This post originally appeared at Mailchimp Website Builder: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives via ShivarWeb
MailChimp has been one of the fastest growing email marketing providers for years now. They’ve built an huge base of customers ranging from tiny personal accounts to some of the most prestigious enterprise brands in the world.
In 2019, they added a ton of functionality, including postcards & remarketing as they grow their positioning into a marketing platform. And as part of their growth, they’ve introduced a free website builder.
See MailChimp’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’ve been using Mailchimp for years, and was super curious when they announced the beta version of their website builder (FYI, beta just means it’s their first, trial run version. They’re looking for feedback from users to improve the product).
So I gave Mailchimp’s beta builder a try for a full Mailchimp Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.
There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Mailchimp Website Builder?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Mailchimp’s website builder lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.
Using Mailchimp is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Mailchimp, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.
As far as competition, Mailchimp competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com (and Shopify for online stores).
Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and their platform providing everything you need to market online — from their opt-in pages to their email software to their website builder.
Pros of Using Mailchimp Website Builder
Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Mailchimp’s website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.
Straightforward Sign Up Process
If you already have a Mailchimp account, using their free website builder is just a matter of navigating to it in the main menu and getting started. If you don’t have a Mailchimp account, it’s still incredibly easy to sign up. All you have to do is create an account with your business information + pick your payment plan to get started.
This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without an extensive sign up process.
Ease of Use
Another pro of Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s incredible easy to use. When you first get started with the platform, Mailchimp actually creates a homepage for you to use as a starting point.
Once you get into the platform, you can “drag” and “drop” additional elements onto the page, remove elements from the premade page, add new pages to your site with the click of a button.
The whole setup is like painting by numbers. You just add in your content, add additional elements if you want them / need them, add your branding colors and fonts, and click publish.
There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having an easy and quick way to get your site up and making sure it still looks decent.
It makes Mailchimp a great option for entrepreneurs / DIY-ers who want a website that gets the job done, looks clean, and doesn’t require hiring a professional to put it all together (and don’t want to worry about “messing it up”).
Another benefit Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s completely free.
There’s no upsells, no limited access based on your payment plan, no restrictions. You can use the website builder with your free Mailchimp plan if you have under 2000 subscribers and don’t need additional email functionality, or you can use it with your paid plan for no additional charge.
While there are some limitations with the platform (more on that in a minute), it’s a great option for test projects or those who need a simple, functional website and don’t want to spend money on a platform.
Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. And for Mailchimp, there’s two big cons that stand out: limited design and functionality features.
Limited Feature Set – Design
With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS).
And you can really see this trade-off with the Mailchimp website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and a few elements based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.
However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder.
You can’t add anything aside from the few drag and drop elements available to you, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited (AKA essentially just font and color).
If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Mailchimp website builder website.
Limited Feature Set – Technical
The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.
Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.
These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.
In their beta from, Mailchimp has extremely limited integrations (social sharing, social following, file downloads, etc.), but there are a ton of technical features that Mailchimp currently doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.
There also aren’t add-ons or additional integrations to use with the platform, which makes it even more difficult to do anything besides the very basics on your site.
Ultimately, Mailchimp leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better use and market your website.
Mailchimp Review Conclusion
Mailchimp makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, which makes it a great choice for DIYers who want a quick and easy way to build a website without the hassle of getting into the code or having something custom made.
Get started with Mailchimp here.
However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control. Mailchimp leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to design customization and functionality. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.
Not sure Mailchimp fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.
This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb
There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.
But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.
And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.
And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.
Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On
This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.
The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone
For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.
But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.
This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.
Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.
Platform Choice > Tool Choice
The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.
Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.
Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform
In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.
In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.
In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.
Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.
Convenience Killed Cost & Control
The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.
The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.
If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.
If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.
Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been
I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.
But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.
For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.
For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.
Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.
Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.
Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented
Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.
Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.
Organic Traffic Is A Bonus
Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.
Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.
Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been
More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.
*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.
For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.
Users Killed What Could Have Been
Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.
For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.
1,000 True Fans Is Still True
That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.
Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.
Opportunity Costs Are Very Real
When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.
In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.
Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.
Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.
Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.
Lookalikes Killed Privacy
I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?
Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.
But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.
Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.
Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.
Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.
Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.
So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*
*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.
Alternative Channels Matter
In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.
In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.
Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.
You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.
Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.
Web Hosting Is a Utility
Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.
That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.
There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.
Website Builders Are a Feature
I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.
Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.
If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.
All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.
SEO Is a Tactic
For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.
If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.
It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).
But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.
In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.
But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.
IRL Original Content Is Underestimated
The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.
But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.
In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.
Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.
Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?
On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.
It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.
IRL Data Is Underestimated
On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.
That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.
Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More
Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.
The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.
Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and say that you probably have a PayPal account. As of the third quarter of 2019, PayPal has reported a total of 295 million active accounts worldwide. PayPal has become so embedded in people’s lives that many use their personal PayPal account to conduct business. However, by doing this, you give up the advantages that come with a free PayPal Business account.
We’re here today to explain why, if you’re a PayPal user doing business under your personal account, you should really sign up for a PayPal Business account and do business under that account instead.
Why Use PayPal For Business?
When you use PayPal for Business, you gain access to a plethora of services, both free and paid, that can be immensely helpful to any merchant making money from online sales. You’ll get three options for taking payments, two of which carry no monthly fees. You’ll get access to a plethora of eCommerce integrations, including Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Offline merchants will get access to a number of POS integrations, as well as PayPal’s in-house mobile card reader and mPOS app, both of which are bundled together under the PayPal Here brand.
Other features available through PayPal include online invoicing, a Marketing Solutions package, a Virtual Terminal, a recurring billing service, and a lengthy list of developer tools. Of course, other payment processors sport similar tools, so is there truly any advantage to using PayPal for Business? PayPal itself would argue “yes,” and in favor of that argument,Â a recent study found that when a customer chooses PayPal as their payment method, they go on to complete the transaction 88.7% of the time — an average conversion rate 60% higher than that of other digital wallets and 82% higher than the average conversion rate of all other payment methods.
All things considered, a PayPal business account makes it simple and easy to send money back and forth. Whether you’re in the business of offering online subscription services, selling your wares at “meetspace” events like crafting shows and conventions, or even collecting donations for a nonprofit organization, PayPal for Business has plenty to offer.
Differences Between PayPal Personal & Business Accounts
Both personal and business PayPal accounts allow you to send and request money, make purchases, and even receive payments for sales you make — so long as you mark these sales as being for “Goods and services,” thus incurring transaction fees (and PayPal will check to make sure you’re not dodging transaction fees by mislabeling transactions). However, without a business account, you won’t have access to a host of commerce-facilitating features such as creating shipping methods, inventory tracking, allowing employees partial access to your account, and signing up for services like PayPal Here.
PayPal Business Account Requirements
The requirements to set up a PayPal business account are pretty minimal. You’ll need the following:
An email address
A business phone number
Your legal business name — your own name is fine if your business is a sole proprietorship
The last four digits of your SSN
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) — if you choose individual/sole proprietorship as your business type, you don’t need to provide an EIN
Your date of birth
Your home address
Your bank name, account number, and routing number
This will be sufficient to start selling, but note that after you start actually accepting payments and making money, PayPal may request further documentation, such as bank statements. Third-party processors like PayPal and Square are notorious for their stringent scrutiny of merchants and their tendency to subject merchants to holds or terminations at the slightest hint of trouble. Just be ready to provide whatever information PayPal might ask for in the event that they detect something slightly suspect.
Check out our piece on avoiding account holds, freezes, and terminations to learn more.
How To Set Up Your PayPal Business Account
Start off by clicking on the “Sign Up” box in the top right corner of PayPal’s page. Note that if you are signed in to your personal PayPal account, PayPal will prompt you to either sign out of your current account and set up a separate business account under a different email address OR delete your current PayPal account and set up a business account using the email address previously associated with your old PayPal account. I assume most of you will want to choose the former option.
Next, you’ll be prompted to enter some information about your business. Enter the legal name of your business contact, the name and phone number of your business, and your business address.
Next, you’ll be asked to describe your business type. The options you’ll have to choose from are as follows: Individual/Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Nonprofit organization, or Government entity.
Next, you’ll be asked to further describe your business. You’ll be asked to choose the product or keyword that best describes your business, your estimated monthly sales, and your website (this one is optional), and you may also be offered the chance to receive a PayPal Business Debit Mastercard after you receive at least $250 in payments.
Now, if your business type is anything other than Individual/Sole Proprietorship, you’ll also be prompted to enter your Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you chose Individual/Sole Proprietorship as your business type, you won’t receive this prompt as you won’t have an EIN.
Next, you’ll be asked to supply some more personal information: the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, and your home address.
Once this step is complete, your PayPal business account will have been created. You’ll now be asked whether you want to request or send money and whether you want to send out an invoice (which will start the process of setting you up with PayPal Invoicing, a free service that allows you to create and send customized invoices)
After that, you’ll be prompted to select other PayPal services you may want to use. You can choose which online payment package you’d like to set up for online sales. If you’re in the business of offline sales, you’ll be offered the chance to set up a PayPal Here account. And if you want to sell goods through online marketplaces that PayPal integrates with, you’ll be offered the chance to connect to such a marketplace.
