The retail industry is facing massive, unprecedented closures as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the country and state and city governments announce “shelter in place” orders. In much of the United States, the only type of retail stores that remain open are superstores and “essential retail” stores that sell food, medicine, or other life-sustaining goods. While business is thriving for major retailers, such as Costco, Walmart, and Amazon, small retailers are bearing the full brunt of this crisis. In this article, we want to be informative about the effects on retail, but we won’t stop there — we will also give actionable steps to help your retail store survive and even stay profitable during the outbreak.
What Coronavirus Means For Retail
The retail sector has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as much of the industry is deemed “nonessential” — though states have some leeway in how they define what is and what isn’t essential retail. In a growing number of states, residents have been advised to shelter in place and only leave the house to buy food or medicine. Even in regions without strict shelter-in-place orders, many governors and mayors have called for the closure of nonessential retail businesses. As COVID-19 cases continue to mount, most or all of the United States may soon be under such orders.
This grave situation requires the closure of a large portion of small retail businesses, though it is still possible to sell online. In fact, eCommerce sales are expected to surge in 2020Â as consumers stock up on essentials, such as food, healthcare items, cleaning products, household items, and even consumer electronics to stay entertained while at home.
Generally, the following types of stores are considered essential retail and can remain open for in-person sales:
Liquor stores (depending on the state)
Healthcare supply stores
Marijuana dispensaries (depending on the state)
Superstores (Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.)
Hardware and home improvement stores
Office supply stores
Auto parts stores
Pretty much all other types of retail stores are considered nonessential retail and have been forced to close in many states and cities. As follows are some examples of nonessential retail businesses (though this list is certainly not comprehensive):
Clothing and shoe stores
Hobby and craft stores
Sporting goods stores
Of course, you’ll need to check with your local authorities to find out if your retail store must close or if it can remain open.
Some retailers may find their goods in high demand, while others may be in less-popular industries and will have to get more creative about how they run their business. As mentioned, essential goods — soap, food, cleaning products, and, of course, toilet paper — are seeing record-high demand. Many nonessential retail goods, such as clothing and fashion, are expected to be harder hit.
Social distancing is being mandated by a lot of states, so even if your store remains open (at least, for the time being), social distancing will affect foot traffic and people’s desire to go shopping. In some cases, stores are limiting how many people can enter the premises at the same time to allow for adequate social distancing.
Increase In Online Shopping & Deliveries
Because of social distancing, there has been an upsurge in online shopping and an increased need for curbside pickup or delivery options. Especially as Amazon Prime shipping times increase — Prime delivery times on some items are now as long as a month — this may result in higher demand for smaller retail businesses that offer online sales, as these businesses may be able to provide a level of service that big-box stores are unable to offer right now.
10 Tips To Keep Your Retail Business Strong During COVID-19
If your retail business can adapt to these strange new times, you have the potential to keep it going strong throughout this crisis.
Create An Online Store
If your retail store is strictly brick and mortar, now is a great time to add an online store. Plus, there are many easy eCommerce platforms out there to get a site up and running quickly. Retailers should also promote their online buying and shipping options for their store (if you’re still open), especially on social media and via email marketing. Learn more about how to start an online store by checking out the resources listed below.
The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
What The Coronavirus Means For eCommerce & What Your Business Can Do About It
Shopping Cart Comparison
Offer Personal Shoppers
There are a couple of ways your business can use personal shoppers to deliver products to customers without them having to enter your store. The first way is for your employees to act as personal shoppers for customers by taking their orders online or over the phone and personally delivering them. The second way is to use a third-party delivery service, such as Shipt or Instacart. Note that third-party delivery services may charge a fee and only deliver for certain industries.
Third-Party Delivery Services For Restaurants & Retailers: Your Best Options
Add Curbside Pickup
In addition to or instead of delivery services, it may make sense for your retail business to offer a curbside pickup option for those who don’t want to go out to shop. Customers order online, choose a “pick up in-store” option, and when they arrive at the store, an employee comes out and delivers the order. Some big-name retail stores that have implemented curbside pickup options include Target, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Books-a-Million, and DSW.
Create Subscription Boxes
Subscription boxes are a great way to supplement income and increase brand awareness. Mail may be one of the few ways people can still buy (nonessential) things in the near-term, and subscription boxes will likely become even more popular as consumers remain more or less stuck at home. Plus, subscriptions can help your business guarantee regular monthly income.
How To Start A Subscription Box: 7 Steps To Launch A Thriving Business
Appeal To Consumer Needs
As shoppers are encouraged to self-isolate and practice social distancing, think about what your business can offer during this difficult time. For example, art stores can provide drawing kits for kids home from school; gyms can provide online workout recordings; travel companies can offer discounts for planning 2021 vacations; landscaping business can build indoor garden starter kits; beauty stores can offer sample boxes or at-home spa kits.
Host Virtual Events
For retailers that have strong communities, consider hosting virtual events on Facebook or another online video platform. For example, board game stores can host virtual competitions; bookstores can create a weekly book club discussion (and customers can pay for that book to be shipped to them); cooking supply stores can offer weekly bakeoffs or demonstrations (and customers can buy kits with the tools and ingredients they’ll need).
Get Creative With Marketing
Even in these trying times, you can still market your business and the products and specials your retail business is offering. You can grab customers’ attention using email, text, and social media —Â while appealing to consumer needs and respecting social distancing guidelines. Read up on what other small and large brands are doing and start thinking about what you can offer that no one else is. Even if you’re brand-new to email marketing, now is a great time to start.
How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy
Simple Email Marketing Best Practices Every Merchant Should Know
Communicate With Customers
Be clear with customers about your hours and how you’re handling the virus in general. Even if you have to close your business, it’s good to let people know, and if you are able to reopen your shop, make sure you tell customers about that too. Let your fans know if you’re offering curbside pickup, deliveries, subscription boxes, a percentage of your sales donated to a charity to fight COVID, or anything else. Again, you can use email marketing for this purpose.
In addition to trying to create sales, another huge part of successful cash flow management and managing a financially strong business is limiting unnecessary expenses. Sadly, this may mean cutting your payroll or closing locations. You might also consider reducing your interest costs by consolidating all of your outstanding debt into one low-interest loan and putting any new business expenses on a 0% APR credit card.
How To Use (& How To Avoid Using) Business Credit During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Consolidating Small Business Debt: A Complete Guide
0% APR Credit Card Offers: The Complete Guide
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Some businesses might just need a helping hand to get through this rough patch instead of closing down altogether. A couple of examples of how you could obtain assistance include starting a business crowdfunding campaign or applying for an SBA Disaster Loan. Refer to the list below for resources on financial assistance and loans — many loans are 0% interest right now.
Small Business Loan Resources & Guides For Businesses Affected By The Coronavirus
What SBA Disaster Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
Can’t Make Your Credit Card Payments Due To The Coronavirus? These Credit Card Issuers Are Offering Assistance
The Fed Has Cut Interest Rates To A 12-Year Low: Here’s What It Could Mean For Your Business
Keeping Your Employees & Customers Safe From Coronavirus
If your brick-and-mortar retail store is open in any capacity, you need to educate yourself and your employees about how coronavirus is spread. Then, you can provide helpful tips on how to keep the virus from spreading to employees and customers in a store environment.
Encourage Good Health & Hygiene
Educate your employees and enforce proper hygiene practices to ensure they follow the necessary health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of disease. This includes both cleaning and employee health practices. Specifically, make sure you are following the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Revisit Sick Leave Policies
Make sure you and your employees understand your store’s sick leave policy. Update the policy if needed and help employees feel stable in their income so that they can stay home if need be. To prepare for a probable increase in employee absences, you might consider cross-training employees so that your store can continue to operate even if key employees are not present. Again, you can find advice on employee sick leave policies in the CDC’s official COVID-19 guidance for businesses.
Have Clear Communication
People are understandably worried. Customers and employees want to know what you as a business owner are doing to keep them safe, so be sure to communicate clearly about the measures your business is taking and help ease those fears. You should help employees, in particular, feel safe and hopeful during this time, maybe consider giving your employees a way to give back or options to hold their job if they choose not to come to work right now.
Keep Calm & Sell On
This is a tough time for the retail industry, for America, and the world overall. Nevertheless, you will make it through this; we all will. By exercising patience, diligence, and ingenuity, retailers can keep their business safe, operational, and even profitable during these unprecedented — but temporary — times. Again, eCommerce will play an especially vital role for retailers in the age of social distancing and beyond. While brick-and-mortar retail will likely not disappear entirely, now is the perfect time to augment your online sales options.
Do you want to read more about how small businesses can manage during the coronavirus pandemic? Refer to our hub dedicated to this subject: Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The post The Business Owner’s Retail Guide To Surviving The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
For many crafters and makers, Etsy has been a life-changer. This marketplace dedicated to independent artists has opened up the door for many to turn their hobbies into careers. Etsy has enabled artists to start selling their wares online by eliminating many of the difficulties involved with running an online store. Sellers don’t need to worry about building a website, attracting web traffic, or calculating shipping expenses and taxes. Etsy is an easy way to sell, and it has gained incredible popularity for it. With 1.8 million sellers currently on the platform, it’s clear that Etsy is a major player in the eCommerce space.
That said, Etsy also has a few downsides. Perhaps the biggest complaint among sellers regards Etsy’s fee structure. Etsy charges a variety of fees from listing fees to transaction fees and payment processing fees, and it can be difficult to keep things straight (and to calculate how much you’ll owe Etsy for each sale). What’s more, Etsy has been known to increase these fees or add new ones, leaving many sellers wanting a way out. Most recently, Etsy has unveiled a new Offsite Ad service that comes with its own fees, and which is mandatory for some sellers.
In this article, we’ll break down Etsy’s pricing and fees. We’ll explain how you can know if Etsy is worth the cost, and then we’ll give a few strategies for succeeding in the Etsy marketplace. And if you ultimately decide that Etsy isn’t the right choice for your business, we have a few suggestions of alternatives you can turn to.
Let’s get into it!
Etsy’s Pricing Plans
Etsy offers users two subscription options for seller accounts: the free Standard Plan and the for-purchase Plus Plan. Take a look below to find out what each plan offers.
Etsy’s Standard Plan is their free seller account, complete with all the basic tools that Etsy offered before the Plus Plan was created. The Standard Plan allows users to list products on Etsy, buy and print discounted postage, and market their products with sales and coupons. The Standard Plan also gives you access to the Sell on the Etsy App.
The Plus Plan is available at $10/month, and it includes all of the basic features of the Standard Plan, plus a bit more. The Plus Plan includes some additional features, such as advanced shop customization options (banner options, new layouts of featured listings, and more) and restock requests for sold out items.
The Plus Plan also offers credits and discounts on additional Etsy services. Here’s a quick list:
15 listing credits monthly (the equivalent of $3 in listings)
$5 USD in Etsy Ads credits monthly
Free .store domains
50% off select domain extensions: .com .net and .ca
Discounts on custom web address
Discounts on custom packaging and promotional materials
The 7 Types Of Etsy Fees All Businesses Need To Know
In addition to the monthly subscription listed above, Etsy sellers must juggle a variety of other fees charged by the platform. Etsy has a rather complicated fee structure, and it’s worth taking a look at their legal terms and policies to really get a grasp on all the nitty-gritty elements of how taxes may or may not apply to fees in your region. For more digestible information on Etsy’s many different fees, take a look below.
Etsy charges a $0.20 listing fee for each item you put up to sell on their platform.
This fee truly applies to each product you sell. For example, let’s say you have 10 identical ceramic bowls, which you are selling individually. You can list all of these identical bowls under the same product page, but after each one sells, you much pay another $0.20 to renew the listing. If you sell all of these bowls, you pay a total of $2.00 in listing fees.
If, however, you sold a pack of ten bowls as one product, you would only pay one $0.20 listing fee.
Listings expire after four months, when you’ll have to pay the listing fee again to renew.
Etsy’s transaction fee (not to be confused with their payment processing fee) is a fee that Etsy charges to cover the cost of using their platform. Etsy’s transaction fee is 5% of the price you charge your customers, including the cost of shipping, product customization, and gift wrapping.
For sellers in the US and Canada, Etsy does not charge transaction fees on sales tax (unless you include the cost of sales tax in your listing price). However, for sellers outside of the US and Canada, these transaction fees might include the cost of some applicable taxes.
Payment Processing Fees
In order to accept online payments, all merchants must pay payment processing fees. Payment processors (such as PayPal and Square) typically offer their services at around 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Etsy Payments is Etsy’s own in-house payment processor, which sellers must use to accept payments if they are in one of the 36 eligible counties (including the US, UK, Australia, and Canada). If Etsy Payments is not available in your country, you can use PayPal to accept online payments.
Etsy Payments charges 3% + $0.25 per transaction.Â This allows you to accept payments by credit card, debit card, Etsy Gift Card, Etsy Credit, PayPal, some bank transfer services, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also allow your customers to pay using their PayPal accounts. Etsy Payments rates will apply to these payments instead of PayPal rates.
