This post originally appeared at Liquid Web WordPress Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Liquid Web is one of the largest hosting companies in the world. They were founded in 1997 and have data centers in Michigan, Arizona, and The Netherlands.
See Liquid Web’s Current Plans & Pricing
They have traditionally focused on dedicated, VPS, and cloud hosting. However, in their recent growth push, they have expanded to offer a wide variety of products, including Managed WordPress Hosting.
What is Liquid Web Hosting Managed WordPress Hosting?
Liquid Web is a large, privately-owned hosting company. They grew with a focus on enterprise and dedicated hosting. They have traditionally offered a wide range of specialized hosting products for agencies, mid-size, and growing businesses.
In 2019, they acquired Nexcess Hosting, which expanded their hosting products to include more affordable, consumer-grade plans, including Managed WordPress Hosting.
Additionally, they acquired iThemes, a WordPress theme & plugin maker, in 2018. They offer shared WordPress hosting under the iThemes brand.
Before looking at Liquid Web’s pros & cons, let’s look at a bit of background so that we can compare apples to oranges to limes.
To begin, I’ve written about how WordPress Hosting is different than Web Hosting here.
The short version is that WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux-powered web hosting server (aka shared hosting). But many companies have customized web hosting servers to optimize for WordPress’ typical resource usage.
They call these “WordPress Hosting Plans” – even though one company’s WordPress Hosting plan can be wildly different than another company’s.
At one end of the industry are specialist WordPress Hosting companies like WP Engine and Kinsta. They *only* do hosting for WordPress with costs to affordability and versatility. On the other end are shared hosting companies that tweak their shared servers for WordPress, but still focus on affordability and versatility.
Liquid Web’s tries to split the difference with their Managed WordPress Hosting product. They want to be more affordable & versatile than specialist WordPress hosts, while also providing unique & more robust product than many shared hosting companies offer.
If most shared hosting companies are selling Toyotas, Honda & Fords; and specialist companies are selling Porsches or Teslas, then Liquid Web is trying to sell a Mercedes or BMW.
Ok, let’s outline how that plays out with pros, cons & use cases.
Pros of Using Liquid Web for WordPress
There are many Liquid Web Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience.
That’s fine, but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Liquid Web Hosting.
Performance & Speed
The number one job of any web host is to safely & securely store your website, and quickly deliver those files to any visitor who requests them.
There is a lot that goes into website speed. Using Liquid Web will not instantly make your website fast, but they take care of everything in their control.
Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting plans are built & managed with WordPress in mind. They aren’t just re-hashed web hosting plans.
While they do have some limits (see cons section), within those limits, Liquid Web runs WordPress well. Here’s an example speed test that I ran with no optimization or caching installed.
Note the Time to First Byte (TTFB). While it’s best measured as a trend, it is the most straightforward & most accessible metric that you can use to measure a hosting company. Liquid Web excels on that measurement.
Additionally, Liquid Web seems to excel with large, memory-hungry plugins like WooCommerce. They allocate the right resources and provided servers that are configured & prepared for high-use ecommerce stores.
Support & Onboarding
Liquid Web’s customer support & customer onboarding is reliable. For a large company, they have still maintained a “human” approach to marketing.
Their Net Promoter Score (a standard measurement of customer satisfaction) has been consistently high for years.
Additionally, they consistently invest across multiple support channels, including phone, chat, ticket, knowledgebase, and support forum. This investment level is my usual “proxy” for judging a company’s commitment to customer service.
Additionally, Liquid Web has an great onboarding sequence for moving a new signup to a consistent customer.
When I started my account, I had no issues and no confusion about what to expect or what to do next.
Hosting Features & Extras
Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting has excellent features plus extras that they don’t really promote.
Their resource allocation is solid, with no visitor caps. They have multiple data centers across the US & Europe.
They compete well with both shared hosting companies and specialist companies on raw features and allocations. But they add in a few different features as well.
They have a clean, accessible backend with both staging & development environments.
They also provide an interesting “Visual Comparison” tool that allows you to quickly preview any WordPress plugin / theme changes without rolling it out to the staging or live server.
They also have a unique cloud autoscaling feature so that your WordPress site will never crash under user pressure.
This feature is especially useful for high memory usage plugins like WooCommerce, BuddyPress, and bbPress that can come under high concurrent user pressure (i.e., lots of people trying to refresh their cart / feed / thread at the same time).
Comprehensive Hosting Products
Liquid Web has been a leader in the enterprise & dedicated hosting industry for quite some time. This history means that they have a whole suite of specialist hosting products for rapidly growing or unique sites.
No matter how your business changes, you can almost certainly stay with Liquid Web to solve your hosting needs. This point is especially important for web design firms or freelancers looking to find a long-term hosting partner.
My podcast co-host recently switched his marketing agency to Liquid Web for this very reason. Liquid Web’s support removed the agency’s dev maintenance workload so that they could focus on client work, while still getting the same performance as self-managed cloud hosting.
WordPress-specific Product Bundles
In addition to their Nexcess Hosting acquisition, Liquid Web also acquired iThemes – a popular WordPress plugin & theme provider.
With the iThemes brand, Liquid Web can bundle several “must-have” WordPress plugins. iThemes has always made high-quality plugins. Using Liquid Web allows WordPress users to get those otherwise paid plugins for free.
It’s a nice upside that enables customers to compare “apples to apples” with other companies such as WP Engine, InMotion, WPMU Dev, and Bluehost, who have all bundled similar premium plugins with their WordPress hosting product.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Liquid Web for WordPress
Like any web host, Liquid Web has disadvantages. There are plenty of Liquid Web complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using Liquid Web Hosting.
Liquid Web Pricing
Liquid Web’s pricing hits that classic “middle choice” problem.
On one hand, their pricing is great. It’s a great value. On the other hand, it’s neither affordable enough nor valuable enough.
Let’s go back to thinking about my car analogy. Imagine you just need a solid, reliable car to commute around your city. Do you need a Mercedes, or would a Honda do just fine?
Imagine you have the budget & needs for a luxury car. Do you really want a Mercedes, or would you prefer a Porsche or even a Bentley instead?
For solid, customized WordPress Hosting, there are companies with solid service, solid specs, and higher limits that are much cheaper than Liquid Web (e.g., this site uses InMotion Hosting’s WordPress Hosting).
There are WordPress services that WP Engine and Kinsta offer that Liquid Web is unlikely to roll out – because WordPress is not their main focus.
Liquid Web also limits some of their plans, especially on bandwidth, in a way that reduces their overall value.
Liquid Web provides its own custom backend to manage your server instead of the standard cPanel.
It does provide some upsides like other companies with a custom backend (SiteGround, DreamHost, and GoDaddy). It saves cPanel licensing fees, streamlines some tasks, and allows for a more uniform product.
However, a custom backend also creates additional problems for anyone who has developed a cPanel-based workflow, multisite management, or likes to search to solve server management issues.
In other words, Liquid Web’s backend issues are unique to Liquid Web and require Liquid Web’s support and expertise. There are no quick Googling fixes. And if you are managing multiple client sites, you’ll have to use Liquid Web’s tools rather than industry-standard cPanel tools.
Liquid Web’s WordPress plans start at $19/mo for a single site. They don’t have anything cheaper. Even iTheme’s old $4/mo beginner tier no longer exists.
$19/mo is well and fine for a growing site that needs solid resources and support. But what happens if you need to downgrade due to a loss in traffic? There’s no cheap tier to downgrade to.
The lower tier is a customer segment that Liquid Web does not work with. That’s great, but also something to consider if you are shopping around.
For example, I manage several smaller sites that I have high hopes for, but are also young & fragile. I’ve had to upgrade but also downgrade those sites to stay in budget. Liquid Web’s plans would not allow the downgrade option.
Liquid Web does a good job “humanizing” their support & onboarding channels. Their product & support language is friendly & welcoming. But it’s also decidedly focused on people who understand hosting jargon.
Some of their best hosting features are undersold because they are explained with hosting jargon. Part of this comes from their positioning & price point.
They are best for agencies or website owners who know what they are looking for in website hosting. However, it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking at moving from a hosting company that you’re familiar with – or are just starting.
Bundled WordPress Products
Liquid Web’s iThemes plugin / theme bundle is a solid pro, but it’s also a bit of a downside if you prefer other premium plugins.
iThemes comes as a suite of tools that work best together, especially their backup & security plugins. They are fine, but they aren’t what I prefer (I use JetPack and WPMU Dev).
If you choose to use a different suite of plugins / themes, you aren’t going to get as much value out of your plan as you normally would. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something to keep in mind when comparison shopping.
Liquid Web Use Cases
Liquid Web is a solid host, but they work particularly well for certain customer segments. Here’s a few cases where they are the best / better choice over competitors.
Profitable, Growing Website
If you have a profitable, rapidly growing WordPress website with lots of resource usage and dependable support needs, then Liquid Web would be a good choice. Their plans have more immediate value than specialist hosts while also providing more resources than shared hosting companies. Be sure to consider the downgrade downside, and look at other WordPress hosting companies.
Web Design & Development Agency
If you have a web design / development agency, the Liquid Web would be a solid choice to consider. They have consistent hosting with helpful performance for you & your clients. You can maintain a profitable maintenance retainer by shifting support needs from your development team to Liquid Web. Be sure to consider the cPanel downside, and what hosting price you are trying to pass along to your clients.
WooCommerce Store Owner
If you are running an ecommerce store on WooCommerce, then Liquid Web would be an excellent choice. They brought in a lot of ecommerce expertise with the Nexcess acquisition (both for Magento and WooCommerce). Their plans & support team has familiarity with WooCommerce’s needs since they have such a large base of WooCommerce customers.
Is Liquid Web Managed WordPress Hosting Good?
Liquid Web is a solid hosting company with an excellent managed WordPress hosting plan. They aren’t the right choice for every customer.
But if you value support, performance, and a solid price point for manage WordPress hosting, they are a good choice.
See Liquid Web’s Current Plans & Pricing
For other Liquid Web alternatives, explore my Best WordPress Hosting post.
Liquid Web WordPress Hosting
Liquid Web is a longstanding, respected hosting company. Their new Managed WordPress Hosting product is well-executed and worthwhile, if it’s within budget & meets your website’s needs.
Are you looking to start selling online? With the steady increase in popularity of online shopping, developing your own online store is crucial to ensuring you meet the needs and expectations of your customers.
But for many new online sellers (including those who already operate a brick-and-mortar business, as well as those who are just beginning), the costs of operating an online store can feel overwhelming. There’s the monthly subscription rate that you pay to your eCommerce platform, as well as the cost of transaction fees, payment processing, software extensions, and integrations.
Fortunately, you can ease some of the costs of opening an online store when you use a free eCommerce platform. Although you still have to pay for other expenses related to online selling (such as the cost of payment processing and software extensions), at least you won’t have to pay to use the actual selling software. This reduction in costs can lower the barrier to entry and help many businesses take the first steps to start selling online.
Free eCommerce software tends to come in two forms. Some software is available as a free plan on an all-inclusive cloud-based software. These free plans tend to give users the basic features they need for online selling while placing limits on product listings and advanced features. The other form of free eCommerce software is downloadable open-source software. This software is always free to use, and it does not limit its users in any way. That said, it is not nearly as user friendly as cloud-based software, and the software does not include web hosting or customer support.
It’s clear that each type of free eCommerce software offers its own advantages and disadvantages. Fortunately, both cloud-based software and open source software are great options for sellers who are looking to get started with a free eCommerce platform.
Best Free eCommerce Platforms
In this article, we’ll cover the best free eCommerce platforms on the market. Some of these options are free plans for cloud-based eCommerce software, while others are free open source eCommerce software. All of the free eCommerce platforms in this list meet our standards for security, available features, customer support, and usability.
Best for makers and artists who plan to list only a few items at a time.
Big Cartel is a cloud-based online store builder that is designed specifically with artists in mind. Content creators and makers of all types use Big Cartel to establish a website, build out an online store, and sell their digital and physical products. Big Cartel is incredibly simple and easy to use, which makes it an excellent option for anyone who is new to online selling.
Additionally, Big Cartel is a great alternative to marketplace selling, and their free option makes it accessible for everyone. Using this free plan, sellers can list up to five products on their online stores, and they gain access to Big Cartel’s most basic selling features. Keep reading to learn more of what’s available with Big Cartel’s free plan.
Easy to use
Geared toward artists
Customer support available for all users
Big Cartel Pricing
In this article we will be focusing primarily on Big Cartel’s free plan, but it’s important that you know about their paid plans as well. Big Cartel keeps pricing for their plans fairly low, ranging from just $10/month to $30/month. Each increase in pricing gives users access to more product listings and features. At the highest level plan, sellers can list up to 300 products.
Big Cartel’s Gold (free) Plan includes all of the features you need for basic online selling, although it limits users to just five product listings.
The Gold Plan includes:
One image per product
Use your own domain
Full code customization
Automatic tax calculations
Advanced tax settings
Product option groups
As we’ve mentioned, Big Cartel is a simple selling solution. Its aim is to provide sellers with an easy-to-use platform, and part of the way Big Cartel accomplishes this mission is by including only the features that most merchants need to sell online. You won’t find any fancy bells and whistles here–just the basics. Here are a few of the features you can expect from Big Cartel:
Sell on Facebook
SEO features like plain-text URLs and automatic sitemap generation
There are a few potential downsides to using Big Cartel. The first is the limited feature set and the reduced ability to customize your software. If you have a number of specific needs that you are trying to solve, Big Cartel might not be the right option. In addition, Big Cartel has a fairly small selection of extensions and payment methods. This further limits your ability to customize the software to suit your business.
Fortunately, Big Cartel does a good job when it comes to customer support. Although they do not offer any phone support, they do have a very good response time via email (we consistently receive replies in under two hours) and their self-help tools–such as the help center, the pre-recorded live classes, and the blog–are good resources for figuring things out on your own.Â
When To Use Big Cartel
We think that Big Cartel is best for small businesses and artists. Because of the limits on product listings, the free plan in particular is best suited to hobby sellers or artists who sell only a few pieces at a time.
Best for small to mid-size businesses that want to add an online store to their WordPress site.
WooCommerce is an open-source shopping cart plug-in designed for use on WordPress. WooCommerce is free to download and use, and it allows you to easily add an online store to your existing WordPress site. With over 84 million downloads, WooCommerce is incredibly popular. The software currently accounts for 26% of the top one million sitesÂ worldwide.
Although WooCommerce is free to download, it isn’t totally free to operate. You’ll have to pay for your WordPress account, as well as web hosting, security, and extensions. That said, WooCommerce is still an excellent choice for many businesses. The open-source software is completely customizable and full of useful features for online selling. All-in-all, WooCommerce is one of our favorite open-source solutions. Keep reading to learn more about why we love WooCommerce.
Numerous integrations available
Limited customer support
Site hosting not included
Add-ons often necessary
Steep learning curve
WooCommerce is an open-source WordPress plugin that’s free to download and use.
That said, there are a few expenses you should account for as you implement WooCommerce. You still have to pay for your WordPress site, along with your web hosting and domain name. You also will likely need to purchase a few add-ons and extensions for your online store. These add-ons range in price from free to hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, they are all available as one-time purchases.
