As a reviewer of website builders, you might say I have a vested interest in promoting the main idea undergirding the DIY website builder: The notion that anybody, given access to inexpensiveÂ online editing tools, can create a perfectly functional website for their business or for themselves. However, there are plenty of reasons why a prospective website owner might seek to go another route. Perhaps you want more functionality out of your website thanÂ Squarespace or Wix can provide. Or maybe you simply have more pressing business or personal priorities than personally creating the website you want.
An obvious alternative to using a website builder is to hire a web designer to create your site. Sadly, this option is out of the reach of anybody who doesn’t have thousands of dollars (or more) on hand to spend on a website. That’s where intermediary web companies like Webbased.com come in. Webbased.com is a company that offers a variety of web services, including web design, SEO, support, and marketing. It’s meant to be kind of a one-stop shop for getting your website created, marketed, and monetized. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.
Webbased.com: Services Offered
Here are the service packages webbased.com has to offer:
Web design services
5 to 15 unique page designs
$99/month to $249/month
Local search engine optimization
Get found by local clients
$299/month to $999/month
National search engine optimization
Boost your search rankings in Google, Yahoo, and Bing
Get a marketing dashboard with stats
$698/month to $2978/month
Pay-per-click management (eCommerce)
ECommerce PPC management — best for businesses with products with SKUs
$158/month to $298/month
Pay-per-click management (local)
Increase brand exposure in a specific geographic area
$218/month to $1480/month
Pay-per-click management (national)
PPC management services
$478/month to $3198/month
Pay-per-click management (retargeting)
Boost your ROI by re-engaging previous users
$158/month to $398/month
Animated video explainer
Boost your conversion rates with explainer videos
$199/month to $529/month
Video production services
Get videos made for any marketing purpose
$249/month to $625/month
Social media management
Social media team manages your social media presence
Detailed auditing and reporting
$199/month to $999/month
Logo design services
$299 (one-time charge)
Landing page design
WordPress maintenance and hosting
Get maintenance, security, and updates for your WordPress site
$44.99/month to $99.99/month
WordPress optimization and performance tuning
$99/month to $369/month
WordPress support and help
Get updates and maintenance on your WordPress website
$59 (one-time charge)
Â Better rates than PayPal and Square
Fully integrated into your site
Additionally, if you have an existing business website, webbased.com will analyse your site, free of charge, and send you a report assessing your site based on a number of metrics: speed, security, page views, conversion rate, mobile-compatibility, and SEO.
Here’s webbased’s full list of services, detailing everything that’s included in their product packages along with pricing.
Customer Service & Support
Webbased.com provides a plethora of ways to get in touch with a company rep. In addition to the standard email contact form, there’s a phone support line and live chat. There’s even a chat room you can join between the hours of 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM Pacific in which you can chat with Webbased’s developers about any issues you might have with your website.
Reviews Of Webbased.com
On its website, webbased.com actually directs users to review their services on both Google and Yelp — a sign of confidence in its products. The reviews posted by customers on these two sites are almost entirely complimentary, with users praising both the services offered and the customer support they received. One user’s opinion is fairly representative:
They provided creativity, valuable feedback, analysis and guidance in designing our logo, website, SEO optimization and producing our live company video.
The users with complaints get replies from the company — it’s always good to see companies responding in good faith to the complaints of their users.
Not everybody has the time and/or patience to build a website on their own, and it’s not easy for the layperson to personally negotiate with individual web designers over the particulars of services and pricing. Services like webbased.com help give aspiring webmasters the ability to select from a menu of services to get exactly what it is they need in a website. If you feel like passing on the heavy cyber-lifting to a team of experts, webbased.com is worth investigating.
The post Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re looking into building an online store, you’ve probably seen mention online of both Shopify and 3dcart. Both of these are fully hosted SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, and both boast usability and plentiful eCommerce features. These shopping carts call themselves all-in-one solutions, meaning that they will provide you with site hosting, web security, and customer support, all for one monthly fee.
Let’s start with a quick overview of each eCommerce platform:
Ease of Use
Integrations & Add-Ons
Customer Service & Technical Support
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Shopify and 3dcart clearly offer their users a lot, but how do they stack up against each other? In this article, we’ll go over the price, features, and design editors of each solution. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of which software better fits your business.
Shopify is a Canadian eCommerce solution, which has grown since 2006 to host more than 600,000 stores worldwide. Shopify’s claim to fame is usability and affordability. Merchants at all stages will be able to access the softwareÂ and use it to build a site to their liking.