Keep in mind that you can always return to the set of signup options listed above by hovering over the “More” option on your PayPal toolbar at the top of the page and then selecting “Business setup.”
Let’s go back to setting up online payments for a moment. Click on “Set Up Online Payments” and you’ll be presented with the choice of processing all your payments through PayPal or adding PayPal as a supplementary way to get paid.
Depending on which option you select, you’ll then choose how you want to sell online. Choose “Process all payments through PayPal” and you’ll be offered two further options. With Option A, you work with an eCommerce solution that’s already integrated into PayPal. Option B lets you add HTML buttons to your website yourself. Below both options, you’ll see a “Compare options” link. Click it to see the following comparison:
Now, if you chose “Add PayPal Checkout as another way to get paid”, the two subsequent options will be different. Option A will be “I want a pre-built payment solution” while Option B will be “Use our APIs to add PayPal Checkout to your website.” Clicking “Compare options” will then display the following:
After you establish your payment setup, you’ll find an “Account setup” tab next to the “Payment setup” tab. Click on that to finish setting up your account.
From there, follow the links to confirm your email, link your debit card for Instant Transfers to your bank if you wish, link your bank account, make your business name clear for customers, and, should you so desire, get the PayPal Business Debit Mastercard.
Depending on the payment options you selected earlier, you’re going to need to choose between the three available payment packages for accepting payments online:
PayPal Checkout (formerly Express Checkout)
PayPal Payments Standard
PayPal Payments Pro
If you want to add PayPal as a supplementary payment option to your existing website or if you already integrate with an eCommerce provider, PayPal Checkout is a solid choice. You’ll get PCI compliance (PayPal redirects customers to its secure site to complete the transaction), contextual checkout buttons, and localized payment methods for European customers.
PayPal Payments Standard is a more fully-featured payment solution than PayPal Checkout. Payments Standard offers the same eCommerce integrations and PCI compliance offered by PayPal Checkout along with a healthy dollop of additional features. Here’s the full list of what you’ll get with Payments Standard:
Accept credit and debit cards (your buyers don’t need a PayPal account)
Accept PayPal payments
Send invoices online for fast payment
Accept payments in 25 currencies from 202 countries
Simplified PCI compliance
No long-term contracts, setup, withdrawal or cancellation fees
Nonprofit discount available for PayPal transactions
Toll-free phone support
Offer special financing on purchases $99 and up
Both PayPal Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard have the benefit of being free to sign up for with no monthly fees. PayPal Payments Pro, by contrast, costs $30/month to use. Let’s take a look at what you’ll get for the money:
Hosted Checkout page: With Payments Pro, you can keep your customers on your website throughout the entire checkout process and customize the design of your checkout page. If you want to provide your customers with the most seamless checkout experience possible, Payments Pro is the way to go. However, this means that you’ll have to take care of PCI compliance yourself.
Virtual Terminal: PayPal’s virtual terminal allows you to accept payments via phone, fax, or mail. Once you have your customer’s card number, you can key in those numbers from a browser window. It’s definitely a handy feature, and it always helps to be able to take payments by as many means as possible. However, competitors like Square and Shopify offer access to a virtual terminal without having to pay any monthly fee whatsoever.
Recurring Billing: If you’re in the business of selling subscriptions, Payments Pro offers recurring billing tools to power your sales. Unfortunately, recurring billing will cost you an additional $10/month. Oddly enough, PayPal Checkout offers recurring billing tools for no cost whatsoever.
Bear in mind that to implement many of the features on offer with a PayPal business account, you’ll need a developer to help you do the heavy lifting.
Another feature you can sign up for on PayPal’s website is PayPal Here, a suite of services that allows you to accept offline payments via a mobile POS app and a PayPal card reader of your choosing. You’ll find the PayPal Here page under the Tools drop-down menu in the toolbar on your PayPal dashboard.
The first thing you’ll need to do is sign up for PayPal Here. Once you’ve done that, download the PayPal Here mPOS app onto your mobile device. Next, sign in to the app and order your card reader. Of the three card readers currently available, the Mobile Card Reader and the Chip and Swipe reader are both free until June 30, 2020, for new PayPal Here account holders. Also available is the Chip and Tap Reader + Charging Stand combo which you can purchase from PayPal for $79.99.
For a full rundown of the features included in PayPal Here, read our PayPal Here review.
Are There Any Paypal Business Account Fees?
There are no fees incurred when you set up a PayPal business account. It’s completely free to have a PayPal business account (unless you sign up for the PayPal Payments Pro plan). Of course, free payment processing doesn’t exist, and PayPal is no exception. This means that payment processing fees will apply when you make a sale through PayPal. If you’re a US-based merchant, Here’s what you’ll be paying per transaction in the based on the nature of the transaction:
2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped offline transaction (when you use PayPal Here or integrate with one of PayPalâs POS partners)
3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction
2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits (check out PayPal For Nonprofits to learn more)
5% + $0.05 per transaction under the MicroPayments plan
3.1% + $0.30 per Virtual Terminal transaction
Keep in mind that the Virtual Terminal is only available if you have a PayPal Payments Pro plan, which costs $30/month. Overall, PayPal’s fees are comparable to those of other third-party processors, though as I mentioned earlier, both Square and Shopify offer a virtual terminal without a monthly fee.
One recent policy change that has sellers chagrined is that when a transaction is refunded, PayPal will not return the processing fee to you. That means that if you refund a $100 online purchase to a customer, the processing fee won’t be returned to you and you’ll lose $3.20. This may not sound like that much, but if you’re issuing a significant number of refunds, these costs add up quickly. For more on refund policies in the payment processing industry, check out our article on credit card refund fees.
This article doesn’t cover every single fee associated with using PayPal. For more on the costs of such things as card readers for offline sales, conversion fees, chargeback fees, and more, our article on PayPal pricingÂ has the full story. And if you’re a seller outside the US, have a look at PayPal’s complete list of merchant fees, as the fixed portion of your transaction fees (when considering a 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee, the 30 cents is the fixed part) will vary based on the currency you use.
The Bottom Line On PayPal For Business Accounts
We’ve established that if you’re going to use your PayPal account for business purposes, you really should get a PayPal business account. But how does PayPal stack up against competing payment processing solutions?
Overall, despite its shortcomings, PayPal is a solid option for merchants. With its relatively simple, transparent pricing and extensive eCommerce integrations, PayPal works particularly well as a starter option for new businesses and will scale with your business as it grows. What’s more, online sellers can always choose to use PayPal as a supplemental means of accepting payments. This isn’t the case with most of PayPal’s competitors.
PayPal has plenty to offer offline sellers as well — with PayPal’s in-house mPOS app along with its robust POS and accounting integrations, you’ll be able to take payments anywhere with ease. Read our full PayPal review for an even deeper look into what the payments giant has to offer your business.
That being said, PayPal obviously isn’t an ideal solution for everybody. If you’re not happy with PayPal’s business practices or if you’re in the process of comparison shopping, check out our article on PayPal alternatives. You may want to have a look at our merchant account comparison chart as well.
As always, if you’ve used — or are using — a PayPal business account to accept payments, we’d love to hear about it! Please drop us a comment!
The post Why You Need A PayPal Business Account If You Want To Take Payments Via PayPal appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.
Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set
Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide
WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.
Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).
In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.
Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.
So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
What is WooCommerce?
To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.
Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.
And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.
It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.
WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.
WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).
And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –
domain (your address on the Internet)
hosting (where your website files live)
software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)
In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.
Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.
Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.
But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.
That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.
But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.
Pros of WooCommerce
Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.
Long-term Cost & Value
WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.
Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.
WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.
That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.
For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.
If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.
To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.
For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.
All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.
But it gets even better for WooCommerce.
WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.
Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.
And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.
For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.
If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.
And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.
If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.
Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.
Integration with WordPress
WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.
And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.
This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.
For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.
There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.
The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.
Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.
f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).
Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.
Support from Automattic
Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.
WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.
They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.
Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.
But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.
There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).
But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.
Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.
WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.
Versatility & Compatibility
A few fun facts about WooCommerce –
You can use it to sell memberships
You can use it to sell recurring licenses
You can use it to sell digital goods
You can use it to sell apppointments
You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine
The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.
The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc
It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.
In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.
3rd Party Integrations
WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.
If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.
If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.
But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.
When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.
You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).
Control & Customizations
Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.
You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.
You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.
There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.
Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.
Cons of WooCommerce
Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.
Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.
Ease of Use & Onboarding
WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.
There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.
But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.
For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).
For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.
But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.
Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?
Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.
In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.
Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.
But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.
Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.
This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.
Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.
But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*
*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.
Speed & Security
With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.
Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.
WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.
Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.
But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.
For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.
In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.
Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.
It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.
Growth & Scaling
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.
And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.
This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.
And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.
Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.
But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.
Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.
That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.
Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.
Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.
All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.
If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.
But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.
Potential Long-term Costs
WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.
However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.
One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.
She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.
Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).
Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.
Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.
Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.
In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.
In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.
Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.
And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.
All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.
However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.
It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.
All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.
There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.
WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins
There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –
Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.
WooCommerce vs. Shopify
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.
WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce
I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.
WooCommerce vs. Wix
Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.
WooCommerce vs. Magento
Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.
WooCommerce vs. OpenCart
OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce vs. Ecwid
Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.
WooCommerce vs. Prestashop
PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.
WooCommerce Review Conclusion
WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –
Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.
If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.
If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.
Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.
The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.
Directly after the Back to School rush, businesses start to shift their focus to the holiday season, and before Halloween is even over, the madcap spending season starts en force. We can complain about the holiday creep, but it exists because consumers are in the headspace to spend over these next few months, and preparation equals profitability. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with it arrives our extended dedication to shopping: Black Fiveday (the new Black Friday which includes Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday). Whether you have a brick and mortar location or are an online retailer, here are Merchant Maverick’s top 10 tips to prepare for the holiday season.
Get Organized Before The Holiday Rush
Don’t wait until the last minute to make a detailed game plan for the holidays. I don’t know about you, but during stressful seasons of life, the longer my to-do list grows, so grows my anxiety. Whatever you are putting off or saving for later, take care that your to-do list does not become an albatross around your neck during the busiest shopping time of the year.
Getting organized could include updating your website, changing vendors, or stocking up on inventory. Do you have a plan for employee scheduling? Are the invoices are piling up?
Don’t wait to figure this stuff out. Get everything current and unload those worries from your brain because the time to make any needed organizational changes is now: delays could cost you in more ways than one.
If you run an eCommerce business, we have special tips just for you on how to get your online store ready for the holidays.
Analyze Your Current & Past Cash Flow
Small businesses need to crunch numbers and analyze cash flow in order to make smart financial holiday decisions.
First, look at last year’s sales and numbers: when were your busiest shopping days? How much did you earn during the holiday season? What kind of holiday expenses should you prepare for? Once you have an understanding of your cash flow history, you can plan and set important holiday sales goals.
Analyzing cash flow means asking yourself the following questions:
How much do I expect to earn?
What inventory needs stocking?
How much more can I add to my marketing campaigns?
Do I have enough to offer employee bonuses or gifts?
And finally, look at your January sales. There might be a slump coming, so prepare for it now by knowing how much you’ll need to earn to get through any potential slowdown. Read our post about The Top 10 Strategies To Improve Cash Flow for expert tips and advice.
If you’re not sure how to calculate your cash flow, check out How To Calculate and Analyze Business Cash Flow.
Stock Up On Inventory
The favorite items in your shop will fly off the shelves (that’s the hope, right?), so when those customers and clients arrive at the last minute looking for that favorite item, have it available.
If you are advertising a specific item, stock up. Suppliers and vendors are in the same boat as you as things get busy. Go and write down shipping deadlines for your vendors and suppliers, and prepare for being busier than you imagined. Do you need some financial help to get you up and running? Check out our article on how to finance your holiday expenses.
Optimize Your Online Store
eCommerce is a crucial component of holiday shopping in general, and every year the amount of money spent shopping online grows. For example, according to statistics from Shopify, online shopping accounted for nearly $124 billion holiday shopping dollars in 2018. (That’s up from only $80 billion in 2015.) An updated, clean, and friendly website with clear shipping information should be a priority.
This is a great time, too, to check and make sure the process is streamlined and quick for your customers. Run trials, tests, and work out any technical problems before the holidays get too busy. Check out our post on How To Prepare Your Online Store For The Holidays for more website tips.
Create A Holiday Marketing Strategy
It is never too early to start thinking about a holiday marketing strategy. Consumers are bombarded with advertising these next two months because most major businesses know this is the time to make some major revenue, but the influx doesn’t mean marketing isn’t effective. Your buyers are out there. Your marketing strategy needs to find them.
Your business can use a holiday marketing strategy for branding, and the message should be personal and unique: what is something about your business that is different than all the others?
Be sure to design your marketing materials to include information about shipping deadlines or sales. Consumers are frantic to know where they can get items they need, fast, and without expensive shipping. Don’t make them hunt for the info! Make those details part of your marketing strategy.
Show Your Employees Some Holiday Cheer
There is a very famous Victorian story about someone who seriously lacks holiday cheer and has to go on a journey through time to learn an important lesson about how that’s not very nice. (And if your favorite movie version of the classic doesn’t star the Muppets, then meet me in the comments section. Second-favorites must have Bill Murray.)
Mr. Dickens’s timeless classic teaches us an important lesson: There is one name synonymous with holiday grumpiness and no one wants to be a Scrooge. Scrooge, of course, learns in the end that a Christmas ham goes a long way.
Any type of recognition to your employees that 1) the season is stressful and 2) you are thankful for them, shouldn’t be an afterthought. Also, don’t assume you know what kind of holiday cheer your employees need! Be inclusive to all holiday celebrators (or non-celebrators) and talk to your employees about their plans and wishes.
Don’t Forget To Give Thanks To Your Customers
You work hard. You do. We see it. But your customers also make your business thrive, so why not take this time to thank them for their contribution! Little thank-yous can go a long way, but there are also ways to incorporate those thank-yous into your marketing strategy. For example, offering coupons or discounts to returning customers establishes two-way gratitude. You are thankful they shop with you; they are thankful for the discount or freebies and will come back.
If you run a brick and mortar store, a “Thank You!” event where you serve drinks or snacks is a great way to show your gratitude and pull customers into your shop. At the very least, include a small thank you postcard/email with information about your business with every purchase.
Embrace The Spirit Of Giving
There are several ways you can embrace the spirit of giving this holiday season. One option is to dedicate a certain percentage of sales (or sales on a certain day/during specific times) to a charitable organization of your choice.
Another option is to match employee charitable giving contributions. Small businesses are the backbone of the community, and reaching out into that community to help only strengths you and the people you serve. It’s an added bonus that Millennials make shopping choices based on a company’s record of charitable giving (70% say charitable giving factors into purchases). It’s a second bonus that your giving is tax-deductible.
Buy New Business Software
If you need to change your business software to upgrade your holiday shopping experience, now is the time. Maybe purchasing a new payroll system, bookkeeping, or inventory software is a little holiday gift to yourself, and you’ll find many software businesses offer major discounts during the Black Fiveday Shopping Event.
At Merchant Maverick, we keep an ongoing list of the best Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday deals for small businesses. Whether you need a new payment processing, POS, accounting, eCommerce, website builders, time tracking, we’ve got you covered.
Make Time To Enjoy The Holidays
Last, but not least, enjoy the season!
Whether you are looking forward to Christmas, Hannukkah, Turkey or Boxing Day, don’t forget to take some time for you and make space to slow down. Spending time with the people we love, eating great food, laughing and embracing old and new traditions: the season is special because of all the amazing things we celebrate. Cherish the moments that bring you joy amidst the craziness of this year’s holiday shopping madness.
No matter what you need to do to get ready for the rush, take some moments to breathe. Then take notes on your successes and struggles this year to help you plan for next year.
The post Prepare Your Small Business For The Holiday Season With These Top 10 Tips appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
People like to say that, but if you get a literal lunch for listening to a sales pitch on something you’ve already decided to buy, then that lunch is free. The mobile processing industry, though, typically doesn’t offer free lunches. Instead, they offer free credit card readers. These readers are usually simple swipe card readers or maybe EMV readers if you’re lucky.
Card readers used in mobile processing are typically inexpensive to make, so they are perfect candidates for free giveaways to entice new merchants to sign up. For a small business just getting started, anything free is usually good, especially after looking at the retail price of some of the high-end readers in the market (or even a conventional credit card machine). However, mobile processing isn’t just about the reader. It’s about the suite of services and credit card processing.
So if you are looking for a mobile credit card processing app, don’t make your decision based just on a free reader. Take a look at the app and the extra services provided as well as any upgraded card readers offered by the processor. Compare pricing and features to see if everything truly fits your needs. Even if you do not need any additional services right now, you might need them in the future, so make a plan if you can. Only after you’ve looked at the software and extra features should you take the free card reader into account and make your final decision.
Below, we give an introduction to how these mobile readers work and then talk about some commonly offered free readers. Hopefully, the information will help you make an informed decision for your business.
What Does A Swipe Card Reader Do?
Most people have used magnetic stripe, or magstripe, card readers before. They’re the readers with a slot that you move a card quickly through. This movement allows the device to read the data from the magnetic stripe on the back of the card.
With mobile processing, quite a few of the free readers are magstripe only readers. You may already have seen some around — little white squares attached to phones, popularized by the third-party processor Square, who gives them out for free. To read payment card information, the reader gets inserted into a headphone jack or a Lightning port of a phone or tablet.
There are some disadvantages to using only a magstripe reader. To understand why lets first look at the technology of magstripe readers.
How Swipe Card Readers Work
Not everyone is hungry to learn the science behind every technology. For instance, you the merchant probably don’t care that the magnetic stripe on a payment card has millions of tiny magnets in it. Or that each magnet is affixed in a north or south pole direction so that they can correspond to a zero or a one to make up a binary code to store data. You probably have no desire to learn that there are three strips of information stored in every magstripe. But so you know, the first and second strips store cardholder data, such as the primary card number, country code, cardholder’s name, and expiration date. The third strip stores an encrypted PIN, the country code, currency unit, and the amount authorized.