WooCommerce follows a Core + Extensions model when it comes to features. In an effort to keep the software easy to use, they offer only core features already built in. These core features include everything the average merchant needs to get started. Any advanced features are available as extensions. Here are a few of the core features that come built-in with all WooCommerce downloads:
Sell physical and digital products
Create coupons and discounts
Although WooCommerce is a generally well-liked software, there are a few downsides to the platform. One downside is the learning curve that users must overcome. While it isn’t the most difficult software to use, it isn’t necessarily intuitive, and it will likely take some time to get the hang of daily use. What’s more, the cost of adding new features via extension can quickly add up. If you aren’t careful, WooCommerce could become more expensive than a cloud-based software with a monthly payment plan.
When it comes to customer support, WooCommerce is like most open-source software. There are very few options for personalized support from WooCommerce representatives. Instead, customer support takes the form of self-help resources. Available resources include a knowledge base, developer documentation, and a community forum. If you need personalized support, you can also hire a WooExpert to help out.
When To Use WooCommerce
We recommend WooCommerce to small to mid-size businesses. In particular, WooCommerce is best for businesses that want to add an online store to their WordPress site. WooCommerce works well for sellers who want a customizable solution and who don’t mind figuring things out on their own.
Best for mid-size businesses that can handle a technical challenge and need a way to sell internationally.
PrestaShop is a open-source eCommerce solution with an international reach. PrestaShop allows users to sell their goods across the globe with multiple available currencies, languages, and international payment processors. As an open-source solution, PrestaShop is free to download and use, although you’ll still have to foot the bill for web hosting, support, and extensions.
PrestaShop is one of the more technically complex options on this list. In order to get the best use of the software, you need a solid understanding of code, or you need the resources to hire someone who can manage the technicalities for you. In exchange for this complexity, however, you gain access to a strong selection of features and customization. Keep reading to learn what we like best about PrestaShop.
Excellent support materials
Strong user community
Expensive customer support
Developer skills required
PrestaShop is free to download and use.
That said, you will still need to account for a few expenses related to running an online store. PrestaShop users pay for their own hosting, domain name, site security, payment processing, and technical support.
PrestaShop offers over 600 features already built into their free software. Here’s a bit of what those features include:
Create coupons and discounts
Reports and analytics
Despite these positives, however, PrestaShop is not a perfect solution. The software shares many of the drawbacks that are typical of open-source software. Although the program is free to download, users still have to account for the cost of hosting and integrations, as well as expenses related to hiring a developer. In addition, in order to get the best use of the software, you really need to understand how to code.
Similarly, PrestaShop is like most open-source software in that support is available primarily through self-help resources. You can use the knowledge base, user forum, and some web ticket support to find answers to your questions about the software. In order to get a dedicated support representative, however, you’ll have to pay an additional cost.
When To Use PrestaShop
Because of the technical challenge involved with using the software, PrestaShop is best suited to mid-size businesses that have the resources to hire a developer. PrestaShop is great for businesses that need advanced features, including the ability to sell internationally.
Square Online Store
Best for sellers who already use Square to process in-person payments.
Square is a payment processing company that has revolutionized the way small businesses are able to accept payments. Now, Square is expanding its offerings to provide sellers with an omnichannel selling platform. You can now create an online store that connects seamlessly with Square’s Point of Sale system. And the best part is, this online store (with hosting, domain name, security, and customer support) is completely free for merchants who use Square.
Square Online Store was designed using Weebly’s website building software. This means that the software is incredibly easy to use. Square Online Store is available for free to anyone who processes their payments via Square, and they also offer a few paid plans that include additional features and payment processing options. We’ve been impressed with Square Online Store as a free, cloud-based option for online selling. Keep reading to find out why.
Easy to use
Ideal for low-volume merchants
Sell in-person and online
Integrates with the Square ecosystem
Only one payment option
Square Online Store Pricing
Square Online Store’s free plan includes a basic feature set, up to 500 MB of storage, and the ability to process payments through Square. Three paid plans are also available, ranging in price from $16/month to $79/month. These paid plans include additional features, storage, and payment processing options (lower processing rates and access to PayPal processing).
Square Online Store’s free plan includes:
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (via Square)
Automatic inventory, orders and items sync with Square POS
Free SSL security
Order status text alerts
Automatic tax calculator
Square gift cards
Lead capture and contact forms
Support via a community forum, email, chat, and phone
Square Online Store’s free plan gives users access to only the basic features that you need for online selling. Here’s a quick list of some available features:
Sell digital and physical products
Sell memberships, services, and carry-out orders
Sync with Square POS
Automatic tax calculator
Create coupons and discounts
Sell and accept gift cards
As with all free plans, Square Online Stores comes with limitations. You can only process payments through Square, and you do not get access to real-time shipping rate calculations.
Fortunately, there are no limitations placed on customer support. You can reach customer support via phone, email, and live chat. You can also always access the help center, community forum, and tutorial videos. We’re impressed that Square Online Store offers personalized support even on their free plan. This is a very uncommon benefit.
When To Use Square Online Store
Square Online Store is best for merchants who already sell using Square Point Of Sale, and who are looking for a way to take their store online. We recommend Square Online Store’s free plan to individuals and startups, and we recommend the paid plan to small businesses.
Best for individuals and beginning sellers who need an easy to use platform.
Ecwid is a cloud-based shopping cart widget that allows you to add an online store to any website. With Ecwid you can choose to build an entire website from scratch, or you can add an online store tab to your pre-existing website by just copy-pasting a couple of lines of code. Ecwid allows you to sell on multiple different channels at the same time, including on social media sites, on marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay), and in person.
Ecwid is a very affordable platform, with the highest pricing plan set at just $30/month. They also offer a free plan, which we’ll be discussing here. Ecwid is user friendly, which makes it an excellent option for small businesses and startups. Many individual sellers will likely find that Ecwid’s free plan offers the features and usability they need to venture into online selling.
Suited for startups
Easy to use
Add an online store to any existing site
Basic design tools
Ecwid’s free plan comes with a paired down feature set. In order to get access to the full selection of features, you have to subscribe to a paid plan. These plans range in price from $15/month to $35/month. Each step up in pricing includes more features, more products listings, and more available sales channels.
Here’s what’s available in Ecwid’s Free Plan:
List 10 products
Advertising on Facebook, Google, Pinterest, and Snapchat
Instant Site builder
Sell on multiple sites
Apple Pay (via Stripe)
Self-help support options
Ecwid’s free plan includes only the fundamentals of online selling. You can list up to ten products, market your products on social media, adjust the look of your online store, accept payments, and process orders. Here are a few available features:
Sell on multiple websites and in-person
Social media integrations
List product variants like size and color
Automatically translate your store in 50 different languages
Although Ecwid certainly has a lot to offer its users, it has a few limitations as well. The biggest drawback of Ecwid’s free plan is the limit they place on available features. You do not get access to features like automatic tax calculation, inventory tracking, discount creation, or digital products. You are also restricted to just ten product listings. This makes Ecwid’s free plan only good for the smallest online sellers (those who are just starting out, or artists who sell their pieces as a profitable hobby).
Support for users of Ecwid’s free plan is available via email. You can also find answers in self-help resources like the help center, tutorial videos, and community forums.
When To Use Ecwid
Ecwid’s free plan is best for individuals and beginning sellers who are looking for an easy way to take their products online. Growing sellers will quickly have to transition to a paid plan, but Ecwid’s free plan is a great starting point for many.
Best for mid-size and large businesses that want a customizable solution and can handle a technical challenge.
Magento is a software company that offers multiple solutions for online selling. In this article, we are focusing on Magento Open Source (formerly called Magento Community Edition), which is a free, downloadable selling software. Magento Open Source is completely customizable, and it comes with loads of features already built-in.
As an open-source solution, Magento is not known for its ease of use. In fact, you really need to have a good amount of experience with software development in order to implement this platform. With that in mind, we recommend Magento primarily to mid-size businesses that have a team of software professionals on hand.
Free to download
Impressive feature set
Active, global user community
Developer skills required
Steep learning curve
No customer support
Magento is free for users to download and use.
However, Magento is not a “cost-free” selling solution. In order to get your online store running, you’ll have to pay for web hosting, a domain name, integrations and extensions, and payment processing. Also, if you don’t have experience with code (especially PHP), you’ll have to hire a developer.
Magento offers an incredible number of features, even without any add-ons. Here are a few available features:
Coupons and discounts
Share on social buttons
Sell digital products and bundles
Tax and shipping calculations
Unfortunately, in order to access these features, users have to overcome a steep learning curve. Without the support of a developer, this learning curve may be too much for some businesses. In addition, while Magento is free to download, the platform can quickly turn into an expensive option when you consider the cost of hosting and integrations, as well as the cost of hiring a developer.
Magento is also a challenge for some users because of its limited customer support. Magento does not offer any support through phone, live chat, or email. Instead, you have to figure things out on your own with the user guide, community forum, and developer documentation.
When To Use Magento
Magento is a great solution for mid-size to large businesses that need a customizable and feature-rich selling software. Magento is only a good option for smaller businesses if they have the resources to hire a developer.
Free Shopping Carts VS Open Source eCommerce
All of the solutions we present above fall into one of two categories: a free plan on a cloud-based software, or an open-source downloadable software. Lets take a closer look at these two categories to find out which option is best for your business.
What Is Open Source eCommerce?
Open source eCommerce software are software that are made available to the general public. You can typically download the software for free, and all of the documentation that was used to build the software is available for public use. In general, open-source software is highly customizable, with strong features. Typically, companies that create open-source software make money on software extensions and technical support, rather than sale of the software itself.
The Pros & Cons Of Open Source eCommerce Platforms
Take a look below for the common advantages and disadvantages of open source eCommerce platforms:
Free to download
No monthly subscription costs
Web hosting not included
Users manage their own security
No personalized customer support
More difficult to learn and use
Developer support often required
Businesses that benefit from open source software are typically mid-size to large businesses. These businesses need customizable software, and they often have access to a developer.
What To Look For With Good Free eCommerce Software
Here’s how to identify a secure, high-quality free software option:
Open Source: For open source software, look for an option that is free to download and doesn’t make you pay for software updates. Look for lots of built-in features and a strong user community. Dive into the community forum and online reviews of the software to find out if general opinion of the software is positive or negative.
Cloud-based: When it comes to free plans on a cloud-based software, you should look for the ability to list at least 5-10 products. Double check that the software offers free hosting and domain names, as well as customer support options. It’s also a good idea to look for affordable paid plans in case you need to upgrade from the free plan in the future.
As you look for a free eCommerce software, you should also keep your eyes peeled for warning signs that a software may not be worth your time. Be wary of free plans that are so limited they are largely unusable. You should also be cautious of software that are not well reviewed online. Software without a significant number of reviews or software with a large number of negative reviews are often out-dated and clumsy to use.
Look below for answers to some Frequently Asked Questions regarding free eCommerce software.
Which free eCommerce software is best?
We think the best free eCommerce software overall is WooCommerce. WooCommerce provides the tools that most businesses need to sell online, and it is relatively easy to use. For sellers who prefer an all-in-one selling solution, however, we recommend Square Online Store. This software has the advantage of including web hosting, even though the feature set is much more limited than WooCommerce’s.
Are there free website builders with eCommerce built-in?
BigCartel, Ecwid, and Square Online Store (built on Weebly’s software) all offer elements of both website building and eCommerce. However, many popular website building software, like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, do not offer any free eCommerce features.
Do any free eCommerce platforms have unlimited products?
All open-source eCommerce platforms allow users to list unlimited products. Square Online Store is the only cloud-based eCommerce solution we know of that has unlimited products on their free plan (although, they do place a limit on data storage).
When would I have to upgrade to paid eCommerce software?
Typically, you have to upgrade to paid eCommerce software in order to list more than ten products and access features like real-time shipping and tax calculation. This only applies to cloud-based software since most open-source platforms are always free.
How To Choose The Right Free eCommerce Platform
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business is a process that involves careful consideration. In order to land on a great choice, you’ll have to make a number of smaller decisions along the way.
The first choice you should make is between cloud-based software and open source software. This decision should be based on your technical experience and your preferences regarding customization. Sellers who’d prefer to have their site’s hosting and security managed on their behalf should choose cloud-based software, while sellers who prioritize customization should choose open-source software.
Now that you’ve decided between cloud-based and open source software, you should take some time to come up with a list of features that your business absolutely must have. These should include key features like the ability to list digital products, calculate taxes and shipping costs automatically, and track your inventory totals. You should also look into customer support options–make sure that your business can manage with the support options available.
Once you’ve found a few software options that might work for your business, dive into the available customer reviews. Find out if users have a generally positive experience with the platform. If not, look elsewhere!
Finally, once you’re narrowed your options to one or two platforms, take the plunge and sign up for (or download) the software. Since it’s free, you’ve got nothing to lose, and there’s no harm in testing multiple products. Trying out the software for yourself will give you a good understanding of whether or not a software can work for your business.
If you choose to use any of the software on this list, we feel confident that you’ll have a positive experience. Even if the software isn’t a perfect solution, it is free, and it’s hard to go too wrong with a free option! No matter which software you select, we wish you the best of luck in your venture into online selling.
For more information on setting up an online store, check out our Complete Guide To Starting An Online Store For Your Brick & Mortar Business as well as our free eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
The post The Best Free eCommerce Platforms & Shopping Carts appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and say that you probably have a PayPal account. As of the third quarter of 2019, PayPal has reported a total of 295 million active accounts worldwide. PayPal has become so embedded in people’s lives that many use their personal PayPal account to conduct business. However, by doing this, you give up the advantages that come with a free PayPal Business account.
We’re here today to explain why, if you’re a PayPal user doing business under your personal account, you should really sign up for a PayPal Business account and do business under that account instead.
Why Use PayPal For Business?
When you use PayPal for Business, you gain access to a plethora of services, both free and paid, that can be immensely helpful to any merchant making money from online sales. You’ll get three options for taking payments, two of which carry no monthly fees. You’ll get access to a plethora of eCommerce integrations, including Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Offline merchants will get access to a number of POS integrations, as well as PayPal’s in-house mobile card reader and mPOS app, both of which are bundled together under the PayPal Here brand.
Other features available through PayPal include online invoicing, a Marketing Solutions package, a Virtual Terminal, a recurring billing service, and a lengthy list of developer tools. Of course, other payment processors sport similar tools, so is there truly any advantage to using PayPal for Business? PayPal itself would argue “yes,” and in favor of that argument,Â a recent study found that when a customer chooses PayPal as their payment method, they go on to complete the transaction 88.7% of the time — an average conversion rate 60% higher than that of other digital wallets and 82% higher than the average conversion rate of all other payment methods.
All things considered, a PayPal business account makes it simple and easy to send money back and forth. Whether you’re in the business of offering online subscription services, selling your wares at “meetspace” events like crafting shows and conventions, or even collecting donations for a nonprofit organization, PayPal for Business has plenty to offer.
