldwide, and business owners are no exception. Your health, the health of those around you, and maintaining your livelihood can easily overwhelm you. But just know that there are options available that will help keep your business afloat. While you may have to dedicate your time and may even need to consider a small investment, these efforts can boost sales and help your business come out on the other side. Good luck!
For more resources on surviving the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, check out our COVID-19 hub for small businesses.
The post Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The novel coronavirus global pandemic is quickly reshaping American life as we know it. As a small business owner, you’re no doubt concerned about how COVID-19 will affect your livelihood. Restaurant owners especially face challenges due to restrictions on gatherings of people, local quarantines and curfews, and just the general fearful atmosphere that has your most loyal patrons now fearful to leave their homes.
Nevertheless, people still have to eat.
While it’s hard to predict the future as things are changing so rapidly, it seems likely that many restaurants will remain open throughout this pandemic, if only in a limited capacity—i.e., for delivery and takeout. We’re here to help you weather out this storm so you can stay open, or at least stay in business, even if you must close your restaurant temporarily because of COVID-19.
Keep reading to learn how your restaurant business can adapt to new business conditions in the age of coronavirus, including resources on how you can save your business from closing and even continue serving customers during this crisis.
Whatâs Going To Happen To Restaurants As Coronavirus Spreads?
As more and more cities are affected and local governments declare emergencies, all businesses should be prepared for a downturn. This downturn will almost certainly be temporary, and it will be worse in certain regions than in others, as outbreaks are occurring in different regions at different times. However, it’s becoming pretty clear that no customer-facing business—retail, restaurant, health and beauty, service etc.—will be unaffected.
As a result of the worrying spread of COVID-19, many restaurants are temporarily shutting their doors, reducing their seating capacity, or restricting business to only take-out and delivery.
Will the government mandate a shutdown of all restaurants? Well, some state and city governments have already done this as of the time of writing this article, and more will likely follow suit. However, delivery and take-out are not included in those closure orders thus far, and some governors and mayors are only ordering restaurants to operate at half-capacity. Of course, it’s very possible that measures may become stricter in the coming days and weeks.
White House guidelines issued March 16 recommend against gatherings of only 10 or more people over the following 15 days, and that all restaurants close (dine-in service) in states with evidence of community transmission; however, at the time of writing, those announcements were just guidelines and not mandated orders.
Is Your Business Prepared For A Pandemic?
So, is your restaurant business ready to deal with the coronavirus pandemic? Have you actually ever thought about what to do if thereâs ever a large-scale crisis? It might seem like it’s too late, but you can still prepare for what changes might be ahead, including even future pandemics or national emergencies. While everyone’s hunkering down, the internet makes it possible to communicate with employees and customers, and even apply for and access emergency funds during this time of crisis.
5 Essential Things You Can Do To Prepare For A Community Health Crisis Or Other Disaster
As a restaurant owner, there are some basic things you can and should be doing from a business management/community health perspective. These actions apply not just to the current health crisis, but also to protecting your business from future crises.
Revisit Health & Safety Policies
This may seem kind of basic, but it’s nonetheless important. We’re talking handwashing techniques, proper sanitation, and when people should stay home from work. You can help protect your business, employees, and patrons by implementing some stricter health and safety policies, today.
To inform such policies, be sure to consult the official CDC guidelines for businesses regarding COVID-19 and all local ordinances and guidelines. You can also find some helpful information about maintaining worker health in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Toolkit for Coronavirus.
Revisit Employee Attendance Policies
Do you have an overly strict attendance policy? You’ll probably need to relax this policy — at least for the time being — so that people donât feel tempted to go into work when sick. Make it easy for your employees to make the right choice.
Again, be sure to consult all local laws and ordinances. For example, the city of San Diego has ordered that the city’s businesses can no longer require a doctor’s note when an employee is sick, as they don’t want doctors to be burdened by paperwork instead of helping sick patients.
Analyze Your Cash Flow
Cash flow is super important, now more than ever. Take a look at where things are right now and what you anticipate your cash flow will be over the next few months—including worst-case scenarios. How much do you have on hand? How much do you need to keep the lights on? When are your next bills due? Are you eligible for a cash-flow loan if you need one? Check your POS reports for changes. Your revenue may be down, but by how much? Donât just rely on âimpressionsâ or visual scans.
Here’s a good resource you can use right now to analyze your business’s cashflow: How To Calculate & Analyze Business Cash Flow
Check Your Business Insurance Policy
Familiarize yourself with your business insurance policy. What does it cover? How much does it cover? Here are some resources we have on business insurance:
Business Insurance For Florida Small Businesses
Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It
How To Get Business Insurance In 4 Easy Steps
Do I Need Business Insurance?
Own A Business? Here Are 7 Types Of Business Insurance You May Need
Monitor News & Policy Changes
While it’s not necessarily helpful to obsessively check the news all day for developments (though it can be hard not to right now), it’s important as a business owner to stay on top of all local, state, and national health policy changes that could affect your business. Find a reliable source of news for health updates specific to your city, and make sure your device is set up to receive alerts so you get all the relevant updates.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re adhering to all current policies so that you don’t get shut down. For example, you’ll need to adhere to social distancing policies from the CDC which recommend that customers be seated at least 6 feet apartÂ and that dine-in seating is reduced to 50 or less. Depending on your state or city, there may be additional guidelines you must follow.
5 Strategies To Keep Business Going In A Tough Time
Okay, so weâve covered basic emergency preparedness. Now, what can you do to keep your restaurant going during a time of crisis? Here are some ways restaurants can cut costs and/or keep money flowing in.
Implement Takeout & Delivery
Offering takeout and delivery is important when people do not want to dine-in or you’re unable to offer dine-in service due to the current emergency policy in your area. As mentioned, some governments are mandating that restaurant dining rooms close or operate at half-capacity. You can offer a takeout and delivery option via an online restaurant ordering system that works with your restaurant’s website, or you can offer delivery via a third-party delivery service.
While third-party delivery services typically take a big cut of the sale—as much as 30 percent—during the crisis, food delivery services like Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Seamless are currently suspending their commission fees to independent restaurants. These services are also instituting “no contact” food delivery policies in adherence with social distancing recommendations.
Sell Gift Cards
People in our communities cherish their local businesses and want to help them out. After all, you want the businesses you love to frequent to still be around after the current crisis ends. If your restaurant offers gift cards, people can buy a gift card now (providing the money you so desperately need at the moment) and redeem it later once your regular operations resume.
Here’s an excellent resource that can help you set up gift cards for your small business if you haven’t already: How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business: What You Need To Know & How To Get Started
Adjust Your Menu & Hours
This is a time to trim the fat and focus on just the essentials. This is the time to update your menu and drop high-cost/low-profit items, and slow-moving items. Focus on what’s cheap, popular, and in-season. Further reading:Â 14 Ways To Create, Implement, & Maintain A Great Restaurant Menu
Many restaurants are adjusting their hours to save money and also to minimize risk. You might consider temporarily closing during your least-busy days or hours to save costs, or getting nixing your happy hour when people would be less likely to practice social distancing.