What you care about is whether the card reader is connected to your mobile device correctly so that the card information gets sent to your card processor. It doesn’t matter to you that a magstripe reader reads information off a credit card much like an old cassette player reads information from a cassette tape. (That’s about how long we’ve been swiping credit cards if it’s any indication.)
You might care, though, that this means that the credit card information on the magstripe can be easily stolen. Under some circumstances, you might get stuck with the loss on purchases made with that stolen card.
Credit Card Swipers Don’t Protect You From Fraud
Back in 2015, to get merchants to adopt the more secure EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) technology (i.e., chip on the card), the credit card companies decided to shift some fraud liability onto those merchants who hadn’t adopted the technology.
As of October 1, 2015, if a merchant only has a magstripe reader and a customer presents a stolen or fraudulent card with both a magstripe and a chip, the merchant would be responsible for the loss on the purchase. To shift the liability back to the credit card companies, the merchant need only have an EMV card reader.
Admittedly, if you’re just starting your business and do not expect to take a high volume in credit card sales or if you only sell smaller ticket items, assuming liability for taking a fraudulent card might be a risk you’re willing to take. That’s fine, but we at Merchant Maverick do encourage you to upgrade to an EMV reader sometime in the future for your protection. There’s little reason to delay upgrading because some free card readers in this article are combination EMV and magstripe readers, so you can eliminate the risk at no cost to you.
How Do You Get A Free Credit Card Reader?
A free credit card reader is not very difficult to find. Both merchant account providers and third-party processors will sometimes offer a free card reader to entice you to sign up for their mobile processing service.
Check Out Our Preferred Credit Card Processors ðVisit Site
No early termination fee
Rate matching / Negotiable
*All of our preferred processors use fully transparent Interchange-plus pricing.
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We’ve done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
A lot of third-party processors are also mobile processors. Their primary offering is usually the mobile app and card reader. Sometimes, they make money not only on processing cards but also on other value-added services related to running a business in general, services such as invoicing and payroll processing. (Yeah, we’re looking at you, Square.) Once a merchant signs up, the processor will try to upsell and cross-sell these services to the merchant. It makes sense for some merchants — the centralized management of their business is an advantage.
Since an expensive reader can discourage signup, third-party processors often offer readers for free. They make it very obvious on their website that you can get a free reader. However, keep in mind that these services are designed for small businesses — they don’t expect you to need a lot of equipment. Your first reader might be free, but you will typically have to pay for any additional readers.
As to merchant account providers, they typically work with more established businesses that can afford (sometimes expensive) countertop registers and credit card terminals. It’s pretty rare to see credit card terminals given away for free. When they are, it’s usually only a “rental,” and you’ll have to return the equipment when you leave the processor. However, as mobile processing becomes more and more popular, many merchant account providers are starting to offer mobile processing services as a convenience to their existing customers. With these mobile processing services, the merchant account providers do tend to give away free mobile credit card readers. Sometimes the information is clearly advertised but not always. You might need to contact your payment processor and ask if you’re interested in adding on a mobile POS and card reader.
Let’s be clear: Just because you’ll get something for free doesn’t mean that you should immediately sign up with a particular processor. There are some negative issues you might wish to consider.
Why You Should Be Wary Of Free Credit Card Reader Offers
As already alluded to earlier, free card readers are generally provided as loss leaders — something provided for free or at a drastically reduced cost to bring in a new long-term customer. Often, this means that the reader will be a lower-cost magstripe reader, with no EMV capability. If that is the case, then you might not be able to recover losses from purchases made with cards using stolen credit card numbers. At this late date, there is very little reason to settle for a reader that doesn’t support chip cards, and doing so can make your business look a bit antiquated.
If you are getting a free mobile card reader (or a “free” device of any kind) from a merchant account provider, be aware that there could be a tradeoff. Of course, a top-rated merchant account provider such as Payment Depot will deal with their customers honestly and fairly and will give a free reader under their usual no-contract deal. Other merchant account providers, however, might require you to sign a contract to tie yourself to them for a more extended period. Read your contract carefully, so you understand which services you’ve signed up for and for how long. You should also understand how to get out of the contract if you’re not happy with the provider.
Despite the negatives and our caveats, all of these free readers will be serviceable. If you need one of these devices to get your business off the ground or for occasional off-premises use (e.g., trade shows), then these free readers should fit the bill.
How To Find The Best Free Credit Card Reader
Below, we will highlight four free readers currently available in the market. But, before we delve into the specifics of each, we want to point out a few benchmarks you should think about when considering any free reader.
Reader Type: Typically, these readers will read magstripe and potentially EMV cards. It’s unusual to get a contactless (i.e., NFC) reader for free. Keep in mind that a magstripe reader could create a liability issue for you under some circumstances, so it is better to have a reader that can take both magstripe and EMV.
Connection: There are two types of connections — physical connection or Bluetooth. The physical connectors can break off if you’re not careful, and a reader that uses a Bluetooth connection still needs to be periodically charged. We typically recommend a Bluetooth connection over a physical one since smartphones and tablets seem to be phasing out the headphone jack. For example, all the recent iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 do not have headphone jacks.
Software: A card reader is just a piece of hardware. Without its supporting software, the reader is useless. Each business is different, however, so its software needs are different. Some businesses will prefer a no-nonsense basic mobile processing app. Others might want additional functionalities, such as inventory tracking. Be sure to think through your software needs before you decide on a free reader.
Battery Life: Battery life applies to Bluetooth and/or EMV readers. Ideally, you want something that can last you at least one day, so you can process credit card charges without interruption.
Peripherals: A basic, pocketable magstripe reader that plugs into a headphone jack or Lightning connector won’t have any peripherals, but Bluetooth and/or EMV readers need cables to charge them up. Other nice-to-have items include carrying cases, docks, clips, and even lanyards that allow the user to carry the reader without losing or damaging it.
Now, let’s look at four simple readers that are available for free. For ease of reference, we’ve put the card reader comparison information into a table:
Payment Depot Swift B200
Square Magstripe Reader
Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader
PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader
Headphone jack (for Android) or Lighting connector (for Apple devices)
Square Point of Sale
Shopify Lite or Shopify POS
400 chip or 700 swipe transactions
Micro USB charging cable; mounting sticker
Stand, micro USB charging cable, mounting sticker, travel case
Device clip, micro USB charging cable
There are plusses and minuses to any free card reader. Ultimately, the “best reader” is the one that fits with the specific needs of your business.
Swift B200 From SwipeSimple
The Swift B200 from SwipeSimple is a Bluetooth magstripe and EMV reader. The parent company, CardFlight, makes two models of readers: the B200 and the B250 (which we review here). The B200 is the less expensive of the two readers, and it lacks the NFC card reader function in the B250.
The B200 can pair with both iOS and Android devices. It uses a rechargeable battery that lasts about 420 transactions. There’s a battery indicator LED light on the device, and the box includes a USB cable. You also get a lanyard and a carrying case.
SwipeSimple’s mobile processing app is available through several providers, but we recommend Payment Depot. Payment Depot is one of our top-rated providers because of its great customer service and fair, transparent pricing. The company also offers a mobile processing plan exclusive to Merchant Maverick readers, which includes the B200 reader for free (you can upgrade to the B250 for $25). You’ll pay $10/month plus 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction with no monthly minimums or additional fees.
We like the SwipeSimple app, and you can find more details about the app in our review. The app takes care of all your credit card processing needs without the clutter of too many extra features. If you’re a no-nonsense kind of person, this might be the app for you.
SwipeSimple Swift B200 Fast Facts
Reader Cost: Free (when you sign up through Payment Depot)
Payment Types Supported: magstripe, EMV
Companion Software: SwipeSimple
Square Magstripe Reader
The Square Magstripe Reader is, as its name says, just a magstripe reader. This reader has been Square’s trusty free reader for many years, and it hasn’t evolved much. Of course, when Apple stopped providing headphone jacks on its phones, Square had to adapt to come up with the Lightning connector for its reader. (Soon, it will have to adapt again for Android phones, as Samsung seems to be phasing out headphone jacks too.)
Read our Review
The Square Magstripe Reader does not need charging, and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket to be carried around. There’s a certain elegance in that sort of simplicity, even though it’s only a magstripe reader that can open the merchant up to liability from fraudulent cards.
Square does offer a tradeoff for that liability, and, for some, the risk might be worth it. The Square magstripe reader works with the very robust (and free) Point of Sale app as well as opening up the rest of Square’s highly-rated (and value-added) services to you. In addition to processing cards at 2.75% per transactions, the Point of Sale app can also track inventory, manage employee hours, keep track of appointments, and do much more. So before you rule Square out based solely on its magstripe reader, we encourage you to think about your company’s future needs and see if Square might be a fit for you after all. Here are our full Square review and our Point of Sale app review to help you make a better-informed decision.
If you decide you want to upgrade to one of Square’s other devices later, Square offers financing for all hardware purchases starting at $49 — conveniently, the price of its Contactless + Chip card reader.
