WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store

WooCommerce Pros Cons Alternatives for Online Store

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).

1 WooCommerce Install

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*.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

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.

WooCommerce Extensions

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.

Themes for WooCommerce

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.

WooCommerce Extensions

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.

Woocommerce Wizard

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.

WooCommerce Permalinks

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).

WooCommerce Menu Settings

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.

Technical Maintenance

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.*

Shopify Backend

*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.

Shopify Pricing

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.

WooCommerce Alternatives

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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Everything You Need To Know About Merchant Services

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Can You Really Run A Cash-Only Business?

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What Is Square And How Does It Work?

The post What Is Square And How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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6 Square POS Features To Run Your Small Business Like a Pro

When a merchant signs up for a new Square account to start processing payments, many times the focus isn’t on the other features; it’s on getting paid — and rightfully so. But after signing into your account for the first time, it may become evident to you that there is a lot more to Square than just payment processing.

For those of you who are new to Square or if you are shopping around and checking out your options to make a final decision — you’re in the right place. We are going to take a look at what is available in the free Square POS app. We’ve discussed both Square (read our review) and Square POS (read our review) in depth, so check out their respective reviews for a more comprehensive look. Don’t forget, when you sign up with Square Payments, you get access to the POS app, the online selling tools, invoicing, and a whole lot more. 

But before we dig into all that, let’s quickly review Square’s payment processing costs for the price savvy among us. Square has very upfront pricing, but keep in mind that your processing costs change with the Square hardware you use. With the free Square POS and your own smartphone or tablet, you’ll pay a flat rate of 2.75% per swipe, dip, or tap. Check out How Much Does Square Charge? for a thorough explanation of any other fees you might incur with Square, including software. 

While it’s true that Square’s fee for payment processing may seem a bit higher on the face of things, keep a few things in mind: Square doesn’t charge any additional monthly account fees, and you can expect the same flat rate for all of the cards you process, even American Express. You can also close your account any time with no cancellation fees whatsoever. However, one of the more notable reasons we like Square here at Merchant Maverick is that merchants get end-to-end, PCI compliant payment security included with every account, without paying a dime for it.

While Square may not be as packed with features as a traditional POS, there are still a wide range of features waiting if you take advantage of them. In addition to features within the app itself, Square’s back-end management tools (centralized in the web Dashboard) are powerful. 

We have much to cover, so let’s discover the most noteworthy POS features you can start using to manage customer engagement, employees, inventory, and take charge of your business like the pro you are!

Customer Directory

Square Customer Profile

If you have an existing customer list, you can migrate that over via CSV right into the directory and get started. Every time you complete a sale, your customer directory grows to include your customer’s name, purchase history, location, and credit card (save this only with their permission). If your customer enters their email for an e-receipt, that gets added to the directory, too!

The customer directory builds automatically with each sale, but you can also manually add customer information from the Square POS or the Square dashboard. (See Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App for a primer on the dashboard.) In the Customer Directory, you can add an email, birthday, make notes about their order history, or add their company, for instance.

Customer Directory

As your customers continue to shop with you, Square builds reports on customer behavior patterns, too. You can find out things like visiting frequency and when they purchased something from you last. You can view some reports from the in-app reporting in the Square Point of Sale, but to access all of the reporting features, you’ll need to get to the Square dashboard.

A lesser-known Square feature is the private feedback you can gather after a sale. Giving your customers this opportunity to share their opinions with you directly (and right from their receipt) helps keep the lines of communication open. When your customer leaves feedback, you can respond to them directly and offer to comp their item if you wish. In this way, you can hopefully also avoid negative public reviews — and keep your customers happier while you’re at it.

Inventory Management

Keeping up with inventory changes and accurately ordering the stock you need is probably one of the most critical business matters there is. Not only does good inventory management build loyalty and trust with your customers, but you can also avoid some unneeded expenses surrounding both excess and deficient stock. The great news is that basic inventory management comes along with your free Square POS software.

Have a large amount of inventory? You can easily import any existing stock with a CSV spreadsheet. You can also add items manually through your dashboard or Square POS. Either way, you can quickly update product names, prices, and quantities as needed. Setting up low stock alerts is easy — set alerts to send when inventory gets to the amount you decide. In the screenshot below, you can see that this shop has 20 prints in stock and the alert will be sent when there are three left.

Creating an Item in Square

Have different sizes or other variables of the same item? Square supports setting up different price points and variants, too. Square does not support partial quantities — but don’t lose heart! If you sell in partial quantities, you can work around this issue by setting up a Variation, as seen in the screenshot below.

Square Item Variant

Whether you’re a micro shop or you move hundreds of items a day, you can set Square up for what makes sense for your business. However, if your business has several hundreds of items, you’re likely going to find the inventory navigation a bit unwieldy. That’s because you have to scroll to find the item manually; you can’t just type the name in a search bar. Square does offer a more robust solution with Square for Retail (See our review), starting at $60/month/register/location.

To keep up with inventory and track customer spending, you can also assign your products to specific categories. Keep in mind that all of the initial work you do to distinguish your inventory through categories, variations, and accurate item descriptions pays you back with richer insights when it comes time to check out your reports. Square creates free basic reports such as Sales Summary, Sales Trends, and Category Sales, to name a few.

Square Sales Reporting

It’s worth it to mention that if you are in a time crunch or you don’t have an item already in your inventory, you can still ring it up easily in quick sale mode — simply punch in the amount, and you’re ready to take payment!

Loyalty

Square Customer Loyalty Program

The proof is in the pudding — loyalty programs lead to more customer spending. This fact is proven time and again in retail spending statistics, but Square also reports that customers spend over 30% more after joining their loyalty program. That’s a nice chunk of change, but making the loyalty program work for your business is the key to profitability.

The Square Loyalty Program is not free — it starts at $45 and the prices scale with the number of loyalty visits. That means that you won’t be paying for what you don’t use, but we still suggest checking your reports to track success. However, you really are in charge of the program and its success in your business. That’s because everything is highly customizable. From a classic digital punch card to earning points each visit, you control what — and how — your customers earn rewards with you.

According to Square, merchants get the best responses with their loyalty program by offering a meaningful reward, making the reward happen sooner rather than later (about 30 days from enrollment), and limiting the rules when it comes to earning rewards.

When you ask your customer to join your loyalty program, they enter with their phone number, which you can then promote via text messages. The other cool thing about the loyalty program is that the add-on software gives you even more data about your customer’s purchase history and buying behavior. All of this information makes it easier to personalize customer service or even plan your next promotion.