In-Person Selling Fees
Etsy has partnered with Square to offer sellers an option for in-person selling. In order to accept in-person payments, you’ll need a Square card reader (take a look at our review of Square for more information). When you accept payments in person for items that you have listed on your Etsy site, you’ll pay the usual listing fees as well as Square’s payment processing fees (2.6% + $0.10). You will not pay the 5% Etsy transaction fee.
If you’re looking to build a more personalized website to sell your products, Etsy has an option worth trying. It’s called Pattern, and it’s website building software that allows you to develop your own store that is still connected to your Etsy seller account. Pattern is available for $15/month.
Listing fees also apply to Pattern, although there is a bit of additional complexity. If you list a product only on Pattern and not on Etsy, you must pay a listing fee. If you already had a product listed on Etsy, and you want to also list it on Pattern, you do not need to pay an additional listing fee (you have already paid one to Etsy). What’s more, Pattern listings do not expire.
Currency Conversion Fees
Etsy recommends that sellers list their pricing in the same currency as their payment account currency. This will allow sellers to avoid foreign exchange charges. Customers are able to select the currency in which they view listings, so listing your products in one particular currency shouldn’t impact your sales at all. However, if you do not do this, and you list your products in a different currency than your payment account, you will be charged a 2.5% currency conversion fee.
Over the past few years, Etsy has rolled out some marketing tools for users. These include on-site and off-site ads, which of course come with their own fees.
Etsy Ad Fees
Etsy allows sellers the option of marketing their products within the marketplace via Etsy Ads. These ads are available on pay-per-click pricing, and the cost of each click will vary depending on demand. You can set a budget that limits the amount you’re willing to pay for on-site ads daily, and Etsy will only list your ads until you reach that daily maximum.
Offsite Ads Fees
Etsy’s Offsite Ads are the newest development in Etsy’s advertising. All users are currently being set up to use Offsite Ads, with the option to opt-out available to sellers who have made less than $10,000 in sales in the last year.
With the new Offsite Ads program, Etsy will market your products on major sites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing. When someone clicks an ad that includes one of your products and then purchases one of your products within 30 days, you are charged an advertising fee on that order. This fee is either 12% or 15% depending on your annual sales. For those who make under $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads is an optional service, and the rate is 15%. However, for those who made over $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads are mandatory. Etsy charges these sellers a rate of 12% on purchases made from the ads.
What Real Users Have To Say About Etsy Seller Fees
Etsy sellers have mixed opinions regarding fees. Some sellers say that Etsy is the most affordable option for their business while others say that Etsy’s increasing fees are forcing them to leave the platform. Take a look below at a couple of comments I found on Etsy’s community forum from 2019. I think both of these quotes encompass user sentiment:
“I think Etsy’s fees have got ridiculous. I am getting charged nearly 13% (incl VAT). This is not viable for me, I will either have to close my shop or put up my prices. Etsy used to be a viable platform for crafts people, designers and sole traders but their fees are too high and too complicated. I have complained.”
“It’s still much cheaper than eBay, where it’s 10% on sale price and shipping. I think the new billing system did us all a favor by making us much more aware of what our profit margins actually are, and forcing us to take a hard look at our business model. My big revelation was that I seriously need to eliminate ALL the low priced items – a $3 item that sites for 2 years before it sells is actually losing money. Planning to flea market half my inventory when the weather warms up.”
More recently, Etsy has caused a stir with its announcement about mandatory Offsite Ads for some sellers. There are a couple of comments from the community forum in March 2020 that represent the conversation currently underway about this new policy:
“This may be exciting for those who WANT to advertise, but for those of us who do not want to advertise, this is a strong-arm technique. We deserve the right to opt out.”
“…I am capable of working out my own costs and I have. And that INCLUDES advertising. Time will tell but for my shop I think these adverts will increase my profits. Everyone screamed about the current adds, but guess what? Yep, they worked really well for my shop. Business is booming, each month I am up. The only thing I do disagree with is the fact that for successful sellers, its mandatory. That isn’t fair.”
Is Etsy Worth The Cost For Your Business?
So, is Etsy worth the expense for your business? That depends on a few factors: your profit margins, and the value you derive from the marketplace.
In order to really use Etsy to your advantage, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your profit margins. If you aren’t careful, Etsy fees can easily eat into your profits, causing you to actually lose money on a sale. Here’s a reminder of Etsy’s fees:
Transaction fee: 5% of total
Payment processing fee: 3% + $0.25
Listing fee: $0.20 of total
Total Fees: 8% +$0.45
So, let’s imagine that one of the products you sell costs you $5 to make, and you sell it on your platform for $15 with “free shipping.” Here’s a breakdown of what associated fees would be.
Shipping costs (estimate): $5.00
5% transaction fee: $0.75
3% + $0.25 payment processing fee: $0.70
Listing fee: $0.20
Total expenses (including shipping): $6.65
When we subtract the cost of making the product and the expenses related to fees, we end up with a $3.35 profit margin. In this example, you’d likely need to raise your pricing in order to increase your profit margins and better account for the cost of offering free shipping.
Another factor you’ll want to keep in mind is the value your business derives from the platform. What value does Etsy provide to your business? Is it the ease of being found by new customers? The ability to sell products online without having to maintain a website? This value, whether or not you can put a dollar sign in front of it, is a huge factor in your decision to use Etsy despite the fees.
How To Offset Etsy Seller Fees
As I mentioned above, in order to succeed on Etsy, you have to pay close attention to your bottom line. Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay on top of Etsy Seller Fees:
Increase Prices: The most obvious way to protect your profits is to increase product pricing. Often, sellers are worried that increasing the cost of their goods will make them less competitive. While this is sometimes the case, I have also seen Etsy users reporting that even after they increased their pricing, their sales did not experience any decrease. This could be because buyers often view higher-priced items as higher quality. Perhaps shifting your pricing will surprise you by having a positive impact on your brand.
Cut Costs: This is the next obvious step. Rethink the way you handle both production and shipping. Is there any way you can make your products faster or more affordably without significantly impacting quality? And when it comes to shipping, are you comparing options from multiple shipping carriers to make the best decisions possible? If there’s an area where you can lessen your expenses, do so. It’ll make a big difference.
Weigh The Pros & Cons Of Ads: If you have the ability to choose whether or not you use offsite ads, I would consider this very carefully. If you opt in, you’ll likely get a number of sales that you wouldn’t otherwise, but you will also need to leave space in your profit margins for the occasional 15% fee.
Don’t Keep Stale Listings:Â Because your listings renew every four months (for an additional $0.20 fee), you want to make sure that the products you list on your store move within four months. Don’t keep stale listings around. Over time, they may end up costing you more than the product is worth.
Get Help From The Community: The Etsy community is a strong bunch of sellers. Ask the Etsy community forum for ways they are handling Etsy’s fees, and to get more specific advice on your own store.
Tired Of The Fees & Ready To Switch?
While some merchants choose to navigate Etsy’s ever-shifting fees and guidelines, many sellers are tired of constantly adjusting their prices to reflect new fees. If you’re one of those sellers who is fed up with Etsy’s various fees, it might be time to try something different.
There are plenty of other ways to sell online, including opening your own online store or just trying out a different marketplace. For some advice on leaving Etsy, read our article 8 Signs You’re Ready To Leave Etsy (And How To Do It). And for a few suggestions on quality selling tools, check out our article on The Best Etsy Alternatives For Online Sellers.
So keep making great products, and keep an eye on your profit margins. Whether you choose to stick with Etsy or switch to something else, we wish you the best of luck.
The post The Real Cost Of Selling On Etsy: Etsy Fees, Pricing, & Offsite Ads Explained appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 (or coronavirus) pandemic has changed the world we live in. This global emergency is all that anyone’s talking about, whether you flip on your TV or log onto social media. One thing that has been circulating throughout the news in recent days is the term “social distancing.” For consumers, social distancing may be an inconvenience that ultimately helps slow the spread of the virus. For business owners, on the other hand, social distancing has a much bigger impact. With states putting restrictions in place and the majority of consumers opting to self-isolate, many businesses are shuttering their doors. It may feel like too much for you and other small business owners to handle.
It is a scary time for everyone. And while we don’t know what the future holds, there are a few things you can do starting now so that your business can adapt to and survive the coronavirus. In this post, we’re going to take a look at social distancing. We’ll talk about what it means, how it may affect your business, and how you can adapt and grow closer to your customers during this challenging time.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a strategy designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that events or gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the virus. If you do go out in public, it’s important to stay at least six feet away from other people, as one of the ways that the virus is spread is through close contact.
It’s also recommended to limit going out in public unless necessary, such as when buying groceries or receiving medical care. Travel bans are being put in place by countries around the world, and unnecessary travel should be canceled or rescheduled.
What Does Social Distancing Mean For Small Businesses?
Many businesses are also taking steps to protect their employees and customers, either by law or simply by choice. In states like Illinois and Ohio, all bars and restaurant dining rooms have been required to close. Other states may follow suit, while some businesses are choosing to close their doors before it’s even required. This includes retail stores, gyms, daycares, movie theaters, hotels, and casinos. Others aren’t completely shutting down but are closing public spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms and hotel conference rooms.
Unfortunately, social distancing means that most small businesses will see a downturn in their business. Reduced operating hours, closures, and fear and uncertainty among the public all equal a reduction in customers. The good news, though, is that there are ways that you can better connect with customers and continue to bring in revenue — strategies that we’ll discuss a little later.
With all that’s going on in the world today, there’s no better time than right now to evaluate your business policies for now and the future. For starters, take a look at your staffing policies. It’s a good time to inform employees that anyone that is sick should stay home to protect themselves and others. Not only does this apply to the coronavirus, but also to other contagious illnesses such as the flu.
Next, reevaluate your cleaning and sanitation policies. It’s likely that you already have some in place, but are you doing enough? In addition to your typical cleaning and disinfecting routine, consider cleaning more frequently. Many businesses are changing their hours so that employees have extra time to clean and sanitize surfaces before opening again the next day. Taking the time to clean and sanitize your business helps protect you, your employees, and your customers from the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Another thing to take a closer look at is your payment policy. Will this remain the same, or will you only accept payment cards? If you’re now taking orders online or by phone, do you have a way to do that securely? If not, it’s time to explore your options to make payments safe and convenient for customers. Learn how to get started by checking out Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments.
No matter what you choose to change within your business, there’s one thing that you must do: keep your customers in the loop. Send out emails, post signage (if your business is still open), or use social media to provide updates, such as new hours, online ordering options, and measures your business is taking to protect customers.
4 Ways You Can Adapt To Social Distancing & Keep Your Business Afloat
The coronavirus has already made its impact on the world, and there’s no predicting what will come next. Instead of sitting around and waiting, it’s time to take initiative and find new ways to serve your customers and keep the money flowing. You may have to get creative, but there are options that can help keep your business operating despite social distancing. And the best news? Many options don’t even require a huge financial investment!
Unsure of the next steps for your business? Consider adopting one (or more!) of these strategies:
Self-ordering kiosks & checkouts
Online ordering & carryout
Selling on social media
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these strategies to help you determine which is best for your business.
Adding Self-Serve Kiosks & Checkouts
If your business is a retail shop or quick-service restaurant, consider adding self-serve kiosks and checkouts. Implementing this technology into your business allows your customers to scan products they’re buying, place orders from your menu, and even pay for their purchases all through a kiosk or checkout terminal.
How does this benefit your business? There is less interaction with other people, so this strategy can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. If you’ve reduced your staff due to illness or expenses, self-serve kiosks and checkout terminals help ease the burden that falls on your remaining staff.
However, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. First, not every business will be able to use this tech in their business. Retail stores and quick-service or fast-food restaurants would benefit the most from the addition of self-serve kiosks and checkouts. And while these conveniences can lighten your load, you’ll also need to remember that your equipment must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly, and often.
Another drawback is the expense. Installing self-serve kiosks and terminals can get pretty expensive, and businesses that were struggling prior to the epidemic may want to look at more cost-effective options. However, it may be well worth the cost for a number of small businesses. Adding this technology to your business can help you better compete with your competitors — and in some cases, even give you a leg up. More businesses are moving to the latest point-of-sale (POS) systems and terminals, so now could be the time for your business to get set up.
If pricing still has you on the fence, know that there are options. Some POS providers provide financing, allowing you to make affordable payments over time. You can also write your equipment off come tax time.
If the concept of self-serve kiosks and checkouts is foreign to you, learn more about this technology and why it could be right for your business by checking out, A Basic Guide To Self-Service POS Systems.
Adding Online Ordering, Delivery, & Carryout
Many governments around the world are ordering the closure of restaurant dining rooms. Whether a closure is mandated in your area or you simply choose to close the dining room on your own, there are still ways to bring in revenue. Many restaurants are now offering online ordering, delivery, and carryout services.
If this sounds like a lot of work, in many cases, it’s hardly any work at all. In fact, you may already have everything you need to start serving your customers in new ways. Before you get started, determine what strategies will work best for your restaurant. For example, do you have an unused drive-thru window? Do you have servers and bussers that you could keep on staff to deliver orders or box up takeout options?