Square Magstripe Reader Fast Facts
Reader Cost: Free (additional readers $10)
Payment Types Supported: magstripe
Companion Software: Square Point of Sale
Connection: headphone jack or Lightning connector
Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader
Shopify is better known as an online shopping cart and eCommerce platform. With its free POS software and credit card reader, though, it appears to be branching into stores with physical locations. The Shopify reader is of a proprietary design. It’s a magstripe and EMV reader that comes with a charging cradle. Packaged in a neat little carrying case, you’ll also find a micro USB charging cable, mounting hardware, and everything else you need.
Read our Review
Shopify’s Chip & Swipe Reader connects to a mobile device through Bluetooth. The reader can process 400 chip transactions or 700 swipe transactions on one charge. It works with Shopify POS, which runs on both iOS and Android devices. If you subscribe to any of Shopify’s eCommerce plans, the POS app and hardware are included as part of your service. However, if you’re just interested in the mobile app and some tangential eCommerce features, you can opt for the Shopify Lite plan, which goes for $9/month and 2.7% per transaction. It doesn’t include access to all of the advanced features, but as a mobile offering, it’s quite serviceable.
Be sure to check out our detailed review of the Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader. We have reviewed Shopify’s eCommerce plansÂ as well as its Shopify Lite plan and Shopify POS software. Take a quick look at the reviews and see if Shopify is a good fit for you.
Shopify Chip & Swipe Reader Fast Facts
Reader Cost: Free
Payment Types Supported: magstripe, EMV
Companion Software: Shopify POS (with eCommerce plan or Shopify Lite)
PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader
PayPal first made its name as an online payments processor. These days it’s more of an all-in-one solution for businesses, including its free mobile software, PayPal Here, and the free card reader that comes with it. Like most other free readers in this article, the PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader is a magstripe and EMV reader that connects to a mobile device via Bluetooth. The reader comes with a micro USB charger and a clip for attaching the reader to the mobile device.
Read our Review
According to PayPal, the reader has enough battery to last all day. However, a little digging in the comments section of reviews and tech support messages suggests that some people have issues with the battery life. So you might want to proceed with caution if long battery life is important to you.
PayPal, like its closest competitor, Square, used to offer a free basic card reader. However, it discontinued that offer and implemented account restrictions on merchants who use the basic magstripe reader (see our PayPal Here review for more information on that). The free Chip & Swipe reader is a nice alternative to this policy. The mobile app is free to use, with transactions processing at 2.7%.
Signing up with PayPal gives you access to all its payment-related services. Make sure you understand the full scope of PayPal’s business as you consider whether or not to get the PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader. And if you do want a mobile card reader with contactless support, check out the PayPal Chip & Tap reader.
PayPal Chip & Swipe Reader Fast Facts
Reader Cost: Free
Payment Types Supported: magstripe, EMV
Companion Software: PayPal Here
As you look through the reviews, don’t forget to look at the upgraded readers available from each provider. You might wish to take these readers into account, so you’ll know how much more it might cost you in the future to upgrade.
Don’t Be Fooled By The Promise Of A Free Card Reader
Mobile card readers are usually loss leaders used to entice merchants to sign up with a particular card processor. The free readers tend to be a simple piece of hardware without a lot of extras, and they tend not to be able to read NFC signals, so customers won’t be able to tap to pay. For the card processors, free readers are merely a way to introduce you to their other services.
Before you sign up, it’s important to research the processing company to make sure the mobile software and other features are worthwhile and that the pricing works for you. Otherwise, while you might get your free card reader, you will suffer the administrative headaches or reduced profits that come with choosing the wrong credit card processing company.
Lastly, don’t forget to read our article, The Best Credit Card Readers For Your Small Business,Â for a truly comprehensive discussion on the best card readers in the marketplace today.
Have you used any of these free readers? If so, what’s your experience with them?
The post The Best Free Credit Card Readers For Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
So you’ve got some marketing skills, and you’re wondering how to start a digital marketing agency.
But there’s just one problem…
How do you start a digital marketing agency with no experience?
There have never been more opportunities to strike off on your own in the digital marketing space than there today. But how do you actually do it? Where do you start, and how do you scale?
The secret to starting a digital marketing agency with no experience is to have an actual strategy, grow organically as you learn, and deliberately build word of mouth with a specific type of client. It’s about taking aim vs. shooting randomly and hoping something lands.
There’s also a major misconception that starting a digital marketing agency has to mean a HUGE process that requires building a massive company and doing “all the things” and taking all the clients.
In reality, a digital marketing agency can be just…you. It’s not about the pricey software or offices or employees. It’s about determining who you help, how you help them, and then actually doing the work.
The business model of an agency is fairly straightforward. Sure, you can tinker around the edges about whether to bill by hour, by week, by task, or by project. But at its core, you are providing specialized knowledge for a fee. An agency of one and an agency of 10,000 work in basically the same way.
With that concept in mind, here’s how to start a digital marketing agency with no experience.
1. Set Your Business Goals
Before you decide to do anything, you’ve got to do some planning. What do you want the business to actually look like? What’s the end goal? The vision?
Starting your digital marketing agency without some sort of direction in mind is like trying to get to a new restaurant with no address and no navigation. You end up lost, taking wrong turns, and probably not having much success.
If you’ve observed the industry for any length of time, you’ll notice that agencies with conflicting goals run into trouble often. But the ones that stick to their vision do well.
Some agencies want to maximize prestige. They focus on recognizable clients who are willing to do interesting work. Some agencies want to maximize profits. They focus on boring but high growth, high opportunity clients. Some agencies want to maximize freedom / autonomy. They focus on low maintenance, consistent clients. And some agencies want to maximize business value. They focus on internal operations, cash flow, and strong branding.
There is no correct goal – except to choose a specific goal and stick to it no matter what.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a digital marketing agency. There are big agencies, small agencies, agencies that focus on just one part of digital marketing (like search engine optimization) and full-service agencies who do everything from design and development to paid media, local marketing, and SEO.
It’s up to you to decide who you want to serve and how you want to serve them.
What To Consider
Do you want to serve local clients, or go outside of your local sphere?
Are you focusing on a specific industry?
Do you want to offer a specific digital marketing service, or a variety of services?
Do your clients need to be within a certain budget?
Are there services you don’t want to offer? Niches you don’t want to serve?
What To Avoid
Avoid trying to have something for everyone. You know what they say about a jack of all trades… you’re a master of none.
Avoid direction hoping. Pick a direction and see it through until you have enough data and experience to make a decision on changing directions.
2. Define Your Target Audience
The irony of all ironies is that usually, marketers are horrible at marketing themselves, mainly because they don’t go through their own steps.
If you’ve done any marketing before, then you know one of the first things you do as you develop your marketing strategy is get clear on your target audience. The same applies for starting your digital marketing agency.
Once you’ve decided on who you want to serve, it’s time to dive a bit deeper. What are they struggling with? How do you help them with that problem?
Outline the wants, needs, likes, dislikes, habits, and information of someone you think would definitely be an ideal client for your agency. Outline what their marketing needs are, what their goals are, and how you can help achieve those goals through the service(s) you’ve decided to offer.
Don’t just armchair imagine this. Ask potential customers what they struggle with when it comes to getting the word out about their business. What do they wish they could get some help with? What do they look for in a digital marketing agency?
Make 2 to 4 very specific personas. Remember that your initial market is not your total market. Even if you start out by targeting a very specific geographic area or a very specific customer doesn’t mean that you can’t expand. It’ll just give you more focus.
What To Consider
Get specific. It’s better to start small and scale (i.e. being a digital marketing agency that helps local dentists get more clients through organic search) than try to help everyone and get lost in the noise (i.e. being a general marketer who can do anything for any business).
Remember that your initial market is not your total market. It just gives you focus.
What To Avoid
Avoid businesses that don’t align with your overall business strategy. Sure, it’s great to get work in the beginning, but remember… pick a direction and stick to it. If you don’t offer a service, don’t offer it – even if it means turning down a little bit of money at the beginning.
Personas aren’t just for marketing strategies. Have 2-4 for your own business direction so you know who to say yes to and who to say no to.
3. Build an Online Presence
Once you have an idea of what type of agency you are, who you serve, and how you serve them, it’s time to think about how you’re going to present this information.
This means building your online presence through your website and social channels.
Setting Up Your Website
You don’t need to have a full-blown website to have a digital marketing agency. But given you’re helping people get seen online, you should have some sort of online presence.
If you are going super-lean, you can use a Facebook page, Yelp profile, or a few focus (aka “landing”) pages (more on that in a minute). But going without a decent looking website will put you behind the curve and place limitations on what you can do with your brand & marketing.
I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account**. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here.
That route will give you a good technical foundation with fast, simple setup and access to other business tools like email and digital storage. It will also allow you to implement a customized off the shelf design – “themes.” Themes allow you to have a website that looks good enough to make a sale without spending months and lots of money on a 100% custom design. Creating a website on something like WordPress also allows you to implement a 100% custom design when that time comes.
**Note – self-hosting WordPress does have a learning curve. For a long-term website with a business that has resources, it’s worthwhile. But – there is absolutely a role for a hosted website builder for many businesses – especially if your business will focus on clients who use a specific platform (like Wix or Squarespace or Shopify). I have a guide to selecting a good website builder here.