Differences Between PayPal Personal & Business Accounts
Both personal and business PayPal accounts allow you to send and request money, make purchases, and even receive payments for sales you make — so long as you mark these sales as being for “Goods and services,” thus incurring transaction fees (and PayPal will check to make sure you’re not dodging transaction fees by mislabeling transactions). However, without a business account, you won’t have access to a host of commerce-facilitating features such as creating shipping methods, inventory tracking, allowing employees partial access to your account, and signing up for services like PayPal Here.
PayPal Business Account Requirements
The requirements to set up a PayPal business account are pretty minimal. You’ll need the following:
An email address
A business phone number
Your legal business name — your own name is fine if your business is a sole proprietorship
The last four digits of your SSN
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) — if you choose individual/sole proprietorship as your business type, you don’t need to provide an EIN
Your date of birth
Your home address
Your bank name, account number, and routing number
This will be sufficient to start selling, but note that after you start actually accepting payments and making money, PayPal may request further documentation, such as bank statements. Third-party processors like PayPal and Square are notorious for their stringent scrutiny of merchants and their tendency to subject merchants to holds or terminations at the slightest hint of trouble. Just be ready to provide whatever information PayPal might ask for in the event that they detect something slightly suspect.
Check out our piece on avoiding account holds, freezes, and terminations to learn more.
How To Set Up Your PayPal Business Account
Start off by clicking on the “Sign Up” box in the top right corner of PayPal’s page. Note that if you are signed in to your personal PayPal account, PayPal will prompt you to either sign out of your current account and set up a separate business account under a different email address OR delete your current PayPal account and set up a business account using the email address previously associated with your old PayPal account. I assume most of you will want to choose the former option.
Next, you’ll be prompted to enter some information about your business. Enter the legal name of your business contact, the name and phone number of your business, and your business address.
Next, you’ll be asked to describe your business type. The options you’ll have to choose from are as follows: Individual/Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Nonprofit organization, or Government entity.
Next, you’ll be asked to further describe your business. You’ll be asked to choose the product or keyword that best describes your business, your estimated monthly sales, and your website (this one is optional), and you may also be offered the chance to receive a PayPal Business Debit Mastercard after you receive at least $250 in payments.
Now, if your business type is anything other than Individual/Sole Proprietorship, you’ll also be prompted to enter your Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you chose Individual/Sole Proprietorship as your business type, you won’t receive this prompt as you won’t have an EIN.
Next, you’ll be asked to supply some more personal information: the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, and your home address.
Once this step is complete, your PayPal business account will have been created. You’ll now be asked whether you want to request or send money and whether you want to send out an invoice (which will start the process of setting you up with PayPal Invoicing, a free service that allows you to create and send customized invoices)
After that, you’ll be prompted to select other PayPal services you may want to use. You can choose which online payment package you’d like to set up for online sales. If you’re in the business of offline sales, you’ll be offered the chance to set up a PayPal Here account. And if you want to sell goods through online marketplaces that PayPal integrates with, you’ll be offered the chance to connect to such a marketplace.
Keep in mind that you can always return to the set of signup options listed above by hovering over the “More” option on your PayPal toolbar at the top of the page and then selecting “Business setup.”
Let’s go back to setting up online payments for a moment. Click on “Set Up Online Payments” and you’ll be presented with the choice of processing all your payments through PayPal or adding PayPal as a supplementary way to get paid.
Depending on which option you select, you’ll then choose how you want to sell online. Choose “Process all payments through PayPal” and you’ll be offered two further options. With Option A, you work with an eCommerce solution that’s already integrated into PayPal. Option B lets you add HTML buttons to your website yourself. Below both options, you’ll see a “Compare options” link. Click it to see the following comparison:
Now, if you chose “Add PayPal Checkout as another way to get paid”, the two subsequent options will be different. Option A will be “I want a pre-built payment solution” while Option B will be “Use our APIs to add PayPal Checkout to your website.” Clicking “Compare options” will then display the following:
After you establish your payment setup, you’ll find an “Account setup” tab next to the “Payment setup” tab. Click on that to finish setting up your account.
From there, follow the links to confirm your email, link your debit card for Instant Transfers to your bank if you wish, link your bank account, make your business name clear for customers, and, should you so desire, get the PayPal Business Debit Mastercard.
Depending on the payment options you selected earlier, you’re going to need to choose between the three available payment packages for accepting payments online:
PayPal Checkout (formerly Express Checkout)
PayPal Payments Standard
PayPal Payments Pro
If you want to add PayPal as a supplementary payment option to your existing website or if you already integrate with an eCommerce provider, PayPal Checkout is a solid choice. You’ll get PCI compliance (PayPal redirects customers to its secure site to complete the transaction), contextual checkout buttons, and localized payment methods for European customers.
PayPal Payments Standard is a more fully-featured payment solution than PayPal Checkout. Payments Standard offers the same eCommerce integrations and PCI compliance offered by PayPal Checkout along with a healthy dollop of additional features. Here’s the full list of what you’ll get with Payments Standard:
Accept credit and debit cards (your buyers don’t need a PayPal account)
Accept PayPal payments
Send invoices online for fast payment
Accept payments in 25 currencies from 202 countries
Simplified PCI compliance
No long-term contracts, setup, withdrawal or cancellation fees
Nonprofit discount available for PayPal transactions
Toll-free phone support
Offer special financing on purchases $99 and up
Both PayPal Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard have the benefit of being free to sign up for with no monthly fees. PayPal Payments Pro, by contrast, costs $30/month to use. Let’s take a look at what you’ll get for the money:
Hosted Checkout page: With Payments Pro, you can keep your customers on your website throughout the entire checkout process and customize the design of your checkout page. If you want to provide your customers with the most seamless checkout experience possible, Payments Pro is the way to go. However, this means that you’ll have to take care of PCI compliance yourself.
Virtual Terminal: PayPal’s virtual terminal allows you to accept payments via phone, fax, or mail. Once you have your customer’s card number, you can key in those numbers from a browser window. It’s definitely a handy feature, and it always helps to be able to take payments by as many means as possible. However, competitors like Square and Shopify offer access to a virtual terminal without having to pay any monthly fee whatsoever.
Recurring Billing: If you’re in the business of selling subscriptions, Payments Pro offers recurring billing tools to power your sales. Unfortunately, recurring billing will cost you an additional $10/month. Oddly enough, PayPal Checkout offers recurring billing tools for no cost whatsoever.
Bear in mind that to implement many of the features on offer with a PayPal business account, you’ll need a developer to help you do the heavy lifting.
Another feature you can sign up for on PayPal’s website is PayPal Here, a suite of services that allows you to accept offline payments via a mobile POS app and a PayPal card reader of your choosing. You’ll find the PayPal Here page under the Tools drop-down menu in the toolbar on your PayPal dashboard.
The first thing you’ll need to do is sign up for PayPal Here. Once you’ve done that, download the PayPal Here mPOS app onto your mobile device. Next, sign in to the app and order your card reader. Of the three card readers currently available, the Mobile Card Reader and the Chip and Swipe reader are both free until June 30, 2020, for new PayPal Here account holders. Also available is the Chip and Tap Reader + Charging Stand combo which you can purchase from PayPal for $79.99.
For a full rundown of the features included in PayPal Here, read our PayPal Here review.
Are There Any Paypal Business Account Fees?
There are no fees incurred when you set up a PayPal business account. It’s completely free to have a PayPal business account (unless you sign up for the PayPal Payments Pro plan). Of course, free payment processing doesn’t exist, and PayPal is no exception. This means that payment processing fees will apply when you make a sale through PayPal. If you’re a US-based merchant, Here’s what you’ll be paying per transaction in the based on the nature of the transaction:
2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped offline transaction (when you use PayPal Here or integrate with one of PayPalâs POS partners)
3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction
2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits (check out PayPal For Nonprofits to learn more)
5% + $0.05 per transaction under the MicroPayments plan
3.1% + $0.30 per Virtual Terminal transaction
Keep in mind that the Virtual Terminal is only available if you have a PayPal Payments Pro plan, which costs $30/month. Overall, PayPal’s fees are comparable to those of other third-party processors, though as I mentioned earlier, both Square and Shopify offer a virtual terminal without a monthly fee.
One recent policy change that has sellers chagrined is that when a transaction is refunded, PayPal will not return the processing fee to you. That means that if you refund a $100 online purchase to a customer, the processing fee won’t be returned to you and you’ll lose $3.20. This may not sound like that much, but if you’re issuing a significant number of refunds, these costs add up quickly. For more on refund policies in the payment processing industry, check out our article on credit card refund fees.
This article doesn’t cover every single fee associated with using PayPal. For more on the costs of such things as card readers for offline sales, conversion fees, chargeback fees, and more, our article on PayPal pricingÂ has the full story. And if you’re a seller outside the US, have a look at PayPal’s complete list of merchant fees, as the fixed portion of your transaction fees (when considering a 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee, the 30 cents is the fixed part) will vary based on the currency you use.
The Bottom Line On PayPal For Business Accounts
We’ve established that if you’re going to use your PayPal account for business purposes, you really should get a PayPal business account. But how does PayPal stack up against competing payment processing solutions?
Overall, despite its shortcomings, PayPal is a solid option for merchants. With its relatively simple, transparent pricing and extensive eCommerce integrations, PayPal works particularly well as a starter option for new businesses and will scale with your business as it grows. What’s more, online sellers can always choose to use PayPal as a supplemental means of accepting payments. This isn’t the case with most of PayPal’s competitors.
PayPal has plenty to offer offline sellers as well — with PayPal’s in-house mPOS app along with its robust POS and accounting integrations, you’ll be able to take payments anywhere with ease. Read our full PayPal review for an even deeper look into what the payments giant has to offer your business.
That being said, PayPal obviously isn’t an ideal solution for everybody. If you’re not happy with PayPal’s business practices or if you’re in the process of comparison shopping, check out our article on PayPal alternatives. You may want to have a look at our merchant account comparison chart as well.
As always, if you’ve used — or are using — a PayPal business account to accept payments, we’d love to hear about it! Please drop us a comment!
The post Why You Need A PayPal Business Account If You Want To Take Payments Via PayPal appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.
Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set
Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide
WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.
Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).
In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.
Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.
So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
What is WooCommerce?
To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.
Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.
And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.
It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.
WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.
WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).
And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –
domain (your address on the Internet)
hosting (where your website files live)
software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)
In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.
Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.
Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.
But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.
That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.
But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.
Pros of WooCommerce
Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.
Long-term Cost & Value
WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.
Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.
WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.
That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.
For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.
If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.
To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.
For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.
All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.
Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.
And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.
For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.
If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.
And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.
If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.
Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.
Integration with WordPress
WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.
And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.
This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.
For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.
There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.
The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.
Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.
f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).
Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.
Support from Automattic
Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.
WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.
They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.
Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.
But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.
There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).
But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.
Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.
WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.
Versatility & Compatibility
A few fun facts about WooCommerce –
You can use it to sell memberships
You can use it to sell recurring licenses
You can use it to sell digital goods
You can use it to sell apppointments
You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine
The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.
The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc
It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.
In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.
3rd Party Integrations
WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.
If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.
But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.
You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).
Control & Customizations
Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.
You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.
You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.
There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.
Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.
Cons of WooCommerce
Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.
Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.
There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.
But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.
For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).
For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.
But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.
Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?
Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.
In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.
Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.
But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.
Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.
This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.
Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.
But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*
*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.
Speed & Security
With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.
Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.
WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.
Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.
But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.
For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.
In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.
Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.
It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.
Growth & Scaling
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.
And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.
This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.
And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.
Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.
But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.
Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.
That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.
Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.
Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.
All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.
If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.
But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.
Potential Long-term Costs
WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.
However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.
One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.
She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.
Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).
Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.
Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.
Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.
In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.
In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.
Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.
And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.
All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.
However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.
It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.
All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.
There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.
WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –
Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.
WooCommerce vs. Wix
Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.
WooCommerce vs. Magento
Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.
WooCommerce vs. OpenCart
OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce vs. Ecwid
Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.
WooCommerce vs. Prestashop
PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce Review Conclusion
WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –
Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.
If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.
If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.
Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.
The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.
Instagram holds a world of infinite interest. You can scroll past picture-perfect destinations, see curated fashion trends, and ogle delicious confections, all with the touch of your fingertips. But there’s one thing you can’t do. You can’t click on just any Instagram post and be redirected towards an outside site like you can on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. For most Instagram accounts, there’s only one measly way to explore a particular business, person, or organization more on Instagram â by clicking the link in the bio (if they’ve supplied one).Â Sure, some larger channels with thousands of followers can add a link to swipe up within Instagram Stories, but not everyone can attain those levels of popularity immediately — or ever!
What’s more, I’d be willing to bet that many of you who are reading this post have never even actually clicked the bio links of your favorite Instagrammers.Â And all that is by design. Instagram is structured to keep you engaged and interested by scrollingâand stayingâwithin the app itself. Historically, Instagram has kept a tight leash on outgoing links, and the reason for that is now becoming clear; by limiting outside link clicks, Instagram has created an ideal scenario to introduce shopping right on its own platform.
Shoppable Instagram posts are an entire ecosystem just ready to flourish. But will they? What do shoppable Insta posts mean for small businesses in general, and how can you make them work for your business? In this post, we’ll explore what you need to do to sell on Instagram and show you some options for getting started. Let’s get going!
Ready to sell on Instagram? Shopify makes it easy.
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Unlike the typical Instagram post where you can look but not “touch,” a shoppable Instagram post is one that is connected to a seller’s inventory and available for purchase. A shoppable post may keep you entirely within Instagram for in-app payment, or you may be redirected to that particular product on the seller’s outside website. We are going to take a look at both of these scenarios by examining both Square and Shopify â two platforms that take different approaches to reaching customers on Instagram.
Want to see some examples of shops that sell directly within Instagram? Start by going to Search, which on Instagram is the magnifying glass icon located at the bottom ofÂ the screen. Once you are in the search function, you’ll find general categories lining the top, as well as a random conglomeration of posts like those below. Since we’re only interested in shoppable posts right now, we would click Shop at the top.
Once you select Shop, you’ll find shoppable categories along the top of your feed. In the screenshot below, category buttons (such as Beauty and Clothing & Accessories) line the top of the screen. Note:If you’re just scrolling around on Instagram and happen to see a post with a little purse icon at the bottom right, you can be sure it’s shoppable. Every post shown below is shoppable because I’m within the Shop section on Instagram.
In the example below, you can see that each item for sale is also tagged with a price. Moving your attention to the bottom left, you’ll see the little purse. You can pull up even more available items from that seller by selecting the View Products button.
Before we go too much further, I want to point out that there are two different types of shoppable Instagram options: One confines the purchase entirely on Instagram, and the other involves a tagged post that’s shoppable by a link that takes your shoppers directly to your online storefront. Let’s first take a look at the in-app purchase flow.
For the customer who is ready to make a purchase, the checkout flow within Instagram’s app is short and sweet. After supplying my name in one screen and shipping information in the next, I am now ready to give my payment details. When I do this, Instagram saves my information so that I don’t have to ever enter it again in any other Instagram shop. Instagram Checkout accepts all the major credit cards, plus PayPal.