Communicate With Customers
Most businesses have an email list and/or a social media presence. Even if you’re not sure if you do, check your point of sale. POS systems like Square automatically collect customers’ email addresses and other contact info so you can reach out to them. Whether you are closing or staying open, be sure to contact your customers to let them know what precautions you are taking against coronavirus and any adjustments your business has made to your hours, sanitization policies, or anything else.
If your restaurant is closing temporarily, you may just want to reassure customers that you will reopen when it’s safe and perhaps encourage them to purchase a gift card in the meantime.
Advertise & Promote
If you’re still open, you need to let customers know, and entice them to buy food from you. For example, you can use social media, text marketing, and email to offer some specials for takeout. You may even want to use online advertising in the form of pay-per-click ads and (paid) social media ads on Facebook and Instagram. As far as what foods to offer for your promotions, you will especially want to focus on selling meals that are super cheap to make with high profit margins.
What To Do When A Temporary Slow-Down Becomes The Worst-Case Scenario
What are your options when things start going from âwe need to tighten our beltsâ to âhow long can we keep the lights on?”—or worse, when government orders force closure?
What measures are being taken now to help small businesses after the COVID-19 outbreak? Here are some steps governments are taking to help businesses affected by COVID-19:
The SBA has announced it will provide disaster relief loans up to $2 million for small businesses affected by COVID-19. Here is SBA’s news article about coronavirus SBA loans and its guidelines for businesses re: COVID-19.
The Fed has cut interest rates to zero to help businesses and consumers during coronavirus—This means your business could qualify for a very low-interest loan.
State and city governments have announced various measures to help small businesses during the crisis; for example, the city of San Jose, California voted to adopt a temporary 30-month moratorium on evictions for small businesses and residents of the city, which has been hard-hit by the virus.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying to cancel payroll taxes for April and May (this has not been made into law yet).
Some more things you can do:
Check Your Local Chamber Of Commerce to find out about coronavirus disaster relief programs for small businesses in your state and city, such as eviction moratoriums, payroll and sales tax relief programs, low-interest loans, etc.
Communicate With Your Creditors and also with your vendors, your landlord, etc. Everyone is hurting right now and they will likely be willing to work with you, especially if you can negotiate arrangements for when things pick up. Some credit card issuers are even offering special relief programs. It’s better to be proactive than to get behind and then ask for help.
Check Your Business Interruption Insurance PolicyÂ if you have one. Your policy must include communicable disease coverage for it to cover coronavirus-related losses.
Here is more coronavirus-related information and resources for restaurants compiled by the National Restaurant Association: Coronavirus Information & Resources.
Being Proactive Is The Best Way To Protect Your Business (& Your Customers)
Why is it so important for businesses to get ahead instead of just waiting this crisis out? Well, even if you have to close or drastically reduce your operations, you still have the ability to take actions that can lessen the impact of coronavirus on your restaurant. You can:
Promote your takeout and delivery services
Communicate with your customers
Sell gift cards
Apply for disaster-relief financing
Negotiate with your creditors
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Also, state and local governments are very motivated to reduce the impact of this crisis and small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. Seek out the resources for small business help because they do exist.
Read our Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition for more actionable information for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The post Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you want to start a subscription box company. I bet you’ve come here with questions, and if so, you’re in the right spot! We’ve got answers, inspiration, and plenty of resources ready for you to check out. Keep reading to discover how you to find niche subscription box ideas that will turn heads, how to keep your company running like a well-oiled machine, and how to reach more customers and expand your business once you launch. Let’s get going!
Step 1: You Need An Interesting Subscription Box Idea To Succeed
How will you find that amazing idea to dazzle your would-be subscribers? In part, the foundation of a successful subscription box company is that extra something that sets you apart. Interestingly, one of the most successful boxes in the last few years started with a regular old hygiene product we all probably purchase. I’m thinking about what the Dollar Shave Club did with a simple self-care item: the razor. Their campaign used visual textures, packaging, and smart, fun messaging to connect with potential subscribers. While they initially marketed to men, their brand has grown to target both men and women. The idea is that people sign up to save on a razor (something everyone needs anyway) and soon enough they’re adding non-essentials to their box as well. While you might have more of a whimsical idea than just a plain razor, this company shows that anything is possible with the right planning and execution.
There are a lot of exciting possibilities out there, so get a notepad out, grab a refreshing beverage, and let’s explore how to create a very successful subscription box business.
14 Subscription Box Business Ideas To Get You Started
The sky is the limit when it comes to curating a subscription box. It’s true that subscription boxes are becoming a competitive market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach a particular group with a new angle. As we saw with the Dollar Shave Club, sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that take off when coupled with a good message and imagery.
First, you’ll want to figure out your target audience and demographic and do the needed research on these folks. Will your box provide convenience, discovery, whimsy, and/or special interest? Here are some general ideas to help you narrow down the focus and come up with something unique for your subscribers:
Gourmet foods, exotic snacks, coffee, tea, candy, etc.
Pregnancy and baby
Arts and crafts
Gaming and “geek” interests
Fitness and health
Curated clothing and accessories
Self-care and pampering
Inspirational / encouraging
Beauty and grooming
Pet care and toy
Home (plants, cleaning, candles, art)
If you are feeling inspired, keeping brainstorming those ideas and write them down — you’ll need them for the research and discovery steps coming up. Keep reading to find out what you need to know to expand your business or start a brand-new business based on the subscription box model.
Step 2: Before You Start Planning In Earnest, Make A Business Plan
A business plan acts as a blueprint for success. It keeps you on track, aligns your goals, and helps you cover the basics. You’ll also need a business plan should you seek out funding or investors for your subscription box endeavor. The most important person this business plan serves is you, however.
Of course, you’ll need to do some more preliminary research and get your ducks in a row before creating your plan, but it certainly does not have to be complicated. We suggest starting with a lean business plan, which is a one-page document that follows this basic structure:
If you need a little more direction, check out our post, The How-To For One Page Business Plans
Research The Competition & Check Out Other Subscription Box Companies
As a part of your business plan, you’ll want to research the competition. The best way to start that is via a Google search. Go through the first few pages and click through the businesses there. The most important thing you can learn here is the average price point. You also can find product ideas there, but it’s more useful to identify what’s not in those boxes so that you can provide a unique angle.
Step 3: Consider How To Fund Your Subscription Box Business
There are several ways to go about funding expenses. You’ll need to consider a few things to help you assess what exactly you’ll need here.
Will you be paying the full price for some or all items?
Can you source wholesale to save costs?
Can you approach local artists or specialty shops for unique and specially priced inclusions?
Can you reach out to pitch suppliers for special pricing or free samples (more on this later)?