Shopify’s downfall, however, is related to this usability. Because Shopify aims to provide easy-to-use features, they often fail to add more advanced functionality. Users have to add-on these advanced features with integrations and applications.
3dcart, on the other hand, is a feature-rich eCommerce solution that is built to serve merchants large and small. They offer a range of pricing optionsÂ so that users can select a plan that fits their budget. 3dcart is a less popular solution than Shopify, currently hosting over 22,000 customers, but it is still a main player in the eCommerce industry.
However, 3dcart is not a perfect solution. While the platform is still relatively easy to learn, it is not quite as intuitive as Shopify. In addition, users often report that 3dcart’s customer support is not reliable.
Keep reading for more in-depth information on each of these platforms. Learn which software is best for you.
Donât have time to read an entire review? Take a look atÂ our top-rated eCommerce solutionsÂ for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.
Web-Hosted Or Licensed
Both services are web-hosted.
Hardware & Software Requirements
None. You’ll only need a computer, internet access, and an up-to-date web browser.
Pricing plan for 3dcart and Shopify follow a similar model. BothÂ are available as a monthly subscription in which price is based on features. Neither service requires you to sign a contract, although you can get a discount on your monthly rate if you commit for a year or more. What’s more, Shopify and 3dcart both offer enterprise-level platforms for users who need a higher level of support and capabilities.
Shopify’s plans are billed on a month-by-month basis. If you choose to sign on for one year, you can benefit from a 10% discount on your plan, and if you pay for two years, you’ll get a 20% discount.
One way in which Shopify’s pricing is different from many eCommerce platforms is that Shopify charges transaction fees. You will be charged these fees (0.5%-2.0% based on your plan) in addition to the processing fees that you’ll pay to your payment processor of choice. Shopify will waive these transaction fees if you use their in-house payments solution, Shopify Payments. You will still have to pay processing fees to Shopify Payments, but you won’t be charged the additional transaction fee.
Here’s a quick overview of plans:
Shopify Lite Plan (No Online Store Included): $9/month
Transaction Fee: 2.0%
Basic Shopify Plan: $29/Month
Transaction Fee: 2.0%
Two Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Ownerâs Account)
Shopify Plan: $79/Month
Transaction Fee: 1.0%
Five Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Ownerâs Account)
Advanced Shopify Plan: $299/Month
Transaction Fee: 0.5%
Fifteen Staff Accounts (In Addition To The Ownerâs Account)
With 3dcart, you’ll be billed monthly. However, if you pay in advance for a full year on the platform, you’ll receive a 10% discount. Keep in mind that 3dcart does not allow refunds, so be sure 3dcart is the right software for you before you commit for a year.
All of 3dcart’s regular plans (excluding the Startup Plan) come with unlimited products and bandwidth, free domain registration, API connectivity, and 24/7 phone support.
Startup Plan: $19/Month
1 Staff User
Sell Up To $10K/Year
2 Staff Users
Unlimited Products & Bandwidth
5 Staff Users
15 Staff Users
Pricing for 3dcart and Shopify is very similar. Your choice will depend on how many staff users your business needs and how Shopify’s transaction fees would affect you. For our comparison, we’ll call this a tie.
Ease Of Use
For many merchants looking for eCommerce software, ease of use is the number one priority. Fortunately, both Shopify and 3dcart provide that ease of use to all their users.
Shopify is one of the most intuitive eCommerce platforms on the market. Try out the admin for yourself with a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Here’s what you’ll find when you first create your account:
Adding products is easy. All of the information you’ll need to enter is available on one page. Just fill in the fields provided.
Discounts are similarly easy to set up, and you can make them specific to certain products or categories. You can limit your discounts to customer groups, number of uses, or minimum order total. There are also BOGO discounts available.
Shopify also makes site customization accessible to all merchants. Read more in our web design section.
3dcart works to make their software accessible to all merchants, regardless of technical experience. Try out the platform with a 15-day free trial, no credit card required.
When you sign into your account, you will immediately be presented with a setup wizard. This wizard and the available tutorial videos will help you locate and learn to use some of the more basic features.
3dcart’s dashboard is user friendly. You can find everything organized in theÂ toolbar on the left. Most of this organization makes sense, but there are a few features that are buried where you wouldnât expect them. ‘Discounts,’ for example, is under a tab called âPromotion Manager.â
Adding a product with 3dcart is unique because it involves a two step process. You’ll start by entering basic product information like images, product name, and a product description. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add more advanced information. On this page, you’ll be able to adjust your shipping and inventory information, write SEO descriptions, and more.