Setting Up Focused (aka “Landing”) Pages
As I mentioned above, a few high-quality focused pages on your website can get you a long way. In addition to your Home page, About page, and Privacy page, you need landing pages to address specific needs.
When I say “landing pages” – don’t think of anything too complex or anything that you would need to A/B test. I’m simply referring to pages that visitors can land on from a search engine or an ad and find exactly what they are looking for. I like to call them Focused Pages rather than Landing pages.
Why? Here’s pro tip that few website owners will admit to: nobody cares about or even sees your homepage.
Your homepage is for people who already know you who are. For businesses in a single specific service, you can use it to “rank” for your main industry term.
Landing pages go beyond your homepage.
Landing pages are for new (or returning) visitors to land on and convert. Before you build out all your website pages, you should develop focused landing pages that sell to one or all of these buckets:
Service specific – These pages should promote your services. But, they shouldn’t be generic. You should make them either focused on the problem that your service solves (ie, no website traffic) or focused on the application of your service. For example, it’s one thing to offer “SEO” – it’s another to make websites more crawlable, more relevant, and more visible in search.
Geography / Demography specific – These pages are all about the location service & logistics of obtaining your agency’s services. Even though your work might be global, your clients’ are likely not global. They will pay for someone who understands their local market. Additionally, if you have a keen understanding of a demographic (ie, college students), then you can focus on that as well.
Industry Specific – These pages should promote your expertise within specific industries. Even though marketing principles do not differ much across industries, clients want someone who can understand their perspective. If you know more than someone else about [X] industry, you should promote that. And if you can go deeper within a niche, then do that.
Now – the magic here is combining buckets & going deeper within each bucket. Until you are big & growing, going niche is your friend. Create combinations to make extremely focused pages.
“Digital Marketing for the Travel Industry” will not bring in your first clients.
“Facebook Marketing for AirBNB Hosts in Atlanta, Georgia” absolutely will.
The goal here is to sell to people at the very bottom of the marketing funnel – the customers most likely to convert and most likely to succeed. These pages will both rank organically – and you can use them for paid ads.
What To Consider
Detailed content content (like a blog) can take your presence a long way. Think about future functionality you may want to have on your site so you can choose a platform that supports it and don’t have to create something from scratch once you’re ready to implement it.
Practice what you preach. If you’re a copywriting agency, make sure your copy is up to par. If you’re a design agency, make sure your site looks like you can actually design something.
You don’t have to be everywhere (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube). Pick your starting channels and expand later if need be.
What To Avoid
Avoid perfection. The goal is to have a online presence that shows you’re legit, but being an agency is about billable hours. Don’t spend more time working on your own presence than your clients’.
4. Get Visible (AKA Getting Leads and Clients)
Once you have a place to send people, it’s time to get some leads and clients.
Again, marketers are notoriously bad at marketing themselves. But the days of “build it and they will come” are long gone. You actually have to do something to get clients and start building your portfolio, especially if you’re starting a digital marketing agency with no experience.
Here are a few key steps to follow to get the word out about your digital marketing agency.
Word of Mouth / Referrals
Above all other marketing techniques, agencies thrive on word of mouth and referrals. In fact, many top agencies are past the point of direct response marketing. They grow exclusively on word of mouth. They know how to appeal to certain markets and what kind of performance it takes to get further referrals.
The focus of your landing pages will help word of mouth since you’ll develop a simple, straightforward reputation.
In order to get referrals, you’ve got to get clients to back up your reputation. Which brings me to…
Also known as hustlin’. This consists of all the tedious and tough pitching that you know you need to do… but don’t want to do.
Now, it doesn’t mean spamming. It means going directly to your market and doing appropriate outreach.
It means emailing and Facebook messaging people that you know might be interested in your marketing services (or know others who might be). And sending them to your landing pages to learn more about your agency or hopping on a call with them to talk about how you can help them. And again, the focus of your landing pages will help make word of mouth simpler. You’ll stand out when people remember you as “the [X] marketer for [Y] industry in [Z] city.
It means helping within industry forums. I got my first handful of web design clients after helping people on the WordPress.org support forums. I got my first ecommerce client after helping in the Shopify forums. I never pitched anyone directly, but this type of manual, hand-on work counts as direct outreach.
When you’re just starting out with no experience, direct outreach is one of the most effective ways to get clients quickly (which you can then turn into referrals).
Tap into your existing network, look for projects that you can knock out of the park, and continue to get your name out there without having to spend money on ads or wait for your inbound strategy to grow (more on that in a minute).
Check out this case study or this post for even more detail on how to use direct outreach.
Yes, it’s true — Google Ads and Facebook can be expensive for a good return on investment, especially for the close to converting keywords that you should try to buy.
But if your serious about building a long-term marketing strategy for your digital marketing agency, then your goal is a bit different when using paid traffic.
You are buying data. Lots of data.
You should be doing a few things with your new traffic.
Look at what keywords are driving the best leads. Google Ads & Facebook give you this information. Try using modified broad match for your keywords. Many times customers are using a wider variety of keywords than you’d guess.
Run your ads very focused on geography, especially if you’re a local agency. If you have a landing page for a neighborhood, set up a campaign for that area.
Look at what landing pages are driving sales & calls.
Look at what areas are driving sales.
Test ad copy and figure out the right messaging. You can use this data to inform any print or display campaigns..
On Facebook, you can get *really* specific with your audiences. Do that. Create an audience of 100 who you *know* would be perfect. Make sure they know about you. Use the campaign to warm up any direct pitch.
Organic Search (SEO) Traffic
Organic traffic (SEO) still might not be the best next channel to pursue after paid traffic. There’s a great big wide world of paid and organic traffic sources, and if you’re working on building a portfolio and just get some experience, this is going to take awhile.
And yet, if you’re playing the long game, setting up your SEO strategy now can have huge payoffs in the end.
Google processes more than 3.5 billion queries per day. And for most queries, most of the clicks go to an organic result. And you’ll know from your Ads campaigns that clicks for competitive keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic results.
So I won’t hide my enthusiasm for SEO. It’s my specialty and is the giant battleship that will keep on going once it’s headed in the right direction.
When you are setting your marketing strategy for your digital marketing agency, you just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.
Often you’ll just need a handful of really useful posts to prove your expertise. Don’t go after generic topics. Show off your specialty. Do a tutorial on tools that you know your audience is trying to use. Write about an issue that you know everyone is dealing with.
What To Consider
Your first goal when you’re starting an agency is to get clients. Billable hours drive everything (and is what will enable you to invest in other marketing efforts).
Some of your best leads can be in your own circle. Don’t discount the network you already have.
No one will know about your business if you don’t tell anyone about your business. You don’t need fancy business cards, a beautiful website, or even some elaborate marketing funnel. You DO need to tell people what you do.
You do have to walk the walk, but you don’t have to rely on your own area to build your business. If you do SEO and you choose not to use SEO to generate leads, that’s fine — but be prepared to speak to that with potential clients.
What To Avoid
Avoid being a generalist. Yes you need clients, yes you need revenue — but remember the business strategy you set upfront.
Avoid adding additional work without increasing the scope to “win” a client. If clients want additional services and you offer them, great! Let them know how that changes your fees. Earn respect with results, not with price or perceived responsiveness.
5. Define Your Growth Plan
Building a digital marketing agency doesn’t mean you have to become the next big company doing Super Bowl commercials. As I mentioned before, a digital marketing agency can be an agency of one.
You should however, have an idea of how you’d like to grow. Being a one-person company still doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. ShivarWeb is made up of exactly 1 person, Nate Shivar, but several amazing contractors help shoulder specific responsibilities. Employees are great once you have a solid book of recurring contracts, but contractors can help you bridge any gap.
As you start to grow, think about the teams, systems, and deliverables you want to have in place to help support your clients.
For your team, would bringing on a full-time copywriter help you sign two more clients? Could you outsource design work or administrative tasks that take up your time?
For your systems, do you have a written system for new clients? Even if you are solo, you need to have a written system that clients pass through. It should be something that you can set out in a contract. You can (and should) find examples for Master Service Agreements (MSAs) & Statements of Work (SoW’s) to build of of. Make sure you have an internal project management system – even if it just lives in a Google Sheet.
For your deliverables, do you have a way to show value to your clients? Do you have a way to gather feedback from them. If you are an SEO, then written audits, keyword maps, and written outreach & content strategies will help make the “magic” of SEO real for your clients. It goes the same for every type of marketing. What format will you use? Who can you talk to within the industry to get a base understanding?
To be honest, this section is the biggest reason to do some short stint with an already established agency. I worked for Nebo Agency for a little over 2 years, and learned more than I could have learned on my own in 10. But working for an agency is not required. You just need to do a bit more thinking & planning.
Doing some advanced planning here will help you scale faster and easier than waiting to figure it out when the workload becomes too much.
What To Consider
There are certain tasks only you can do. What are those? Keep your focus there.
A bigger team doesn’t necessarily mean a better agency. Some of the best marketers I know run with a very lean crew.