You can certainly do a combination of the above list. But whatever you decide, you’ll need to cover initial costs in marketing, setup, shipping, and inventory. Once you have an idea of what’s going in the box and your costs to fill it, then you can consider how you’ll go about funding the business.
Here are some options to consider:
Borrow money with a startup loan.
Use funds from advanced orders from subscribers.
Utilize a business credit card.
Another approach is to start small and limit quantities initially so you can cover your own costs. By doing this you can reduce your financial risk, not to mention create some urgency in the sale thanks to limited inventory.
Should You Crowdfund Your Subscription Box?
You could think about crowdfunding your fledgling business idea. Crowdfunding certainly has its advantages, along with some unique challenges. For one, you’ll need to devote marketing dollars to outreach and exposure for your campaign. And with that, you’ll need to lead with a great story to stand out and get attention. The best part of all this strategy, however, is that if you get your backers to support your start-up costs, you can reduce your debt and gain supporters while you’re at it. This strategy would likely be best for unique, cause-related, and highly niche ideas, as you’ll have the most potential for excitement from your backers.
There are several types of crowdfunding and (even more platforms to choose from), but rewards-based crowdfunding is likely the most appropriate choice for your subscription box business. Interested in exploring this option for your business? For more ideas and information on crowdfunding, check out Crowdfunding for Startups: 8 Tips For Launching.
Step 4: Seek Out A Supplier For Your Subscription Box Service
You’ve got a few options on how you’ll actually fill your box. You could choose to purchase directly from a wholesale company, pay full-price, or use a combination of both. For some or all of your products, initiating a long-term relationship with a supplier becomes the smartest option.
You can start finding some amazing things for your subscription box by networking and establishing good relationships with vendors, suppliers, or artists. Those of you who focus on unique or one-of-a-kind items will particularly need to get relationships going with specialty shops, sellers at trade shows, local artists, and crafters. Etsy can be a wonderful source for contacting niche and specialty item sellers in all kinds of categories — not just handmade items. Many sellers would be more than happy to supply samples or a discount, and some may even be open to sharing in exchange for exposure.
If you end up creating a full website for yourself (more on that coming up), make it easy for vendors to get in touch with you through a dedicated page and instructions for how to submit a request. While you may not be fielding a lot of inquiries when you launch, get it set up so you’re ready to respond to those requests when they start pouring in.
Why You Need To Perfect Your Pitch Before You Talk To Suppliers
We recommend creating your one-page business plan (discussed in Step 2) before approaching suppliers. If you already have an email list or social following, lead with these resources; suppliers will be more than happy to work with you if additional exposure to their product is in the mix. Whether you’re asking for sample sizes or a discount, remember that transparency, a good plan, and confidence in your approach will go a long way in your pitch.
Step 5: Build Your Web Presence & Customer Service Channels
You can approach selling your subscription boxes online a few different ways:
Hire a firm or freelancer to build a fully custom site.
Integrate a shopping cart with an existing site.
Choose an eCommerce platform including a site builder with website templates and a payment gateway all in one (e.g. Shopify, Read our review).
Sell via social channels only with a Facebook Store or Instagram Shoppable posts.
If the website part makes you a bit nervous, I have some good news for you. It really has never been easier to sell online — with little to no experience or technical expertise — by going with a website builder. Some platforms even offer all-in-one solutions with payments (including recurring billing), website templates, and a plethora of integrations for easier shipping and tracking built right in, too!
Where To Find eCommerce-Friendly Website Builders
Because they are both feature-rich, easy to use, and provide a lot of room to scale, we recommend Shopify and Square to business owners who are starting from the ground up with little to no tech expertise. And for those that do have coding expertise, you’ll have customization tools at your disposal, too! What makes me most excited about Shopify is that it enables multi-channel selling across platforms, including Facebook stores, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Amazon. With these options, you can take advantage of more opportunities for growth while meeting potential customers where they’re hanging out anyway. And what I love is that everything including your inventory and reporting is all synced no matter where you sell!
Whether you’re looking for just a shopping cart integration or a full all-in-one platform, I recommend checking out The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business as you can compare options side-by-side and get a lot more information regarding what to look for to match what you need.
I will leave one final thought in regards to eCommerce website builders â take advantage of any trial periods or demos to give yourself time to play around and explore your possibilities.
Why Your Choice Of Payment Processor Matters
Your payment processor is how you’ll actually accept payments, so this is an important business consideration. If you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, you’ll likely find yourself below the monthly volume of what many traditional payment processors serve.
Third-party processors like Square, PayPal, and Stripe (the backend processor of Shopify) make it possible for smaller businesses to start taking payments, and they provide an exhaustive set of (oftentimes free) tools to help you manage your business. ThisÂ convenience comes at a cost however: an increased risk of account freezes if you have an uptick in chargebacks or your account is considered higher risk.
Regardless of what type of merchant account you go with, however, you will have this risk, unfortunately. That’s why we recommend arming yourself with knowledge. Check out How To Keep Your Payment Processor From Holding Funds Or Terminating Your Account.
So what should you look for in a merchant account? Here is what you can keep in mind as you research companies:
Product Features: What comes with the account? Are there any beneficial add-on services like email marketing? Reporting tools?
Recurrent Billing: Allowing your customers to save and automatically be charged is a must!
ACH: Automatic bank transfers can lower your processing costs, and it’s another payment method to offer your customers.
Forms of Payment: Some payment flows like Shopify Payments let you easily add PayPal and digital wallets to your checkout.
Card Automatic Updating: This feature can prevent billing issues and ensures you don’t have to chase someone down for updating billing information if their card expires or gets replaced.
Check The Contract: Always read your contract! We recommend merchants avoid long-term contracts as they are often also laced with lots of fees.
Customer Service: It’s important to get the help you need when you need it. Companies that have several active customer service channels and generous customer service hours are a must for the eCommerce subscription box business.
Check out some of our top picks in payment gateways for online payment processing in our post The Best Payment Gateways For Online Payment Processing.
Solving The Customer Service Question
The customer service issue can also happily be solved with the right eCommerce platform, too. For instance, many web builders, like Wix, for instance, now include chatbots that allow you to communicate in real-time to field any incoming questions. Some companies direct their customers to send any order issues or inquiries via Facebook Messenger.Â If you’ve linked a Facebook business account with Shopify, for example, you can take advantage of order tracking as well. Of course, there are always reliable phone and email options. Whatever you decide, make it clear how your customers can contact you, along with the expected response time.
Regardless of customer service channels you ultimately choose, we suggest making it easy for your subscribers to alter their box or skip a month. Enabling them to easily skip a month may feel like losing a sale, but you’ll likely retain them for longer (and keep them less frustrated).
Step 6: Build A Marketing Plan To Draw In Customers
Getting a marketing plan down on paper is an absolute must, but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. The subscription box biz is a bit competitive at the moment, and that’s where being savvy and making the most of the opportunities you already have can go a long way.