Discounts follow the same two-step model. The more detailed (second) page lets you apply your promotions to specific categories, to an order that includes a specific product, and more.
While we love that 3dcart’s dashboard, we have to award this category to Shopify. 3dcart is just not quite as intuitive as Shopify. There is a slight learning curve to overcome, and a few features are difficult to find in the admin.
As we’ve stated, Shopify comes with all of the basic features merchants need. However, advanced functionality often requires add-on applications. Let’s take a look at a few of the features that come built-in with Shopify:
Front End Features
Language Capabilities:Â List your site in over 50 different languages.
Automatic Shipping Rates:Â Users on the Advanced Plan can integrate with UPS, USPS, and FedEx to calculate shipping rates. All users have access toÂ Shopify Shipping,Â which lets you calculate shipping rates, and purchase and print shipping labels.
Abandoned Cart Recovery:Â Automatically send an email to remind customers about items they left in their cart.
Integrate With Shopify POS: Sell in person with Shopify’s Point Of SaleÂ (see our review) system.
Customer Segmentation:Â Group your customers by location, shopping tendencies, and demographics. Use those customer groups to market more effectively.
Dropshipping Apps: Shopify integrates with dropshipping apps like Ordoro, Inventory Source, and eCommHub (now HubLogix). Learn how to start a profitable dropshipping business with Shopify.
SEO Best Practices:Â Shopify includes many SEO tools, including a customizable H1, and automatically generated sitemap.xml, and the ability to write titles, meta tags, and product tags.
Discounts: You can create discount codes and coupons, including BOGO (Buy One, Get One) discounts. Gift cards are available at higher plans.
Digital Products: Sell physical and digital products on your site.
Bulk Import/Export:Â Make bulk edits to your products, or use the bulk import feature to easily migrate from another software.
3dcart, on the other hand, includes many of the bells and whistles that Shopify is lacking. For example, 3dcart includes the option to enable one-page checkout on your site. Here are some of the features you get with 3dcart:
Front End Features
Sell Digital:Â Let customers download products immediately after purchase.
Checkout Options:Â Choose to enable either one-page or three-page checkout.
Product Images: Include multiple product images, image zoom, and videos on product pages.
Promotions:Â Create gift certificates, discounts, and coupons.
Automatic Calculators:Â Provide real-time quotes for taxes and shipping at checkout.
Abandoned Cart Saver:Â Remind customers to complete transactions.
Blog:Â Include a blog on your site to boost your SEO and add value to your site.
Inventory Management:Â Monitor low stock and make sure inventory is accurate.
SEO:Â Use a variety of tools to optimize your organic traffic.
Bulk Import / Export:Â Migrate platforms and make bulk edits.
POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart POS.
This one is close, but 3dcart has a few more features that are not available with Shopify. So, we’re giving the win to 3dcart.
Shopify is well-known for its beautiful and responsive web design options. In the Shopify Themes marketplace, you can find 64 theme options, 10 of which are free. Take a look at one premium theme below:
There are a few ways you can go about customizing your theme. Users with little technical experience can use a WYSIWYG editor to make changes to site content. For example, you can update headings, categories, and button text. Shopify’s drag and drop editor, Sections, lets you make larger changes to your storefront. Use Sections to add and move widgets on your storefront. Shopify also offers code editors for the more technologically inclined. Shopify uses a language called Liquid, which some developers like and some donât.
3dcart, on the other hand, offers 90 free themes, which is many more than Shopify. All of these themes are mobile responsive. In addition, there are a fewÂ dozen premium themes available from $99 to $199.
Users sometimes complain that 3dcart’s themes are dated, and I tend to agree. That isn’t to say that the themes are ugly; they just don’t have that sleek look I’m used to finding on modern eCommerce platforms.
You’ll have to edit these templates primarily using the HTML and CSS editors. 3dcart also includes a limited WYSIWYG editor for buttons, tabs, etc., and a drag-and-drop editor for older HTML5 themes (you must request to have this editor enabled). It isn’t a perfect editor (which is why it isn’t automatically available), but it could be a help as you learn your way around the code editors.
Integrations & Add-Ons
Both 3dcart and Shopify offer plenty of integrations and add-ons to further functionality.