Think back to your business vision. Do you have services you want to provide but YOU can’t do? Are there people you can hire that can cover a few different areas (i.e. a writer with graphic design experience)
What To Avoid
Avoid getting caught in the weeds. You can’t make any money if you’re sitting in your inbox for five hours a day.
Avoid thinking of outsourcing as an expense. Crunch your numbers and think value and reinvestment.
Avoid going the “cheap” route when hiring help. You get what you pay for.
Charge what you are worth. If you are making your clients money, then charge what you are worth…and make them even more money!
Conclusion & Next Steps
Starting a digital marketing agency with no experience doesn’t have to be a daunting process full of questions, unknowns, and hurdles.
It does require that you clearly understand what you want out of your agency, who you’re going to help, and how you’re going to help them.
If you are trying to start a digital marketing agency, follow the process and you’ll be all set!
The post How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency with No Experience appeared first on ShivarWeb.
What will go down as the societal advancement of the 2010s? Will it be groundbreaking cancer treatments? Leaps in virtual reality technology? The onset of self-driving cars? It’s too early to tell, but I’m going to put some early money on the revolution known as online ordering. Because who needs life-extending medical advancements if it means living in a world where you still have to put on pants to get food from your favorite local restaurant?
Mobile ordering has taken the restaurant industry and the limits of my own laziness by storm. According to a recent post by POS company Upserve, 60% of US consumers reported ordering delivery or takeout at least once a week. 31% of responders said they used those services at least twice a week. And digital ordering has grown 300% in the past five years compared to dining in at restaurants. This boom can obviously mean there’s potential for huge profits for restaurant owners. But there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind when thinking about adding online ordering to your own business. In this post, we’ll break down how online ordering works, how to set it up for your business, and what your options are in terms of using your own system or a third-party.
How Do Restaurant Online Ordering Systems Work?
From the consumer’s perspective, it couldn’t be simpler. Decide “I think I would like some food!” make a few clicks on your phone or laptop, and food from your favorite restaurant arrives at your door in a timely fashion. But from the restaurant’s side of things, well… no, actually it’s still pretty simple.
If you’re using a POS system with integrated online ordering, you likely just need to activate it. Sometimes, if the service is an add-on, it will come with an additional monthly fee. From there, the software does the work. An order that is made online can either pop on the POS system and then be sent back to the kitchen or it can be sent directly to the kitchen, along with the time that the order was made and when the customer or third-party delivery person plans on picking it up. In this instance, a POS that comes with a Kitchen Display System (KDS) can be beneficial as it’s a convenient and efficient way to track a high volume of orders.
If you’re new to online ordering, you’ll also want to make sure that your website is intuitive and has the capacity for a potential influx of visitors. If you’re starting a website from scratch with the intention of adding online ordering to your business, you’ll want a good eCommerce platform. Many POS systems come with eCommerce functionality built-in (often for additional monthly fees) and others integrate with strong eCommerce software like Shopify.
If your POS does not have its own online ordering system, it may integrate with one (we’ll get into some of the better online ordering integrations later) and, in that case, you will likely just need to download and install the app on your system and you can be up and ready to take orders in minutes. The other option is to use one of the popular marketplace apps like UberEats or GrubHub. These apps are easy to use and widely-known among customers, but they also take a larger percentage of your profits.
How To Implement Online Ordering For Restaurants
Now let’s start getting a little more detailed. As we briefly talked about, there are a few different types of online ordering systems each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Restaurant POS Add-Ons
These are systems that are built-in to existing POS software. They usually come at an additional cost for users but require very little additional set-up.
Works Seamlessly With Other Software: Obviously, if this is a part of the overall software, it will be designed to work with other POS functions like loyalty or eCommerce and the interface will be immediately recognizable.
Lower Costs: Keep in mind that, with most POS systems, online ordering is either an add-on that you will have to pay for in addition to your monthly software cost or you will need to subscribe to a higher tier plan. The good news is that this is a fixed fee. Considering that you won’t be hit with fees per order like other apps charge, it’s usually the most economical choice.
Store Customer Information: Many online ordering systems can pair directly with a POS system’s loyalty program. This allows you to keep a record of customer information and transactions. You can easily see customers’ past orders along with how often they frequent your business and how much they generally spend. You can then offer rewards or send out targeted marketing to encourage customers to return.
Availability:Â Unfortunately, not all POS systems have integrated online ordering. You may love everything else about your system and aren’t willing to switch over to another just for one additional feature.
Visibility:Â Like it or not, the third-party apps do serve a purpose: they can help your restaurant reach customers who may not know about you. With a built-in online ordering system, a customer will have to specifically know about your restaurant and order directly through your website.
While multiple POS companies now offer some form of in-house online ordering, here are a few that do it well:
Upserve:Â This company has one of the highest-rated online ordering systems, getting high marks for its cost and usability. Upserve offers great reporting, breaking down online ordering into easily digestible charts to track trends and help with marketing campaigns in the future.
Toast: Toast is extremely intuitive and built for the restaurant industry. Its online ordering system features full menu visibility and offers prompted modifiers to help customers walk through their options. You can also dispatch drivers to pre-set delivery zones.
Square:Â The processing and POS giant now offers Caviar on its Square for Restaurants platform. This software offers flexibility for customers to choose the time of their pick-up. It also comes with real-time updates and GPS order tracking.
Third-Party Online Ordering Systems
These are apps specifically created to help restaurants implement online ordering. They can generally be downloaded from an app store or a company will specifically partner or integrate with them.
Created For Restaurants:Â When you set out to create an app that is specifically for online ordering to be used by a variety of restaurants, the product is likely to have all of the features you need and be intuitive for your employees.
Can Help Build Your Website:Â Apps like these can help give your website a professional look and can help drive repeat business through their own loyalty campaigns.
Cost:Â Most of these third-party systems come with a monthly or yearly fee that is generally more expensive than the add-on price for an existing POS’s ordering software.
Compatibility:Â While most of these apps do a good job integrating with existing POS software, you may find that your existing system doesn’t support the third-party system you’ve settled on.
And here are a few examples of third-party apps that could help serve your restaurant:
GloriaFood:Â This is a free app that boasts no hidden fees. It also offers a bundle to help set up your website. It has a simple-to-use interface and can be up and running in a short amount of time while also offering a table reservation function.
ChowNow: ChowNow is commission-free and syncs up nicely with social media sites like Facebook to help drive sales. Its dashboard also allows you to make quick menu changes on the fly.
MenuDrive:Â This app comes with built-in loyalty to help attract and reward repeat customers. It can also help with marketing and promotions and it was specifically built to be a functional experience for mobile orders.
Marketplace Delivery Apps
These are well-known apps that are used by a large number of customers and rely on third-party drivers for pick-up and delivery.
Visibility:Â These apps can literally put your restaurant on the map. You could potentially have thousands of eyeballs on your menu that you wouldn’t have otherwise due to these apps’ sheer number of users.
Not Limited To One App: While is may put a strain on your kitchen, you can use pretty much as many companies as you’d like to maximize the number of customers you can reach. There are also additional apps like OrderOut that can combine all of these third-party apps into one location to simplify the process.
Cost:Â These apps often charge a hefty fee for the use of their popular service, some as high as 30% of an order, which can virtually negate any profit your restaurant may have received.
Discourages Loyalty:Â While these apps may get your name out there, they are also impersonal and may not do much to increase the chances of repeat business. You also can not track or chart customer information or ordering habits for future marketing.
While the chances are good that you’ve heard of at least a few of these third-party apps, here’s what some of the more popular ones can offer:
UberEats:Â This app comes with a huge number of drivers which can virtually guarantee speedy delivery and it’s simple for restaurants and cafes of all types to utilize. However, UberEats does charge one of the largest commission fees in the industry.
Postmates:Â Postmates claims to have the largest on-demand network in the industry and is extremely popular in large, urban areas. It also has a Postmates API if you or anyone in your restaurant is into coding and software development.
GrubHub:Â GrubHub has a convenient re-order feature for users that can help keep your restaurant at the front of a customer’s mind. While it may not specifically benefit your business, GrubHub also offers loyalty perks to its customers, rewarding them for repeat business.
Is An Online Ordering System Right For You?
By now you’re probably well aware of the potential revenue boost that an online ordering system can add to your restaurant. That doesn’t necessarily mean that moving forward is a no-brainer, however. There are plenty of things to consider such as the added costs of more ingredients and labor, not to mention whether or not your kitchen can handle a significant uptick in orders without sacrificing your in-restaurant experience.
But if you’ve determined that this is the right move for your business, you have plenty of options. The nice thing is that the vast majority of these systems, whether in-house or through a third-party, are very easy to set up and utilize. With most, you could be ready to make your first online sale in a single business day. But you’ll still have to weigh what would be most beneficial to your own, personal restaurant. Do you want a system that helps get your name and menu out to a variety of new customers, or do you want to avoid high fees while rewarding and marketing to existing customers? Whatever you decide, hopefully, this helped make the big decision a little easier.
The post Does Your Restaurant Need An Online Ordering System? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Strikingly is an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping entrepreneurs get up and running online quickly and easily. They’re platform requires zero code or design skills, meaning even those with no website experience can create a good-looking site in minutes.