Social Media Marketing For Your Subscription Box
Social media can work wonders to establish your brand and get people excited. Follow the strategies below:
Start Posting Regularly: If you already have followers on social, you’re at an advantage, but if you don’t, consider building your following by posting regular content, tagging larger accounts, and networking.
Test A Paid Social Ad: If you’re up to it, I recommend testing a sponsored post or two to get people excited during your pre-launch focus and beyond. Facebook advertising is a very cheap way ($20-30 bucks) to get in front of potentially thousands of people, and your ad will go to Instagram automatically, too. It’s also easy to target your campaign (even down to niche interests).
Excite With a Giveaway: A giveaway is a tried-and-true method of increasing your footprint with every post! Ask your followers to tag friends, share, and direct them to your site to sign up with an email. You increase your reach exponentially while building an email list of people who are interested in you. It’s a win-win.
Tap Into Influencer Marketing: Whether you have a lot of followers or not, an inexpensive way to boost your brand is through influencer marketing. By offering your box to an established YouTube personality in exchange for a shout-out or review on their page, you can reach potentially thousands with your brand name. Influencers will likely be happy about to devote some screen-time to your sub box, as it’s not always easy coming up with fresh content.
Email Marketing For Your Subscription Box
If you already have an established business or a robust email list, email marketing is a great way to promote your subscription box service. Email is still one of the cheapest and easiest ways to advertise new products and services. I love that Square offers this as an add-on service for only $15/month and includes analytics, templates, and targeting.
Don’t have a list? Consider reaching out to another local business and paying a small fee for a shout-out in their next newsletter. Make sure you create an email form on your site to make it easy for people to show their interest in your box. You could even use a credit card number to reserve a spot for a limited quantity of boxes before you’ve even launched! Fanning the flames of FOMO (fear of missing out) is never a bad idea in marketing.
To get the most bang for your buck when it comes to emails, check out How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy (all skill levels).
Step 7: Create A Strategy For Headache-Free Shipping & Fulfillment
There are two major pathways to take with shipping and fulfillment: doing it yourself or outsourcing fulfillment. Of course, the size of your operation and your budget are factors, as well as logistical and space considerations.
Creating a strategy that gets your boxes out on time is key, but you are probably looking for the lowest possible overhead and tools that can help you save time. There are a plethora of integrations that work with Shopify and other eCommerce platforms to make it easy to print labels and ship from your home.
When it comes to costs, your shipping fees can vary widely depending on what’s in your box, size, and materials you need. In your planning stages, do research on which carriers are most economical and if it’s best to use multiple carriers. Most importantly, when it comes to packing up your goodies and shipping out your subscription box, keeping everything protected and beautiful (not to mention eco-friendly) goes a long way in customer retention. The truth is that when you’re starting out, you’re building your reputation one box at a time.
Thankfully, we have a library of comprehensive and easy-to-digest resources to help you find the right solutions and make the best choices for your business. For answers to questions about shipping and fulfillment, check out our posts, 8 Hacks For Saving On Shipping CostsÂ and Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your eCommerce Fulfillment.
5 Tips To Keep Your Subscription Box Business Growing
Create Referral Campaigns:Â Make the time-tested and powerful technique of word-of-mouth advertising work for you through a referral campaign. All you need to do is incentivize current subscribers to refer your box to their friends and family. Whether that’s through a bonus box or a few extra treats in their next shipment, those who successfully recruit friends and family to your brand deserve some celebration!
Stellar Customer Service:Â Nothing creates a solid reputation better than stellar customer service. To be the best, it’s not just about answering inquiries or solving problems, it’s about being proactive and listening to your current customers. Send them an email and ask them how they like their box, make amends right away for any issues (even if they weren’t your fault), and generally bring a “service with a smile” approach. Turning a customer into a brand ambassador is the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, and providing excellent care is how you’ll accomplish it.
Check Your Reports & Recognize Trends: Whatever eCommerce platform you go with, take advantage of any and all reporting and insights. Is there a certain geographical area that stands out? A peak time of year for sales growth? What is your “deadzone” in terms of new signups? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you target marketing and encourage growth through marketing when you need it most.
Identify Opportunities & Always Be Closing:Â Knowing what your customers love most about your boxes and looking at your sales reports gives you key insights into what items to purchase for upcoming boxes and new opportunities for growth. Once you have established customers, consider offering related or additional products that you know they’ll get excited about (because you’ve done your research). Remember Dollar Shave Club’s expansion from just the humble razor to a full line of personal care products? You want that potential growth for your business, too! Whether that’s through expanding into a new niche, identifying a new under-served market, or just boosting your sales with your current subscribers, always be closing!
Understand Cash Flow & Plan Ahead:Â Absolutely essential for any small business, including your subscription box company, is knowing your cash flow. You’ll need to figure out your cash flow so that you can make better decisions about your finances. To do this, you must understand how to create a cash flow statement, which breaks down your operating cash flow, cash flow of investments, financial activities, and net cash flow. We make this easier to understand and show you what tools can help in our post, How To Calculate & Analyze Business Cash Flow.Â
Are You Ready To Launch Your Subscription Box Company?
Launching a successful subscription box service requires some smart legwork, including researching your potential customers, curating irresistible products, buzz-building advertising, and structuring a plan of action. With the right eCommerce tools and a well-thought-out business plan, you can whittle down what feels like a giant, overwhelming project into something that’s more manageable.
For more startup resources, check out Small Business Startup Loans: Your 8 Best Options and The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
The post How To Start A Subscription Box: 7 Steps To Launch A Thriving Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at How to Use LinkedIn for SEO & Content Marketing via ShivarWeb
LinkedIn has been one of the continually growing social networks on the Internet for years. But like Pinterest and Reddit, it has such a deep internal culture focused on recruiting & jobs that it gets written off by small & large content marketers alike.
But like YouTube, Pinterest, Reddit, and others, LinkedIn is not *just* a social network. Here are a few points that make it appealing for SEOs and content marketers –
Users are all B2B – so influence on LinkedIn has an influence multiplier. Get a brand CMO to like your content, instant leverage.
LinkedIn’s business model makes success much more transparent. There’s less algorithm guessing and less spam.
LinkedIn has lots of different features & uses. Beyond the feed, there are groups, search, a learning platform, networks, direct outreach, etc.
You can build a true “moat” that no other business can replicate. The cliche that your network is your net worth is especially true on LinkedIn. It pays to organically build success.
Your LinkedIn audience is much “stickier” than other audiences. Everyone is building their LinkedIn network for future use – not for an instant payoff. Any audience that you build will stick with you for longer.
LinkedIn itself is not going anywhere. Sure, Google and Facebook have tried & failed to build professional / job hunting functionality. But since LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft and is profitable on its own….any investment you make will be around for a while.
It has a lot of potential to benefit your marketing efforts – here are the lessons I’ve learned helping clients use LinkedIn for SEO and content marketing efforts.