Screen capture of Instagram checkout 2019
Selling on Instagram with a completely in-app payment flow requires integrating with an existing eCommerce platform such as Shopify, 3dcard, Big Commerce, or Magento. We are going to take a close look at connecting Shopify with Instagram in just a minute. With this option, you actually don’t even need a separate website to start selling on Instagram, but if you do, everything syncs automatically for you.
As mentioned a moment ago, your other option to sell on Instagram is by creating a tagged post that goes directly to your site. The shop below is an example of what that looks like. Customers can check out the items you’ve connected to Instagram by clicking on View Products, or they can click on a tagged product and go directly to that product’s page on your own site. What we are looking at below is inventory that this particular seller created and added to their Product Catalog. We’ll talk more about this catalog in a moment, as it’s the gateway to selling all things on Instagram.
But first, let’s see what happens if we like an item in this seller’s catalog. I like the look of this art print, so I click on it. The button below tells me I’ll be redirected to the seller’s outside site.
Now that you have an idea of how customers may find and interact with shoppable posts, you probably are getting excited to sell your own items on Instagram. Let’s keep going and find out how to do it!
How Do You Become Eligible for Shoppable Posts?
Becoming eligible for shoppable Instagram posts starts with setting up a business account, but not just anyone can sell on Instagram. Instagram has an easy little checklist for those who are thinking about setting up shop.
Is your business located in a supported market?
Does your business sell physical goods?
Does your business comply with commerce policies?
Is your Instagram account a business account? (I’ll show you how to switch to a business account in the next section.)
Is your account connected to a Facebook Page? (We’ll also show you this!)
If you haven’t noticed yet, Facebook (the parent company of Instagram) is the official gatekeeper to all Instagram selling. You can’t create an Instagram business account or sell on Instagram without having and connecting to a Facebook Business page. That also means you’ll need to create a business profile on Facebook for your business.Â Within your business dashboard, you can easily connect Instagram and get into the nitty-gritty when it comes to setting up shopping.
For those who haven’t set up a Facebook Business Page, it’s simple to start. At the top of your Facebook page, you’ll see buttons labeled HomeÂ and Create right next to the search bar. Select Create and your business type as seen below, and you’ll be guided through the process.
Screen Capture of Facebook’s Create a Business Page Flow
Now that you have a Facebook business page, let’s keep the ball rolling so we can start selling on Instagram!
Set-Up Requirements For Selling On Instagram
To start selling on Instagram, make sure you also have an Instagram business account set up rather than a personal account. You can easily change an existing account to a business Instagram account by heading to your Instagram profile and tapping the “hamburger” icon (three horizontal lines).
From there, you’ll select settings (circular gear icon), and then tap Account where you can select Switch to Business Account. You can also add details about your account, such as contact information and your category here, too. Make sure you tap Done as that saves your updates!
The next thing you’ll need to do is create a Facebook Catalog because this houses all of your products and connects with Instagram. You have a few ways to create your catalog for syncing with Instagram. The next section shows you how to create your catalog manually so you can start enjoying shoppable posts. We’ll also explore some other options, like integrating apps or using a payment processor like Square to link directly to an existing Square site.
How To Create Shoppable Posts On Instagram
Selling on Instagram all starts with your catalog you create back within your Facebook Business Page. Here’s what a Facebook Catalog workspace looks like; it’s nice and simple to get started.
Screen Capture Instagram Catalog Creation
We are going to select Add Your Products underneath the Instagram Shopping section. If you haven’t yet, you can also connect your Instagram and Facebook Business account right back here, too! That’s another necessity to get everything set up correctly.
If your inventory is small, adding products manually here is probably the choice for you. However, you can also opt to upload data feeds or connect with Facebook Pixels by clicking those options. In upcoming sections, we are also going to explore how to use Facebook Partnersâapps like Shopifyâthat can sync all of your inventory, so you don’t have to do anything manually. For now, let’s keep moving with manual uploading, however.
Manually creating products is actually easy, as long as you have manageable amounts of inventory. Simply fill in the form, add an image and you’ve got a product added to your catalog!
Screen Capture of Manual Product Creation
While it’s a straightforward process, this manual product entry option may not be for you. Perhaps you have an extensive inventory, or you want to integrate with a platform that gives you more control or better features. By choosing the Connect with an eCommerce Platform, you have options that may simplify your process considerably.
Regardless of whether you manually create your catalog in the back end or you have integrated an eCommerce platform (more on that soon), you’ll create your shoppable Instagram post the same way:
Upload your image to Instagram
Tap where you want a tag
Search and select for your product from your catalog that’s synced to Instagram
Tag up to five items for a single post, or up to twenty items for a multi-image post
Publish your post
Let’s not forget that before we go live with our Instagram post, we need to have Instagram approve our shop.
Getting Approved To Sell On Instagram
Once you’ve got your catalog created, you’ll need to head back into your Instagram profile’s setting and tap Business, and then select Shopping on Instagram. Here you will submit your account for review. You can’t start selling on Instagram until you get approved. Instagram may take a few business days or more to review your catalog, so don’t panic if it doesn’t happen as soon as you expect.
How To Simplify Your Instagram Sales
Screen capture of eCommerce Options
Choosing to connect to an eCommerce platform that’s partnered with Facebook (pictured above) means that you can automatically import products and save yourself a lot of time. It also means that your customers can search for and complete their purchase all without leaving Instagram.
Your inventory syncs across any platform that’s set up through one of these third-party apps. So whether they shop on your site directly, or on your Facebook shop, Instagram feed, or anywhere else, you know that your inventory stays seamlessly updated. We are going to take a closer look at Shopify as an option for selling on Instagram.
Selling On Instagram With Shopify
Although I just hyped you up with the fact that Shopify syncs with your site and a multitude of platforms, you can actually set up a Shopify account and start selling in person and online without having an eCommerce site at all! With the Shopify Lite option for only $9 a month, you can get your foot in the door selling on Instagram (and all over the web) without having a site. Of course, people who have a higher-tiered Shopify plan can enjoy selling on social channels as well, too! Check out our full Shopify review for all of your options, features, and pricing details.
Mobile App + Free Card Reader
Point of Sale
Social Media Selling
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware
All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels
Build a store or integrate with your current website
If you go the Shopify (or any other Facebook partnered eCommerce) route, you don’t have to set up a catalog for Instagram manually. Once you’ve linked your Instagram and Facebook and have your eCommerce platform selected (push of a button as seen above), your audience can click any post you have tagged. They can make all of their purchases with you in-app right through Instagram, while your inventory all stays synced and up to date.
A few important things to remember about using Shopify and Instagram:
As mentioned in the Getting Approved To Sell On Instagram section above, you can’t start selling on Instagram until Instagram approves you. You won’t be able to start tagging Instagram posts with your Shopify inventory until you see the notification in your Instagram business profile that you’ve been approved. And keep in mind that can take a few days.
Products need to be available in your Facebook Catalog and Shopify store. So make sure you sync them both, which you can do from your Facebook Business catalog page.
Once you’re set up and you tag an item in your Instagram post, you’ll see your catalog products appear and you can make your selections. If you have more than one variant in Shopify, you’ll need to choose which variant for that product tag as well.
In Instagram stories, you can tag products with a shopping sticker, but only on images, not videos at this time.
If you are interested in learning a bit more about using Shopify to sell your wares in more online channels, take a look at Shopify Facebook Stores: The Cheap And Easy Way To Sell Online for a closer look.
If a consistent, in-app experience within Instagram is something that appeals to you, the only way to do that is to link with one of the eCommerce platforms. If you would rather that people click directly to your site rather than finishing their sale on Instagram, you have options, too! You’ll need to manually create products and link to your site from your catalog unless you use Square, which just recently announced that you can now sell on Instagram easier while fully syncing the inventory from your Square site!
Selling On Instagram With Square
Setting up Shoppable Instagram posts with Square is a little bit different. You’ll start the process back on Square’s end rather than the other way around. Essentially, you’ll follow a very simple and easy-to-follow flow that clearly walks you through the connection process.
As with all of the other option, you still need to have:
An Instagram Business Account (and be eligible to sell)
Facebook Business Page
Approval from Instagram
You’ll also need:
A Square website
At least one product in your inventory
Haven’t decided if Square is the right choice to help you sell online yet? Check out our full Square Online Store and eCommerce Review and find out everything you need to know about pricing, features, and all that awaits you as a Square merchant.
Back at your Square Website Dashboard, you’ll be ever-so-gently walked through the complete flow to set up your Instagram account through Facebook Business Extension. Don’t be intimidated, because you won’t need to know any code whatsoever. As you are guided through the relatively short steps, Square even automatically installs the Facebook Pixel, which tracks everything for you. That means you don’t have to even think about code to track any future ad campaigns you want to create to promote your Instagram or Facebook shop. You’ll also get insight into how much business your Instagram shoppable posts are bringing in. You’ll get all that information automatically and right from your dashboard. The image below is taken from Square to illustrate what I mean about the whole thing being very user-friendly.
Screen Capture of Square Online Set Up Shopping on Instagram
Remember, you need to make sure that you head back into Instagram and request approval before you can start selling. We cover how to do that in a previous section within this post. Also take note that with the Square option, your shoppers don’t pay within Instagram; instead, they’ll go to your site to finish their purchase after clicking on a tagged post.
Extra bonus: Businesses that offer appointments can now integrate Square Appointments with Instagram to book with followers. Just like creating shoppable posts, you need your Instagram profile set to a business account to reap the benefits of appointment booking. You’ll also want to turn on Square Appointments online back in your Square dashboard. When you link your Instagram to Square, the Book button will automatically show up in your profile!
Are Instagram’s Shoppable Posts Right For You?
If you have a physical product and even just a small loyal following, merging the two with shoppable Insta posts is probably the smartest business move you can make. Whether you go the manual route, integrate with an app, or sync with an existing Square site, the effort required to get everything going is very minimal. Once you choose an option, getting things connected at your dashboard really couldn’t be any easier. Every solution we explored today is for those who have very little technical expertise or who just don’t have time to fuss with a lot of details.
Selling on Instagram connects you to more people. By using hashtags and networking in similar circles, you can potentially tap into greater success for your business. And that’s the ultimate goal! If you’d like more information about setting up an eCommerce site to complement your social selling, check out How To Accept Online Payments With Square.
The post How To Sell On Instagram With Shoppable Posts appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?
As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.
5 Questions To Ask Before You Start
It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.
So before anything, here are some questions to consider:
How technologically savvy are you?Â Simply put,Â are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
Do you already have a website?Â If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
What’s your budget?Â When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
What are you selling?Â Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.
Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.
We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.
Types Of Payment Processors
No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.
Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.
Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how toÂ prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.
While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.
It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.
SquareÂ is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.
For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.
Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?
If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).
Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.
However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.
While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.netÂ is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)
Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway,Â for more information.
How To Accept Online Payments With A Website
A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.
Adding Payments To An Existing Site
If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.
If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options.Â WooCommerceÂ is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.
EcwidÂ is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.
Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios,Â and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores fromÂ WixÂ start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.
Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.
The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions.Â The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.
An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.
While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:
Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software
eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.
As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.
Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.
There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there areÂ ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).
If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.
If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.
If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!
The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)
Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges
A lot of merchants,Â from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.
Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused.Â However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly,Â and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and FreshbooksÂ also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.
Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.
Accepting Online Payments Without A Website
Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.
Creating Online Invoices
You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.
Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.
Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.
For most merchants, SquareÂ InvoicesÂ may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.
Using Online Form Builders
So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.
Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option,Â in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.
Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/monthÂ and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.
And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.
Selling On Social Media
It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.
With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.
Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.
Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.
Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.
Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.
Selling In Marketplaces
Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.
A few popular marketplaces include:
Jet (owned by Walmart)
Accepting Payments Through Virtual TerminalsÂ
The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)Â Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).
Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.
Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods
Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.
Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to aÂ 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.
Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.
ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.
Some of these alternative payment methods include:
Apple Pay on the Web
Amex Express checkout
Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.
Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH,Â as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.
We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.
Begin Accepting Payments Online
Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.
But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basisÂ and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.
If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.
Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!
The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Are you a Canadian seller looking to set up an online store? Or are you an American merchant hoping to sell products in Canada? If so, youâve come to the right place.
In this article, weâll be covering the top 5 eCommerce solutions for Canadian sellers. Each shopping cart included here provides the logistical features that Canadian merchants need for their online stores. Whatâs more, all of the shopping carts in this article are of top quality, each one earning a perfect five-star review.
Here are a few of the Canada-specific features we’ve looked for in each of the eCommerce solutions presented below:
Calculate tax rates for Canada
Display prices and accept payment in CAD
Integrate with Canada Post for real-time shipping rates
Support multiple languages, such as French
Weâll kick off the list with a couple of our favorite Canada-based shopping cart solutions, and then weâll move onto some American software solutions that also work for Canadian merchants. Letâs get started!
Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers. Donât have time to read an entire review? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.
Best Choice For
Small to enterprise businesses with little technical skill
Small to large businesses with some technical skill
Small to large businesses with some technical skill
Small to large businesses with advanced technical skill
Large B2B businesses with some technical skill
Based In Canada
Beginning Pricing Structure
$29/month + 2.0% transaction fee
$19/month for 75 orders
Ease Of Use
Easy to use
Moderate learning curve
Moderate learning curve
Steep learning curve
Moderate Learning Curve
Read on for more details about each eCommerce solution.
Based out of Ontario, Canada, Shopify is our first recommendation for Canadian merchants seeking an easy to use shopping cart solution. Shopify is the perfect example of an SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that Shopify handles the technical aspects of running an online store. For a monthly fee (plus transaction fees) Shopify provides hosting, web security, and technical support.
Shopify is designed for merchants with little to no development experience, so itâs perfect for smaller merchants who want to get their products to market quickly. However, that does not mean that Shopify is limited to exclusively these merchants. The software is scalable, so large or enterprise level businesses can also use Shopify to their advantage.
Pricing for Shopify is relatively low, and all plans include unlimited storage, bandwidth, and products. You can subscribe to their Basic Shopify Plan for just $29/month (+ 2.0% transaction fee). For more advanced features, youâll have to subscribe to a higher level plan. One step up is the Shopify Plan at $79/month and the next step is the Advanced Shopify Plan at $299/month.
As one of our favorite, most versatile solutions, Shopify has a lot to offer merchants. Here are a few of the biggest perks of using Shopify:
Ease Of Use: Shopify is known for their simple UI. Uploading products is a breeze, and you can make changes to your storefront design with a drag-and-drop tool.
Elegant Design: The Shopify marketplace comes stocked with beautiful, responsive, ready-to-use themes. Ten of these themes are available free of charge, and the rest cost between $140-$180.
Good Customer Service: 24/7 customers support is available on all pricing plans via email, phone, and live chat. Some users report excellent interactions with support reps, although other users have a different experience (see Cons below).
Despite all of its positives, Shopify is not a perfect solution. There are still many ways Shopify can continue to improve. Here are a few of the things users complain about on online forums:
Limited Features: This is the biggest complaint users have about Shopify. While Shopify includes all of the basic features sellers need to initially set up their store, there are not many advanced features available. In order to access more advanced features (like B2B selling options, single page checkout, etc.), youâll have to purchase the appropriate add-ons. This leads us to our second complaint.