Employee Management

Small Business Owner Using Square Customer Service

The optional employee management software can make a significant impact on your business if you have multiple locations or many employees. From customizing permissions to timekeeping, performance tracking, and advanced reports, there is a lot of potential here.

With your basic Square account, you can let employees take payments as Mobile Staff and allow or disallow issuing refunds. Beyond these two functions, you are limited unless you opt for Employee Management at $5 / month per employee, however.

For example, employee-specific reporting only comes with advanced Employee Management. In the screenshot below, you can see what types of insights are available under the Employee Sales reports that come along with Employee Management.

Square Employee Management


In addition to gaining better insights regarding your employee’s performance, you also have much more control over employee permissions. Choose who has access to cash drawer reports, assign individual access codes, and choose other custom permission settings both at your Point of Sale and in your Dashboard.

Cash Drawer Management

From the Square Point of Sale app, you can enable cash drawer management to promote greater accountability across the board. Take note that you can only manage your cash drawer from an iPad or Android tablet — you can’t track and manage with your smartphone. Basic information about your cash drawer session includes:

  • Cash amount
  • Cash sales
  • Cash refunds
  • Cash paid in and out
  • Expected cash amount in drawer

Cash Drawer Management lets you know exactly how much cash you start with and what to expect in the drawer at the end of the session. You can set up cash drawer reports to be auto-emailed at the end of the business day. Because the reporting is specific to the device connected to your cash drawer, you’ll have to run a separate report for each device. You can view your drawer history at any time from your Square app, too. All you need to do is select the date and the drawer session to see details.

If you have Employee Management software, you can also control employee access to your in-app cash drawer reports. Grant your manager access while restricting other employees from accessing cash reports you may not want to make privy to everyone.

Offline Mode

For days when even the Internet can’t seem to work correctly, being able to accept payments offline prevents losing customers and sales. Offline Mode is also a game changer for the many businesses who aren’t bound to four walls. Whether you have set up shop in a more remote location or you are a mobile business traveling across the country, you can use your offline mode to swipe your card and securely accept payments. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to Offline Mode, however:

  1. Offline Mode only works with a magstripe swipe card, and you must swipe it.
  2. You have to connect to the Internet within 72 hours of the sale, or it expires.
  3. Offline transactions automatically process when you get connected with the Internet again.
  4. If payment doesn’t go through after connection, you are responsible for the cost of goods or services.

The good news is that there’s no additional charge for Offline Mode, just the standard rate of 2.75% per swipe. And there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from the issues listed above. When you take a sale in Offline Mode, be sure to check for the signature on the back of the card and have your customer sign so you can compare signatures. Checking your customer’s ID is also recommended, of course. You’ll also want to double check the card’s expiration date. If you remember these simple best practices, you can still accept offline payments with a reasonable amount of assurance that your sale is good to go.

Is Square Right For You?  

Square offers a wide range of features to support a growing small business. If you are adding employees and locations, Square is ready with advanced software that grows with you, including Employee Management and the highly customizable Loyalty Program. (Not to mention the less glamorous but just as important features like cash drawer permissions, inventory management, and offline support.)

Want to find out even more about Square? Check out our Square POS review for more insights on the Square Point of Sale or visit our full Square Review for more helpful insights. If you’re ready to try Square out and see for yourself, head over and set up your free Square account to start processing your first payments!

The post 6 Square POS Features To Run Your Small Business Like a Pro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund A Coffee Shop


opening a coffee shop

Coffee shops are vital places. Not only do they sell brewed happiness, without which I could not function, but they are important for communities as well. A coffee shop is where people meet up, whether to catch up with friends, go on a first date, or conduct a casual business interview. Thanks to the WiFi revolution, coffee houses have also become destinations where remote workers and freelancers can connect from their laptops and students can study for exams.

Coffee shops these days even have significance in the culinary world. Ten or fifteen years ago, you could go to a coffee shop to get a coffee and a muffin. No one had heard of third-wave coffee, latte art, single-origin pour-overs, acai bowls, or even avocado toast, but today, these are probably standard fare at the most happening coffee shop near you.

The high customer demand for an enhanced coffee house experience means lucrative opportunities for local business owners who want to enter the coffee shop business. By opening a coffee shop, you have the potential to create a unique business that could become one of the hottest destinations in your city. But first, you’ll need to do your research on how to establish a successful coffee shop, and perhaps most importantly, figure out how you’ll fund your business venture.

In this post, I describe the main steps for opening a coffee shop. I also outline the best ways to finance a new coffee shop business, with suggestions for recommended lenders in each category.

Preparing To Start A New Coffee Shop Business

If you’ve decided you want to open your own coffee shop (or are at least pretty sure), here’s what you need to do to get started.

1. Decide Whether To Buy A Franchise

Becoming a franchisee isn’t for everyone, but it might be right for you. There are a lot of benefits to purchasing a turnkey business where most of the elements you need to run the business are already in place. You might want to at least consider which coffee shop franchises you could potentially open in your area, and the costs associated with franchise ownership vs. the costs of opening and operating an independent coffee shop.

2. Determine What You’ll Sell

What do you envision your coffee shop’s menu looking like? Do you want to sell only coffee/espresso drinks and pre-made pastries, or have a larger offering that would require a kitchen where food is prepared onsite? Will you serve lunch or just snacks? What about mugs, t-shirts, or other non-food merch? It’s important to have at least a general idea of what you’ll sell early on in the process because this will determine what type of business space you’ll need, as well as your overall vision for your business.

3. Choose A Name & Theme

Next to your menu, the overall vibe and branding of your coffee shop will play a huge part in determining your success. A lot of thought must go into your business’s name and logo, both of which should reflect your theme. If you want to set your business apart from other offerings in your area, it will need to have a unique appeal. In marketing, this is called your business’s “unique value proposition” or “unique selling proposition.” Determining your UVP now will also help you down the road when you’re applying for financing — and also when marketing your business with signage, on social media, etc.

4. Create A Business Plan

Your business plan is essential in guiding the development of your business. In fact, it’s a document that most lenders will require when you apply for financing. Your plan will describe your UVP, and will also have information about how you intend to run your coffee shop. The plan might include specific information about how much financing you need, projected profits, information about ownership and management, relevant market research, competitors in your area, and other details. You should be able to find some sample business plans for coffee shops online to help you get started.