Referral Traffic & Brand Awareness
The first and most obvious content marketing strategy for LinkedIn is to, well, post your content on LinkedIn.
Side note – like most social networks, LinkedIn’s links are all “nofollow”. Any links you get from LinkedIn will not directly help you with Google/Bing search engine optimization.
Posting content on LinkedIn requires a bit more strategy and effort to get the full benefit. To drive referral traffic, you’ll need to get your post in front of people. But there is a bit of a tradeoff between maximizing reach and maximizing traffic.
The Basics of LinkedIn
LinkedIn allows a few ways to share content on their platform. There’s the “normal sharing” of links, but there’s also LinkedIn Pulse, which is their editor for composing & sharing content native to LinkedIn.
The tradeoff is that using Pulse (native content) reduces the traffic to your site, but can travel faster & farther in the LinkedIn “ecosystem.” Posting links from your site makes traffic easier, but won’t travel very far or fast without engagement.
Before promoting your content, think through your goals and make adjustments depending on what you want to do and your resources.
Optimizing for Social Distribution
If you want maximum distribution, then post original content with Pulse. It will show up on most feeds and generate more engagement…but not necessarily with traffic to your site. It does require more work and more thought. Again, that all depends on your priorities and goals.
Adjustment – however, you *can* send traffic to your sites within the comment section on the post. Claim the top comment and use it to post a link or email sign up. You’ll get maximum distribution and still have an opportunity to grab traffic.
Alternative – you can also use comments to maximize reach with a normal link share. The tactic here is to use the title and comment section to generate additional engagement that will put the link into more feeds than it would normally appear in.
Optimizing for Referral Traffic
If you want maximum clicks to your site or email sign-ups, then post actual links to your website. The post will likely get shown to your followers, even if it doesn’t move as far as Pulse content.
Adjustment – you can try to engineer engagement with comments & controversial titles. It’s a bit hit or miss, but it’s a small tactic that can increase engagement.
Additionally, LinkedIn will reward any feed that has consistent, long-term, quality posts in high quantity. In other words, post a lot, post well, and post consistently, whichever strategy you choose.
On-Page SEO & Content Ideas
Beyond actual traffic and brand impressions, the real value of LinkedIn is in data. Since LinkedIn has its own “walled garden”, there are lots of ideas, concepts, and content tactics that are locked up. If you can find them and bring them to the Open Web – you’ll benefit from Google Search and other platforms.
Here are my favorite research angles for LinkedIn.
Find Top Performing Content
Find content with lots of LinkedIn shares (which harder than it used to be), and re-create it in a better way. Bonus points if the content is native to LinkedIn. More bonus points if it only did well on LinkedIn and failed in some way elsewhere.
You can track this content manually, but it’s much easier to use a tool like Ahrefs or BuzzSumo to pull metrics in bulk.
The key is to identify and understand exactly why a piece of content performed so well and how you can make it even better or build on its success.
Find Useful & Underestimated Content
You can also look for content that, while not top performing, did have some traction. With content, traction is everything. When most content goes unnoticed, any content with some success means that it did something right.
You can find useful content & underestimated content to rebuild it into something top performing. Look for content that is not formatted well, incomplete, or has lots of feedback / unanswered questions.
Find Old & Forgotten Content
There is very little that is genuinely new on the Internet now. Most trends and strategies have played out. So start thinking like a fashion designer.
Filter LinkedIn content by date and see if there is something that did well, but simply needs an update. There are plenty of business & career ideas that are useful…but simply need new cultural references.
For example, freelancing is not new, but UpWork and WeWork are. Building a new audience with video is not new, but TikTok and Snapchat are.
Look for the old & forgotten and bring them up to date.
Find Experts & Sources
Experts and authoritative sources can make your content compelling and unique. But experts are kind of hard to find, corral, and learn from.
But LinkedIn provides a unique approach. You find experts in your orbit who are more likely to respond. Or, you can use LinkedIn search to find less famous experts who can respond & help with your content.
In a world where current gold-medalist get all the attention, you need to find last year’s bronze medalist. LinkedIn is perfect for that approach.
Research Industry Jargon
Jargon is a problem in content. To write solid, useful content – you need to use just enough of it to assure readers & experts of legitimacy & accuracy. But also not so much that your content is gibberish and unapproachable.
Since LinkedIn is a professional social network, you can use it to find trade & industry groups discussing actual industry jargon. Not only does this tactic make for fast education, but it also makes for amazing keyword research.
For example, even if your reader refers to “outdoor faucets” – the fact that you can refer to, explain, and research “sillcocks” means that you can be more accurate, more relatable, and find a broader topic to address. And you’d never know about sillcocks without a LinkedIn plumber’s group.
Research Industry Problems & Trends
If you want to cover a trend before everyone else knows that it’s a trend…you’re going to have to find better sources.
LinkedIn industry groups & industry feeds are an incredible source of insider knowledge. Most people in an industry will talk about problems and trends before it percolates to the wider world.
Use LinkedIn to get insight into these problems & trends.
Build Unique Datasets
LinkedIn is the only place on the Internet with massive datasets around businesses, professionals, and careers.
Those are also the most inherently exciting datasets for content (since they involve money). Whether you are looking at job titles, cities for startups, or simply industry quirks, LinkedIn is where you can go to build these unique datasets.
Note – don’t go breaking any of LinkedIn’s terms…but also note that scraping plain HTML and their ads API offers some quick ways to pull data.
Mine for Cross-Performing Content
The last angle to research is similar to top performing content. But it is to look at content that seems to do well on LinkedIn plus another platform.
If you are in B2B and see that something does well on LinkedIn and Facebook, then it will likely do well on Reddit or organic search with better formatting and/or targeting.
Off-Page SEO & Content Promotion
Content ideas & research are only one side to effective SEO & content marketing. The flip side is getting links & eyeballs on that content.
LinkedIn offers something that no other social network provides – an active channel and a near comprehensive database for contacting people at work.
If there’s any single reason to use LinkedIn with your off-page / promotion efforts, that’s the reason. Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram lean too personal. Twitter is hit or miss. Reddit is interest-based and anonymous. Email is crowded and overwhelmed with spam. But LinkedIn…is different.
Here’s how you can put it to use.
Do Direct Outreach & Promotion
This tactic is a bit obvious, but I list it because direct outreach & promotion is seriously underestimated.
Just last week, I hired a freelancer off a cold pitch because it came through LinkedIn’s InMail feature with a perfect custom pitch. I checked it out because the InMail represented slightly extra effort and expense compared to the thousands of pitches I get via email.
Whether you are pitching for links, gigs, content promotions, etc – LinkedIn’s ability to help you do direct outreach & promotion is the #1 reason to use it.
Use Excerpts & Cross-Posting
You can use content excerpts and discussions to cross-post to LinkedIn as original content – and vice versa.