Now is a good time to get really creative, too. For instance, if you plan to shorten operating hours in the evenings, consider offering “take and bake” meals that customers can heat up at home for a quick and tasty dinner. Or you could take a load off of your fatigued customers by offering curbside pickup — they place an order, park their vehicles, and one of your staff members brings their order right to their car.
How do you get started in offering these new options to customers?Â It may be easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.
How To Accept Call-In Orders
Some customers may not have access to the internet or simply prefer to call in their orders. Call-in orders can be used for delivery, in-store pickup, or curbside carryout. There’s a good chance that your restaurant’s POS system already offers this feature. If you’re unsure of how to do this, contact your POS company to learn if this feature is available.
If your POS system doesn’t have this feature, it’s possible to do this manually. Have someone man the phones, take down orders and relay them to the kitchen, and ring up each customer.
How To Accept Online Orders
During the pandemic, many people will be at home placing restaurant orders online. The easiest way to offer online ordering is by seeing if your POS system integrates with third-party services such as GrubHub, Postmates, or DoorDash. Customers can easily place online orders for pickup or delivery, and you won’t have to add extra staff to handle your deliveries.
If you want to keep your employees busy, consider adding in-house delivery services. While this will require more work on your part, you can utilize current employees to take on this task. The benefits of this option are two-fold: you’re providing a needed service for customers while allowing your employees to continue to work and get a paycheck. Like the other strategies in this post, this is also one that you can maintain after restrictions have been lifted and life begins its return to normalcy.
If you’re in the restaurant industry, this time can be a challenge. Keep serving your customers and bringing in revenues by checking out our Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants.
Expanding To eCommerce
If you are a retailer, you’re in luck. Even if your doors remain closed during the pandemic, you can still provide your products to customers that shop online. If you’re new to eCommerce, making the switch can seem long, difficult, and expensive. But you’d be surprised at how easy this is for may retailers.
This option will be easiest for retailers with limited inventory. If you’re a larger business with a lot of inventory, setting up an online store isn’t impossible but may take extra time and effort.
While you can certainly set your web store online manually, first look into the capabilities of your POS system. Many systems already integrate with popular web store options and even offer automated features like importing inventory.
New to eCommerce? Learn how to get started in just five easy steps.
Selling On Social Media
If you’re unable to easily set up a web store or you have a large online following, you can put social media to work for your business by selling on selling on Facebook or using Instagram Shoppable Posts. The advantages of selling on social media are that it’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. This is a great option for any retailer that doesn’t want to set up a full eCommerce site but still wants to reach customers and bring in revenue.
The Best Ways To Stay Close To Your Customers (While Practicing Social Distancing)
Social distancing may mean that your business sees fewer customers. Even when the pandemic is over, it may take some time for business to return to normal. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop off the radar of your customers. Use these strategies to continue to connect with customers while practicing social distancing.
Use Social Media
Many people are stuck at home right now checking their social media. Why don’t you let your posts be among those that they see? Use your social media pages to keep customers updated on what’s happening with your business. Post updated store hours, closures, and any other changes to your regular operating schedule. You can also use social media to announce new services (such as your new online store or delivery services), post current and upcoming promotions, and keep your customers excited for what you have to offer during and after the pandemic.
Use Email Lists
Not everyone uses social media, so make sure to keep all customers updated that have signed up for your email list. If you don’t already have an email list set up, make sure to add a sign-up option on your website and social media pages. Just as you did on your social media pages, you can update customers on changes within your organization. You can also use your email lists to offer exclusive promos to subscribers.
Offer Gift Cards
Now is a fantastic time to offer gift cards that can be purchased now and used later. This is a great way for customers to plan future purchases or even provide a quick and simple gift for their loved ones. E-gift cards are easily purchased online and sent right to the customer — no plastic cards or in-store pickup required. Many POS systems, payment processors, and online stores integrate with gift cards, so check with your provider to learn more. You can also read our post How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business to learn how to get started.
Promote A Good Cause
While you want to remain top-of-mind for your customers, don’t just think about the hardships of your own business. Instead, spend time encouraging your community to give back in any way possible. Donations to food banks or local organizations and volunteering are just a few options that can bring the community together during these difficult times. You may even consider launching a fundraiser or directing customers to other fundraisers, events, and news in your area.
It’s a scary time for all of us out here, so try to remain positive and keep your customers in good spirits. There is enough negativity throughout the news and social media that can raise fears and anxiety. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening in the world around us, but instead, put out positive and encouraging messages. There’s no better time than right now to connect with your community and offer your support for your followers and customers.
Adapt Your Business To Social Distancing To Weather The Storm
People are dealing with a lot of fear and uncertainty worldwide, and business owners are no exception. Your health, the health of those around you, and maintaining your livelihood can easily overwhelm you. But just know that there are options available that will help keep your business afloat. While you may have to dedicate your time and may even need to consider a small investment, these efforts can boost sales and help your business come out on the other side. Good luck!
For more resources on surviving the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, check out our COVID-19 hub for small businesses.
The post Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Credit card companies across the board have been stepping up their rewards game recently, but one program has consistently come out near the top. That program is — as you can probably guess by the title of this article — Chase Ultimate Rewards.
With a plethora of redemption options — and bonus rates for travel redemption — Chase Ultimate Rewards makes a great case for being one of (if not the) best rewards program on the market. Most business users shouldn’t have difficulty utilizing the points they earn with one of Chase’s credit cards.
So how does Chase Ultimate Rewards work? We’ll take a peek into the nitty-gritty below, so read on through to find out!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Basics
There’s not really too much to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It’s basically just Chase’s way of marketing credit card rewards. The program enables card users to earn reward points with purchases and then redeem those points for a variety of options. Note that even Chase’s cash back cards earn points usable through Chase Ultimate Rewards — these types of cards are merely marketed as “cash back” earners.
By signing up for a credit card that’s a part of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll be able to access a slew of ways to redeem the points you earn with your card. From travel to cash back to Amazon purchases, there should certainly be a redemption method to suit your fancy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has been around for over a decade — the New York City-based bank launched the program way back in 2009. Originally kicked off with just two credit cards, Chase Ultimate Rewards now basically touches the entire stable of Chase’s first-party cards.
What Is The Point Value For A Chase Ultimate Reward Point?
The exact point value for points obtained within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program will vary on how you redeem them. However, the general value will range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.
Let’s take a deeper look at what you can earn through Chase Ultimate Rewards based on the redemption method:
Travel: Depending on the credit card you have, your points value can equal anywhere from 1 cent to 1.5 cents on travel redemption.
Gift cards: Gift cards picked up through Chase Ultimate Rewards usually earn 1 cent per point. In some cases, however, you may be able to collect gift cards at a slightly better rate.
Cash Back: When you redeem your points as cash back in the form of direct deposit or statement credit, you’ll receive 1 cent per point.
Experiences: Should you book an experience through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the marketed cash value normally equals 1 cent per point. Note, however, that Chase sets the value for these experiences, so the true value of booking experiences with points may be difficult to calculate.
Apple Purchases: Buying Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards will net you 1 cent per point.
Amazon Purchases: Using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at checkout on Amazon.com will earn a fairly unimpressive 0.8 cents per point.
Additionally, if you transfer your points to a travel partner outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to redeem points for multiple cents per point.
Is Chase Ultimate Rewards Different For Businesses?
While Chase credit cards marketed towards businesses may earn points at different rates than their consumer counterparts, Chase Ultimate Rewards itself doesn’t really function differently for businesses. You’ll still be able to use the points you picked up with a business credit card for travel, gift cards, cash back, and retail purchases. Transfer of points to partner programs outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards is also possible for business users.
Instead, the primary difference is how fast you collect points and on what purchase categories earn you those bonus points. For instance, the Ink Business Preferred credit card can snag 3 points per dollar spent on shipping purchases. That purchase category is unique to Chase business cards — it’s not possible to specifically earn bonus points by using a Chase consumer card for shipping purchases.
When looking at the benefits outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may notice other differences between Chase’s consumer and business credit cards. This might include stuff like employee cards or cell phone protection — two benefits exclusive to cards within Chase’s business card stable. However, these differences come via the cards’ benefits packages and not from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Credit Cards Eligible For Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase has a number of first-party credit cards that dole out points for Chase Ultimate Rewards. To start down this journey, let’s look at Chase’s business-specific cards first.
Ink Business Unlimited
Chase’s unlimited cash back credit card for business use is the Ink Business Unlimited card. With an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you’ll be earning rewards at a fine clip.
While the card is marketed as a “cash back” credit card, you technically earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spent. Because of this, rewards earned with an Ink Business Unlimited card can be redeemed for the gamut of Chase Ultimate Rewards methods. This includes cash back, gift cards, and travel.
Beyond its base rewards scheme, Ink Business Unlimited features no annual fee and a slew of benefits aimed at businesses, such as free employee cards and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
For more information, read our review.
Ink Business Cash
The second cash back business credit card on offer from Chase is the Ink Business Cash card. You can collect 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases every account anniversary year. Plus there’s an additional 2% back on gas station and restaurant purchases (also with a $25,000 annual cap).
Just like Chase’s other cash back business card, Ink Business Cash technically gathers its cash back in the form of points. As such, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, gifts cards, travel, etc. through Chase Ultimate Rewards’s portal.
For benefits outside of rewards, Ink Business Cash has no annual fee, employee cards at no additional cost, and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
To take a deeper dive, check out the Merchant Maverick review.
Ink Business Preferred
Savvy business travelers may like Ink Business Preferred. That’s because this card dishes out 3 points per dollar spent on travel (as well as shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and select internet advertising). On top of that 3x bonus rate, points are worth 25% more when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Besides travel, you can redeem points for Chase Ultimate Rewards’s other methods. However, booking for travel will likely be the most economical choice. There’s also the option to transfer points to one of Chase’s travel partners on a 1:1 basis — this may see you saving even more money than just cashing in for the 25% bonus rate.
Ink Business Preferred also has no foreign transaction fee, as well as cell phone protection and free employee cards. Note, however, that all these perks come at a cost — Chase requires a $95 annual fee to use the card.
If you’re curious to learn more, our in-depth review has you covered.
Beyond business credit cards, there are plenty of consumer cards that are eligible for Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even though you might be looking at a credit card for your business, a consumer card might work for you. Here are the first-party consumer credit cards that work with Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Freedom (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter)
Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back)
Sapphire Preferred (2X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 25% more when redeemed for travel)
Sapphire Reserve (3X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 50% more when redeemed for travel)
Chase’s other, co-branded cards with hotels and airlines don’t use Chase Ultimate Rewards. To see the full list of Chase credit cards, check out our deep dive into Chase’s cards.
How To Earn Rewards
The simplest and most obvious way to earn rewards for Chase Ultimate Rewards is by spending money with your Chase credit card. Depending on the credit card you have, you can earn between 1 and 5 points for every dollar spent. Chase’s cash back cards will also earn points despite the “cash back” moniker.
Additionally, all of Chase’s Ink Business credit cards currently earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides. This limited-time partnership between Chase and Lyft runs through to March 2022. Chase’s array of first-party consumer credit cards can also take advantage of this partnership — the Sapphire Reserve card takes the cake here by earning a whopping 10x points on Lyft rides (the other three Chase consumer cards collect at the same 5 points per dollar rate as the business cards).
Beyond spending cash, there is at least one other way business users can earn rewards to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you already have an Ink Business Unlimited or Preferred credit card, you can refer your card to up to five other businesses per year. You’ll collect the equivalent of $150 per referral sign-up if you have the Unlimited card (so up to $750 per year) or 20,000 points per referral if you have the Preferred card.
It’s worth noting that the referral program is also available for those with Chase’s Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Sapphire Preferred consumer cards. If you have one of these cards, each friend referred to the card will net you either $100 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 15,000 bonus points (with the Sapphire Preferred). You can earn up to $500 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 75,000 points (with the Sapphire Preferred) annually with this method.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption Options
There are plenty of ways to use your points on Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s take a deeper look below.
The most marketed way to utilize Chase Ultimate Rewards is by booking travel. Trip booking options include airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
Chase has partnered with travel booking site Expedia since 2018 to run the back-end of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s travel service. As such, you should generally see similar prices when comparing Chase Ultimate Rewards and Expedia.
If you have a cash back card through Chase, booking travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the standard 1 point equaling 1 cent. Points cards are where things get interesting. Both Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred users will snag 25% more value out their points when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase’s premier consumer card, the Sapphire Reserve, garners a whopping 50% more value.
While booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards can be convenient and may save a bit of cash, a major drawback is the fact that you won’t be booking directly with airlines or hotels. This means that if something goes awry with your trip, you’ll need to contact Chase. Chase will then reach out to customer service on your behalf, potentially costing you time and giving you a headache.
If you’d like your points to go to something outside of travel, Chase provides the option to redeem points for gift cards. At the time of writing, Chase advertises that Ultimate Rewards offers “over 195 gift cards” from various brands.
Generally speaking, 1 point equals 1 cent when redeemed for a gift card. However, Chase will occasionally run “sales” on cards from specific brands. For instance, you might be able to get a Lowe’s gift card for 5% off or a Jiffy Lube one for 10% off.