Add-Ons Add Up: Although Shopifyâs plans are affordably priced, costs of using Shopify for your online store can quickly add up once you start using extensions. Extensions and add-ons from the Shopify marketplace are billed monthly.
Poor Customer Support: This contradicts the âproâ I mentioned above. Reviews are mixed when it comes to customer support. Some users have great experiences. Others end up frustrated.
Because Shopify was created by Canadians, you can expect the software to offer enough features to support Canadian sellersâ specific needs. Hereâs how they handle Canada-specific selling:
Multi-Lingual Features: Have your storefront, checkout, and emails display in multiple languages. Shopify has also recently introduced a beta for a multi-lingual admin. Languages currently supported include French.
Multiple Currencies:Â Display pricing in multiple currencies using a drop-down currency picker. Accept multiple currencies.
Shopify Shipping: Use Shopify Shipping to calculate and display shipping rates for multiple carriers, including Canada Post, UPS, USPS, and DHL.
Tax: Set tax rates for countries and provinces.
Get started with Shopify by signing up for a free 14-day trial, no credit card required.
Read our full Shopify review
Visit the Shopify website
Founded in 2010, LemonStand is an SaaS eCommerce solution with headquarters in Vancouver, BC. Like Shopify, LemonStand provides merchants with hosting, customer service, and site security.
One notable trait about LemonStand is that their design templates are completely customizable. The design is all open source, so if you have the proper know-how, you can change nearly every aspect of the look and feel of your store.
Pricing for LemonStand is based on the number of orders you process each month. We like this pricing model because all features are included with all plans. However, merchants who process many orders each month with very narrow profit margins might be turned off by this pricing model. You can begin with the Starter plan ($19/month for 75 orders) or move up to the Growth plan ($69/month for 300 orders) or Professional plan ($199/month for 1000 orders). Thereâs also a Premium plan available for even larger sellers.
We deem LemonStand a 5-star solution, and it seems many users would agree. Hereâs what current users praise most frequently on comment boards and review sites:
Customizability: If you have the technical experience, you can do a lot with LemonStand. In particular, you will be able to change many aspects of the look and feel or your storefront.
Progress: LemonStand is constantly working to add new features to their software and improve existing features. This progress is encouraging.
Good Customer Service: LemonStandâs representatives are helpful, courteous, and timely.
LemonStand isnât a perfect solution, however. Here are a few of the complaints Iâve found:
Missing Features: LemonStand is constantly adding new features, in part because the software is still missing some advanced functionality. Users are hopeful that these gaps in features will be filled soon.
Technical Skill Required: Web design with LemonStand requires at least some knowledge of HTML and CSS. If you don’t have that knowledge, you should be able to hire someone who can take care of design issues for you.
Lacking Documentation: LemonStand provides documentation as a form of self-help technical support. Unfortunately, some of that documentation is not very detailed. Documentation can occasionally be difficult to follow.
Hereâs how LemonStand supports Canadian merchants:
Canada Post: LemonStand integrates with Canada Post so you can provide real-time shipping rates.
Taxes: Use tax classes to define tax rates by location. Alternatively, you can integrate with Avalara for more detailed tax calculation.
Surprisingly, I was not able to find any information about displaying your storefront in multiple languages and currencies. However, this doesnât necessarily mean they are unavailable (especially since LemonStand is a Canadian based company). Comment below if you have any information on the matter.
Test out the software for yourself with a free, commitment-free 14 day trial. Or, read our full review for more information!
Read our full LemonStand review
Visit the LemonStand website
PinnacleCart was developed with the intention of helping merchants promote and sell their products, regardless of technical ability. As SaaS software, PinnacleCart gives you the ability to add and edit products, process orders, create marketing materials, and customize your site design. And although PinnacleCart is not a Canadian company, they do provide many of the logistical features that Canadian merchants need.
Pricing for PinnacleCart is based on traffic and storage. All features come included with every plan. These features include unlimited products, daily backups, phone and email support, and an SSL certificate. Pricing is available in three tiers: $44.95/month, $94.95/month, and $199.95/month.
Pinnacle Cart is another five-star solution. Find out what makes it great:
Ease Of Use: Once you conquer the initial learning curve, using your PinnacleCart admin should be second nature.
Customer Support: Users are happy with the support they receive from PinnacleCart.
Good Marketing Features: Use widgets to market your products on any website, and integrate with social media to further your reach. PinnacleCartâs SEO features are also generally well praised.
Some PinnacleCart users, however, may have a different experience. Here are a few cons weâve noticed:
Learning Curve: Users who are new to PinnacleCart (and new to eCommerce in general) will have to overcome a slight learning curve when they first begin using the software.
Difficult Customization: Some users have trouble customizing their design.
Not International Friendly: PinnacleCart does not offer many languages or currency options. In addition, users have some difficulty accepting payments outside of the US and Canada.
Although PinnacleCart is not the best solution for cross-continental selling, they offer plenty of features for selling within Canada:
Canada Post: Add real-time shipping for Canada Post.
Automatic Tax Calculation: Use flat-rate tax options to set up tax rates by state and province. Integrate with Avalara Ava Tax or Exactor Tax for more detailed tax estimates.
Accept Multiple Currencies: List your prices in multiple currencies and accept payments in multiple currencies.
Add French Language Options: Choose to display your site in multiple languages.
Try out the platform for free for two weeks, no need to hand over any credit card information. For more details on pricing and features, view our full review.
Read our full PinnacleCart review
Get Started With PinnacleCartÂ
Until now, weâve discussed exclusively SaaS platforms that favor ease of use over customizability. Magento is the opposite. As one of the eCommerce industryâs most popular open-source software, Magento is highly customizable and scalable, and itâs perfect for merchants with greater developing skills.
Another advantage to Magento is that itâs totally free to download. However, that doesnât mean Magento costs $0 to implement. Because Magento is open-source, you will be responsible for finding hosting, maintaining security, and hiring developers (or being your own developer) to design your site and add necessary features. There is no Magento support available. Your only options are to resolve issues on your own or pay a developer to fix things for you.
As you might imagine, Magento is more difficult to implement than the SaaS solutions weâve discussed above. However, Magentoâs strong feature set and customizability make it a good option for fearless merchants.
Take a look at the advantages that come with Magento:
Features: Magento provides a robust feature set right out of the box. Add even more advanced features through integrations or develop your own extensions with the available API.
Strong User Community: Magento is used by 240,000 merchants around the world. Join a wide community of sellers and developers. Find solutions in Magentoâs community forum or hire a Magento developer for select jobs.
Scalable & Customizable: Use Magento to build the online store system that your business needs.
As you might expect, Magento comes with its challenges. Many of these challenges relate to ease of use. Take a look:
Steep Learning Curve: Many sellers find Magento difficult to learn. You will need to have some experience with coding or be able to hire a developer.
Expensive: Although the software is free to download, there are always expenses related to operating an online store. Be sure to consider web developer costs as well as the expense of hosting, adding integrations, and maintaining security.
No Customer Support: You can use self-help support routes or hire a developer. Magento does not provide customer support for their open source software.
Magento is built for merchants worldwide. The software includes many international selling features, which benefit Canadian sellers.
Languages: Choose from many, many available languages. Set up multi-language store views so that you can feature multiple languages without creating multiple sites.
Accept CAD: Accept CAD. Implement âdual currenciesâ to accept both USD and CAD easily.
Taxes: Manually add tax rates and rules, or integrate with AvaTax for more detailed (and easier) tax calculations.
Canada Post: Use integrations from the Magento Marketplace to add Canada Post shipping calculations to your store.
Magento does not offer a free trial because the software itself is totally free to download. Test out the software by downloading it for free, or read our review for more information.
Read our full Magento review
If Magento sounds great, but youâre turned off by that âsteep learning curve,â you might look into Zoey. Zoey offers the functionality of Magento paired with an ease of use that rivals Shopify. Sound perfect, doesnât it? The only downfall: the price. Zoey is designed to be a B2B eCommerce platform with B2C capabilities. It is therefore intended for merchants beyond the startup phase, and the price reflects that.
Nevertheless, we think Zoey is a fantastic option. In particular, we love Zoeyâs robust drag-and-drop storefront design tool, which lets all merchants make changes to their sites with zero coding. In addition, we love Zoeyâs extensive feature set that includes strong capabilities for wholesale selling.
Pricing for Zoey is divided into two tiers: Entry ($299/month) and Power ($499/month). A step up in pricing includes more staff account permissions, the ability to list more SKUs, priority customer support, and more.
Something important to note: Multi-language and multi-currency features are only available on the Power plan.
There’s a lot to love about Zoey. Here are just a few of those positives:
Easy Setup: It’s easy to get your store up and running. Zoey also offers migration services to make the transition from another eCommerce platform easier.
Feature Rich: Zoey comes with lots and lots of features already built-in, so you won’t have to use so many add-ons.
Drag & Drop Editor: Zoey’s drag and drop editor gives you control over your site’s look and feel. You can use it to change many, many aspects of your storefront.
However, there a few drawbacks to using Zoey. We’ve compiled a few potential issues:
Pricey For Smaller Sellers: Zoey’s monthly subscription rates are significantly higher than any of the other solutions in this list. These rates are likely too high for merchants who are just starting out.
Limited Customizability: Although Zoey is similar to Magento in its features, it is not similar in customizability. Since Zoey is not open source, you will not be able to customize every aspect of your store. So, if you want any additional features, you’ll have to add them via integrations or wait until Zoey releases those features in an update.
“Heavy” Platform: If you add on lots of extensions, your platform can get a bit bogged down and not run as smoothly as you’d like.
Zoey provides sellers with multiple international sales tools, which Canadian merchants can use to their advantage.
Multi-Lingual: Sell in 80+ languages.
Multiple Currencies: Display prices in 168+ currencies and accept payments with 50+ international payment gateways.
Taxes: Zoey includes tax support for many countries, including Canada.
Shipping Integrations: Zoey does not offer a direct link to Canada Post, which is unfortunate. Access Canada Post with a shipping software extension like Ordoro or ShipStation.
As you’d expect, Zoey offers a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. Test the platform out for yourself or learn more with our full review.
Read our full Zoey review
Get Started WithÂ Zoey
We hope you’ve found one or two shopping carts that might fit your business’s needs. Take a look into our full review of each potential eCommerce solution to learn the details about pricing, features, and customer service.
And when you have a better idea of what each shopping cart provides, we always recommend you take advantage of a free trial to test out the software yourself. Test out your daily operations, and try to “stump” the software with complex products and promotions.
Best of luck in your search for a Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform! There are lots of great options out there, you just have to find the one that works for you!
Need a payment processing service? Check out the best and worst Canadian merchant accounts providers.
The post 5 Shopping Carts For Starting An eCommerce Business In Canada appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Spend a little bit of time reading up on Stripe (read our review) and Square (read our review) and you’ll start to see the similarities. They’re both giants in the payment industry, media darlings that have transformed the way people pay for things and the way merchants accept payments. They’re both on the leading edge of technology and rely heavily on machine learning to drive their payment processing systems.
Most importantly, both Square and Stripe offer huge assortments of commerce tools that make it easy for merchants to run their businesses. With the various APIs and integrations available, there are almost limitless possibilities for creating a custom system with everything from invoicing to email marketing and more.
But that’s where I stop pointing out the similarities. Once you get past that point, it becomes harder to draw apples-to-apples comparisons because Square’s offerings are much more varied. Square really is an all-in-one processor that can handle in-person and eCommerce payments, as well as inventory management, customer databases, and more. Stripe is more limited to eCommerce, both for websites and for mobile apps, but it has powerful tools for global enterprises, subscription-based businesses, and other online companies.
To keep things fair and within a manageable scope, we’re going to limit the scope of this comparison to each companies’ online and mobile commerce tools. That means, for the most part, we’re not going to look atÂ mPOS apps, POS integrations, appointment booking, or email marketing…except to say if you need them, Square is the better choice.That also means we’ll be ignoring Stripe Atlas, the company’s service for helping international merchants establish themselves in the US.
If you want to sell online and Square and Stripe have made your shortlist, you should start by asking yourself some questions:
What features do you absolutely need? Which features aren’t essential, but would be very nice to have?
What percentage of your transactions are from outside the US?
Do you have a developer or advanced coding knowledge yourself?
Do you have limited tech knowledge and need an easy solution?
Are you looking for specific integrations?
What industry is your business part of?
How advanced are your subscription tool needs?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can sit down and look at each company in more detail. Read on for our comparison of Stripe vs. Square!
Products & Services
It’s so important to have a list of must-have features before you set about choosing any sort of payments or eCommerce software because you don’t want to make the decision and then find out that you’re missing a very important function. But it’s also important to think about where you want your business to go and what tools you want to invest in as your business scales up. If you pick the right service, it could mean you never need to switch. But if you don’t think about growth, you may wind up having to make a complicated switchover later in the future once you’ve outgrown a solution.
The good news is that for the most part, Stripe and Square are both very good solutions that scale up as a business grows. It just comes down to in which direction a business wants to grow.
Square Tools and Services for Online Merchants
Square initially stood out among mobile competitors by offering a free webstore to its merchants. Since then, the company has branched out considerably to include eCommerce integrations as well as developer tools. For a more in-depth review of all of Square’s offerings, check out our full review.
Online Store: Square’s free online store is very basic. There are only four templates to choose from, and you can only customize portions of the site (such as filling in your business name and address in the footer) in addition to loading your products. This is not a good solution for anyone with a large and diverse inventory, especially if your shipping costs vary significantly or if you’re looking for a particular visual aesthetic.
eCommerce Integrations:Â When you first take a look at Square’s eCommerce offerings, you’ll see that Square very conveniently groups everything by a merchant’s level of technical expertise. I think this is a really helpful approach.
The easiest integrations are listed on the site and Square lets you know that you can choose from an assortment of templates.
The intermediate level includes eCommerce integrations that require a bit more work and technical knowledge to get set up.
Square’s list of integrations includes some of the best shopping cart options, and the list keeps growing. That makes me happy, but if your preferred integration isn’t on the list yet and you do have the technical knowledge (or an eager developer on your payroll), there are more tools at your disposal. You can check out the list of Square integrations in the app marketplace.
Developer Tools: Square’s dev tools make it possible for you to create almost any custom integration you could need. For eCommerce, there are two APIs, Checkout and Transactions.Â Square Checkout is a premade form that can be dropped into a site with minimal fuss. Using Checkout means merchants are eligible for some perks, like next-day deposits and chargeback protection. The Transaction API, combined with Square’s payment form, is more customizable. Square has other APIs to handle other aspects of commerce, but you’ll find that Square doesn’t readily support in-app payments.
Dashboard Reporting: Square’s reporting tools are fairly advanced, especially for a company that started as an mPOS. They’re very popular with merchants who want to know what’s selling and how much they’re processing and need standard business data. The dashboard is actually quite intuitive, as well. However, Square doesn’t allow for a huge amount of customization in reports unless you get into the Reporting API, which allows you to create real-time notifications using webhooks.