Some more things to consider when creating your coffee shop business plan include:

  • Business hours
  • Floor plan, including the layout of outlets for laptops, whether you’ll have community tables, etc.
  • Decor—Will you go eclectic hodgepodge or streamlined/modern? Keep your theme in mind.
  • What type of music you’ll play
  • Whether you’ll appeal to kids with offerings such as board games and kids’ drinks
  • Community events you might host—For example, open mic night, family board game night, jazz night, etc.

5. Find A Location

An essential component of starting any business is finding a place to set up shop. Maybe there is a vacant business space in town that you’ve already been eyeing, or perhaps you aren’t sure where to look yet. The design of the space itself needs to meet your needs, while the location in relation to other places of interest is just as important. Foot traffic, proximity to competitors, and convenience for university students are all aspects to consider. You should also consider whether you want to have the sort of space where people can feel comfortable working all day, or if you’d rather have minimal seating so people will be on their way shortly after making their purchase. Depending on your budget and theme, you might consider choosing a former coffee shop or restaurant space so that you won’t have to do extensive remodeling.

Funding Your Coffee Shop

business line of credit loan

Assuming you don’t have personal savings to open your business, you’ll need to get creative in order to secure financing for your brand-new business—traditional lending institutions such as banks and credit unions will usually want to see that you have at least two years in business. However, once you have a solid business plan and prospective location for your coffee shop, it will be easier to find parties who are willing to lend to you. Prospective business owners with good credit and business experience will have the most options, but there are even options for startups with bad credit.

1. Family & Friends

While most of us aren’t blessed enough to have a wealthy aunt willing to fund our wildest dreams, if you do have such an aunt, now is the time to hit her up. You can even hire a lawyer to draw up a contract for a loan between you and your aunt (I’m starting to feel like I know her now—let’s call her Aunt Judy), or use a service like LoanBack that formalizes loan contracts between friends and family.

If you don’t have an Aunt Judy but have personal and/or business contacts that might be willing to invest smaller amounts in your business, you might consider using a platform like Kiva. Kiva lets you crowdfund a small business loan up to $10K, provided you meet their terms and have a certain number of friends/family members from your personal network willing to back your loan.

2. Short-Term Business Loan

Most traditional business loans, which are repaid in installments over a number of years, require you to have at least a couple of years in business. An alternative business lending option available to newer businesses (and sometimes even startups) is a short-term loan. These loans can potentially carry high interest rates and you could be required to repay your loan in a matter of months, or sometimes even weeks. However, STLs can be a viable lending option for businesses that don’t have much time in business or business revenue, and many such lenders don’t even require you to have good credit.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio is an online loan marketplace where you can apply for and compare multiple business loans at once — including short-term loans — potentially up to $500,000. Lendio offers terms as long as 1–3 years, which is a more comfortable repayment frequency compared to many of the predatory short-term lenders you’ll find online. If you don’t have much business experience and aren’t sure what business loans you might qualify for, Lendio is a good place to start. When you can compare multiple loan offers as you can with Lendio, it is much easier to choose the best loan you qualify for.

Lendio Borrower Requirements:

Lendio’s borrower requirements vary depending on which of their lender partners you’re applying with, but the majority of loans in Lendio’s marketplace have these minimum requirements:

  • Time In Business: 6 months
  • Credit Score: 550
  • Business Revenue: $10K/month

3. Personal Loan

A personal loan can be used to fund a business startup such as a coffee shop, as long as the terms of the lender allow you to do so. Personal loans typically have an upper borrowing limit of $30K–$50K and carry higher interest rates than a business loan. You also usually need to have good personal credit. You do not need to have good business credit or any particular business credentials.

Recommended Option: LendingPoint

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LendingPoint is a reputable online lender offering personal loans that can be used for business. These loans are quick and easy to apply for, and you can qualify even if you have a fair personal credit score in the 600s. These are smaller loans—the upper borrowing limit is $25K—but they are accessible to almost anyone with decent credit. You will have between 2–4 years to repay, which is pretty good for an online loan.

LendingPoint Borrower Qualifications:

  • Time In Business: N/A
  • Credit Score: 600
  • Business Revenue: N/A
  • Personal Income: At least $20K/year

4. Short-Term Line Of Credit

Like short-term loans, short-term lines of credit are also open to young businesses that are just getting started. With this type of business financing, you only have to repay what you borrow, similar to a credit card. The downsides are that you’ll have to pay back the principal pretty expediently, with potentially high interest rates and other fees. Nevertheless, a line of credit can be an important source of working capital or expansion funds for a new business. It’s also a smart choice if you don’t know exactly how much money you’ll need.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox is a short-term LOC you might want to consider once you’ve opened up shop and have at least a couple months of coffee-brewing under your belt.

Fundbox offers one of the quickest and easiest business lines of credit with Fundbox Direct Draw. The main requirement for this revolving line of credit is to have been using Fundbox-compatible accounting software for at least two months. Fundbox will use your software account information to evaluate the health of your business, but there are no time-in-business requirements or specific credit score requirements. They will want to see that you’re on course to make at least $50K/year, however. You can borrow up to $100K (depending on how much they approve you for) and will have 12–24 weeks to repay the principal.

Fundbox Direct Draw Borrower Qualifications: 

  • Time In Business: N/A
  • Credit Score: N/A
  • Business Revenue: $50K/year
  • Other: Use of compatible accounting software for 2+ months

5. Startup Loan

A startup loan is a loan specifically for startup businesses with 6 or fewer months in operation. Often, these loans do not have any time-in-business requirements. Similar to a personal loan, a startup lender will want to look at your personal track record as far as credit history, and may possibly even delve into your job history and education level. It is pretty difficult to get this type of loan from a bank, but there are several online lenders that cater to startups.

Recommended Option: Upstart

upstart logo

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Upstart is an online lender aimed at younger borrowers, though applicants of any age can apply. Upstart helps fund startup businesses, as well as personal expenses and debt refinancing. Through Upstart, you can borrow up to $50K to finance your coffee business, with up to 5 years to pay back the loan. The main criterion Upstart cares about is your personal credit score, but having a strong job history and/or a college degree will also help you secure a loan with a good interest rate.

Upstart Borrower Qualifications:

  • Time In Business: N/A
  • Credit Score: 620
  • Business Revenue: N/A

6. Vendor Financing

Some popular coffee shop POS systems offer vendor financing. That is, a POS vendor may offer users of their point of sale system or payment processing service a business loan. These financing products usually have a low barrier to entry and are suitable for coffee shops that have recently opened. Typically, the main requirement is that you are an active user of the vendor’s product.