Unless you are snagging a gift card during a sale, getting gift cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards may not be the most economical way to use your points.
The simplest Chase Ultimate Rewards method is to redeem your points for cash back. If you go this route, you have the option to deposit the cash directly into your bank account or receive statement credit. Cash back usually takes three days before being posted to your account.
No matter the Chase credit card, a single point is worth 1 cent. This means that Chase Ultimate Rewards’s cash back isn’t spectacular — however, it does allow you to use your rewards more freely than if you redeemed them for travel or gift cards.
Another redemption method Chase includes with its Ultimate Rewards program is “experiences.” Here you can use your points to book “experiences” from a selection of options, including fine dining, sports games, and music concerts.
During writing (in February — some of these events are seasonal), example experiences redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards included:
Ski lift tickets in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont
Tickets to professional sporting events, including basketball, hockey, and golf
High-class dining experiences
In general, these experiences were valued at 1 point equaling 1 cent. However, because Chase sets the “cash value” for each experience, it may be difficult to gauge the true value when redeeming points for experiences.
As far as total value, some packages are as cheap as 13,000 points for a Squaw Valley lift ticket. Others are vastly more expensive: two Saturday-Sunday tickets to the 2020 PGA Championship with access to Chase’s hospitality chalet and three nights at a hotel will run you a cool 265,000 points.
Note that because most available experiences are situated in large cities, you’ll want to live near a highly populated place or be traveling in one to take full advantage of this Chase Ultimate Rewards perk. Card members who live in rural Alaska, for example, may have difficulty finding a local experience to take advantage of.
If you like Apple products, Chase has partnered with the tech company to allow you to pay for all or part of an Apple purchase. To use your points this way, you’ll need to make your purchase through an Apple-branded online store accessed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While this method does make it easier to buy the latest iPhone or AirPods, you won’t be saving anything extra here: 1 point is worth the standard 1 cent when redeemed for Apple products.
By far the measliest way to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards is on Amazon purchases. After you link your Amazon account with your card, you’ll be all set to use your rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. However, keep in mind that points redeemed for Amazon purchases are only worth 0.8 cents. As such, we can’t really recommend redeeming points in this way.
If you want to maximize your Amazon rewards and you also want to sign up for a card through Chase, it may be worth going with the bank’s co-branded Amazon credit card. This card, which can earn up to 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, features a rewards scheme that allows you to use rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. Note, however, that rewards obtained through Chase’s Amazon card don’t earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
We’ll go into more depth below, but if one of Chase’s own redemption methods don’t suit your fancy, you can transfer your points out to one of 13 travel partners. These travel partners include both airline and hotel loyalty programs and can be one of the more lucrative ways to use your points.
Additionally, you can transfer points between multiple Chase accounts if you have several credit cards. Consolidating points can be a great way to save a bit extra cash when booking travel or if you’re planning to close a card.
Chase Transfer Partners & Best Ways To Transfer
With 13 different transfer partners, Chase has a nice array of loyalty programs where you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis. These partner programs include both airlines and hotels.
At the time of writing, Chase’s airline partners are:
Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways Executive Club
Flying Blue Air France/KLM
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For hotel loyalty programs, Chase is partnered with:
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to these loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis, the value of your points will vary depending on where you transfer your points to.
Determining the best loyalty programs to transfer to will often depend on your situation. Generally, however, World of Hyatt delivers the best bang for the buck when it comes to hotels — free nights start low as 5,000 points. For flights, check out British Airlines — its trans-Atlantic flights can be had for as little as 9,000 Avios (what British Airlines calls its points). Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program can also be a great deal if you snag a monthly promo.
The Best Ways To Use Chase Points
All told, if you have a rewards credit card from Chase, you’ll likely find that redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel (either through Chase’s own booking portal or by transferring out to a partner program) will stretch their value the furthest. This makes Chase’s point cards great options for businesses that require frequent voyages.
If you have one of Chase’s cash back cards, it’s hard to go wrong with redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Most methods output rewards at 1 cent per point value. This means that you can be flexible by redeeming your rewards just the way you want to.
This flexibility is probably one of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s strongest attributes and it helps make the program one of the best out there. Whether you are transferring points to one of Chase’s travel partners or redeeming points for the exact gift card you want, Chase gives you the freedom to choose — that’s pretty hard to beat.
The post Everything You Need To Know To Earn & Maximize Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Cloud technology is at once powerful and versatile. When applied to point of sale, the cloud enables business owners to not only sell, but also to optimize their sales using the data these systems effortlessly collect. In just a day’s worth of transactions, your POS has the potential to collect a wealth of information about your sales, your employees, your customers, and the trends that can make or break your business.
There’s a good chance you’re not taking full advantage of even your POS system’s basic data reporting capabilities. Or if you’re shopping around for a new cloud POS, you may be having a hard time sussing out the reporting features of each different POS app.
In this article, I’ll discuss how you can use POS reports to make better decisions concerning your business. Read on to learn how to harness the power of the cloud so you can sell smarter.
Why Your POS Data Is One Of Your Most Valuable Assets
The POS system is a central hub for most brick-and-mortar businesses. Using web-based technology, your POS gathers data about your sales, customers, employees, inventory, and more, and assembles all this information into digestible reports. The business owner or store manager can then access these reports online. POS reporting data can (and should) be used to make important decisions about things like staffing, which products to sell, and when to restock.
The importance of POS reporting becomes abundantly clear when you start shopping for a POS and you see that most systems charge extra for advanced POS reportingÂ capabilities.
With that said, you need to know how to interpret and apply your POS data in order for it to benefit your business.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how you can go about doing this.
How To Effectively Handle POS Data Analysis
POS systems organize raw data about your business into reports, which are typically pretty user-friendly. Still, you need to be organized and methodical about checking these reports in order to make them actionable.
Here are tips for checking your POS data:
Pull End-Of-Day Sales Report(s) Daily: In your daily sales reports, you can typically view things like your total sales, which items sold most, your busiest selling time that day, and other metrics for the day. The exact type of daily sales reports vary by POS, but your POS should have at least some kind of general daily sales or closeout report you can check to get a general overview of how the day went.
Pull “X” & “Z” ReportsDaily: The “Z” report shows a more detailed breakdown of your daily sales and is run at the end of each day; the “X” report shows that same data but can be run at any time of day to show a current snapshot of the day’s sales so far. These reports show detailed sales breakdowns by category, tender type, employee, as well as taxes, gratuities, gift card spends, voided items, and more. Importantly, the Z report will let you know how much cash should be in your register at the end of the day.
Pull Employee Reports Daily: See who worked that day and what they did. Checking daily will help you spot any discrepancies or suspicious patterns, and also make sure all employees have clocked out by EOD.
Check Payments Report Daily: You need to send your credit card transactions to your merchant services company daily in order to get paid. POS systems with integrated payment processing should automatically batch your transactions each day, and you should be able to view this information in some kind of daily payments report. It’s a good idea to check each day to ensure the batch was sent, and also check daily to make sure your bank deposits are matching your batch totals.
Check Other Reports Periodically & As Needed: POS software offers various other reports, including reports on order histories, stock counts, customer behavior, returns & exchanges, gift cards, discounts, comps, and more. While you don’t need to necessarily check all of your reports every day, it’s good to have this data at your disposal so you can dig deeper when you need to solve a problem—for example, if there is a discrepancy in your daily “Z” report, you might check your comps and discounts reports to see who might have issued a discount and why. Another example is checking your batch history for a certain day if a customer complains they were double-charged.
Pull Your ReportsWeekly, Monthly, & Annually To Identify Trends: In addition to pulling key reports daily, looking at sales and other metrics over longer time periods such as weeks, months, quarters, years, etc., will provide important insights about your business’s performance and help you identify trends over time.
With multi-location businesses, the manager at each location should have access to reports, and there should be a system in place for regularly sharing reports from each branch with other managers and/or the business owner.
POS Web Reporting VS Mobile Dashboards
In recent years, more POS systems have embraced mobile POS reporting, which lets you run reports on a dedicated mobile app. These apps may even show a live view of your sales in real-time. Mobile reporting apps make it convenient to quickly access key information about your business’s performance when you’re at home or anywhere else.
However, POS reporting apps often have a somewhat pared-down version of the reporting suite you’ll find on the web dashboard that you log into from your browser. When evaluating POS systems, find out if it offers mobile reporting, and if so, see how the mobile reporting suite differs from what you’ll see in the web portal.
A couple of examples of POS systems that offer strong mobile reporting apps are ShopKeep and Square, which offer the mobile reporting apps ShopKeep Pocket and Square Dashboard, respectively.
How To Optimize Your Point of Sale Data Collection
To generate accurate reports, business owners need to make sure their POS is accurately gathering data. While POS systems generally make it quite easy to collect data, you’ll still need to do some setup to optimize your data collection. This setup process can be tedious if you just want to get up and running, but it’s super important for data and analysis purposes. Trust me: you’ll thank yourself later.
Implement A Strong Inventory Management System
Inventory reports will only be accurate if you have a good inventory management system in place. For example, all of your inventory must be properly tagged by category. To gather information, you need to generate reports on your business’s profitability, and you’ll also need to enter the raw cost of each item.
Depending on your needs and the strength of the POS system’s inventory tracking feature, it may benefit you to also use an outside inventory management software program that integrates with your POS. Which brings us to the next item…
Make Sure Your POS “Talks To” Your Other Business Software
Whether you use software for inventory management, accounting, email marketing, or any other business function, it’s important that this software integrates seamlessly with your POS. Otherwise, you won’t be able to transfer data between systems. For example, many businesses use QuickBooks and thus need a POS that integrates with QuickBooks. Or, you may operate a Shopify online store and need a POS that integrates with Shopify to sync your in-store and online sales.
Sometimes, you may have to pay an extra fee for POS software integrations, especially if you need to hire a developer to create a custom integration. Depending on cost and other considerations, you might consider switching to a POS system’s in-house add-on for accounting, eCommerce, etc. (if they offer an add-on for that function).
Customize Your Reports To Track KPIs
Your business should have key performance indicators (KPIs) that relate to your goals for your company. Measuring and tracking these KPIs helps you focus on the data that matters most for your business. For example, if you have the goal of increasing the amount each customer spends, you’ll have a KPI for average spending.
Some POS systems let you create custom reports which can be helpful for tracking your unique KPIs—Square is one example of a POS with this capability. Even if your system doesn’t let you generate custom reports, you may be able to customize your reporting dashboard to show the reports that relate to your KPIs, or modify your reporting settings to send you those reports at your preferred frequency.
Train Employees On Best Practices
Not just cashiers, but everyone on your team needs to be trained on best practices to accurately collect data using the POS. This could mean making sure your sales team is trained on how to onboard customers to the loyalty program, training warehouse workers on how to properly tag inventory, etc.
The first step of training your staff is for the manager themselves to become well acquainted with all POS functions and how it collects data. Once you know what data the POS collects, you’ll be able to advise your staff accordingly.
6 Clever Ways To Use Your POS Data To Firm Up Your Bottom Line
What can you do with reports to actually increase sales or lower operating costs? Here are some ways to put that data to work:
Get Smart About Staffing: Check employee management reports to see if you’re adequately staffing for busy times or overstaffing during slow times. You can also gauge the performance of individual employees to see who earns the most commissions, who comps the most items, and other key metrics.
Optimize Your Outlets: Even if they’re only across town, two locations of your store or restaurant can have very different customer bases, so it makes sense to individualize your offerings at each location. With multi-location POS reporting, you can compare data between different locations to customize inventory and staff to meet each store’s needs.
Stock Only What Sells: Run reports to see what hasn’t sold and what’s selling like hotcakes. Then you can clear out the non-selling product for a more popular item. You can also use reports to see what items may sell best during certain times of the year and make stocking decisions based on that data.
Retain Your Customers: POS systems with CRM reporting help you maintain relationships with your customers. For example, you might check reports for lapsed customers and offer them a coupon to win them back. Or, identify your top customers and reward them with an exclusive offer. If your POS has a loyalty program, you can also track the success of any offers and coupons you send out.
Find & Fix What’s Gone Wrong: Theft, errors, and mismanagement are all problems that can be detected using POS reports. When you encounter a problem, there’s a good chance that the solution lies in the data. For example, if you see a lot of voids, this may indicate that your staff needs more training on how to use the POS system.
Motivate Your Team: Sharing information from your POS reports can be a useful motivational tool in a team setting. For example, you might have a meeting to show everyone how much sales increased last month — and then provide an incentive to sell even more this month! The employee insights from your POS reports can also prove useful for individual performance reviews, as they provide information on what the employee is doing well, and perhaps things they can improve upon.
Your Point of Sale Data Can Make Your Business More Successful, So Use It!
Point of sale data can tell you a lot about what’s going on at your business. From employees’ daily activity to inventory stock counts and long-term sales trends, POS reports put actionable information right at your fingertips. To better acquaint yourself with the different types of POS reports, I recommend reading the Top 5 Standard POS Reports and POS Reports: Getting Beyond The Basics.