See Strikingly’s Current Plans & Pricing
Recently, I gave Strikingly a try for a full Strikingly Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.
There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Strikingly Website Builder?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Strikingly lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.
Using Strikingly is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Strikingly, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.
As far as competition, Strikingly competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com (and Shopify for online stores).
Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed and ease of use. Strikingly offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required (more on that in a bit).
One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Pros of Using Strikingly Website Builder
Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Strikingly website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.
Straightforward Sign Up Process
One of the biggest pros of using Strikingly is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just two steps — enter your information, pick your theme, and you’re in!
This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without the hassle of creating a detailed account, selecting a niche, etc.
Template Design / Functionality
Strikingly also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). There are a wide variety of options to choose from, and Strikingly has them broken down by niche, so you can find a template that includes the functionality your business may need.
Now, Strikingly isn’t technically drag-and-drop (where you choose from premade sections and “drop” those onto your page), but it is fairy intuitive to use. You can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), and you can add premade sections and blocks, but you don’t get the ability to add elements willy nilly.
The whole setup is like painting by numbers.
There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options. It makes Strikingly a great option for entrepreneurs/ DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend much time tweaking the design themselves.
Free Trial + Free Plan
Another benefit Strikingly is their 14-day free trial and free plan.
Strikingly allows you to trial any plan (even their highest-tiered option!) for 14 days before committing. This is great for DIYers who want to give a plan a test drive before committing.
They also offer a free plan, which includes a fair amount of features when compared to competitors, such as unlimited sites and limited ecommerce functionality.
There are some cons with the free plan, such as limited storage, limited pages, having to use a subdomain (ex: yourname.strikingly.com), and extremely limited integrations — but if you’re looking for a simple site for a short-term project, this could be a solid option.
Some Product Integration
While limited, Strikingly does offer some product integration, such as ecommerce functionality and apps in their app store (which give you the ability to add maps, forms, and other functionality to your site).
You can also add on custom email for an additional $25/year. One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans. This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).
Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Strikingly as your website builder.
Pricing + Plans
While Strikingly is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and small businesses, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be domains, the number of “pro” sites you can publish, or even storage.
You also can’t access the VIP plan on the monthly payment option. Again, this isn’t inherently a con… unless you need the VIP features and want to pay monthly. Then you’re out of luck. The price also changes based on how long you commit to, which is a pro if you’re looking for a long-term solution, and a con if you’re looking for a short-term solution.
Limited Feature Set – Design
With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS)
And you can really see this trade-off with the Strikingly website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and sections based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.
However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder. You can’t add anything within the premade sections, you can’t create your own sections, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited.
Limited Feature Set – Technical
The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.
Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.
These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet. Now, as I mentioned above, Strikingly does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email for an additional payment. They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking (but only on Pro plans).
However, there are a ton of technical features that Strikingly doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.
For example, let’s look at Strikingly’s SEO features. I can edit the site title, description, and add a category and social share image. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in to what I have. There’s no options for Schema, Open Graph settings, etc. – much less highly advanced options.
Even the additional add-on products / integrations are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics or putting code into the header of your website, which again, is only available for Pro plans.
Ultimately, Strikingly leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.
Strikingly Review Conclusion
Strikingly makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, which makes it a great choice for DIYers who want a quick and easy way to build a nice website without the hassle of getting into the code or having something custom made.
Check out Strikingly’s plans here.
However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Strikingly pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.
Not sure Strikingly fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.
The post Strikingly Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.
If you use (or are considering using) Shopify as your eCommerce platform, you probably have a vested interest in the customer experience during checkout. How can you guide potential customers through the payment process faster and keep the sale? How can you encourage a repeat sale? That’s where the Shopify Pay button comes in.
Shopify Pay is another payment button to add to your checkout process, but what’s behind it? Shopify Pay is powered by Stripe â the behind-the-scenes processor that powers huge brands including Lyft, Under Armor, and Target. It’s not a small potato by any means. Shopify began as a tool to help merchants get their wares online, but with Stripe powering its payment processing, the ecosystem is growing. Shopify now offers multi-channel sales support, invoicing, and even a full POS system for your storefront, among other things.
But before you opt for Shopify’s solution and add a new shiny button to your checkout flow, you probably have some questions. In this post, we’re going to cover the basics so you can make an educated choice about Shopify Pay for yourself.
What Is Shopify Pay?
Shopify Pay is an option you can provide your customers at checkout that lets them save their credit card, shipping, and billing information. In this way, Shopify Pay is an accelerated checkout flow that rivals other third-party checkout buttons like Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal One Touch.
Once your customer opts to check out through Shopify Pay, their payments information is saved for future use at your shop and any other Shopify store they visit. In the example below, shoppers can pay via Shopify Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal.
Screen Capture of Shopify Pay Checkout Example
Any of these accelerated checkout options must be enabled in your payment settings for customers to see these as choices during checkout. Keep reading, and we’ll explore how to get Shopify Pay in your checkout flow as well as more of the nuts and bolts behind what makes this a unique option that you may want to consider.
How Does Shopify Pay Work?
Let’s look at how Shopify Pay works from the perspective of a shopper.
For your customer, Shopify Pay is very straightforward. By clicking on the Shopify Pay branded button at checkout for the first time (see the blue button in the image above), the shopper enters in all of their shipping, billing, and credit card information as usual. The key difference is that your customer has the option to save their information for a speedier checkout next time they visit you.
Shopify Screen Capture of Opt-In Flow for Shopify Payments
After entering their mobile number and linking their account this first time, your customer is all set with Shopify Pay. That means that the next time they visit you (or any other Shopify store) using their device, Shopify Pay whisks them directly to the order review page, where they click “Authorize Purchase”. Here, shoppers bypass entering in all of their information, and they only need to enter the unique 6-digit code that Shopify sends via SMS text message to their phone. After entering the digits on this one form, their order is complete.
If you decide you want to add this button to your checkout, the good news is that it’s fast, and you don’t need any technical expertise to do so.
Enabling Shopify Pay On Your Site
You can enable Shopify Pay just like you would any other third-party options like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, etc. Head back into Settings at your dashboard, then select Payment Providers. Once there, go to the Shopify Payments section and select Manage.Â
Next, you’ll select Shopify Pay in the Accelerated Checkouts section. Make sure you save your changes, and then you’re all set.
Once you enable this or any other new payment button, your customers will be able to choose the payment method that they fancy most!
In case I lost anyone over the Shopify Payments and ShopifyÂ terms, let’s clear up any confusion, and then take a moment to decide if Shopify Pay is a good option for your business or not.
Shopify Pay VS Shopify Payments
It’s important to understand that when we talk about Shopify Payments and Shopify Pay, we are talking about two different options, especially from your customer’s point of view. As we’ve already explored in the sections above, Shopify Pay accelerates future checkouts by allowing your customers to save their information, including their billing address and payment information. In contrast, you can think of Shopify Payments as the default checkout option that allows you to take payment from your customers. Shopify Payments takes shoppers through the full payment flow with no option to save payment information for future use.
Shopify Payments appears as the unbranded Checkout option in the screen capture below. Shopify Pay is the branded button with the shopping bag logo.
Screen Capture of Shopify Pay Checkout Example
Note that if your checkout doesn’t require a shipping address, then your customers won’t be asked to opt into Shopify Pay. The other thing I want to stress here is that even if you enable Shopify Pay, your customer isn’t forced into saving their information for an accelerated checkout. They can always opt to go through the full checkout flow and complete the order. Shopify Pay is just another option to give them.
Why Shopify Pay Can Be Great For Merchants
If you’re not sure whether or not you want to add Shopify Pay, consider a new angle we haven’t explored in this post quite yet: payment security. Because Shopify Payments utilizes SMS text verification with a mobile number, you get a security boost. While payment information breaches make the news fairly regularly these days, the added layer of security offered by Shopify Pay can benefit the merchant and the shopper through the linked phone verification step. Shoppers get to bypass entering in all of the standard payment information while creating a more secure transaction. As a bonus for you as the merchant, this authentication method can also make it more difficult for a shopper to claim they never ordered your product.
Another great thing is that Shopify takes care of payment security, and you don’t have to jump through hoops to get it â no technical expertise is required.Â From this perspective, Shopify Pay seems like a well-rounded choice that’s easy to enable (and disable) if you see fit. That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and IÂ also whole-heartedly recommend reading our full Shopify Payments Review to find out if the Shopify Pay is the right payment platform for your type of business overall. And if you haven’t yet landed on an eCommerce platform yet, there is still a lot to consider, isn’t there? Check out our full Shopify Review to find out more about all of the features, pricing, and other important things to consider.
If you are considering adding Shopify Pay to your existing Shopify storefront, rest assured that there isn’t really a downside to adding this checkout button. In fact, you may just find that your repeat customers visit you a little more frequently because it’s easier to buy, and that’s definitely worth a second look. In the very least, testing checkout options is a smart move to make. Do you have experience with Shopify Pay? We’d love to hear how it’s working for you.
The post What Is Shopify Pay And Why Does It Matter For Merchants? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.