Recommended Option: Shopify Capital

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If you use Shopify Payments at your coffee shop, you may be eligible to get a short-term loan or merchant cash advance through Shopify Capital. You cannot apply for this loan; rather, Shopify will let you know if you are eligible. You can borrow a maximum of $500K, and Shopify will deduct a portion of your sales each day until the cash advance is fully remitted (paid off). With a STL from Shopify Capital, you have up to a year to pay it off. We like Shopify POS system a lot, but if you use another POS system, you will not be eligible for Shopify financing.

If you use Square as your coffee shop POS, Square Capital is a similar financing product you may be eligible for. Or, if you let customers pay with PayPal, PayPal Working Capital is an option.

Shopify Capital Borrower Requirements:

  • Time In Business: N/A
  • Credit Score: N/A
  • Business Revenue: N/A
  • Other: Have a US-based Shopify Payments account, with a low-risk profile, and process a certain amount per month

7. ROBS

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS) is a strategy to leverage your retirement account to start a new business. Because this method is technically a rollover, you won’t be penalized for removing funds from your 401(k), IRA, or another retirement account prematurely. Also, since you’re not borrowing money, there is nothing to pay back and no borrowing fees. The downside is that if your business fails, you could lose your investment, and potentially your chance to retire comfortably if you don’t have any other savings. A ROBS is a somewhat complicated transaction, but a ROBS provider will help you set up the new account to fund your business in exchange for a setup fee and a monthly service fee.

Recommended Option: Benetrends

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Benetrends’ financing options include ROBS as well as loans. Benetrends’ popular ROBS “Rainmaker” plan has financed more than 15,000 small business owners to date and is one of the top ROBS plans out there. Benetrends has clear, fair terms and excellent customer service. This ROBS provider charges a one-time $4,995 setup fee, and an ongoing monthly service fee of $130/month.

Benetrends Rainmaker Borrower Qualifications:

The only borrower requirement is that you have an eligible retirement account with at least $50,000. Eligible accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
  • Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)
  • Keogh

Ineligible plans include Roth IRAs, 457 Plans for non-governmental agencies,  and distribution of death benefits from an IRA other than to the spouse.

8. Purchase Financing

Similar to purchase order financing, purchase financing is an alternative lending product that allows you to repay your vendors for business purchases in installments. The purchase financing company pays your invoices upfront, and then you repay the financing company in installments. Purchase financing lets newer businesses, such as a coffee shop startup, acquire the materials and equipment needed to open up shop, without having to pay for their supplies all at once. You can think of purchase financing as somewhere between a line of credit and a credit card.

Recommended Option: Behalf

behalf logo

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Behalf is a purchase financing company that offers financing for business purchases, at interest rates of 1%–3% per month. Behalf pays your merchants, and then you repay Behalf in weekly or monthly installments over a period as long as 6 months. This service has a very simple application, with transparent terms and no hidden fees. You can borrow up to $50K, depending on how much you are approved for.

You can use Behalf to fund purchases for most inventory or services, such as coffee beans or business consultant fees, but you cannot use the service for things like paying off existing debt or covering payroll.

Behalf Borrower Requirements

  • Time In Business: N/A
  • Credit Score: N/A
  • Business Revenue: N/A

Note that even though there is no stated credit score minimum, Behalf does do a hard pull on your credit during the application score, and will evaluate your business finances as well.

9. Credit Card

A business or personal credit card has its limitations, as your credit limit probably won’t be high enough to pay for all your startup costs. However, a credit card is a lot easier to get than a business loan, and if you play your cards right (ha ha) you might not have to pay any financing fees at all. Credit cards offer more cash-back and other rewards than ever before, particularly for business cards, and many cards also offer a 0% introductory APR for the first year. Moreover, opening a business credit card will help your new businesses establish and build your business credit profile.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
Compare 

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

There’s a lot to like about Chase’s newest business card, Ink Business Unlimited℠. This card offers unlimited 1.5% cash-back on all purchases, combined with no annual fee, a $500 credit if you spend $3K in the first 3 months, and a 12-month 0% introductory APR. This card also carries other useful benefits such as purchase protection against damage and theft, and additional employee cards at no extra cost.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Eligibility

To be eligible for this card, you need to have good to excellent credit.

If your credit score isn’t your strong suit, no worries. Check out this list of Business Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit.

Opening Your Cafe

Now that you have your business vision, location, and funding in place, it’s time to get ready to open to the public. If you take all of these steps, you should have everything you need to run a successful business, including a demand for your product.

1. Assemble Your Professional Team

Starting a business usually requires you to hire professionals such as accountants, attorneys, architects, and business consultants. At the very least, you will want to have an accountant you trust, as this person can also act as your business consultant in many ways. Professional fees can be high, but can save you a lot of money and headaches down the road.

2. Begin Remodeling

Unless you are building from scratch, you will most likely need to do at least some remodeling to your coffee shop business space to make it fit your needs and vision. At the very least, you’ll need to add signage and repaint. Be thoughtful when choosing the decor, from floor to ceiling. If you need to do extensive remodeling, an SBA 504 Commercial Construction loan might help you finance the renovations. Of course, if you are renting, there will likely be limitations on what changes you can make to your business space.

3. Acquire Equipment & Materials

Before you can start brewing, baking, and all that, you’ll need the proper equipment and raw ingredients. This will require careful consideration, particularly when choosing vendors for coffee beans and other food and drink materials. Make sure you do your research and do plenty of taste tests, because the worst thing a coffee shop can have is yucky-tasting coffee. When selecting vendors for your coffee beans and other raw ingredients, be sure to consider things that your customers might care about, such as whether the coffee comes from sustainable farms or is organic.

In terms of coffee shop equipment, you may have the option to lease or buy. Equipment financing is one way a lot of restauranteurs acquire kitchen equipment, and one you might consider also. Proceeds from SBA 504 loans can also be used to purchase kitchen equipment.

4. Create A Buzz With Marketing

There are so many innovative ways to start creating a buzz around town before your coffee shop even opens. Some of these include:

  • Giving out samples of your coffee at local events
  • Updating your building’s exterior with signage and other eye-catching improvements
  • Setting up a direct mail campaign in targeted regions
  • Alerting the media to your grand opening
  • Social media marketing (more on that in a minute)

Essentially, you want people to be excited about your coffee shop before it even opens. Fortunately, social media and the internet makes this easier than ever.