If you’re ready to go get yourself a fancy new POS system that has better reporting tools, we have a plethora of information on the best POS systems for your buck. Here are some additional resources to help you find a POS system with excellent reporting:
Best Retail POS Systems
Best Restaurant POS Systems
Best Salon POS Systems
Best POS Systems For Bars & Nightclubs
Best POS Systems For Food Trucks
Best Coffee Shop POS Systems
Best Liquor Store POS Systems
Have a question about POS data or point of sale systems with strong reporting? Leave me a message in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
The post Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you want to start a subscription box company. I bet you’ve come here with questions, and if so, you’re in the right spot! We’ve got answers, inspiration, and plenty of resources ready for you to check out. Keep reading to discover how you to find niche subscription box ideas that will turn heads, how to keep your company running like a well-oiled machine, and how to reach more customers and expand your business once you launch. Let’s get going!
Step 1: You Need An Interesting Subscription Box Idea To Succeed
How will you find that amazing idea to dazzle your would-be subscribers? In part, the foundation of a successful subscription box company is that extra something that sets you apart. Interestingly, one of the most successful boxes in the last few years started with a regular old hygiene product we all probably purchase. I’m thinking about what the Dollar Shave Club did with a simple self-care item: the razor. Their campaign used visual textures, packaging, and smart, fun messaging to connect with potential subscribers. While they initially marketed to men, their brand has grown to target both men and women. The idea is that people sign up to save on a razor (something everyone needs anyway) and soon enough they’re adding non-essentials to their box as well. While you might have more of a whimsical idea than just a plain razor, this company shows that anything is possible with the right planning and execution.
There are a lot of exciting possibilities out there, so get a notepad out, grab a refreshing beverage, and let’s explore how to create a very successful subscription box business.
14 Subscription Box Business Ideas To Get You Started
The sky is the limit when it comes to curating a subscription box. It’s true that subscription boxes are becoming a competitive market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach a particular group with a new angle. As we saw with the Dollar Shave Club, sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that take off when coupled with a good message and imagery.
First, you’ll want to figure out your target audience and demographic and do the needed research on these folks. Will your box provide convenience, discovery, whimsy, and/or special interest? Here are some general ideas to help you narrow down the focus and come up with something unique for your subscribers:
Gourmet foods, exotic snacks, coffee, tea, candy, etc.
Pregnancy and baby
Arts and crafts
Gaming and “geek” interests
Fitness and health
Curated clothing and accessories
Self-care and pampering
Inspirational / encouraging
Beauty and grooming
Pet care and toy
Home (plants, cleaning, candles, art)
If you are feeling inspired, keeping brainstorming those ideas and write them down — you’ll need them for the research and discovery steps coming up. Keep reading to find out what you need to know to expand your business or start a brand-new business based on the subscription box model.
Step 2: Before You Start Planning In Earnest, Make A Business Plan
A business plan acts as a blueprint for success. It keeps you on track, aligns your goals, and helps you cover the basics. You’ll also need a business plan should you seek out funding or investors for your subscription box endeavor. The most important person this business plan serves is you, however.
Of course, you’ll need to do some more preliminary research and get your ducks in a row before creating your plan, but it certainly does not have to be complicated. We suggest starting with a lean business plan, which is a one-page document that follows this basic structure:
If you need a little more direction, check out our post, The How-To For One Page Business Plans
Research The Competition & Check Out Other Subscription Box Companies
As a part of your business plan, you’ll want to research the competition. The best way to start that is via a Google search. Go through the first few pages and click through the businesses there. The most important thing you can learn here is the average price point. You also can find product ideas there, but it’s more useful to identify what’s not in those boxes so that you can provide a unique angle.
Step 3: Consider How To Fund Your Subscription Box Business
There are several ways to go about funding expenses. You’ll need to consider a few things to help you assess what exactly you’ll need here.
Will you be paying the full price for some or all items?
Can you source wholesale to save costs?
Can you approach local artists or specialty shops for unique and specially priced inclusions?
Can you reach out to pitch suppliers for special pricing or free samples (more on this later)?
You can certainly do a combination of the above list. But whatever you decide, you’ll need to cover initial costs in marketing, setup, shipping, and inventory. Once you have an idea of what’s going in the box and your costs to fill it, then you can consider how you’ll go about funding the business.
Here are some options to consider:
Borrow money with a startup loan.
Use funds from advanced orders from subscribers.
Utilize a business credit card.
Another approach is to start small and limit quantities initially so you can cover your own costs. By doing this you can reduce your financial risk, not to mention create some urgency in the sale thanks to limited inventory.
Should You Crowdfund Your Subscription Box?
You could think about crowdfunding your fledgling business idea. Crowdfunding certainly has its advantages, along with some unique challenges. For one, you’ll need to devote marketing dollars to outreach and exposure for your campaign. And with that, you’ll need to lead with a great story to stand out and get attention. The best part of all this strategy, however, is that if you get your backers to support your start-up costs, you can reduce your debt and gain supporters while you’re at it. This strategy would likely be best for unique, cause-related, and highly niche ideas, as you’ll have the most potential for excitement from your backers.
There are several types of crowdfunding and (even more platforms to choose from), but rewards-based crowdfunding is likely the most appropriate choice for your subscription box business. Interested in exploring this option for your business? For more ideas and information on crowdfunding, check out Crowdfunding for Startups: 8 Tips For Launching.
Step 4: Seek Out A Supplier For Your Subscription Box Service
You’ve got a few options on how you’ll actually fill your box. You could choose to purchase directly from a wholesale company, pay full-price, or use a combination of both. For some or all of your products, initiating a long-term relationship with a supplier becomes the smartest option.
You can start finding some amazing things for your subscription box by networking and establishing good relationships with vendors, suppliers, or artists. Those of you who focus on unique or one-of-a-kind items will particularly need to get relationships going with specialty shops, sellers at trade shows, local artists, and crafters. Etsy can be a wonderful source for contacting niche and specialty item sellers in all kinds of categories — not just handmade items. Many sellers would be more than happy to supply samples or a discount, and some may even be open to sharing in exchange for exposure.
If you end up creating a full website for yourself (more on that coming up), make it easy for vendors to get in touch with you through a dedicated page and instructions for how to submit a request. While you may not be fielding a lot of inquiries when you launch, get it set up so you’re ready to respond to those requests when they start pouring in.
Why You Need To Perfect Your Pitch Before You Talk To Suppliers
We recommend creating your one-page business plan (discussed in Step 2) before approaching suppliers. If you already have an email list or social following, lead with these resources; suppliers will be more than happy to work with you if additional exposure to their product is in the mix. Whether you’re asking for sample sizes or a discount, remember that transparency, a good plan, and confidence in your approach will go a long way in your pitch.
Step 5: Build Your Web Presence & Customer Service Channels
You can approach selling your subscription boxes online a few different ways:
Hire a firm or freelancer to build a fully custom site.
Integrate a shopping cart with an existing site.
Choose an eCommerce platform including a site builder with website templates and a payment gateway all in one (e.g. Shopify, Read our review).
Sell via social channels only with a Facebook Store or Instagram Shoppable posts.
If the website part makes you a bit nervous, I have some good news for you. It really has never been easier to sell online — with little to no experience or technical expertise — by going with a website builder. Some platforms even offer all-in-one solutions with payments (including recurring billing), website templates, and a plethora of integrations for easier shipping and tracking built right in, too!
Where To Find eCommerce-Friendly Website Builders
Because they are both feature-rich, easy to use, and provide a lot of room to scale, we recommend Shopify and Square to business owners who are starting from the ground up with little to no tech expertise. And for those that do have coding expertise, you’ll have customization tools at your disposal, too! What makes me most excited about Shopify is that it enables multi-channel selling across platforms, including Facebook stores, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Amazon. With these options, you can take advantage of more opportunities for growth while meeting potential customers where they’re hanging out anyway. And what I love is that everything including your inventory and reporting is all synced no matter where you sell!
Whether you’re looking for just a shopping cart integration or a full all-in-one platform, I recommend checking out The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business as you can compare options side-by-side and get a lot more information regarding what to look for to match what you need.
I will leave one final thought in regards to eCommerce website builders â take advantage of any trial periods or demos to give yourself time to play around and explore your possibilities.
Why Your Choice Of Payment Processor Matters
Your payment processor is how you’ll actually accept payments, so this is an important business consideration. If you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, you’ll likely find yourself below the monthly volume of what many traditional payment processors serve.
Third-party processors like Square, PayPal, and Stripe (the backend processor of Shopify) make it possible for smaller businesses to start taking payments, and they provide an exhaustive set of (oftentimes free) tools to help you manage your business. ThisÂ convenience comes at a cost however: an increased risk of account freezes if you have an uptick in chargebacks or your account is considered higher risk.
Regardless of what type of merchant account you go with, however, you will have this risk, unfortunately. That’s why we recommend arming yourself with knowledge. Check out How To Keep Your Payment Processor From Holding Funds Or Terminating Your Account.
So what should you look for in a merchant account? Here is what you can keep in mind as you research companies:
Product Features: What comes with the account? Are there any beneficial add-on services like email marketing? Reporting tools?
Recurrent Billing: Allowing your customers to save and automatically be charged is a must!
ACH: Automatic bank transfers can lower your processing costs, and it’s another payment method to offer your customers.
Forms of Payment: Some payment flows like Shopify Payments let you easily add PayPal and digital wallets to your checkout.
Card Automatic Updating: This feature can prevent billing issues and ensures you don’t have to chase someone down for updating billing information if their card expires or gets replaced.
Check The Contract: Always read your contract! We recommend merchants avoid long-term contracts as they are often also laced with lots of fees.
Customer Service: It’s important to get the help you need when you need it. Companies that have several active customer service channels and generous customer service hours are a must for the eCommerce subscription box business.
Check out some of our top picks in payment gateways for online payment processing in our post The Best Payment Gateways For Online Payment Processing.
Solving The Customer Service Question
The customer service issue can also happily be solved with the right eCommerce platform, too. For instance, many web builders, like Wix, for instance, now include chatbots that allow you to communicate in real-time to field any incoming questions. Some companies direct their customers to send any order issues or inquiries via Facebook Messenger.Â If you’ve linked a Facebook business account with Shopify, for example, you can take advantage of order tracking as well. Of course, there are always reliable phone and email options. Whatever you decide, make it clear how your customers can contact you, along with the expected response time.
Regardless of customer service channels you ultimately choose, we suggest making it easy for your subscribers to alter their box or skip a month. Enabling them to easily skip a month may feel like losing a sale, but you’ll likely retain them for longer (and keep them less frustrated).
Step 6: Build A Marketing Plan To Draw In Customers
Getting a marketing plan down on paper is an absolute must, but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds. The subscription box biz is a bit competitive at the moment, and that’s where being savvy and making the most of the opportunities you already have can go a long way.
Social Media Marketing For Your Subscription Box
Social media can work wonders to establish your brand and get people excited. Follow the strategies below:
Start Posting Regularly: If you already have followers on social, you’re at an advantage, but if you don’t, consider building your following by posting regular content, tagging larger accounts, and networking.
Test A Paid Social Ad: If you’re up to it, I recommend testing a sponsored post or two to get people excited during your pre-launch focus and beyond. Facebook advertising is a very cheap way ($20-30 bucks) to get in front of potentially thousands of people, and your ad will go to Instagram automatically, too. It’s also easy to target your campaign (even down to niche interests).
Excite With a Giveaway: A giveaway is a tried-and-true method of increasing your footprint with every post! Ask your followers to tag friends, share, and direct them to your site to sign up with an email. You increase your reach exponentially while building an email list of people who are interested in you. It’s a win-win.
Tap Into Influencer Marketing: Whether you have a lot of followers or not, an inexpensive way to boost your brand is through influencer marketing. By offering your box to an established YouTube personality in exchange for a shout-out or review on their page, you can reach potentially thousands with your brand name. Influencers will likely be happy about to devote some screen-time to your sub box, as it’s not always easy coming up with fresh content.
Email Marketing For Your Subscription Box
If you already have an established business or a robust email list, email marketing is a great way to promote your subscription box service. Email is still one of the cheapest and easiest ways to advertise new products and services. I love that Square offers this as an add-on service for only $15/month and includes analytics, templates, and targeting.
Don’t have a list? Consider reaching out to another local business and paying a small fee for a shout-out in their next newsletter. Make sure you create an email form on your site to make it easy for people to show their interest in your box. You could even use a credit card number to reserve a spot for a limited quantity of boxes before you’ve even launched! Fanning the flames of FOMO (fear of missing out) is never a bad idea in marketing.
To get the most bang for your buck when it comes to emails, check out How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy (all skill levels).
Step 7: Create A Strategy For Headache-Free Shipping & Fulfillment
There are two major pathways to take with shipping and fulfillment: doing it yourself or outsourcing fulfillment. Of course, the size of your operation and your budget are factors, as well as logistical and space considerations.
Creating a strategy that gets your boxes out on time is key, but you are probably looking for the lowest possible overhead and tools that can help you save time. There are a plethora of integrations that work with Shopify and other eCommerce platforms to make it easy to print labels and ship from your home.