LinkedIn represents an audience that is likely nowhere else. Even if you can’t create original content, go a little bit extra to create a custom share excerpt for LinkedIn.
Research for Smarter Outreach
Even if you don’t use LinkedIn for your outreach, you should use it to inform your traditional outreach.*
*Note – yes, this is a polite, professional way of creepily stalking people.
In a link building world where less than ~20% of emails sent get opened and less than ~5% turn into links, emailing the right person the right message is more important than ever.
If you can use LinkedIn to do even cursory research to email the right person at a company, you can come out far ahead.
For example, one key variable in link building is talking to the person who can actually implement the link on the website. For some websites, that person is the Webmaster or content manager. They are often not listed on the contact form. You can use LinkedIn to find that person within the company.
Even if you aren’t pitching links, LinkedIn can be useful. My B2B sales rep neighbor used LinkedIn to dig down and find the specific procurement manager than he needed to talk to – instead of using the standard contact form. The extra work paired with LinkedIn led to a huge contract.
Find Underestimated Prospects
Similar to using LinkedIn for finding experts, you can also use LinkedIn to find underestimated prospects. Underestimated prospects are anyone who wields more influence or reach than you would expect.
Think about the content managers and webmasters mentioned earlier who hold the actual keys to adding a link to an article. Or think about a moderator of an influential or active LinkedIn Group.
Those are the kind of people that you can both find & reach on LinkedIn.
Find New Audiences for Promotion
So much of the consumer Internet blurs together that it’s hard to define specific audiences…which means it’s hard to define new audiences.
B2B has less of that issue. Generally, everyone working in an industry stays within their industry. That makes it easier for content marketers to find discrete industries (like architecture) and understand how it overlaps or relates to other industries (like structural engineering).
You can also see how influential people have moved up and across different industries to see how people & thought in one industry can influence another.
Create New Outreach Angles
Since LinkedIn is a different type of user with different intent than a typical social network (professional advancement vs. entertainment), you can test completely different angles for sharing & promotion. Sometimes those are easier to push (ie, not having to obscure a financial motivation) and sometimes they are truly different and worth rolling out elsewhere.
Do Paid Promotion
LinkedIn, like every other social network, will allow you to take a shortcut to the front of the line.
It’s called paying for promotion.
It’s fantastic…but also costs money. I wrote an entire post on LinkedIn Advertising here.
LinkedIn is an interesting platform for SEOs and content marketers because it has a different audience, a different intent, and different business model from other social networks.
Additionally, it has a lot of the research & promotional advantages of the typical social network. If you are planning content ideas, execution, or promotion, LinkedIn is an excellent place to look for research.
This post originally appeared at Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users.
They allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to create an entire “brand identity” with logos, typography, color patterns, and other elements across the web & print.
See Tailor Brands’ Current Plans & Pricing
In other words, Tailor Brands a toolset that makes your project “look good” everywhere from your Facebook page to business cards to website.
There are plenty of Tailor Brands reviews on the Internet – some good, some bad. This Tailor Brands review will look at how the software works, the upsides, downsides, and ideal use cases for the product based on my experience as a digital marketing consultant.
What is Tailor Brands?
Tailor Brands is a suite of tools to help you create & manage your business designs everywhere that your brand appears. They were founded in 2014.
They use software & artificial intelligence to not only create your business’ look and feel but also maintain that look and feel everywhere that you want.
Their main tool is their logo maker. Rather than use templates or quiz questions like traditional automated logo makers, they have you answer whether you like or dislike styles. Their AI does a version of NetFlix’s recommendation algorithm but with design styles.
Once you approve a certain design style, their software creates an entire brand identity and uses rules to apply it to applications ranging from a stand-alone logo to Instagram profiles to website headers to presentation headers.
Background on Tailor Brands
There has always been a plethora of DIY design tools on the Internet. I use Stencil for my Featured Images. I’ve used Canva for social images. I’ve used native tools with Buffer & social networks to customize my logos & images. I had a guy from Fiverr help edit my website CSS to match with my logo colors. I had a professional graphic designer on UpWork create a custom blog image for me. I’ve run contests for clients on 99designs.
In other words, the world of DIY design has been here for a while. You don’t need a Mad Men-esque setup of paying $$$ for graphic designers to create a pitch deck.
But the world of DIY design is also a bit of a frustratingly hot mess. It’s a world that’s good enough to be dangerous.
In other words, it’s accessible enough to let non-designers think they are designing a nice brand…when it’s a jumble of mismatched fonts, misaligned layouts, and conflicting colors.
It’s the difference between “Yeah, that’s nice” and “Damn, that is right on! How’d you do that?”.
Tailor Brands is an interesting product that is trying to use software, AI, and automation to take those details away from humans and just automatically apply it wherever you need it – to create a “brand identity with a stylebook” as it were.
How Tailor Brands Works
Tailor Brands works by moving you through its logo maker, which doubles as a brand identity developer. You are given options…and you can run the software as many times as you want.
Once you’ve approved your design, you’re taken to a studio with mockups & style guidelines. You then have a choice of 3 pricing plans*.
First, the $3.99/mo plan provides access to your logo, social media tools, and graphic design library. You can also connect your domain to a basic landing page builder.
Second, the $11.98/mo plans provide access to EPS vectors (for outdoor and print use) in addition to a full website builder and advanced design tools.
Third, the $25.98/mo plan provides access to social media schedulers and analytics so that you can bring your social media management under a single platform. You can also accept payments and run an online store.
*Note – you can cancel and keep all your design assets. So technically, if you just need a logo – you can get that for less than $50 (the $3.99 is billed for 12 months).
The plans all provide ongoing access to tools to manage your brand designs. You retain full ownership of all brand designs & assets even after you cancel.
Pros of Using Tailor Brands
For a relatively new product, Tailor Brands’ actual product is well-executed. There are few bugs or real complaints that I found with the actual core product.
Their real advantage (and disadvantage) is their unique positioning as a tool suite. Here are some of the main pros of using Tailor Brands not only for logos but as a design management tool suite.
Product Focus on Branding over Assets
As mentioned in the introduction, one big issue with the DIY design tool world is the focus on design assets. It’s easy to create a Facebook post on Canva or bulk generate Google Ads with Display Ad Planner. Those tools are easy and usually free. But they are inherently separate. *You* have to manage your images across different tools.
A huge pro for Tailor Brands is that they have an entire tool suite that focuses on unifying your entire brand everywhere. They focus on keeping that brand identity right on, rather than focusing on giving you the best kerning tool or biggest font library or the most intuitive CSS editor.
If you look at some of their design tools one on one with direct tool competitors, they may or may not be “the best”. But Tailor Brands can keep everything looking good everywhere, which is their main pitch to customers who would benefit from their product.
In my experience especially with small and local businesses, it’s a consistent brand identity (paired with a good product / service) that allows them to compete with established big name brands.
If you can just remove the infamous pixelated cover photo, you’ll probably beat your competition. And if you can ensure that your new assistant can quickly handle good looking Instagram posts…all the better.