Additionally, Square offers the following tools:
Advanced Inventory: Square will reconcile online and in-person sales and give you an up-to-date count on your inventory, including low-stock alerts when you hit a specified threshold. Plus, you can bulk upload products and generate SKUs, create variants, and more.
Fraud Protection Tools: Square uses machine learning to analyze transactions and identify and flag possible fraudulent transactions.
Customer Database: Save customers’ contact information and build a database with records of their purchases so that you can market to them later.
Invoicing:Â Create invoices from within the Square dashboard or from within the mPOS app. Square also allows customers to store their cards to automatically pay invoices (using this Card on File will cost you a bit more). You can also create recurring invoices. However, if you want extensive subscription management tools, you’ll need an integration with a service like Chargify, which will add to your costs.
Free Virtual Terminal: If you want to process payments over the phone or you don’t have access to the mPOS, you can use Square’s virtual terminal. Transactions will be processed at the manual entry rate (3.5% + $0.15) rather than the eCommerce rate, but the solution is PCI compliant and is designed for regular use.
All in all, while it’s worth noting that Square really is an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to sell anywhere without needing to build a complicated system of integrations. But it has some shortcomings, especially for digital merchants. Subscription tools are nearly nonexistent, and fraud protection doesn’t compare to the tools Stripe offers. If you want advanced, custom reports, you’ll be better served by Stripe. However, Square’s tools and overall design are incredibly easy to use, especially for business owners who don’t have a lot of technical expertise or a large budget to hire someone. And it has very strong tools for merchants who sell physical products in particular.
StripeÂ Tools and Services for Online Merchants
Stripe has earned its name as a developer-friendly option, but you can also integrate with a host of third-party apps to accept payments with ease. The company focuses on internet and mobile commerce, but developers have extended Square’s power to include mobile payments and more. Just take note, there’s no free storefront option here. For a more detailed look at different features, check out our complete Stripe review.
eCommerce Integrations & Plug-Ins:Â Stripe outclasses Square in terms of shopping cart integrations by virtue of sheer numbers. In addition to integrations with major eCommerce software providers, developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for businesses operating on WordPress, Magento, and other websites. If you’re not really sure where you start, you might end up doing a lot of research to decide the best course of action, but you can at least take heart in knowing that there’ll be something that will meet your needs. You can check out the full list of eCommerce integrations on Stripe’s “Works With” page.
Developer Tools: Stripe is much loved by developers for its flexibility, its extensive documentation and its support for multiple programming languages. Its APIs allow you to create invoices and subscriptions along with many other features.
Stripe Sigma: Stripe offers your standard user dashboard with some general sales reports at no charge. But if your business is heavily data-driven, Sigma’s customizable reporting is the perfect solution for you: you can generate reports based on SQL queries. This is pretty cool, and it’s a great way to make sure that anyone on your team can get the reports they need without creating an information bottleneck. Pricing is based on a sliding scale rather than a set additional monthly see.
Stripe’s additional tools include:
Stripe Billing: Stripe’s subscription tools are industry-leading, with the ability to charge clients based on a recurring quantity or metered usage, to set free trial periods, and much more. You can also create invoices or set up recurring billing tools. However, new businesses will pay a small additional charge per transaction to use these tools.
Stripe Radar: Stripe makes a big deal of its fraud monitoring tools, bundled under the very-apt name Radar. The system uses machine learning and a host of criteria to analyze every transaction and decide whether it is legitimate or possibly fraudulent. Radar also lets merchants set custom criteria for rejecting transactions and review flagged transactions to decide whether to accept or reject them.
Marketplace Tools: Merchants who want to operate a marketplace can use Stripe to build the platform. Stripe’s marketplace tools are grouped under the moniker “Stripe Connect.”
Multiple Currency Displays & Dynamic Currency Conversion: These tools are a major reason why Stripe is such a powerful tool for global businesses. Whereas Stripe will automatically convert transactions to USD (usually at the cost of a fee toÂ the cardholder), Stripe will allow you to display prices in local currencies based on where the customer is located. Stripe then automatically converts them for the merchant, charging a small markup over the exchange rate. This makes a business more appealing to international customers.
There’s no doubt that Stripe is very powerful. It can handle all sorts of payments, from digital subscriptions to retail goods. It’s one of the best solutions for global businesses with its currency tools. But it does have some limitations. If you plan to sell across multiple channels, there’s no option for in-person payments unless you have an integration like Flint Mobile (read our review), but it’s still more costly than other mPOS options. There’s no virtual terminal, either. While Stripe does allow you to manually enter a transaction if all else fails, it’s a last resort rather than a tool to be used on the regular because of PCI compliance issues.
Stripe’s inventory tools aren’t on the level of Square. They’re powerful, but if you want advanced inventory management, you’ll need to tack on an integration. I also don’t think that Stripe’s inventory tools are even half as intuitive as Square’s. But I think part of that is Stripe’s focus on online payments and tools for digital merchants, compared to Square’s omnichannel approach.
All in all, it’s really hard to say one of these companies is inherently better than the other. Both have a good assortment of integrations for shopping carts and other tools, though Stripe has a greater number of supported integrations. If you want ease of use, especially if you sell physical goods,Â Square is the standout option. But if you need flexibility, robust tools, and advanced data, Stripe is the better choice. So it ultimately comes down to your business’ needs.
Fees & Rates
I am happy to say that pricing for both Square and Stripe is mostly straightforward:
2.9% + $0.30 per online card transaction
There are no monthly fees, no monthly minimums, no statement fees. That’s very nice to see.
I do want to point out thatÂ Square charges different rates for its card-present and keyed transactions (2.7% and 3.5% + $0.15, respectively).Â However, invoices process at the same rate as eCommerce transactions unless you’re using Card on File, which process at the keyed transaction rate.
Square also has no chargeback fees, which is very unusual. Not only that, but the company has rolled out Chargeback Protection, which will cover the actual chargeback costs on qualifying disputes up to $250 per month. This doesn’t apply to merchants who use the Transactions API, but it is available for those who use Stripe Checkout.
You can getÂ volume discounts if you process above $250k per year AND have an average ticket size exceeding $15. That’s a mark in Square’s favor for large businesses. However, nonprofits don’t get any sort of special discount, which you can often find with other processors.
Stripe’s pricing has become a tiny bit more complicated. In addition to card transactions processed at 2.9% + $0.30, you can also accept ACH transactions for 0.8%, capped at $5 maximum.
The base fee per transaction is simple. And for each chargeback, Stripe will assess a $15 fee, unless the chargeback is decided in your favor. In that case, you’ll pay absolutely nothing.
Stripe’s subscription tools, lumped under the name “Stripe Billing” along with invoicing, will cost you a small percentage fee (between 0.04% and 0.07%) on top of your transaction.
Existing Stripe merchants are grandfathered out of this new pricing. Large businesses will actually pay the higher 0.7% markup, but it seems Stripe has compromised by offering lower transaction fees.
You’ll also pay a monthly fee for access to Stripe Sigma. The cost is a sliding scale based on the number of transactions you process each month, which is a great way for very small businesses to still get crucial data. But for a company that built its reputation on not charging any fees beyond transaction processing, it’s a little bit disappointing to see that model disappearing. You can estimate your cost with Stripe’s tool.
Stripe does offer enterprise pricing for very large businesses, andÂ some nonprofits may be eligible for a special rate. Stripe doesn’t make any promises about nonprofit pricing apart from “let us know and we’ll see what we can do.” So you shouldn’t assume it’s guaranteed.
With Stripe, you may also be able to negotiate for micro-transaction rates.Â Whereas per-transaction fees like the $0.30 Stripe and Square charge can eat up fees from small transactions (less than $10 in particular), micro-transaction rates typically include a higher percentage and a lower per-transaction fee that can save merchants money. This is ideal for anyone who sells digital goods and other low-cost items.
Because it’s something offered as part of a custom package, Stripe may not offer this deal to everyone. If you’re unable to get a micro-transaction plan from Stripe, it might be worth looking at a third option — PayPal (read our review) — instead. The 5% + $0.05 fee could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
All in all, Stripe and Square are fairly evenly matched in pricing. Some merchants might enjoy the lack of chargeback fees and included chargeback protection that Square offers. But Stripe might be a bigger draw for other companies, despite the additional charges for using its subscription tools or Sigma reporting.
Contract Length & Cancellation
Both Stripe and Square offerÂ pay-as-you-go processing with no locked-in contracts or early termination fees. It really is that simple. Stripe will even help you transfer your customer data to another processor in a PCI compliant way.
If you’re using any of Square’s monthly services in addition to eCommerce processing, you can get a free 30-day trial, and then if you choose to continue with the service, you can cancel at any time. Square doesn’t bill annually for those services the way many SaaS providers do. (Conversely, you also don’t get any discounts for paying annually, either.)
Sales & Advertising Transparency
One of the reasons I like pay-as-you-go processors is that they are, on the whole, very upfront and transparent. They tend to not have extensive sales teams, and if they do have a sales team, they’re all in-house. They’re very clear about their pricing and terms, and they’re applied fairly to all merchants.
Square and Stripe both fit this pattern to a T. You won’t see reports of misleading sales pitches or rates not as promised here, which is always nice to see. You can find Stripe’s terms of service on the site, both the general user agreement and the Stripe Payments agreement. Like Stripe, Square has separate agreementsÂ applying to general use, payments, and other services. I do recommend you be cautious and check that your business doesn’t fall on either list of “prohibited businesses,” because that’s an easy path to account termination.
Overall, I’m really happy with both companies in this category, and you shouldn’t have any worries about whether you’re being told the truth or whether you’ll pay what you were quoted.
Customer Service & Technical Support
I think it’s fairly clear that Square outshines Stripe in terms of its customer support — both in quality and in the number of channels available.
Square offers merchantsÂ phone and email support, as well as an extensive knowledgebase. That’s pretty typical of any processor, but on top of that, Square operates the Seller Community, a community forum about all-things Square.
You can get answers from other Square merchants as well as from Square support reps. It’s a pretty powerful tool. But on top of that, Square’s team monitors Stack Overflow for questions about Square products and responds to them.
And that’s not even talking about Square’s dedicated Twitter support handle (@SqSupport), or the developer portal and documentation.
I can’t say that Square customer support is all sunshine and rainbows, because I do see customer complaints about the quality. However, without a doubt the biggest complaint about the quality of customer support comes from merchants whose accounts have been terminated. In that case, Square cuts off access to phone support and will only communicate via email. This is unfortunate and I don’t know if it’s actually a good solution. But I am sure part of the reason to reduce the odds of a customer support rep saying something they shouldn’t, and to prevent support resources from being tied up dealing with complaints from terminated merchants whose accounts won’t be reinstated.
Stripe is more limited in its support options. Its primary support channel is email. However, Stripe also operates an IRC Freenode chat (#Stripe) that developers may find useful.Â There’s no dedicated social media support with Stripe, but you can follow the general @Stripe twitter feed.
Stripe also maintains a self-service knowledgebase, though I don’t think it’s as extensive or detailed as Square’s.Â But I will say that Stripe’s documentation is pretty legendary, and so it’s going to be one of the best resources you can get.Â You can also find questions about Stripe on Stack Overflow, but I am not able to ascertain whether Stripe’s team is active on the forum at all the way that Square is.
I do see comments from merchants that the support is pretty good. But I also see a lot of complaints from frustrated merchants about the lack of phone support. That complaint has actually become one of the biggest marks against Stripe. I’ve seen one mention that Stripe might be rolling out phone support to “select merchants” (presumably high-value clients). However, take this with a grain of salt. I wasn’t able to verify it through any sort of authoritative source.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
As far as complaints go, the single biggest issue for both Square and Stripe is a common one:
Account Holds And Terminations: This is unsurprising (understatement of the year, right there) because it’s a common issue with any third-party processor. Because these payment systems are usually open to almost anyone right away and they are all lumped into one large merchant account, there’s a greater risk that some of those accounts will be terminated for risky behavior. There’s very little scrutiny done before a sub-account with one of these processors is approved, which stands in contrast to merchant accounts, where the processing company will do a lot of underwriting and investigation before approving your application. Both Square and Stripe use a lot of machine learning to analyze transactions and flag suspicious behaviors. This potential for account holds or terminations is universal — you will encounter it with any third-party processor. If you want to avoid it, your only alternative is to seek out a traditional merchant account.
The other big complaint that I see with both is also a pretty common one:
Poor Customer Support: If I’m honest, reports about the quality of customer service conflict. But because of how common the complaints are, I’m listing it here. With Stripe, the most common issues are the lack of phone support and slow response times for email. With Square, a lot of the complaints about poor customer service come from terminated merchants, but I’ve seen a few complaints about slow or unhelpful email responses.
Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:
Lack Of Fraud Protection: I want to be clear: Stripe does have fraud management tools and a system to help merchants fight chargebacks. But I have seen complaints from merchants who don’t think these are adequate. Chargebacks are not settled by Stripe, so there’s not much the company can do beyond pass the requested documents on. But for fraud prevention, merchants need to make sure they have the appropriate tools enabled.
Not User-Friendly: There’s a lot of testimonials from users (especially developers) who really like Stripe and find it simple to set up. There are plenty of others who disagree with that idea. I’m inclined to think most people with a decent technical backing will get along fine with Stripe, but for some people, especially those with less technical knowledge, it’s not going to be a good choice.
For Square, there is one other common complaint:
Lack of advanced features: It’s not that Square doesn’t have enough features, or that it’s missing anything important. The complaints about Square often focus on the lack of very particular advanced features that you typically find in full-scale POS systems. In this case, I think Square’s lack of extensive subscription tools would fit the bill. Some merchants have been upset for quite a while over the lack of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) reporting. Square added this feature with its Square for Retail app, but not for online sales or its free POS. Square has some very powerful reporting tools, but in the end, they won’t hold a candle to Stripe’s Sigma offering.
I think, yet again, that the two companies are pretty evenly matched in this category. The largest complaints are identical, and that’s because they’re the same complaints we see with third-party processors. To be entirely honest, poor customer service is a common complaint across the entire payments industry. It’s frustrating, for sure. But you can take steps to better inform yourself — read our article on how to prevent holds, freezes, and account terminations. And please take reports of poor customer service with a grain of salt, because I see conflicting accounts there.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As media darlings, both Stripe and Square have gotten lots of press. They’re both lauded for the way they’ve transformed payments.
I usually feel a little bit silly comparing two businesses in this category because it almost feels like a bit of a popularity contest. But in this case, we’re dealing with two companies who have both gotten a LOT of positive press over the years, not to mention high-profile clients. And the bits of each service that merchants love most are pretty similar, too.
Square merchants love how easy the service is to use. And I tend to agree — Square is one of the most intuitive options out there as far as payments and using the dashboard. Merchants also really like the predictable pricing and lack of fees. Other than that, the integrated invoicing feature and the seamless omnichannel commerce experience are big draws.
Stripe also wins merchants over with its pricing, and its tools are very much loved by developers. While if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, Stripe may feel foreign to you, developers say it’s incredibly easy to use. Also on the dev side of things, it seems like the quality ofÂ customer service is great, even if business owners don’t always like the lack of phone support. And unsurprisingly, merchants really seem to love Stripe’s robust subscription tools. The predictable pricing and lack of monthly fees are also appealing.