When it comes to costs, your shipping fees can vary widely depending on what’s in your box, size, and materials you need. In your planning stages, do research on which carriers are most economical and if it’s best to use multiple carriers. Most importantly, when it comes to packing up your goodies and shipping out your subscription box, keeping everything protected and beautiful (not to mention eco-friendly) goes a long way in customer retention. The truth is that when you’re starting out, you’re building your reputation one box at a time.
Thankfully, we have a library of comprehensive and easy-to-digest resources to help you find the right solutions and make the best choices for your business. For answers to questions about shipping and fulfillment, check out our posts, 8 Hacks For Saving On Shipping CostsÂ and Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your eCommerce Fulfillment.
5 Tips To Keep Your Subscription Box Business Growing
Create Referral Campaigns:Â Make the time-tested and powerful technique of word-of-mouth advertising work for you through a referral campaign. All you need to do is incentivize current subscribers to refer your box to their friends and family. Whether that’s through a bonus box or a few extra treats in their next shipment, those who successfully recruit friends and family to your brand deserve some celebration!
Stellar Customer Service:Â Nothing creates a solid reputation better than stellar customer service. To be the best, it’s not just about answering inquiries or solving problems, it’s about being proactive and listening to your current customers. Send them an email and ask them how they like their box, make amends right away for any issues (even if they weren’t your fault), and generally bring a “service with a smile” approach. Turning a customer into a brand ambassador is the ultimate sign of customer loyalty, and providing excellent care is how you’ll accomplish it.
Check Your Reports & Recognize Trends: Whatever eCommerce platform you go with, take advantage of any and all reporting and insights. Is there a certain geographical area that stands out? A peak time of year for sales growth? What is your “deadzone” in terms of new signups? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you target marketing and encourage growth through marketing when you need it most.
Identify Opportunities & Always Be Closing:Â Knowing what your customers love most about your boxes and looking at your sales reports gives you key insights into what items to purchase for upcoming boxes and new opportunities for growth. Once you have established customers, consider offering related or additional products that you know they’ll get excited about (because you’ve done your research). Remember Dollar Shave Club’s expansion from just the humble razor to a full line of personal care products? You want that potential growth for your business, too! Whether that’s through expanding into a new niche, identifying a new under-served market, or just boosting your sales with your current subscribers, always be closing!
Understand Cash Flow & Plan Ahead:Â Absolutely essential for any small business, including your subscription box company, is knowing your cash flow. You’ll need to figure out your cash flow so that you can make better decisions about your finances. To do this, you must understand how to create a cash flow statement, which breaks down your operating cash flow, cash flow of investments, financial activities, and net cash flow. We make this easier to understand and show you what tools can help in our post, How To Calculate & Analyze Business Cash Flow.Â
Are You Ready To Launch Your Subscription Box Company?
Launching a successful subscription box service requires some smart legwork, including researching your potential customers, curating irresistible products, buzz-building advertising, and structuring a plan of action. With the right eCommerce tools and a well-thought-out business plan, you can whittle down what feels like a giant, overwhelming project into something that’s more manageable.
For more startup resources, check out Small Business Startup Loans: Your 8 Best Options and The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.
The post How To Start A Subscription Box: 7 Steps To Launch A Thriving Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users.
They allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to create an entire “brand identity” with logos, typography, color patterns, and other elements across the web & print.
See Tailor Brands’ Current Plans & Pricing
In other words, Tailor Brands a toolset that makes your project “look good” everywhere from your Facebook page to business cards to website.
There are plenty of Tailor Brands reviews on the Internet – some good, some bad. This Tailor Brands review will look at how the software works, the upsides, downsides, and ideal use cases for the product based on my experience as a digital marketing consultant.
What is Tailor Brands?
Tailor Brands is a suite of tools to help you create & manage your business designs everywhere that your brand appears. They were founded in 2014.
They use software & artificial intelligence to not only create your business’ look and feel but also maintain that look and feel everywhere that you want.
Their main tool is their logo maker. Rather than use templates or quiz questions like traditional automated logo makers, they have you answer whether you like or dislike styles. Their AI does a version of NetFlix’s recommendation algorithm but with design styles.
Once you approve a certain design style, their software creates an entire brand identity and uses rules to apply it to applications ranging from a stand-alone logo to Instagram profiles to website headers to presentation headers.
Background on Tailor Brands
There has always been a plethora of DIY design tools on the Internet. I use Stencil for my Featured Images. I’ve used Canva for social images. I’ve used native tools with Buffer & social networks to customize my logos & images. I had a guy from Fiverr help edit my website CSS to match with my logo colors. I had a professional graphic designer on UpWork create a custom blog image for me. I’ve run contests for clients on 99designs.
In other words, the world of DIY design has been here for a while. You don’t need a Mad Men-esque setup of paying $$$ for graphic designers to create a pitch deck.
But the world of DIY design is also a bit of a frustratingly hot mess. It’s a world that’s good enough to be dangerous.
In other words, it’s accessible enough to let non-designers think they are designing a nice brand…when it’s a jumble of mismatched fonts, misaligned layouts, and conflicting colors.
It’s the difference between “Yeah, that’s nice” and “Damn, that is right on! How’d you do that?”.
Tailor Brands is an interesting product that is trying to use software, AI, and automation to take those details away from humans and just automatically apply it wherever you need it – to create a “brand identity with a stylebook” as it were.
How Tailor Brands Works
Tailor Brands works by moving you through its logo maker, which doubles as a brand identity developer. You are given options…and you can run the software as many times as you want.
Once you’ve approved your design, you’re taken to a studio with mockups & style guidelines. You then have a choice of 3 pricing plans*.
First, the $3.99/mo plan provides access to your logo, social media tools, and graphic design library. You can also connect your domain to a basic landing page builder.
Second, the $11.98/mo plans provide access to EPS vectors (for outdoor and print use) in addition to a full website builder and advanced design tools.
Third, the $25.98/mo plan provides access to social media schedulers and analytics so that you can bring your social media management under a single platform. You can also accept payments and run an online store.
*Note – you can cancel and keep all your design assets. So technically, if you just need a logo – you can get that for less than $50 (the $3.99 is billed for 12 months).
The plans all provide ongoing access to tools to manage your brand designs. You retain full ownership of all brand designs & assets even after you cancel.
Pros of Using Tailor Brands
For a relatively new product, Tailor Brands’ actual product is well-executed. There are few bugs or real complaints that I found with the actual core product.
Their real advantage (and disadvantage) is their unique positioning as a tool suite. Here are some of the main pros of using Tailor Brands not only for logos but as a design management tool suite.
Product Focus on Branding over Assets
As mentioned in the introduction, one big issue with the DIY design tool world is the focus on design assets. It’s easy to create a Facebook post on Canva or bulk generate Google Ads with Display Ad Planner. Those tools are easy and usually free. But they are inherently separate. *You* have to manage your images across different tools.
A huge pro for Tailor Brands is that they have an entire tool suite that focuses on unifying your entire brand everywhere. They focus on keeping that brand identity right on, rather than focusing on giving you the best kerning tool or biggest font library or the most intuitive CSS editor.
If you look at some of their design tools one on one with direct tool competitors, they may or may not be “the best”. But Tailor Brands can keep everything looking good everywhere, which is their main pitch to customers who would benefit from their product.
In my experience especially with small and local businesses, it’s a consistent brand identity (paired with a good product / service) that allows them to compete with established big name brands.
If you can just remove the infamous pixelated cover photo, you’ll probably beat your competition. And if you can ensure that your new assistant can quickly handle good looking Instagram posts…all the better.
That outcome is Tailor Brands’ main focus, and it comes off well in the product.
Pricing Structure & Cross-Sells
Every software as a service (SaaS) struggles with business models and pricing. You want your service to be accessible, but also profitable.
This balance is especially hard to strike with design assets where it’s usually a one-and-done proposition.
Tailor Brands runs on a subscription business model. But the subscriptions focus on the design tools rather than the design assets.
This structure creates a couple of of useful incentives.
First, it means that there’s no question of ownership of design assets. You own your brand, period.
In fact, it means that you can get a really cheap logo if that’s all you want. You can pay for one month, download your assets, and cancel. You’ve got a high-quality logo in a range of file types for less than $50.
Second, it means that while Tailor Brands has to keep optimizing their logo maker to bring in more customers, they also have to keep developing better design tools to keep customers around. There’s no disincentive to extort customers over their design assets or to drag their feet over product development.
Third, the subscription encourages use from customers rather than a one and done download. The real productivity boost for businesses is having a go-to design tool with everything in one place where you (or a new team member) can quickly create new designs & assets on an ongoing basis. And usually, the more you use a tool, the better you can get.*
*also you’ve got software that will adapt to frequent social media image requirements.
Ideally, there’s a virtuous cycle for everyone involved. Tailor Brands is one of the few companies where I think the cross-sells and upsells are not annoying, and generally useful.**
**also, small quibble, but do note that the prices are billed annually – so you are purchasing a full 12 months of access, even if you only pay monthly.
Turnaround Speed & Feature Versatility
Since Tailor Brands is fully automated, there are no constraints on time, speed, revisions, requests, or redos.
If you want to try graphic design a 2 AM Eastern, you can. If you want to completely redo your design, you can. If you need a mockup right now, you can get it. There’s no delay in turnaround or schedule to meet.
There’s no back and forth or waiting for your designer or virtual assistant. There’s just the software that is working 24/7/365. That’s a huge advantage for Tailor Brands. It works on your timeline.
And if you are trying to actually run a business, working on design any time means that it will get done. If you are running your business full-time, you likely don’t have time during business hours. And if you are working on a side project…you have to work on it outside business hours.
Additionally, since Tailor Brands has a whole suite of design tools, there’s no downloading or cropping or exporting or importing. Everything is just there to use.
Convenience generally beats everything. And when it comes to branding, Tailor Brands makes brand design convenient above all else.
Backend Quality & Usability
Even though Tailor Brands focuses on the branding aspect of design across their suite of tools, the tools themselves are high-quality and rock-solid.
They’ve built some tools in-house, but others they’ve high-quality 3rd party tools and customized them. For example, their website builder is built on top of the Duda website builder, which is one of the best website builders that I’ve used.
Same with their social media tools. It looks like they’ve white-labeled a 3rd party tool. But whatever it is, it’s legit and high-quality. Same with the design editor and others.
Each tool is solid & highly-usable on its own. But when they are all bundled within Tailor Brands’ suite, it makes each tool even more useful than it would be on its own.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using Tailor Brands
Every product has disadvantages, but especially a relatively new product like Tailor Brands.
Here are a few tradeoffs & complaints that I found with Tailor Brands. Some are simply the flip side of an advantage, but some are inherent to their approach.
Branding Process & Revisions
Tailor Brands’ fully automated, AI-powered design process leaves humans out of the process deliberately. That choice cuts costs, increases efficiency, increases choice, and makes the platform what it is.
But the tradeoff with this choice is that…it leaves out humans.
And humans are still critical to produce truly unique or truly outstanding brands. Brands are built on stories, and stories are what makes us human.
Humans can also ask pertinent questions, push-back on scope, implement creative deadlines, and invent completely new concepts.
Tailor Brands’s software can create a brand design and a brand style guide, but it cannot assign meaning or purpose of symbolism or even provide a reason why a certain design works over another – it only knows what “works” based on other user data.
The story / meaning part of branding is either your job or a job for another human. If you assign it to another human, that’s going to cost time & money.
And if you take on the job yourself, it’s something to be aware of and learn about.
Either way, it’s something to keep in mind when using Tailor Brands. There’s no process of “brand discovery” or mapping your customer’s psychographic persona. There are no revisions based on client feedback.
All that is for better and for worse. Before online design tools, agencies gave away the process and sold the assets. Now, you can get the assets affordably, but you still have to understand a bit about branding.
And that leads to the next tradeoff.
Customer Education & Brand Identity
Even though Tailor Brands does a lot of the branding & design work for the customer, they still leave a lot of creative work up to the customer.
The tradeoff of any service that claims to do “everything” for you is that the customer’s expectations are not set correctly. When it turns out that there is *some* work to be done, it’s easy to bail instead of figuring the work out.
A Tailor Brands customer still needs to be prepared to think through where, when, how they’ll need to use designs. The logo maker sequence is great, but after creating the logo, there’s very little guidance for a new customer.
There’s a ton of options with no real onboarding guidance or customer examples. Their welcome email series is limited to deals & coupons rather than “here are common next steps” or “here are some common use cases”.
I can imagine that customers who don’t have a strong sense of direction would churn quickly after getting a logo idea.
If you do end up using Tailor Brands, do note that you should have an idea of what *you* need to get out of it, rather than just using it for using a new tool’s sake.
Platform Product Lock-in
Tailor Brands is a hosted platform that focuses on convenience. And there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control on the Web.
The more convenient a product is…the less control you have. And the more control you have…the less convenient the product is. Think about RSS vs. Twitter. Think about hosted website builders vs. self-hosted CMS’. Think about an Amazon Seller listing vs. your own ecommerce store.
Tailor Brands makes everything downloadable. And they ensure that you truly own all your intellectual property.