5. Bolster Your Web Presence

Your business website and social media profiles need to be in place before your coffee shop opens. If you don’t have the time or budget to hire a web designer, you can still create a functional and attractive website using a website builder such as Squarespace or Wix. Posting to Instagram and other social sites before the grand opening will also help you create a buzz and establish an online presence.

Here are a couple of resources that will help you build your online presence for your coffee shop:

  • Guide to creating/maintaining a web presence
  • Guide to social media marketing

6. Hire & Train Employees

Your employees and the level of customer service they provide will ultimately make or break your coffee shop. You will need to be smart and careful in your hiring process, and train the employees thoroughly so they know not only your processes but also the atmosphere you are trying to create. It’s important to value your employees and offer competitive wages and perks, even if that means cutting costs somewhere else; if you pay minimum wage, employees will ultimately be grumpy with one foot out the door. By establishing a positive corporate culture and showing employees you value them, you will create an awesome team that will take your business to the next level.

7. Choose A POS System

Your point of sale is where you make all your money, so it’s super important that you choose a good one! You do not want a system that is unreliable or only pairs with a crappy merchant service provider that charges exorbitant swipe fees. Thus, you will need to test out multiple systems and read reviews before selecting a system. You’ll also need to figure out which features you need and which you can live without. Many modern cloud-based POS systems are essentially complete business management software programs, with built-in inventory management, employee management, accounting integration, loyalty software, and even more functions. You also have the choice to go all out with POS hardware add-ons such as digital menu boards and self-order kiosks, or keep it simple with a single iPad register.

More important than having a POS with all the bells and whistles, it is essential that the POS system you select integrates with a high-quality merchant services provider (or choice of merchant service providers). Your merchant service provider will determine what percentage of your credit card sales you’ll hand over, how issues such as chargebacks are handled, and how much you’ll pay to exit the contract if you’re not happy with the level of service.

To start your POS research, I recommend reading our article on the best POS systems for coffee shops.

Final Thoughts

There are so many things to consider when starting any business, particularly a business in the restaurant industry. However, as long as you have a solid business plan and financing in place, the rest is really just details. Opening a coffee shop is a practical choice for a lot of prospective business owners, as there will always be demand for good coffee and a place to drink it. Not only that, but it’s also a choice that will allow you to express your individuality and become a vibrant part of the local community in a way that many business types aren’t suited for.

If all this sounds good to you, I encourage you to get started so you can open the go-to coffee shop in your city before someone else does.

Oh, and don’t forget the free WiFi!

The post How To Start And Fund A Coffee Shop appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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6 Free Square Tools To Make Running Your Small Business Easier

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

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

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

Inventory Management

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Directory

small business loyalty program

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

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

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

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

Card On File

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

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

Is Card On File Secure?

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

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

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

Gift Cards

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

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

Invoicing & Installments

Square Invoice Tutorial

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

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

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

Virtual Terminal

 

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

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

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

Square Card

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

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

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

Is Square Right For You?

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

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

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

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The Best Mobile Credit Card Readers For iPhone and iPad

If you’re in the market for a mobile card reader and a credit card processing app, there’s no shortage of options. The trick is finding the right option for a given business. One of the big factors that determine which apps are suitable is what kind of smartphone or tablet you have. Fortunately, if you have an iOS device — that is, an iPhone or an iPad — you have plenty of options.

Our Top Picks For iOS-Based Credit Card Readers & Mobile Apps

The first decision when choosing a card reader and mobile processing app is selecting the device itself. For the most part, iOS-compatible mobile apps and readers support iPhones and iPads alike with no major issues. But after you’ve narrowed down the list of apps based on supported devices, you’ve still got several other factors to consider — transaction costs, monthly fees, essential features, whether you want a standalone mobile app or something that supports invoicing and online payments… and that’s just to get the list started! The cost of the card reader and accepted payment methods are just as important as app features when you’re dealing with mobile processing.

So without further ado, here’s a list of our favorite card swipers and mobile apps for iPhones and iPads, as well as why we like them.

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Fattmerchant Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + $0.15

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$99

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$0

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

BBPOS Chipper BT (chip and swipe, $75; swipe, chip and contactless, $100)

Payment Depot (Swipe Simple)

Payment Depot (read our review) offers a subscription-based pricing model for its merchant accounts, with a host of software options for businesses to choose from (including Clover). Standard pricing plans for Payment Depot start at $49/month, with transactions processing at interchange + $0.15. However, if you’re looking for a mobile solution that runs on an iPad or iPhone, Payment Depot offers the Swipe Simple app, and Merchant Maverick readers can get access to special pricing that’s competitive even for low-volume merchants.

With this exclusive plan, you’ll get the Swipe Simple app and payment processing at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction, with only a $10 monthly account fee. Remember, this is a Merchant Maverick exclusive, so you’ll need to use our link in order to get the special pricing.

Swipe Simple is a very functional credit card processing app. It runs on iPhone and iPad devices, as well as Android hardware. It even comes with a demo mode so you can test out the app before you sign up, which is always nice to see. There’s limited inventory management, but you can track stock counts. There’s even an offline mode. Check out our Payment Depot Mobile/Swipe Simple review for a closer look at the software.

In addition to the app, Payment Depot offers a choice of two readers. The Swift B200, a Bluetooth-enabled reader that supports magstripe and chip card transactions, is available to merchants for free. If you’d like to add contactless payments, you can get the Swift B250 for just $25, which is a fantastic price for an all-in-one card reader.

Shopify Lite

Shopify (read our review) is mostly known for its ecommerce platform, but it has also developed a quite powerful POS app that integrates with its online shopping tools. Shopify POS is included for free in all standard Shopify ecommerce plans, but if you don’t plan to sell online or only need some very basic online sales tools, there’s another option: Shopify Lite (read our review), which lets you create “buy” buttons and run a Facebook store for online sales, as well as giving access to the Shopify POS.

Shopify Lite will run you $9/month and 2.7% per transaction, which is a reasonable cost. The POS app runs on both Android and iOS, but an iPad offers the best user experience and access to the most features. However, keep in mind that the Lite plan is still limited even with an iPad; specifically, there’s no support for a cash drawer, barcode scanner, or receipt printer. That feature is only accessible with the Shopify Basic plan, which costs $29/month and includes a full web store with unlimited products.

Shopify also offers a free Chip & Swipe Reader for its merchants. It retails for $29 normally, which is still a great price for a Bluetooth-enabled chip card reader. We’ve reviewed the Shopify Chip & Swipe reader already, and you can check that out for a closer look.