Stripe and Square have some very important core similarities: they’re both third-party processors with an assortment of tools that allow merchants to sell online. Neither one is suited to high-risk industries, and there’s a lengthy list of businesses neither company can work with. But despite that, both Stripe and Square offer tools that cater to a huge assortment of industries. They’ll both grow with your business, making it easy to scale up.
But despite their similarities in terms of business model, it’s also pretty clear that what each company does best is completely different.
Square is a spectacular all-in-one processor. You can sell in a store, on the go, and online and get all of your information and payments and orders collected in one simply, intuitive dashboard. There’s a huge array of add-on products that allow you consolidate a host of business functions under one name, and they’re guaranteed to work together perfect. eCommerce support is really the newest branch of Square’s offerings, and it’s a work in progress as the company establishes more partnerships and integrations with other major players.
If you have limited technical knowledge, Square is going to be much easier to get started with and to navigate through the different features. It’s free advanced inventory tools are also very well suited to retailers and other businesses that sell primarily physical goods.
Stripe focuses only on Internet payments (both on the web and in-app), but its tools make it possible for businesses to cater to customers all over the globe. The international appeal — from the local currency displays to the sheer breadth of payment methods accepted — make it clear that Stripe is already a global player.Not only that, but with Stripe’s APIs and documentation, a savvy developer could create all kinds of payments platforms for a business. Business owners who don’t have a developer on staff, and who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge themselves, might struggle with understanding how to use Stripe, especially if you want to do anything more than integrate it with some sort of shopping cart software.
You also get a far more limited scope of features. There’s no native support for omnichannel commerce. No mPOS app, no POS integration to support card-present pricing, no invoicing. If you need more than online payments on a regular basis, Stripe isn’t a suitable choice. But if that’s all you need, Stripe isn’t just a good option — it’s one of the best out there, period. If your business has a global reach, again you’ll find that Stripe once again tops the lists of best solutions.
I’m not comfortable saying that one of these solutions is better than the other because it really comes down to what your priorities are. Do you need something easy to use? Do you want to embrace multiple sales channels? Or are you limited to online sales and want best-in-class tools to reach a global audience, manage subscriptions, and even drive mobile commerce? Square can get the job done, and it’ll be the easier solution, but Stripe offers far more tools.
Sit down, think about what features are absolutely mandatory for you to have — and then look at which ones you’d like to have, but aren’t necessarily required. From there, it should be fairly clear which solution is right for you! Don’t forget to check out our complete reviews of Stripe and Square for more insights into how they function.
Have questions? Leave us a comment and we’ll help! Have experience using either of these tools? We’d love to hear from you.
As always, thanks for reading!
The post Stripe VS Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
iPads: “They’re not just a way for tourists to awkwardly take photos anymore!”
(That is just one of theÂ hundreds of rejected slogans I’ve pitched to Apple over the years, but I’m still optimistic. One of these days, I’ll hit the sweet spot and retire on the marketing royalties.)
In all seriousness, the iPad has been an enormous technological breakthrough across multiple platforms and, when it comes to the world of point of sale software, the iPad completely changed the game. Now entire businesses can be run on a simple, portable, and surprisingly cost-effective tablet. It’s really no surprise that so many POS companies have developed apps either specifically designed to run on the iPad or that are at least compatible with iOS. While Apple will always have its critics, the iPad’s appeal to business owners and customers alike is undeniable. But in a landscape where new iPad POS software dominates the market, it’s tough to figure out the best option to meet your needs. Fortunately, evaluating SMB software is what we do best here at Merchant Maverick. Read on for a look at a few of our favorite Apple iPad point of sale systems.
Small to mid-sized retail businesses and smaller restaurant establishments.
$69 per month per first three registers.
ShopKeep (read our review) remains one of Merchant Maverick’s most recommended iPad POS systems because it features nearly every element you would want in a good point of sale software, and does so in a highly palatable and efficient manner. ShopKeep is also competitively priced and routinely updates its software to improve on an already stellar product. And with its recent advances in features for the restaurant/foodservice industry, ShopKeep continues to live up to our 5-star rating.
ShopKeep is successful largely because it stays in its lane. It is designed for small to mid-sized businesses and caters to them in most aspects. After a comprehensive walk-through during set-up that can help you with as much or as little as your previous experience with POS systems dictates, ShopKeep is exceptionally easy to use in all facets. The inventory management feature is truly impressive, offering an unlimited number of products and a matrix inventory, which is an advanced feature for a small to mid-sized business.
The company’s multi-store function has also come a long way and you can view details across all of your locations on one device. ShopKeep’s customer service is excellent and, although the company suggests using its own payment processing plan, it is integrated with numerous other processors so you’re not locked in.
Like most of the best POS systems, ShopKeep continues to improve. In particular, ShopKeep is becoming a better and better option for restaurants. Already boasting an excellent interface and strong reporting and employee management, the modifier and check functions of this POS make it worth a look for any new business owner. ShopKeep is at the top of its field for user-friendliness, working well with most versions of the iPad, including the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.
Read our complete review or check out ShopKeep’s website for yourself.
Any sized retail establishment
Four options, starting with a limited free version. Other packages are $69, $99 and $249 a month with discounts for being billed annually.
VendÂ (read our review) is a terrific option for anyone looking for a tablet POS system. The company offers a Mac bundle, PC bundle, and an iPad bundle, all of which feature Vend’s easy-to-use software and fairly robust feature set. If you’re a retailer looking to keep costs down while not feeling like you’re missing out on any top-tier functions, Vend is worth a long look.
Like ShopKeep, Vend does a nice job catering to its specialty: small to mid-sized retailers. There is some basic foodservice functionality that makes Vend perfectly acceptable for small vendors like cafes or food carts but, to retail shops will get the most bang for their buck (or lack of buck if you take advantage of Vend’s limited but still generous free version). Although the software is geared to smaller, more independent retailers, Vend is more than capable of handling a multi-store operation. Its eCommerce platform (available in the Advanced and Multi-Store versions) is easy to set up and navigate.
Vend thrives in the area of customer management. It offers a built-in and comprehensive loyalty function and makes it easy to take and store customer information for future promotions. The inventory management tool offers everything a small business would need, with the ability to import via a CSV file and an option for creating purchase orders. Vend integrates with loads of other software apps and has strong customer service, although it charges extra for its premium support.
Vend is one of the most versatile and effective iPad POS systems for retail businesses. If you’re a small company just starting out, you can take advantage of its free package. And if you have a large-scale multi-store enterprise, Vend is robust enough to have your back as well. With an advanced eCommerce platform and great customer management, Vend is worth a long look.
Read our complete review or visit Vend’s website on your own.
Mid-sized to larger foodservice businesses, though it can be adapted to smaller restaurants as well.
Revel has a flexible pricing structure depending on what features you need. The cost of the software is built into the monthly subscription.
RevelÂ (read our review) packs a ton into its relatively unassuming software. The company, which functions best as an Apple-based restaurant POS, has also expanded to suit certain retail establishments as well. Revel currently is only offered on Apple iOS devices, but it is a fully functional POS and is robust enough to suit large, multi-store restaurant chains. However, as long as you’re not overwhelmed by its wealth of back-end features and an interface that is slightly less intuitive than average, Revel is flexible enough to work with smaller retailers as well. It features a flexible pricing structure to suit multiple needs.
As you would expect, Revel offers real-time inventory management with a convenient matrix for importing mass items and tracking them across multiple locations. Revel also has a fantastic Kiosk option for iPads which allows customers to order and pay on their own with a number of different methods. The Kitchen Display System for cooks is a strong feature, helping to cut down on ticket times and increase communication between the front- and backend of a restaurant.
Where Revel really separates itself is reporting. Its comprehensive suite features a convenient layout and runs nearly any report you could think of. Combine that with a great QuickBooks integration, and Revel makes some of the minutiae and tedium of backend features simple.
Revel is a powerhouse of a POS that can handle large-scale restaurant establishments. The system boasts excellent real-time reporting and an extensive employee management system. Though it comes with a slightly higher learning curve than some systems, Revel’s wealth of integrations gives it a big edge in a very competitive market, and it’s one of our favorite POS solutions here at Merchant Maverick.
You can find our full review here or check out Revel’s website.
Almost any type of food service establishment.
$69 or $99 a month with an enterprise option as well.
There are many nice things about talechÂ (read our review), but what I really appreciate is that, depending on your size of business, you can really get what you pay for. The Standard package gives you everything you would need for a small retail store or quick serve restaurant, while the Premium package expands its features to serve larger retailers and full-service restaurants, meaning you’re generally not going to be paying for features you’re not using.
talech does plenty of things well, starting with a strong and functional inventory management system. You can generate your own barcodes and print them from any device, track product history and performance across multiple stores, and create complex inventory bundles. Employee management is another strength; talech makes it easy to track an individual’s sales and actions. There is also a function which makes it so that managers, via swipe cards, are the only ones allowed to make voids.
talech is constantly updating and adapting to stay on top of current trends. One of its most recent changes is its online ordering system, which is an add-on that can dramatically increase a business’s sales output. talech integrates with a handful of major companies, including QuickBooks, Xero, Shopify, and Magento. It also offers highly regarded customer service.
talech is exceptionally affordable and has options for small to large restaurants. Even with lower tier packages, you get terrific inventory and employee management. With its commitment to updating its software and the ability to set up online ordering, talech continues to impress.
Read our complete review of talech or check out their website.
Small to mid-sized retail businesses.
$200 or $350 a month with enterprise options available.
For ease of use, ERPLY, (read our review) continues to be at the top of the iPad point of sale class. Designed specifically for small to mid-sized retail businesses, ERPLY is another company that specifically seeks to alleviate recurring issues that smaller, independent business owners may be having with their software. ERPLY is remarkably user-friendly and comes with the ability to customize and print purchase orders — and it also connects with major shipping companies.
Inventory management is simple and customizable. You can set limits for stock to be automatically reordered. Tracking inventory across multiple stores is intuitive, and ERPLY’s inventory module makes it possible to determine pricing by location (or even by a specific promotion or sale that you may be running). Speaking of which, ERPLY offers a built-in function for promotions and it can store all kinds of information on customers, from their social media IDs to their loyalty points.
ERPLY comes with well over 100 reports, so if you’re into analytics, they’ve more than got you covered. You would think with that much to offer, the software would be a bit unwieldy, but ERPLY prides itself on its simple to use platform. Everything can be customized to suit your personal style.
ERPLY isn’t a bargain by any means, but if you’re looking for an iPad POS that’s pretty much hassle free and loaded with features, it might be worth the expense. ERPLY is easy to navigate right out of the box and does just about everything well. It is particularly useful if your business has multiple locations. You’ll have to shell out a bit more per month than you would for some other systems, but many merchants will find the convenience worth the cost.
You can find our full review here or visit ERPLY’s website on your own.
Small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments.
Flexible, but generally ranging from $25 to $150 a month.
Another one of our 5-star systems, SalesVuÂ (read our review) can handle both small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments. The software isn’t flashy, but all of the functionality you would expect from an Apple-based POS is there. Food industry businessesÂ can set up their menus to switch to Happy Hour prices at specific times, and a convenient kiosk function allows customers to order directly at the table. SalesVu’s simple eCommerce platform is ideal for online ordering, and creating your own website with back-end integrations built-in can be done in a matter of minutes.
SalesVu’s inventory management is excellent, allowing for mass imports via CSV files. You can also use your iPad or your iPhone as a scanner. When an item is getting low, SalesVu alerts you and gives you the option of pulling the item completely or allowing for sales to go through even when supplies are limited.
SalesVu is also a great option for spas, salons, or any service-based businesses, featuring a built-in function that connects employees to a scheduling calendar.
There are also plenty of reports available, as well as a built-in loyalty integration that can store customer information for sales and promotions. Currently, SalesVu is limited in its integrations but it does pair with QuickBooks and a handful of different credit card processors. You also get highly rated customer service. SalesVu is a fairly affordable iPad point of sale system, but its pricing structure can be a bit convoluted, so you’ll want to speak with a representative to sort out the details.
SalesVu’s flexibility is refreshing and, even if you’re going with one of its smaller packages, you get a lot for your money. The inventory management is excellent and, for small food service businesses, its kiosk function is terrific. Built-in loyalty and integrations with multiple processors are also big pluses.
Read our complete overview of SalesVu or visit the company’s website.
Quick service or full-service restaurants.
$79/month with enterprise option available.
Designed specifically for iPads, LavuÂ (read our review) is an impressive POS that can fill the needs of most mid-sized food industry businesses (either quick service or full service) and some light retail establishments. The interface is sleek and modern and designed with servers in mind. Order taking is simple and table and menu layouts are all intuitive and customizable. Lavu has a very convenient system for creating and executing modifiers as well.
Keeping with its employee-friendly theme, employee management is one of Lavu’s strong suits. Servers can log in with a key code and their hours and overtime are easily tracked; permissions can be assigned with a simple click. The company has also recently bolstered its inventory management feature, allowing for bulk importing and automatic alerts when products run low. If you are operating multiple stores, inventory can quickly be transferred from one location to another.
Lavu’s gift card and loyalty plans are both available as add-ons, which isn’t ideal. However, once you’ve purchased these add-ons, they integrated seamlessly with the software. Lavu has some other nice integrations, including an impressive customizable kitchen display system and customer-friendly features for online ordering and pick-up. Lavu integrates with a wide range of processing companies as well, giving you flexibility.
Your employees should love Lavu — its interface is easy to learn and simple to navigate. And, as a manager, you’ll appreciate the customizable options and employee management functions. Lavu has recently beefed up its inventory management, which had been one of its few flaws in the past, and it is now an extremely well-rounded option.
Check out our complete review of Lavu or visit Lavu’s website.
Most retail establishments with a bent toward spas and salons.
$75/month with a multi-store option available,
With a name like iConnect, (read our review) you know you have a POS made specifically for iOS (although it recently updated to function on Windows as well). iConnect is a versatile system that is perfect for small or large retail establishments, depending on the plan you purchase. iConnect has some unique features that make it a particularly strong option for businesses that book appointments, like salons. With the ability to set up recurring billing, it’s also a useful system for gyms and other businesses that operate on monthly subscription plans.
Customer management is a big draw for iConnect. Each customer is assigned a code, storing their information and making it simple to create specific promotions with its built-in loyalty program. As with most Apple POS systems, the interface is intuitive and comes with a helpful set-up process. Some of the more advanced features come with a higher learning curve, but the front-end, in particular, is easy to navigate.
iConnect comes with 55 reports and you can customize how they appear, easily adding your most run reports to the top of the screen. It’s not the most robust reporting system around, but most businesses shouldn’t find it lacking. There is also eCommerce functionality that can help you create your own website at no extra cost. The system comes with a large number of impressive integrations and the option to purchase add-ons that could be helpful, depending on your specific business.
iConnect is another versatile option that can be customized to fit your business’s needs. This iPad POS features some unique features for gyms, spas,Â and salons. iConnect has strong customer management features, especially in terms of setting up promotions, and its interface is intuitive and easy to operate.