However, like a hosted website builder, your work is inherently tied to their platform in many ways. The longer you commit to their platform, the harder it becomes to leave.
That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a disadvantage that’s the flip side of their big advantage.
But it’s an important tradeoff to understand. If you use the Tailor Brands’ platform over your own copy of Adobe Illustrator, email or Paint, do ensure that you are downloading and backing up *all* of your brand assets on your own computer for the sake of preserving your own intellectual property.
Company Structure, Age & Competition
Tailor Brands has been around since 2014. They are still considered an “early-stage venture-funded” startup. In other words, they are privately held and using investor money to focus on the product rather than profit or market share.
Like the platform lock-in tradeoff, this disadvantage is more of a consideration. Right now they are still at a stage where pricing & product can change rapidly. They also probably have a small team with limited resources. They also will have copycat competition from publicly held competitors like Wix, Fiverr, Squarespace, Vistaprint, and others.
The upside to being a customer at a young venture-funded company is that you can count on more resources going into a better product. The downside is that there’s still a risk that they could get bought or “pivot” in the future.
Tailor Brand Alternatives & Use Cases
A product / service is only as good as its customer fit. Tailor Brands is not for everyone. But for some, it would be amazing.
Here’s 3 use cases where I think they’d be a really good it.
New Business or Organization w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a new business or organization with no brand assets and no large budget for a human-led design process, Tailor Brands would be a perfect fit.
Now, I would think through which features & tools that you’ll need from them. If you need a more robust website presence and/or email with lots of features, you might want to look at a dedicated website builder, ecommerce platform, or even shared hosting. You could use Tailor Brands strictly for design tools and social media. Either way, a new small business is their bread & butter. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Personal but Online Project w/ No Brand Assets
If you have a small personal project that you want to look just right – think resume site, hobby site, non-profit idea, family project, etc – Tailor Brands would be a solid fit. You can get try out their logo maker for free here.
Existing Business or Organization w/ Redesign
If you have an existing business or organization and you want to refresh your look without committing to a design firm or outsourcing to several providers, Tailor Brands would be a good fit. You can use what tools you need. You can also download & use the EPS file to get any signage or custom assets made offline.
Now, Tailor Brands is not for everyone. If you feel comfortable coordinating designs and brand assets across different platforms or if you have the budget to pay a human for graphic design, then something else might be a better fit.
Here are a few direct competitors to Tailor Brands and how they compare.
Tailor Brands vs. 99designs
99designs is a contest-led marketplace for graphic design. You set a budget and run a “contest” among human designers based on your design briefing. I wrote a 99designs review here. But in short, 99designs is sort of the halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. 99designs is much more expensive than Tailor Brands, but you do get human ideas based on a design brief. 99designs also has a huge range of design contest options…but not the design management tools of Tailor Brands. Technically, you could (and should) check out both. See Tailor Brands here and 99designs here.
Tailor Brands vs. Fiverr
Fiverr is a huge marketplace for humans working on “gigs”. You think of a task that you need to be done, find a person to hire, and quickly get it done for you within Fiverr’s platform. Fiverr is also a halfway human point between Tailor Brands and an agency. The price ranges depending on skills and reputation. While you can great design assets from Fiverr, you are also in charge of managing all your design assets. You also have to expect to pay for several logos / designs before coming away with a good one. Tailor Brands would be a simpler, more affordable, and versatile fit.
Tailor Brands vs. Wix Logo Maker
Wix is the big brand name in the website builder world. I wrote a Wix review here. Technically Wix competes directly with Tailor Brands, even if they have a different focus. Tailor Brands focuses on how your brand designs are presented *everywhere*. Wix has similar tools, but really focuses their tool on website applications. In other words, Tailor Brands is a design tool with a website builder and Wix is a website builder with a design tool. Check out Tailor Brands here and check out Wix’s logo maker here.
Tailor Brands vs. DIY Tools
Between Canva, Stencil, and every other random logo generator on the Internet, Tailor Brands has plenty of competition for DIYers. If you have the time and wherewithal, you could get everything that Tailor Brands offers for free. The issue would be that all your designs would be dispersed among a bunch of tools…and you would be relying on your own design taste rather than a professionally built tool. In the end, I think that Tailor Brands is worth the money for the convenience and the designs. But for a quick sketch up of something you have in your head, Stencil is the simplest.
Next Steps & Conclusion
Tailor Brands is a unique and useful addition to the design world. In fact, for many businesses, it could do a full end around the traditional “upload your logo to a website builder” model.
By bundling design management tools, including a social media editor and quality website builder with an automated logo & brand designer, Tailor Brands has figured out something new & different.
If you are a non-designer trying to build a consistent brand identity across the Web & offline, Tailor Brands is worth a try.
See Tailor Brand’s Current Plans & Pricing
You might also be interested in my review of 99designs, my post on layouts, and my post on color palettes, and my post on hiring a web designer.
Good luck with your project!
Tailor Brands Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives
Tailor Brands is a suite of branding & design tools powered by machine learning for non-technical users. They allow businesses, organizations, and indi
Pricing is foundationally important to your business, and that careful dance between your product and its price is both an art and a science. Price too high and you might not see the sales you deserve; price too low, and the undervaluation of your product sends the wrong message to consumers and may cut into your profit. What’s a savvy business owner to do?
Be smart about pricing!
Do your research, analyze trends, and demonstrate flexibility. Pricing is foundational and it needs your constant attention.
Before You Set Your Price, Know Your Costs
It might seem simple in hindsight, but some business owners don’t know or haven’t calculated the cost of making (or obtaining) their products, and you can’t set a price without knowing that crucial detail. Period. The cost of goods sold includes everything from the material costs to labor and everything in between. (Don’t forget to factor in all your overhead, too. Rent. Electricity. WiFi. Shop fees. Advertising.) If something is priced correctly, the sales cover the cost and turn a profit. Priced too low, you lose money (or your product loses esteem!); priced too high, you may lose sales altogether. Meticulous budgeting is necessary if you want to step-up your pricing game.
Creators of lists and lovers of spreadsheets will rejoice at the chance to employ those skills to run cost analysis. Be judicious and thorough, and once you have the bottom-line for all your products, then you can develop a pricing strategy that fits with your business.
5 Types Of Pricing Strategies You Can Use
Each pricing strategy has its own pros and cons depending on several factors, including (but not limited to) the type of business you own, your cost of goods, and how many products you sell. Remember that the key to any pricing strategy is to research your options, analyze the numbers, and adapt and show flexibility if sales are stagnant.
This is the most common method of pricing. Once you have calculated your cost of goods (material, labor, overhead costs, etc.), from there you add a percentage of sales on top to calculate your listed product price. There are differing theories about the best way to calculate the “plus” (the markup) part of the cost-plus system. Markup largely depends on the market and your competition. The retail industry standard is 50%.
As an example, we’ll use cost-plus pricing to look at a product I sell: paperback books. I have a paperback book that I print through a third-party distributor. Author copies of this book cost me roughly $5.00. That’s the material cost: $5.00. But I still need to add in other costs: labor, advertising, convention fees. Let’s round and say the cost of goods is $7.00. I know my industry and know that a full 50% markup on this paperback would be a hard sell. I sell the books at $12.99 for a $5.99 profit.
From there, depending on where I’m selling the books (my website, an online store, a convention), I can calculate how many books I need to sell for my bottom-line and how many I need to sell to make a profit.
Cost-plus pricing has a lot of advantages. It lowers your risk for loss, is easy to calculate, and makes it easy to navigate price increases as costs change. Additionally, cost increases are passed on to the customer, and these price changes are easy to explain to suppliers and customers. It works well for stable industries where material and overhead costs don’t change. The disadvantages? A set markup ignores demand, determining the cost of goods may not be exact, and there’s no incentive to cut costs or streamline on the supplier end.
A loss leader is a product offered at a profit loss in order to encourage customers to buy additional products or services. This is also an industry pricing strategy in publishing and many other businesses that have a consumable or buildable client base. So, giving away a free copy of book one of a series is a great way to grab readers who will subsequently spend to buy the rest of the books. This also works for game consoles or other technology: often, you can get a console at a reduced price because buying individual games is how the company turns a profit.
There are also more predatory ways of using loss-leading, which is why it’s banned as a pricing practice in 50% of the United States. (And it may not be illegal, but restricted, in your state, so if you have a question about the legality of your pricing model, please contact an expert.)
The advantages are that it works well for industries that want customers to keep coming back for repeat sales, and it’s a safer model for a company that is large enough to absorb the initial loss. The disadvantages? Predatory practices ruin it for everyone.
“Riding down the demand curve.” Skim pricing is when you start off with a high price and lower it slowly to reflect competition/market over time. Game consoles work as another great example of this pricing model. When a console is first released, it’s marketability comes from anticipation and a feeling of scarcity. However, the product can’t sustain itself at that price and will come down over time to reflect a competitor’s prices more effectively.
The advantages to skim pricing are that it creates a high-profit margin after launch and helps recuperate costs quickly. But if you don’t have the clout or product to pull off the high price, this pricing model could backfire. Also, businesses need to find a way to incentivize the product if consumers know price skimming is coming and subsequently wait for the lower price.
Also called competition-based pricing, this pricing model relies on an understanding of what else is currently available from the competition. Based on knowledge of the market, a company will price its product higher or lower, depending on the needed strategy. Does your company want to offer the same service or product for less? Or do you want to advertise your superiority over the competition to prove why your brand is worth more? Researching your competition and their prices is an absolute requirement.
The advantage of market-oriented pricing is that you get a leg-up over the competition — and it’s fairly simple to price yourself based on what the competition is using. The disadvantages are that not knowing why a product is priced that way is a short-term solution, and following the crowd doesn’t always pay off (remember that time you copied another kid’s math worksheet answers and they got all the questions wrong?). If you want to price an item based on a market-oriented pricing model, that’s fine, but make sure you are running all the numbers, too, and that your decision is rooted in your long-term business needs.
Price anchoring has a lot to do with human psychology. (Pricing, in general, is often based on psychological research; human beings aren’t exactly the most rational of consumers.) The psychology is this: Humans tend to place importance and value on the information they hear first. So, if the perceived value of a product is $1000, slashing its price to $399 induces a great feeling of savings for consumers. But shhhh…the price was going to be $399 the whole time. (It’s like magic. Ooooh. Ahhhh.)
In retail, we see listed prices all the time that are pure invention: no one was going to pay that price. But if you see the original price connected with savings, your brain will be more likely to make a purchase. Anywhere you have a listed price and a sale price, you’re seeing anchoring in action.
Anchoring is also seen when you price a luxury item significantly more expensively than your target product. People will buy the target product feeling like they received a deal.
With anchored pricing, people will feel like they are getting a deal, and the product benefits from a perceived higher value. It’s not all good, though. People can become loyal to price and not company, and consumers may be annoyed at the tactic.
4 Major Considerations For Setting Prices
Pricing psychology is a major factor in your pricing decisions. There are copious books, research papers, and websites dedicated to the exploration of how the human brain works during purchasing decisions. You may or may not have known the names for the different tactics, but once you learn them, you see them employed everywhere.
One thing popular in the United States is charm pricing. Charm pricing is where you price something ending with a 9 or 99. For example, $19.99 instead of $20.00 or $5.59 instead of $5.60. It is one of many psychological pricing tools you can employ.
I would highly encourage you to check out additional resources, as we can only scratch the surface here. However, beyond the psychology of pricing, there are four other specific considerations you should keep in mind when setting prices:
Know Your Customer
It might be simple, but it cannot be understated.
Do. Your. Research.
Who is buying your product? Who buys your product generally? Who are your repeat customers? What pricing strategies worked in the past? Knowing your customers is knowing the psychology of their purchasing habits and understanding the marketing tools that would turn them off.
Know The Competition
Even if you don’t use competition-based pricing, you should still research your competition’s prices on the regular. Informed pricing is empowered pricing, and you cannot be informed unless you know what your competition is selling their product for.
Have A Financial Target
Don’t forget to consider a financial goal as you set your product pricing. Even if your goal is to break-even, that should translate into numbers. How many of X do you need to sell at what price to cover your costs? To make a 20% profit? To be able to take your family to Disneyland? Whatever the need, make it a goal, and give it numbers.
Know Your Worth
Heart-to-heart moment: it shows great respect for you and your product to price your work well. Both over-valuing and under-valuing yourself is a mistake. When you implement a pricing technique, it needs to come from a place of understanding: what does this cost to make and how much is it valued? You are worth more if you are in demand, it’s true, but humans will also pay more for things made with careful love and quality.
How A Good eCommerce Platform Or Point Of Sale System Can Help You Track Costs & Profitability
Math and spreadsheets are fun! For some people. For a few people. Select people, perhaps. But for the rest of us, there’s good news: eCommerce and point of sale systems now have reporting tools that can calculate pricing factors with a click of a button. According to our Merchant Maverick eCommerce and POS experts, any good software will include the cost of goods sold and profitability reports. Advanced reports can even track prices over time or specific vendor costs; employee labor costs and job costing.
POS products like Lightspeed have specific reports for businesses to manage markup and margins, and creating promotions.