Square

Square’s mobile point-of-sale app, simply called Square Point of Sale, gets a lot of love, and rightfully so. The app is free to use and you only pay a per-transaction fee of 2.75%. Square’s pricing makes it very attractive for low-volume and startup businesses, and there is an assortment of hardware options available. The Square Point of Sale app supports both iOS and Android devices, but certain features are not universally supported. An iPad gives you access to the vast majority of these features, but the iPhone supports all of the core features and many of the secondary, non-universal features. Check out our in-depth Square POS review for a comprehensive look at the free POS app and its features. For a closer look at the rest of Square’s products, check out our complete Square review.

As far as hardware goes, let’s start with the basics. Square has been offering a free basic magstripe reader for a long time, and it still does. (Note: you can also get the Square reader in some retail stores for $10.) However, the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from newer iPhone models has complicated matters somewhat. Square responded by rolling out a Lightning port magstripe reader. When you sign up for your free Square account, you can choose which model of reader you need. Square no longer offers multiple free readers; after the first one, you’ll pay $10 per reader.

However, it’s important to also consider accepting EMV chip cards, especially if you’re doing a consistent volume of business or large transactions. Square’s Contactless + Chip Reader supports both EMV and contactless NFC payments. It includes a separate magstripe reader for swipe transactions.

The Contactless + Chip Reader sells for $49, but Square does offer financing for hardware purchases that cost at least $49 (convenient, isn’t it?). You can also purchase cash drawers, receipt printers, and even tablet stands directly from Square.

Want to know more about Square’s hardware? Check out A Guide to Square Credit Card Readers & POS Bundles for an in-depth look at your options.

Fattmerchant Mobile

Fattmerchant Mobile isn’t an option that I talk about a lot, mostly because it’s best targeted at high-volume businesses. However, until recently, it was an iOS-exclusive, and even now, the iOS platform is more robust than its Android counterpart. Fattmerchant (read our review) offers customers their own merchant accounts, which translates to a high degree of account stability. Its Omni platform, which includes the mobile processing app, invoicing, and a customer database and inventory management, combines many core features in a single platform. Check out our Fattmerchant Mobile review for a more comprehensive look at the app and its features.

Fattmerchant operates on a subscription pricing model, with a monthly fee that starts at $99/month. Mobile and invoice transactions cost interchange fees + $0.15 per transactions — there’s no percentage markup at all. However, if you opt for the mobile credit card carder, you’ll get the card-present rate of interchange fees + $0.08 per transaction. You can simply key in all the transactions if you prefer — just know that you’ll pay higher interchange fees in addition to the $0.15 markup.

Fattmerchant offers a choice of two different card readers, the BBPOS Chipper BT and the BBPOS Chipper X2 BT. The Chipper BT model supports both magstripe and chip card transactions and connects to your device via Bluetooth. It goes for $75. The Chipper X2 adds contactless payment support to the magstripe and chip card readers and also connects via Bluetooth. It goes for $100.

Honorable Mentions

While I have no qualms with saying the four options I’ve presented are the best of the best, there are a couple of other mobile apps and card readers that are good options for iPhone and iPad users. So let’s talk about them!

PayPal Here

PayPal Here integrates with the rest of PayPal’s services so that you can sell online and in person seamlessly, much like Square. While it doesn’t offer quite as many features as Square, it’s still a very functional mobile app. Check out our PayPal Here review for a closer look at all the features.

PayPal Here processes payments at 2.7% per transaction, with keyed entry at 3.5% + $0.15. PayPal no longer offers a free card reader. Instead, you’ll need to shell out $15 to get its magstripe reader. PayPal will also place limits on your account if you opt for the magstripe reader, making it viable mostly for very low-volume businesses. As an alternative, PayPal offers two Bluetooth enabled cardreaders, starting with the Chip and Swipe reader, for $24.99.

If you also want contactless support, PayPal’s Chip and Tap Reader (retail price $59.99; bundle with stand $79.99). However, there’s another option for iPad users who want a more robust software option: Vend (read our review) with a PayPal integration. You’ll get PayPal’s 2.7% rate for payment processing with no monthly fee from PayPal. Of course, you’ll have to choose your Vend plan as well — and get the appropriate hardware. You’ll need the PayPal Chip Card Reader, which goes for $99.

PayPal + Vend POS
Advanced POS software
Easy credit card processing integration
Get Started For $0

SumUp

SumUp (read our review) isn’t quite as complex or feature-laden as some of the other options on this list, but if you just need an iPad or iPhone credit card reader and app, SumUp will get the job done. Payments process at 2.65%, and there’s no monthly fee to use the software. For a better idea of how SumUp stacks up against the competition, I suggest checking out our Square vs SumUp comparison.

SumUp’s cardreader, at $69, is definitely a little expensive, but it’s a beautifully designed piece of hardware. It’s Bluetooth enabled and supports magstripe, chip card, and contactless payments. You can also occasionally catch it on sale for a reduced price. I suggest checking out our SumUp unboxing review for a closer look at the reader.

Which iPhone/iPad Credit Card Swiper Is Right For You?

In payment processing, especially mobile processing, it’s impossible to take a one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s really important that you, the business owner, spend some time figuring out what features you need in a credit card processing app. You should also consider what kind of pricing model works best for your business, and do the math to see what you’d really pay with each option on your short list. And of course, there’s the card swiper, too. While a free magstripe reader might be enticing, you should really consider upgrading to a chip card-capable reader to protect your business.

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Fattmerchant Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + $0.15

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$99

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$0

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

BBPOS Chipper BT (chip and swipe, $75; swipe, chip and contactless, $100)

The takeaway is that there is no shortage of great credit card processing apps for iPhone and iPad users! And you’ll get a great assortment of credit card readers to go with. Don’t forget to check out our companion article, The Best Credit Card Reader Apps to Android.

Thanks for reading! What’s your favorite credit card processing app and mobile card reader for iOS devices?

The post The Best Mobile Credit Card Readers For iPhone and iPad appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide To Stripe Pricing And Costs

Are you curious about what makes Stripe different than other third-party processors like Square and PayPal? And if the costs are comparable? Come along as we explore Stripe — a lesser-known payment processing option that has definite potential when it comes to eCommerce.

Even though Stripe has less name recognition than competitors Square and PayPal, Stripe has likely processed many of your recent online shopping transactions without you even realizing it. That’s because Stripe powers payment processing behind the scenes for some of the biggest retail chains around — places like Target, Lyft, Facebook, Adidas, and Under Armour. Yes, Stripe has one of the most respected and well-trusted platforms in the world, but instead of providing branded, customer-facing tools like its peers, it focuses on delivering developer-friendly solutions with extensive code libraries and lots of customization options.