That outcome is Tailor Brands’ main focus, and it comes off well in the product.
Pricing Structure & Cross-Sells
Every software as a service (SaaS) struggles with business models and pricing. You want your service to be accessible, but also profitable.
This balance is especially hard to strike with design assets where it’s usually a one-and-done proposition.
Tailor Brands runs on a subscription business model. But the subscriptions focus on the design tools rather than the design assets.
This structure creates a couple of of useful incentives.
First, it means that there’s no question of ownership of design assets. You own your brand, period.
In fact, it means that you can get a really cheap logo if that’s all you want. You can pay for one month, download your assets, and cancel. You’ve got a high-quality logo in a range of file types for less than $50.
Second, it means that while Tailor Brands has to keep optimizing their logo maker to bring in more customers, they also have to keep developing better design tools to keep customers around. There’s no disincentive to extort customers over their design assets or to drag their feet over product development.
Third, the subscription encourages use from customers rather than a one and done download. The real productivity boost for businesses is having a go-to design tool with everything in one place where you (or a new team member) can quickly create new designs & assets on an ongoing basis. And usually, the more you use a tool, the better you can get.*
*also you’ve got software that will adapt to frequent social media image requirements.
Ideally, there’s a virtuous cycle for everyone involved. Tailor Brands is one of the few companies where I think the cross-sells and upsells are not annoying, and generally useful.**
**also, small quibble, but do note that the prices are billed annually – so you are purchasing a full 12 months of access, even if you only pay monthly.
Turnaround Speed & Feature Versatility
Since Tailor Brands is fully automated, there are no constraints on time, speed, revisions, requests, or redos.
If you want to try graphic design a 2 AM Eastern, you can. If you want to completely redo your design, you can. If you need a mockup right now, you can get it. There’s no delay in turnaround or schedule to meet.
There’s no back and forth or waiting for your designer or virtual assistant. There’s just the software that is working 24/7/365. That’s a huge advantage for Tailor Brands. It works on your timeline.
And if you are trying to actually run a business, working on design any time means that it will get done. If you are running your business full-time, you likely don’t have time during business hours. And if you are working on a side project…you have to work on it outside business hours.
Additionally, since Tailor Brands has a whole suite of design tools, there’s no downloading or cropping or exporting or importing. Everything is just there to use.
Convenience generally beats everything. And when it comes to branding, Tailor Brands makes brand design convenient above all else.
Backend Quality & Usability
Even though Tailor Brands focuses on the branding aspect of design across their suite of tools, the tools themselves are high-quality and rock-solid.
They’ve built some tools in-house, but others they’ve high-quality 3rd party tools and customized them. For example, their website builder is built on top of the Duda website builder, which is one of the best website builders that I’ve used.
Same with their social media tools. It looks like they’ve white-labeled a 3rd party tool. But whatever it is, it’s legit and high-quality. Same with the design editor and others.
Each tool is solid & highly-usable on its own. But when they are all bundled within Tailor Brands’ suite, it makes each tool even more useful than it would be on its own.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Tailor Brands
Every product has disadvantages, but especially a relatively new product like Tailor Brands.
Here are a few tradeoffs & complaints that I found with Tailor Brands. Some are simply the flip side of an advantage, but some are inherent to their approach.
Branding Process & Revisions
Tailor Brands’ fully automated, AI-powered design process leaves humans out of the process deliberately. That choice cuts costs, increases efficiency, increases choice, and makes the platform what it is.
But the tradeoff with this choice is that…it leaves out humans.
And humans are still critical to produce truly unique or truly outstanding brands. Brands are built on stories, and stories are what makes us human.
Humans can also ask pertinent questions, push-back on scope, implement creative deadlines, and invent completely new concepts.
Tailor Brands’s software can create a brand design and a brand style guide, but it cannot assign meaning or purpose of symbolism or even provide a reason why a certain design works over another – it only knows what “works” based on other user data.
The story / meaning part of branding is either your job or a job for another human. If you assign it to another human, that’s going to cost time & money.
And if you take on the job yourself, it’s something to be aware of and learn about.
Either way, it’s something to keep in mind when using Tailor Brands. There’s no process of “brand discovery” or mapping your customer’s psychographic persona. There are no revisions based on client feedback.
All that is for better and for worse. Before online design tools, agencies gave away the process and sold the assets. Now, you can get the assets affordably, but you still have to understand a bit about branding.
And that leads to the next tradeoff.
Customer Education & Brand Identity
Even though Tailor Brands does a lot of the branding & design work for the customer, they still leave a lot of creative work up to the customer.
The tradeoff of any service that claims to do “everything” for you is that the customer’s expectations are not set correctly. When it turns out that there is *some* work to be done, it’s easy to bail instead of figuring the work out.
A Tailor Brands customer still needs to be prepared to think through where, when, how they’ll need to use designs. The logo maker sequence is great, but after creating the logo, there’s very little guidance for a new customer.
There’s a ton of options with no real onboarding guidance or customer examples. Their welcome email series is limited to deals & coupons rather than “here are common next steps” or “here are some common use cases”.
I can imagine that customers who don’t have a strong sense of direction would churn quickly after getting a logo idea.
If you do end up using Tailor Brands, do note that you should have an idea of what *you* need to get out of it, rather than just using it for using a new tool’s sake.
Platform Product Lock-in
Tailor Brands is a hosted platform that focuses on convenience. And there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control on the Web.
The more convenient a product is…the less control you have. And the more control you have…the less convenient the product is. Think about RSS vs. Twitter. Think about hosted website builders vs. self-hosted CMS’. Think about an Amazon Seller listing vs. your own ecommerce store.
Tailor Brands makes everything downloadable. And they ensure that you truly own all your intellectual property.
However, like a hosted website builder, your work is inherently tied to their platform in many ways. The longer you commit to their platform, the harder it becomes to leave.
That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a disadvantage that’s the flip side of their big advantage.
But it’s an important tradeoff to understand. If you use the Tailor Brands’ platform over your own copy of Adobe Illustrator, email or Paint, do ensure that you are downloading and backing up *all* of your brand assets on your own computer for the sake of preserving your own intellectual property.
Company Structure, Age & Competition
Tailor Brands has been around since 2014. They are still considered an “early-stage venture-funded” startup. In other words, they are privately held and using investor money to focus on the product rather than profit or market share.
Like the platform lock-in tradeoff, this disadvantage is more of a consideration. Right now they are still at a stage where pricing & product can change rapidly. They also probably have a small team with limited resources. They also will have copycat competition from publicly held competitors like Wix, Fiverr, Squarespace, Vistaprint, and others.
The upside to being a customer at a young venture-funded company is that you can count on more resources going into a better product. The downside is that there’s still a risk that they could get bought or “pivot” in the future.
Tailor Brand Alternatives & Use Cases
A product / service is only as good as its customer fit. Tailor Brands is not for everyone. But for some, it would be amazing.