You can find our full review here or visit iConnect’s website on your own.
iPad users are notoriously loyal to their devices and, if you fall into this category and are hunting for a POS system, you’re in luck. Many of the best point of sale systems were specifically designed to run on iOS — there’s almost certainly an option that will meet your needs. And this is not an exhaustive list, by any means. For the full scoop on all the top-rated POS systems for iPad, be sure to check out our iPad POS software reviews.Â
The post The Best iPad POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Itâs 4:30 on a Friday and youâre knee-deep in packing peanuts and cardboard boxes. Youâve got twenty orders to pick, pack, and ship before the post office closes, and you keep misplacing your packing slips.
There must be a better way.
If your storage space is covered in packing materials and you record all your shipping information in spreadsheets and Post-It notes, it might be time to try something else.
In the era in which an app solves everything, it makes sense to turn to software solutions to soothe your shipping woes.
Shipping software solutions integrate with most popular eCommerce software programs and can help simplify your day-to-day operations. They let you calculate accurate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips in bulk. They can even grant you discounted shipping rates.
These programs are typically available as SaaS solutions that range in price from $25/month to $99/month — a small price to pay for the shipping issues they resolve.
Itâs clear you should subscribe to a shipping software, but with so many options available, how do you choose?
Weâve tested out a handful of shipping solutions, examining price, ease of use, and customer service. Keep reading to learn more about the best shipping software for 2018.
With a near-perfect score of 4.5 stars, ShippingEasyÂ (see our review) is our top-rated shipping solution for eCommerce businesses. This software is true to its name: itâs easy to learn and use and customer support representatives are ready to help with any potential hiccups.
Businesses of all sizes. It works especially well for eCommerce merchants who run their own online stores.
Pricing for ShippingEasy is simple and affordable; plans range from $29/month for 500 shipments to $99/month for 6,000 shipments. Each step up in pricing includes more monthly shipments and higher level customer support.
ShippingEasy has a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 shipments/month. For high volume sellers, ShippingEasy also offers enterprise options. Read more about ShippingEasyâs pricing in our full review.
As I mentioned above, we found ShippingEasy to be highly user-friendly. You can easily import orders, create shipments, set shipping parameters, and buy and print postage, shipping labels, and packing slips.
We also like how many features come included with ShippingEasy. And we especially love the fact that ShippingEasyâs partnership with USPS lets you benefit from lower shipping rates. You can save up to 46% on shipping rates when you sign on for one of ShippingEasyâs paid plans.
Other features include:
A Free Endicia Account
Shipping Status Updates & Real-Time Tracking
Individual Or Batch Shipping
If youâre worried that ShippingEasy might not integrate into your eCommerce software, fear no more! ShippingEasy integrates easily with the biggest names in eCommerce, including 3dcart, Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. View all of ShippingEasyâs integrations.
ShippingEasy also has a good record when it comes to customer service. Their support representatives are knowledgeable and helpful.
With so many positives to ShippingEasy, itâs hard to find any downsides. You should note, however, that ShippingEasy still has room to grow when it comes to simplifying their daily operations. In particular, users would like to see improvement in expediting the data entry process.
Otherwise, ShippingEasy is an excellent option. Take a look at our shipping software reviewsÂ to learn more about the software or sign up for a free 30-day trial.
Read our full ShippingEasy review
Visit the ShippingEasy website
OrderCup (see our review) is one of our favorite shipping software solutions. OrderCup offers an easy to use interface, multi-carrier shipping options, and discounted shipping rates. And best of all, OrderCup provides users with reliable and responsive customer support, so you can get answers to your pressing questions quickly.
Merchants who ship between 500 and 12,000 shipments a month and who only need up to 12 users on the platform. With five tiered pricing plans, OrderCup is accessible to many merchants.
As I mentioned before, OrderCup separates pricing into five tiers. To add a little fun to the pricing, OrderCup has named each tier after a Starbucks drink size. Plans range from Short to Trenta, and each step up in pricing includes more sales channels, more monthly shipments, and more users.
The Short plan begins at $20/month for 500 monthly shipments, and Trenta costs $180/month for 12,000 monthly shipments.
For more information, view OrderCup’s pricing page.
OrderCup’s dashboard is well-organized and quick to learn. During setup, you’ll be able to integrate your hosted shopping cart. Your online store’s orders will be automatically transferred to your OrderCup dashboard.
Then, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite carriers and start processing orders.
OrderCup’s feature list includes everything you’d expect from a multi-carrier shipping software. They have made arrangements with several carriers, including the USPS, DHL, UK Mail, and DX to offer their customers discounted shipping rates. You’ll also be able to integrate with worldwide shipping carriers across Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Here are a few more features you can expect from OrderCup:
Automate Your Shipping Process
Print Return Labels To Include With Shipments
Bulk Import Orders Using CSV Files
Schedule Shipment Pickups
Integrate With Third-Party Fulfillment
OrderCup integrates with many eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and Volusion. Integrated marketplaces include Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Check the full list for more information.
Out of all these features, OrderCup users seem to be most enthusiastic about OrderCup’s support team. Support representatives are responsive and patient, often spending up to an hour on the phone with users to make sure everything is working properly. Users also praise OrderCup’s Canadian shipping options; it is easy to ship to and from Canada.
There are few negative comments about OrderCup online, though we have seen customers complain about having to pay extra in order to access phone support and get priority attention for their technical issues.
OrderCup is one of our favorite shipping software programs, scoring an excellent 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you think this software might be the right fit for your business, we recommend you try it out. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial in minutes.
But if you’d like a bit more information before you proceed, take a look at our complete review. We include in-depth information about pricing, customer service levels, and more.
Read our full OrderCup review
Visit the OrderCup website
OrdoroÂ (see our review) is a shipping and inventory application designed for SMBs. Known for its drop-shipping features, Ordoro is particularly popular among Shopify users.
Small to medium-sized businesses. Merchants who are planning to dropship can benefit especially from the software.
With Ordoro, you have two options. You can use Ordoro to handle just your shipping, or you can have Ordoro handle shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro sets up their pricing structure differently, depending on which features you choose.
In my opinion, itâs best to use Ordoro for shipping only. Paid plans for shipping begin at $25/month and go to $129/month. Each step up in pricing includes additional features and monthly shipments. Thereâs also a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 orders/month.
Pricing for shipping and inventory management is structured much differently. The lowest plan costs $199/month for 700 orders. This plan includes drop shipping features. Plans can go as high as $499/month for 4,000 orders. For more information, view Ordoro’s pricing page.
Ordoro comes with a minimalistic user interface. You can easily link your shopping cart to your new Ordoro account during setup. Then youâll be able to sync your inventory and push new orders automatically to Ordoro. You can create shipping labels and packing slips one-by-one or in bulk.
Ordoroâs best feature is without a doubt their dropshipping functionality (available with shipping + inventory plans). You can set select items to ship directly from your supplier, and you can automatically split orders to dropship from multiple suppliers.
Here are a few more features that come with Orodoro:
Process Orders From Multiple Sales Channels
Integrate With USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, & Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime
Best-In-Industry Shipping Rates (Up To 67% With USPS)
Tracking Number Automatically Sent To Customers Upon Shipment
Inventory Management (If You Choose To Purchase It)
Ordoro integrates with a wide variety of eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, FBA, 3dcart, Magento, WooCommerce, and more.Â See if your preferred vendor is on the full list.
Ordoro users have a lot of good things to say about the platform. In particular, they praise Ordoroâs technical support options. Customers report that a real person will be available to answer your support concerns. On the off chance you canât reach anyone, Ordoroâs knowledge base is detailed and well organized. You might find the information you need there.
Iâve seen a few negative reports of Ordoro. Some customers cite trouble syncing their Ordoro account with other software programs (namely Shopify and FedEx). Other customers complain that while Ordoroâs interface is easy to navigate, that simplicity is due to a lack of features.
In our opinion, Ordoro is best suited to small businesses, especially those that engage in a lot of dropshipping. To learn more about Ordoro, readÂ our full review, or try out the platform yourself byÂ signing up for a free 15-day trial.
Read our full Ordoro review
Visit the Ordoro website
ShipStationÂ (see our review) is arguably the best-known shipping solution, partly due to the company’s excellent marketing campaigns and partly due to the numerous integrations they offer with major eCommerce vendors.
Small to mid-sized businesses, particularly those which sell online.
Pricing for ShipStation is on par with industry standards. You can choose from six pricing tiers, ranging from $9/month for 50 orders to $145/month for unlimited shipments. ShipStation does not offer a free plan, but they do offer a free 30-day trial of their software.
When it comes to ease of use, ShipStation prioritizes functionality over aesthetics, which is perfectly fine by me!
If you have any trouble learning your way around, ShipStation provides video tutorials to help you figure out the admin. In general, we think that ShipStation is highly usable, though it may take some time to get the hang of the advanced tools.
ShipStation offers the basic collection of features, including the following:
Integrations For USPS, UPS, FedEx, & DHL Accounts
Discounts On USPS Priority & Express Mail
Stamps.com Account Included
Batch-Print Hundreds Of Shipping Labels & Packing Slips
Print A Return Label To Include In Your Shipments
ShipStation really shines when it comes to integrations. Check out this full listÂ to see which eCommerce platforms, shipping carriers, and payment solutions integrate easily with ShipStation. Happily, it integrates with the most popular eCommerce solutions, includingÂ BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Volusion, Miva Merchant, and PrestaShop.
ShipStationâs customer service is available by email. They also provide live webinars, a knowledge base, and a community forum.
We see only one potential issue with ShipStation: it’s lacking customer management features. You cannot add identifying characteristics to a customer’s account, and ShipStation does not always recognize a customer when they make a second purchase on a different sales channel. However, for most users, this difficulty is not a deal breaker.
If youâre looking for an efficient, reliable shipping solution, ShipStation may be the way to go. Once you invest some time into learning the system, youâll be able to reap the rewards of a feature-rich shipping solution.
Learn more about ShipStation in our full review or take it for a spin withÂ a 30-day free trial.
Read our full ShipStation review
Visit the ShipStation website
ShipRushÂ (see our review) is an affordable software solution that is designed to make shipping selection efficient. ShipRush displays rates from multiple different carriers on the same page in your admin, allowing you to quickly and easily choose the most cost-effective shipping rates. What’s more, ShipRush offers support for many different types of shipping, including individual package shipping, freight shipping, and LTL shipping. Keep reading to learn more about the merits of ShipRush.
Merchants who need to ship freight. I would recommend ShipRush primarily to smaller businesses, as the pricing model is designed for three users (though more can be added on at an additional expense).
ShipRush’s pricing model is simple. It is divided into two options: Web and Desktop.
ShipRush’s web option is based on a monthly payment model and costs $29.95/month for up to three users (additional users can be added on three at a time for an additional $29.95/month).
On the other hand, the ShipRush Desktop version can be purchased annually for $795/year per workstation.
You can test out ShipRush for 60 days by signing up for a free trial.Â Once you sign up, you’ll be presented with this dashboard.
The dashboard is a bit austere, but we don’t mind much as ShipRush has proved itself to be very functional.
Once I got over the initial learning curve, I was able to calculate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips easily.
Here are a few other features that ShipRush users benefit from:
Discounted Shipping Rates (Save Up To 60% On USPS Rates & 21% On FedEx Rates)
View Rates From Multiple Carriers On One Screen
Send Notifications To Customers When Orders Ship
Print Scan-Based Return Labels
For the full list, head over to ShipRush’s website.
ShipRush integrates with over 75 eCommerce platforms, payment processors, shipping carriers, and accounting and CRM software apps. These integrations include 3dcart, Ecwid, LemonStand, Big Cartel, Shopify, FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
ShipRush has a lot of positives. Customers especially like the quality customer service and the relative ease of use. One downfall potential users should note is that merchants who maintain a large inventory (thousands of products) may have a hard time with the software. Creating shipping rules for all these different types of products could be more effort than it’s worth.
ShipRush is a great software for many businesses. It’s affordable, functional, and reliable, and you can test it out for yourself using their free 60-day trial.
For more information on ShipRush, take a look at our complete review of the platform. Otherwise, keep reading for more shipping options.
Read our full ShipRush review
Visit the ShipRush website
ShipHawkÂ (see our review) is a bit different than the alternative shipping software we cover above. While those softwareÂ programsÂ provide easy to use interfaces and hundreds of features, ShipHawk focuses its energy on one thing: an algorithm. ShipHawk is a complex shipping calculator, designed for large businesses and businesses that ship oversized or unique items.
Larger businesses. ShipHawk’s cheapest plan is targeted at merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. ShipHawk is also good for merchants who ship uniquely shaped or oversized items.
ShipHawk offers three pricing tiers. With each step up in pricing, you’ll be able to ship more parcels and freight and have access to more advanced features and technical support.
The Starter plan starts at $250/month and is for merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. Then there’s the Pro plan, which begins at $2K/month and is intended for annual shipping expenses up to $2M; finally, there’s the Enterprise plan, for an annual spend of up to $25M. Enterprise begins at $4,500/month.
As you can see, ShipHawk is not a cheap platform. It is designed for high volume shippers who need a high volume platform.
In order to test out ShipHawk, you can sign up for a free demo of the starter plan. I didn’t find ShipHawk to be as intuitive as other shipping software apps I’ve tested. However, given time, I was able to figure out a few features. And as a whole, the dashboard seems well designed.
As I’ve mentioned before, ShipHawk works a bit differently than most shipping software when it comes to features. While ShipHawk does offer some of your typical features, they primarily advertise the calculator behind the software. ShipHawk will help estimate expenses for hard-to-ship items.
Here are a few of the more notable features:
Get Quotes From Multiple Carriers
Real-Time Tracking Updates
API: Integrate With Shipping Carriers & Shopping Cart Software
Set Up Automatic Shipping Rules
Provide Shipping Options To Customers
ShipHawk advertises that you can integrate with most software solutions through their API. You can expect to find pre-built integrations with a few shipping carriers and shopping carts, including DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS, Magento, Shopify, and more.
Customer feedback regarding ShpHawk is very limited. However, after some time searching the web, I was able to find a few comments. Customers primarily love ShipHawk’s customer service and robust calculation abilities. I myself was a bit disappointed with ShipHawk’s support material. There did not seem to be enough tutorial information to help me set up the program.
ShipHawk is not the right fit for many of our readers. However, if you ship thousands of products each month and you need access to freight and individual shipments, ShipHawk may be right for you. Test it out with a free demoÂ and read our review for more information.
Read our full ShipHawk review
Visit the ShipHawk website
If youâre tired of losing yourself in packing peanuts and misplaced notes-to-self, try out one of these software options. Youâll find that shipping is much less of a chore when order processing and fulfillment is automated, organized, and synchronized. With many solutions beginning at $25/month, shipping software is a small investment that could do a lot for your business. Click one of the buttons above to get started with a free trial, or search our site for more quality shipping software reviews.
Good luck, and happy shipping!
The post Best Shipping Software For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.