Accounting software may also have access to reports that manage pricing tools. Check out our top accounting software picks post to see if there is a good fit for your small business needs.
Don’t Forget To Keep Testing Prices
Markets and products change all the time, and if you aren’t staying current on pricing in your industry, you won’t be able to navigate the shifting tides. Test a price and monitor its sales over time. If patterns emerge, use that knowledge to set a more permanent price.
Your pricing model is a guide, but prices and strategies shouldn’t grow stagnant. Being flexible and understanding the market, your bottom-line, your markups, and your margins will all help create a successful business.
The Bottom Line: Pricing Your Products Is Key To Building A Sustainable, Profitable Business
Pricing truly is the most important business decision you can make. There are things you can control about how you run your business, and one of them is the price. Your pricing should drive profit, and long-term profit, too — not just short-term sales. A good boost of sales during a promotion is nice, but it’s not a sustainable pricing model.
Know the competition, but don’t venture blindly into pricing without a clear understanding of your costs and market, too. If your current situation limits experimenting with building up an inventory or investing in advertising new pricing, you can look into a working capital loan to jump-start or renew your business growth!
No matter what, research, analyze, and demonstrate flexibility.
The post How To Price A Product The Right Way: Pricing Strategies & Smart Tips To Succeed appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you are looking to expand fundraising possibilities for your charity and are considering Square to process payments for your nonprofit, you may have a lot of questions. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place; this post covers all the information you’ll need to make an educated decision. We’ll look at the costs, fees, and all of the features that wait for you behind the curtain of Square’s processing. Square constantly updates what they offer, so there’s a good chance that within the next year, Square will offer even more features for nonprofits. That’s not to say that Square isn’t already a viable option for charities to take paymentsâyou’ll find that from setting up a free online shop to engaging your donors throughout the year, Square provides all the tools you need to get going, with options to integrate or add features as you need them. Let’s get started!
How Do Nonprofits Benefit From Using Square?
One of the biggest reasons I have a sweet spot for Square is that they have competitively-priced processing rates, and your nonprofit organization won’t face any surprise fees or markups on the backend. In addition to a straightforward fee structure, Square offers a considerable amount of free software.
Not only that, Square is so easy to set up that you can get your account up and running to start taking donations, sell merchandise, and even set up your website all on the same day.
While Square for nonprofits offers a plethora of benefits, it’s not without some potential hiccups, however. In the world of payment processing, one merchant’s dream is another’s frustration, so let’s take a look at what Square has to offer and discover if this solution is right for you.
The Limitations Of Using Square for Nonprofits
It’s important to understand that Square isn’t a traditional merchant account provider. As a third-party processor, Square offers greater accessibility to a wider amount of businesses, but there’s inherently a bit more risk involved as far as account stability with this model. When a business or charity raises a red flag, sometimes it’s hard to make things right again.
One of the most important ways to avoid issues is to accurately disclose your type of business and ensure that you don’t sell anything on Square’s prohibited goods and services list that would throw you into the high-risk merchant category.
While representing a very small fraction of all Square’s accounts, the largest complaints against Square involve account freezes and terminations. No matter what processor you go with, you’re going to have this risk, however. That’s why we encourage all of our readers to learn how to reduce their risk of termination or funding freezes.Â
Beyond this, Square offers a lot of useful tools for a very low price, but it’s certainly not all-inclusive. When it comes to SaaS (Software as a Service) for a charity, you can find other options that cover the basics for next to nothing — and there are also more complex solutions that go as high as $15K for mid-sized charitable organizations and above. It really depends on what your organization needs in ancillary tools.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what to expect with Square, and then look at how your charity can make the most of this low-cost option.
What Are Square’s Fees For Nonprofits?
As I mentioned before, what you see is what you get as far as payment processing costs. You won’t have any other additional monthly fees: no authorization fees, statement fees, refund fees or PCI compliance fees. You’ll also pay the same fee no matter what type of card your customer uses.
Be aware that accepting in-person payments versus web or invoice payments varies slightly, however.
Here are the Square fees for nonprofits:
2.6% + $0.10 for any tapped, dipped or swiped cards you take in person
Â 3.5% + $0.15 when you enter in a credit card number manually from the SquarePOS app, take payment in your Square Virtual Terminal, and process card-on-file transactions, including recurring invoices.
2.9% + $0.30Â for Square Invoices and eCommerce donations as these are both web-based transactions
You can also learn a bit more about Square’s Pricing in our article, How Much Does Square Charge?
Note that Square’s fees for nonprofit organizations are exactly the same fees that small businesses pay, and they’re designed for organizations that process less than $250,000 per year. Does your charity have higher projected donations coming in? Square may design a custom pricing package for charities and small businesses that process more than $250,000 per year in sales, but they consider that on a case-by-case basis rather than offering any sort of standard pricing for nonprofits.
Now that we’ve got the fees out of the way, let’s see what free goodies and other options await with Square for charities.
8 Ways Your Nonprofit Organization Can Make The Most Out Of Square
Square offers more than just payment processing for the nonprofit organization. Let’s take a look at the free tools Square offers that could support your charity in several ways.
1. Accept Donations Online
You have quite a few options to accept donations online with Square. The easiest option is to create a free Square site with ready-made templates that make it easy to build a simple web storefront. You can create a space that explains your mission and lets your donors contribute to the cause, or make a fully functional eCommerce store that allows you to sell things like t-shirts and other merchandise to support your organization and mission.
To start accepting donations, simply click Donations from your online dashboard and add the details. You can also allow custom donation amounts to let your donors give the amount of their choice, up to $1,000.
If you have multiple focuses for your nonprofit, you can create more than one campaign on your site. Just repeat the process in your dashboard from the donations area. That way if you want a focused fundraiser, you can do so while still maintaining the ability to accept general donations.
Below is an example of a storefront using Square’s free site template. You have a range of colors, but customization is limited. Also, take note that you do not have a custom domain with Square’s free site.
You can also upgrade the free site to a premium option through Weebly â it’s all easy to navigate and choose through your Square dashboard. This way you’ll get a custom domain and other bells and whistles that help you create a site you want for your cause.
If you already have a site, you can choose from one of the plugin integrations for Square at your Dashboard for a pretty easy setup.
If you’ve got some expertise when it comes to code (or have a developer on staff) you can build a branded checkout flow with Square Transactions API that allows you to accept digital wallets, too. Check out How To Accept Online Payments With Square for a full, in-depth explanation of each of these possibilities, and a few more (like in-app purchases).
2. Accept Donations In Person
Hoping people have cash on hand or the even more archaic option â a check â can really limit you. When you set up your Square account, you’ll get the free magstripe reader, but we strongly suggest that you opt for the Square Reader for contactless and chip. Square’s chip reader is the best way to protect yourself from chargebacks and give people more options (and convenience) to donate. That’s because chip readers better meet current security standards. The chip reader is competitively priced under $50.00. This little reader is an important tool to keep your costs down in the long run.
You have even more options in hardware, however. Whether you need something mobile or you need something a little sturdier for a kiosk or desk setup or both, you can find what you need to accept payments in person.
Want even more information on Square’s hardware options? Check out The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Square POS Credit Card Readers And Cash Register Bundles.
3. Take Donations And Orders Over The Phone
Like most point-of-sale software, Square comes with a virtual terminal right on your dashboard that allows you to take a payment over the phone or manually key in credit card data. What’s important to understand here is that a virtual terminal is really the only way to safely process credit card data. That’s because when you receive credit card information, security has to be considered during transmission and storage.
Jotting credit card information down a piece of paper or worse â keeping this information on a spreadsheet â is a big no-no. You’d be surprised to find out how many organizations store credit card data this way, but in the event of a breach, your business will face expensive fines (not to mention a huge PR issue).
Taking donations for your charity over the phone is really easy with Square. You simply enter in the credit card data on the form. Since the full credit card number isn’t visible once you key it in, you never have to worry about this information being vulnerable.
4. Recurring Donations
As a charity, there is probably nothing that feels better than an ongoing commitment from your supporters. These folks help you keep up your daily operations and allow you to plan for future growth.
Square makes setting up recurring donations super easy for your charity. Whether you’re on your mobile device or at your full Square dashboard on your PC, you can create what you need.
I’ve included the screenshot below so that you can how easy it is to set up and schedule your invoice for delivery on whatever recurring plan you want.
If you desire more consistent branding for your charity, you have some options. Check out the full post How To Use Square For Recurring Payments and Invoices for information on integrations or a pre-built workflow.
If you’re wondering about any additional cost regarding invoice scheduling for charitable donations, I have some good news: Setting up recurring donations for your charity doesn’t cost anything extra beyond the processing charge (3.5% + $0.15).
5. Sell Merchandise
Ready to sell merch at your event or want to offer online sales? As mentioned earlier, you have some options when it comes to setting up an online store via Square’s free store or upgrading for more space or design freedom.
Selling in person couldn’t be easier, either. Square’s free Point of Sale app works as a cash register or mobile app, so you can run a gift shop or merch table at a fundraiser. You can even accept payments for charity auction items right then and there (or send an invoice for payment after the event).
Whether you sell merch at an event, through your online store, or you take a phone order through your virtual terminal, Square syncs the sale at your dashboard so everything stays up to date. All your inventory is tracked across all your sales channels. When it’s time for a sale, you simply select the item from your inventory and you’re all set to make a sale. You’re also free to just enter in any amount and charge a card that way as well. After entering their email, your customer receives a digital receipt, and you now have their info.
You can also set up alerts at your dashboard to stay on top of dwindling t-shirts or other fundraising merchandise you offer. That way you can re-order supplies before stock drops to zero!
6. Manage Events And Registration
Planning an event for your charity can help you connect with both your supporters and those who become one. That’s why I’m glad to see that through Square, you can also find what you need to sell tickets for any event you have in the works. You’ll do this through your online store. You can set up your tickets for electronic delivery or you can print for shipping or in-person pickup options. Square gives step-by-step information on how to sell event tickets through their help center.
Square also has a partnership with Eventbrite so it’s that much easier to organize, manage your event, and sell your tickets.
The great thing about selling with Square is that your sales for tickets, merch, and donations all seamlessly sync to improve your record keeping. Whether you take a ticket at the door with your POS or sell a ticket online, everything stays up to date.
And that brings me to my next point: Square’s donation and sales tracking can improve your bookkeeping.
7. Track Your Income And Improve Your Bookkeeping
Square offers simple income tracking. You can download sales history, view deposits, and view everything that’s happening over a set period of time.
View income by categories like merchandise sales, donations, or ticket sales. You can also compare new givers with long-time supporters, as well as average donation size. While you’re not going to see more advanced reporting features with Square Analytics, we feel it delivers more than expected considering these features are completely free.
Need something more? One thing to note is that Square integrates with Quickbooks so you can sync sales data here and get the sales or expense reports you need all in one place. QuickBooks has some specialized accounting features for nonprofits, which can make it a must-have piece of software.
8. Collect Donor Information And Engage
You can export a list of your donations or the details about your donors from your online store at any time. All of this is accessed under Order Management right from your online dashboard.
As you collect donations, you can also manually enter any notes about your supporters. Because electronic receipts are delivered when your customer shares their email, you can also build a robust email list for future marketing.
Square has a few customer engagement features that are completely free. The emails that you collect during transactions are yours to add to a separate email campaign service, of course. You can also create, import, and manage all of your customer profiles within your Customer Directory, which you can then use to get more insights into your donors and plan future giving campaigns based on that information.
You don’t need to find a solution outside of Square for email marketing tools, however. Square Marketing gives you some pre-designed email templates with campaign suggestions and scheduling tools that help you create and manage your email list and marketing campaign. Square Marketing Starts at $15 / month. In the screenshot below, this particular campaign provides those on your list with a special offer. To the right, you can see that you have a selection of templates and themes to create something in line with your branding. Though it’s not fully customizable, you can add your logo, business name, and other images where desired.
Email remains one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, so it’s nice to see that Square makes it easy to collect emails or opt for this relatively low-cost email marketing tool.
Is Square Right For Your Nonprofit?
Square remains a strong option for most nonprofits. You can start taking donations — and even have access to a few ways to grow — without having to spend any extra money right off the bat. However, for advanced reporting features, marketing, and other integrations you may need, you’re going to pay more each month. And in my mind, that’s okay. Square provides basic reporting features so you can gain insight into patterns of giving as well as set up multiple ways to give on your site and more ways to connect, and that’s all free.
While Square does not offer any special discounts for charities, the processing fees are competitive. And with all of the freebies, it’s a bit remarkable for a processor overall. Be aware that account stability issues exist, however, but they aren’t unique to other processors by any means. Be sure to review each section or check out our full Square Review so that you understand how to make the most of this option.
Not sure if Square is right for you (or already sure it isn’t)? Read Become A Hero & Save Your Charity Money With Discounted Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits or check out the Top 7 Square Alternatives.
Want to get started with Square and open an account? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to set up an account, navigate your dashboard, start accepting donations or selling merchandise. Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you.
The post Square For Nonprofits: Everything You Need To Know About Seamlessly Accepting Donations, Running Events, & Selling Merch With Squareâs Platform 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.
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