Here’s 3 use cases where I think they’d be a really good it.
New Business or Organization w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a new business or organization with no brand assets and no large budget for a human-led design process, Tailor Brands would be a perfect fit.
Now, I would think through which features & tools that you’ll need from them. If you need a more robust website presence and/or email with lots of features, you might want to look at a dedicated website builder, ecommerce platform, or even shared hosting. You could use Tailor Brands strictly for design tools and social media. Either way, a new small business is their bread & butter. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Personal but Online Project w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a small personal project that you want to look just right – think resume site, hobby site, non-profit idea, family project, etc – Tailor Brands would be a solid fit. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Existing Business or Organization w/ Redesign
If you have an existing business or organization and you want to refresh your look without committing to a design firm or outsourcing to several providers, Tailor Brands would be a good fit. You can use what tools you need. You can also download & use the EPS file to get any signage or custom assets made offline.
Now, Tailor Brands is not for everyone. If you feel comfortable coordinating designs and brand assets across different platforms or if you have the budget to pay a human for graphic design, then something else might be a better fit.
Here are a few direct competitors to Tailor Brands and how they compare.
Tailor Brands vs. 99designs
99designs is a contest-led marketplace for graphic design. You set a budget and run a “contest” among human designers based on your design briefing. I wrote a 99designs review here. But in short, 99designs is sort of the halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. 99designs is much more expensive than Tailor Brands, but you do get human ideas based on a design brief. 99designs also has a huge range of design contest options…but not the design management tools of Tailor Brands. Technically, you could (and should) check out both. See Tailor Brands here and 99designs here.
Tailor Brands vs. Fiverr
Fiverr is a huge marketplace for humans working on “gigs”. You think of a task that you need to be done, find a person to hire, and quickly get it done for you within Fiverr’s platform. Fiverr is also a halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. The price ranges depending on skills and reputation. While you can great design assets from Fiverr, you are also in charge of managing all your design assets. You also have to expect to pay for several logos / designs before coming away with a good one. Tailor Brands would be a simpler, more affordable, and versatile fit.
Tailor Brands vs. Wix Logo Maker
Wix is the big brand name in the website builder world. I wrote a Wix review here. Technically Wix competes directly with Tailor Brands, even if they have a different focus. Tailor Brands focuses on how your brand designs are presented *everywhere*. Wix has similar tools, but really focuses their tool on website applications. In other words, Tailor Brands is a design tool with a website builder and Wix is a website builder with a design tool. Check out Tailor Brands here and check out Wix’s logo maker here.
Tailor Brands vs. DIY Tools
Between Canva, Stencil, and every other random logo generator on the Internet, Tailor Brands has plenty of competition for DIYers. If you have the time and wherewithal, you could get everything that Tailor Brands offers for free. The issue would be that all your designs would be dispersed among a bunch of tools…and you would be relying on your own design taste rather than a professionally built tool. In the end, I think that Tailor Brands is worth the money for the convenience and the designs. But for a quick sketch up of something you have in your head, Stencil is the simplest.
Next Steps & Conclusion
Tailor Brands is a unique and useful addition to the design world. In fact, for many businesses, it could do a full end around the traditional “upload your logo to a website builder” model.
By bundling design management tools, including a social media editor and quality website builder with an automated logo & brand designer, Tailor Brands has figured out something new & different.
If you are a non-designer trying to build a consistent brand identity across the Web & offline, Tailor Brands is worth a try.
See Tailor Brand’s Current Plans & Pricing
You might also be interested in my review of 99designs, my post on layouts, and my post on color palettes, and my post on hiring a web designer.
Good luck with your project!
Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users. They allow businesses, organizations, and indi
This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb
There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.
But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.
And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.
And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.
Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On
This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.
The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone
For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.
But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.
This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.
Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.
Platform Choice > Tool Choice
The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.
Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.
Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform
In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.
In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.
In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.
Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.
Convenience Killed Cost & Control
The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.
The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.
If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.
If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.
Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been
I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.
But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.
For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.
For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.
Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.
Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.
Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented
Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.
Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.
Organic Traffic Is A Bonus
Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.
Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.
Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been
More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.
*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.
For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.
Users Killed What Could Have Been
Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.
For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.
1,000 True Fans Is Still True
That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.
Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.
Opportunity Costs Are Very Real
When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.
In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.
Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.
Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.
Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.
Lookalikes Killed Privacy
I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?
Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.
But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.
Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.
Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.
Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.
Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.
So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*
*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.
Alternative Channels Matter
In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.
In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.
Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.
You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.
Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.
Web Hosting Is a Utility
Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.
That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.
There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.
Website Builders Are a Feature
I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.
Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.
If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.
All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.
SEO Is a Tactic
For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.
If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.
It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).
But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.
In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.
But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.
IRL Original Content Is Underestimated
The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.
But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.
In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.
Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.
Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?
On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.
It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.
IRL Data Is Underestimated
On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.
That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.
Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More
Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.
The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.
Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.
Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set
Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide
WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.
Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).
In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.
Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.
So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
What is WooCommerce?
To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.
Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.
And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.
It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.
WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.
WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).
And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –
domain (your address on the Internet)
hosting (where your website files live)
software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)
In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.
Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.
Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.
But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.
That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.
But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.
Pros of WooCommerce
Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.
Long-term Cost & Value
WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.
Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.
WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.
That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.
For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.
If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.
To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.
For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.
All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.
Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.
And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.
For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.
If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.
And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.
If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.
Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.
Integration with WordPress
WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.
And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.
This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.
For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.
There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.
The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.
Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.
f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).
Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.
Support from Automattic
Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.
WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.
They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.
Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.
But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.
There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).
But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.
Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.
WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.
Versatility & Compatibility
A few fun facts about WooCommerce –
You can use it to sell memberships
You can use it to sell recurring licenses
You can use it to sell digital goods
You can use it to sell apppointments
You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine
The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.
The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc
It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.
In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.
3rd Party Integrations
WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.
If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.
But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.
You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).
Control & Customizations
Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.
You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.
You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.
There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.
Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.
Cons of WooCommerce
Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.
Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.
There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.
But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.
For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).
For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.
But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.
Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?
Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.
In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.
Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.
But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.
Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.
This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.
Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.
But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*
*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.
Speed & Security
With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.
Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.
WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.
Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.
But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.
For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.
In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.
Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.
It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.
Growth & Scaling
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.
And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.
This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.
And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.
Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.
But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.
Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.
That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.
Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.
Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.
All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.
If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.
But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.
Potential Long-term Costs
WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.
However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.
One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.
She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.
Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).
Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.
Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.
Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.
In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.
In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.
Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.
And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.
All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.
However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.
It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.
All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.
There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.
WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –
Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.
WooCommerce vs. Wix
Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.
WooCommerce vs. Magento
Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.
WooCommerce vs. OpenCart
OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce vs. Ecwid
Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.
WooCommerce vs. Prestashop
PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce Review Conclusion
WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –
Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.
If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.
If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.
Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.
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