If you are looking for a ready-made, polished solution for eCommerce payment processing, Stripe may not be the ideal choice. A solution like Square may be much better suited to your needs. If, however, you want to build your payment processing platform from the ground up (and have the technical resources to do so), you’ll find a range of robust, world-class developer tools.

In this post, we’ll talk about what kind of payment processing Stripe provides (and why it matters), and then dive into costs associated with transactions and/or other handy tools you may need.

Overview Of Stripe

Stripe is a third-party payment processor — just like PayPal and Square. Traditional merchant account providers vet and approve each individual merchant, creating a single account for that business. Third-party processors, on the other hand, make it much easier for a business to quickly access payment processing services because they combine many business accounts together into one giant account. Stripe’s processing model relies on maintaining account volume to reduce risk for the group as a whole; for that reason, it can become a bit of a numbers game for them to remain profitable. If something looks fishy, they are more likely to terminate, freeze, or put an account hold on a business without a lot of warning.

Now, most of us feel a bit squirmy when we imagine our hard-earned revenue potentially held ransom in a purgatory account, but the truth is, freezes and holds happen only to a tiny percentage of businesses — and typically only after certain red flags have been raised. If you want to learn more about how to avoid waving some of these red flags, check out our post: How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations. The majority of business owners will not have to worry about a freeze or hold, so it’s important to keep that whole issue in perspective.

Now back to the good news. Stripe has a lot of features and benefits for a growing small business, such as:

  • Transparent pricing
  • No monthly or termination fee
  • Payment security using advanced machine learning  
  • Libraries in every language
  • Display multiple currencies (add 1% for automatic conversion)
  • Versioned API changes
  • Test-friendly environment
  • 24/7 live chat and phone support
  • iOS and Android dashboard apps

And when it comes to creating the finished solution, you don’t have to do it all. There is a workaround for those of us who may not have all of the coding skills (or time!) to build it all from the ground up. Stripe has established platform partners to integrate a range of small business tools from accounting, automation, form building, CRM, inventory management, and booking — just to scratch the surface.

One thing we like about Stripe is that, unlike some companies, Stripe offers support for safe and PCI compliant migration of credit card data whether you are coming or going. Some third-party processors don’t support exit migration at all, so this is a nice touch.

Now that you are a bit more familiar with this platform, let’s check out the costs associated with processing payments.

Stripe Payment Processing Costs

Most savvy business owners want to cut to the chase. “Great, so how much does it cost?”

Stripe’s payment processing costs are straightforward, but your per-transaction costs will largely depend on the type of transaction you’re processing. Discounts and some pricing differences apply, so stick with me as we go through some different scenarios.

Online Transactions

For any eCommerce transaction (including in-app and mobile web payments), you are going to pay 2.9% + $0.30 per successful card charge. It doesn’t matter whether you process Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, etc. — all cards cost the same to process. You also pay the same price whether you build your own site or connect to a third-party shopping cart.

Another great thing about Stripe is that you can accept international cards (for an additional 1%). If you need to convert the currency, however, you’ll have to pay another 1% on top of that. This is great for businesses that sell internationally, especially combined with Stripe’s ability to present prices in the customer’s local currency. 

Stripe also allows merchants to accept more than just credit cards, providing the tools that allow you to manage ACH and other payment options. Here is what it’s going to cost you:

  • ACH Credit: Starting at $1.00 per ACH credit payment
  • ACH Direct Debit: 0.8% per transaction, capped at $5
  • Wire: $8.00 per wire payment

Stripe also allows you to verify your customers’ bank accounts at no extra charge. That’s a nice touch. However, if payment doesn’t go through, you are looking at $4 for failed ACH direct deposit payments and $15 for disputed ACH direct debit payments.

In-Person Transactions

 

Stripe POS

Want the same customization for your pop-up shop or brick-and-mortar store that Stripe brings to your online presence? Introducing the Stripe Terminal!

For in-person payment processing with the Square terminal, you’ll pay 2.7% + $0.05 for each successful card transaction. But before you get too excited, Stripe Terminal’s programmable point of sale is currently in beta and available upon invitation only. You can request approval now, and if you are approved, you can buy a developer kit to run in test mode until they begin supporting transactions in live mode (this is expected to roll out very soon).

When it comes time to choose your reader, you can integrate with the Stripe Terminal through a combination of an iOS SDK and mobile reader or a JavaScript SDK and countertop reader. Stripe suggests the latter if you’re looking for a fully branded experience and have a strong developer proficiency.

Payment Security Note: As far as payment security and PCI-DSS compliance go, the Stripe Terminal is EMV Levels 1,2, and 3 pre-certified. So it can help a wide range of businesses get started without having to dedicate extra resources to payment security. But for now, you’ll have to wait to process live payments until it graduates from beta testing.

Does Stripe Offer Alternative Pricing?

QuickBooks For Nonprofits

We do get a lot of comments about the fact that Stripe (and other third-party processors) can be expensive for some businesses. Fortunately, Stripe does offer volume-based discounts for large businesses. In addition, you may be able to qualify for custom pricing if you run a nonprofit or have a unique business model. Stripe doesn’t give any hard and fast details about alternative pricing, however, so you’ll have to contact the sales team and discuss your business model with them directly.

Does your business process very small transactions ($10 or less) on a regular basis? The $0.30 per-transaction fee might be prohibitively expensive, and an alternate payment model catering to these microtransactions can save you money. Here’s what Stripe says about support for microtransaction payment processing:

Microtransaction support varies from market to market. If you process more than $100,000 per month or have a unique business model such as marketplaces, microtransactions, or unusually large order values, reach out to us, and we can discuss availability and options. In markets where microtransactions aren’t available, a common approach is to batch together multiple transactions from the same customer and submit them as a single, larger charge.

Stripe Pricing For Other Tools

Stipe offers a healthy selection of additional tools and add-ons. Below, we break them down for you and include information about pricing to help you make an informed decision.

Billing

Stripe Billing offers recurring payments and subscription tools built around the customer experience. For the recurring business model, you will have a lot of tools to help you engage customers and reduce turnover (more on that below). And as far as billing your customers with one-off invoices or setting them up for automatic recurring payments, there are no limits on how many invoices you can send, ever.