There are over 1500 apps available in Shopify App Store, which essentially guarantees that there’s an app to fill whatever feature gap you may have. Unfortunately, for many merchants, multiple applications are necessary, and the costs of those add-ons can quickly add up. Shopify also has an API that you can use to develop your own own applications.
In the same way, 3dcart offers integrations for a variety of features (including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertising, and more.) Users of 3dcart also complain that the cost of these add-ons can quickly become expensive. 3dcart also has a RESTful API available.
Shopify integrates with over 100 gateways.
In addition, ShopifyÂ has its own in-house payment solution called Shopify Payments. As we stated in the Pricing section of this article, if you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their additional transaction fees. Shopify Payments is currently available to merchants in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland.
Credit card processing rates for Shopify Payments are based on a user’s Shopify plan. Take a look at the fees for each plan in the screenshot below:
Keep in mind that Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution, and there are many complaints online about withheld payments and cancelled accounts. Read our full review of Shopify Payments for more information.
3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. They do not offer an in-house payment solution, but they also don’t ding you with transaction fees if you use a third party processor, which in my opinion is a much bigger deal.
The winner here is 3dcart.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Merchants using Shopify have access to 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help resources include a knowledge base, aÂ community forum, videos, podcasts, and guides. You can also hire a Shopify expert to help you through a particularly rough patch.
I’ve seen mixed reviews of Shopify’s support team. Some users say they’re helpful, while others blame them for reading from a script and being informed about the product.
3dcart also offersÂ 24/7 personalized support via email, live chat, phone. Resolve issues on your own with aÂ knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and e-university courses.
Not too surprisingly, I have also seen mixed reviews of 3dcart’s quality of support. Users frequently complain about delays in response time via live chat (in my experience “live chat” is more like another way to submit a web ticket), but response times for web tickets and phone calls are decent.
Another tie here, folks.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Surprisingly, complaints about Shopify and 3dcart are very similar.
Shopify is often blamed for including only the basics in their platform. You’ll have to find a few extensions in the Shopify App Marketplace in order to access more advanced features. And unfortunately, costs for these add-ons can quickly add up. Users also frequently complain about Shopify’s customer service. Some users have less than positive experiences. Finally, that transaction fee continues to be a frustration for many merchants, as does Shopify Payments’s tendencies to cancel accounts and withhold payments.
Users of 3dcart also complain about customer support, saying they are very slow to respond to inquiries. In addition, 3dcart merchants dislike that add-ons can be expensive, especially when you need to use multiple extensions. Finally, some merchants state that 3dcart’s available design templates are dated, and that they’d like to see more current designs.
Because these negatives are so similar, we’re calling it a tie.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Users of Shopify and 3dcart have similar things to say about the advantages of each platform. A few commonalities include the low monthly price of running your store, strong ease of use, and good customer support.
This final advantage may be confusing as we’ve also included it in the complaints section above. It is very common to see a 50/50 split between positive and negative comments on customer service. Both Shopify and 3dcart have these mixed reviews.
One notable difference is that Shopify is celebrated for its themes while 3dcart is praised for its features. If you scroll up to the negatives section you’ll see that users often complain about Shopify’s features and 3dcart’s themes. It’s interesting to see that what is a strength of one platform is a weakness of the other.
The two platforms tie in this category as well.
It’s always disappointing to end on a tie, but with such a close race, we don’t think it’s fair to call a definitive winner. Your decision will depend on your business’s needs.
Are you looking for an easy to use platform with beautiful design templates? Try Shopify.
Are you willing to overcome a slight learning curve to uncover a few more advanced features? 3dcart is your best bet.
We will say that overall we think Shopify better fits the needs of most merchants, which is why we’ve given Shopify a perfect score of 5 stars in our full review while 3dcart has 4.5 (see our review). However, it’s evident here that both shopping carts are strong options. We recommend you sign up for a trial of each eCommerce platform and decide for yourself which option you prefer.
Get Started With Shopify
Get Started With 3dcart
The post Shopify VS 3dcart appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’ve ever visited Shopify’s website, you know that ease of use is their number one marketing claim. But does that claim have any merit? Is this app as intuitive as they say?
As software reviewers who have tested over 40 eCommerce solutions over the years (many of them repeatedly!), we can confidently say that Shopify is indeed one of the most user-friendly shopping cart solutions on the market. In particular, Shopify is well designed for merchants with very little technical know-how.
Shopify makes it easy to set up an online store, add products, and tweak your site’s look and feel so that you can focus your energy on building your business instead of building your website.