To be clear, all Stripe Billing fees are charged in addition to the processing fee (2.9% + $0.30 per successful charge).

If you’re only expecting to process a small volume of recurring payments, or you’re new to Stripe, the Starter Plan has everything you need. Your cost for using the Billing tools is 0% for the first $1 million of recurring charges, and then 0.4% after that. Stripe doesn’t charge anything extra for one-off invoices. 

For businesses that are billing at large volumes and want advanced features to manage billing from order cash, Stripe offers the Scale plan. You will pay 0.7% on recurring charges, in addition to the payment fees of 2.9% + 30 cents per successful charge to a card. However, Stripe also offers discounted ACH to businesses on the Scale plan, so there are potential cost savings.

Here is a screenshot from Stripe’s comparison of their Starter and Scale packages:

Stripe

The above is a long list of out-of-the-box tools you can put to use pretty quickly. Even just the business analytics, reporting, recovery tools, and webhooks make a compelling case of high value to cost ratio. Stripe touts that its recovery tools have “reduced payment declines for users by 45% on average and increased revenue by 10% on average.”

All-in-all, any SaaS or subscription-based business could benefit from the features in Stripe Billing — and Stripe offers a free trial with no setup or fixed monthly fees, so there doesn’t seem to be a downside to trying it out.

Connect

Connect is “the payments platform for platforms.” If you are a marketplace or a platform, you can utilize Stripe Connect to accept money and pay third parties. Connect is API-first, meaning you have the freedom to design a unique experience including onboarding, set payout timing, and integrated financial reporting, to name a few.

Connect has three account options including Standard, Express, and Custom. The cost for Connect Standard is included with Stripe — you have no additional platform-specific fees to add payments to your platform. Additionally, you’ll get a full Stripe Dashboard, dynamic risk-based KYC/AML checks, international support in over 25 countries, and hosted onboarding and verification.

Custom and Express Connect costs $2 per active account per month + 0.25% of account volume. With these accounts you can do things like build branded onboarding flows, control payout timing and funds flow, automate 1099 tax form generation and delivery, and have a platform management dashboard. The difference between Express and Custom is revealed in the names themselves. Express is a faster option requiring low integration effort to onboard recipients quickly and at scale (e.g., an on-demand marketplace), while Custom is an option for platforms to completely customize the user experience.

International connected accounts will run an extra 0.25% cross-border charge on monthly account volume. Additional fees also apply if you utilize Connect tools such as account debits (1.5%) and payouts ($0.25 per payout). However, as with Stripe’s other pricing models, the company is always up for discussing volume pricing for large platforms and alternative pricing options for low volume accounts. And if you’re a startup affiliated with Stripe Atlas Network, you can contact Stripe to learn about their custom startup package.

Stripe Connect

Sigma

Sigma connects you to your business data with a wide range of applications from business operations to finance, data analysis, and product management. Sigma doesn’t require any setup or ETLs; all you need to do is write SQL queries to create the custom reports on your dashboard. Pricing for Sigma is based on how many charges, authorizations, and application fees your business processed in the previous month. Fees start at $0.02/charge for 1-500 charges and incrementally decrease with charge volume.  

Radar For Teams

While all of Stripe’s payment processing software is fully PCI compliant and therefore meets global payment security standards, Radar is available as well. Radar bolsters your defenses through advanced machine learning. Radar learns from “hundreds of billions of data points across the Stripe network to help millions of businesses fight fraud.”

Radar is included with your standard and custom pricing plans. However, Radar for Fraud Teams is also available for an additional cost of $0.02/per transaction. Radar utilizes data and tools that support the detection and blocking of fraud, and it can decrease the false positives that block legitimate customers, too. Stripe has done a very good job at creating layers of security and data insights into their product — and you don’t need to dig into the code to make use of it because it all happens at your dashboard!

Is Stripe A Good Fit For You?

It’s pretty clear that Stripe goes far beyond your run-of-the-mill payment processing solution. The real meat of Stripe is its rich developer tools that give you the power to customize everything about the payment experience while giving you deep insights and analytical data you can use right away.

Businesses that want a fully branded, ready-to-scale solution — as well as subscription-based businesses, marketplaces, and tech-focused companies — will likely find all the tools they need and then some. However, for the eCommerce business that simply needs a reliable and secure payment processor, Stripe may be overkill. If you don’t have the technical expertise or don’t have developers on staff, you may never tap into Stripe’s potential. An option like Square may be a better fit. Square offers fast setup, no recurring fees, and up-front pricing that suits most small businesses nicely. Additionally, Square provides an extensive dashboard that reveals basic business and financial analytics with no integration required.

Not sure what you need? Check out our Stripe vs Square comparison or read our Stripe Review for an in-depth analysis. Or if you want to explore your options even further, check out How to Choose an eCommerce Merchant Account.

The post The Complete Guide To Stripe Pricing And Costs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Set Up A Free Square Account

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

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

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

What Do You Need To Get Started?

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

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

You don’t need:

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

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

How To Create A Free Square Account

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

Sign up with Square

 

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

 

Square set up account

 

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

Create an individual square account for business

 

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

 

Square processes payments mobile online and square invoices

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

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

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

Square Point of Sale and Square for Restaurants

 

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

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

 

Square setup form

 

Choose A Magstripe Reader

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

Square Reader

 

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

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

Free Square Reader

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

Order A Square Reader

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

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

How To Set Up Your Square Dashboard

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

Square Dashboard setup

 

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

Add Items & Build Your Inventory

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

Adding an Item in Square Inventory

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

Create an Item Screen in Square Dashboard

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

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

Add an Item in Square Inventory

Create & Manage Locations

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

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

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

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

Manage Sales Tax Settings

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

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

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

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

Customize Your Dashboard Layout

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

Square Dashboard Customize

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

Moving Square Tiles in Dashboard

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

Review Square’s Reporting Features

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

Square reports

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

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

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

Manage Your Employees 

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

Square Employee Reporting Tool

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

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

Square Employee Permissions Mobile Staff Free

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

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

Employee Management Sales Reporting

 

How To Set Up Square Deposits & Funding

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

Square Instant Deposit and Deposit Schedule Tutorial

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

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

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

Square Card Small Business

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

Explore More Square Software Options

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

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

Choose Another Square Point of Sale App

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

Square For Retail:

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

Square for Restaurants:

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

Square Appointments:

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

Choose Hardware Options

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

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

Square’s countertop POS devices include:

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

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

Where To Go Next With Square?

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

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

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

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

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

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