In this post, we’ll give you a breakdown of a few frequently used features and design tools, complete with screenshots of Shopify’s admin panel. Keep reading to see if Shopify’s usability fits your experience level and business needs.
Signing Up For Shopify
The best way to experience Shopify’s usability is to actually take the software for a test drive. Shopify offers a totally free, no commitment required 14-day trial, which you can sign up for at any time. To create your account, all you have to do is provide your email address and answer a few questions about your business’s size and industry.
You’ll then be sent an email with login information, and you’ll be able to access your Shopify dashboard:
While Shopify does not provide a formal tutorial, they do list a few setup steps on your initial dashboard page. You can either choose to complete those actions now or find them on your own later.
We recommend you play around a bit with the “Add Product” and “Customize Theme” pages to get a general feel for Shopify’s functions. To start setting up your online store, head over to the “Settings” tab on the bottom left.
From the Settings tab of the app, you can add payment processors, tax information, and shipping preferences. You’ll also be able to make changes to checkout, sales channels, account permissions, and more.
Correctly collecting sales tax for online orders can be tricky business. Every state, county, and municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding sales tax, and trying to comply by all those rules can be maddening. Shopify makes this process a bit easier by keeping all those important calculations in one place.
In the setup process, you can decide how you collect taxes for shipments, including international shipments.
When it comes to domestic shipping rates, you can ask Shopify to handle all the tax calculations based on your business’s location(s). Input your State and zip code, and Shopify will present a range of tax rates based on all the locations in which you have tax liability (called “nexus”).
If you’d like to see those taxes more specifically, click on that range (highlighted in blue) and see details for each city.
Select Shipping Options
There are a variety of ways Shopify merchants can go about calculating shipping rates. You can, for example, integrate with your favorite shipping software app (like ShippingEasy or ShipStation) or you can subscribe to Shopify’s highest pricing plan to use your own negotiated rates with popular shipping carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. One of the most popular options, however, is to simply use Shopify Shipping to calculate rates and purchase and print shipping labels.
Shopify Shipping provides connections withÂ DHL, USPS, andÂ UPS.Â You can purchase shipping labels online and have those labels print in bulk from thermal or desktop printers. And now, you can even purchase those labels from your mobile device. What’s more, Shopify Shipping has partnered with shipping carriers to provide you with discounted shipping rates, depending on your Shopify plan.
To start using Shopify Shipping, click “Edit” under the “Shipping Zones” option on your Shipping page in settings.
You’ll then be redirected to this page where you can select carriers (such as USPS) and services (such as Priority Mail). These options will then be automatically available to your customers, and you will be able to purchase and print shipping labels for these services. Pretty easy, huh?
So far, I can only see one potential issue with Shopify Shipping and, depending on your business, it could be a big one. Shopify Shipping will only display calculated rates accordingÂ to the dimensions you list for your “Default Package.” That means that all shipments, no matter their actual size, will be treated as the same size.
If you sell products that are a wide range of sizes, calculated rates with Shopify Shipping might not be the best option. You may instead consider integrating with a third-party shipping solutionÂ to handle that aspect of your fulfillment.
Connect With Payment Solutions
To process payments, just select your preferred payment processor or payment gateway from the drop-down menu on the correct page in Settings.
Shopify also offers their own payment gateway, called Shopify Payments. If you choose to use Shopify Payments to accept credit card payments, Shopify will waive their transaction fees (which range from 0.5%-2.0%, depending on your pricing plan).
Note: I have seen many complaints online targeting Shopify Payments. Merchants say that while it’s easy to be initially accepted to the processor, your account may be canceled further down the road when Shopify gets around to reviewing your site. I’ve also seen complaints that say Shopify Payments withholds money from merchants. Keep these complaints in mind as you look into your options.
Creating new products is a simple process. Head over to the “Products” tab and click “Add a Product.” You’ll then be taken to a page like this:
Here you can input basic information like price, inventory totals, and images. You can also write product descriptions on this page and use tags and categories to organize items. Toward the bottom of the page, you can add shipping information, like weight, and list tariff code. You are also presented with the option to add variants.
If you choose to add product variants (size and color, etc.), you’ll be redirected to a new page where you can enter variant-specific information such as weight, inventory, and price. Notice, however, that there is no field available to enter product dimensions, which may result in less accurate shipping calculations.
Once you’ve added this information, the basic “Add a Product” page will change to reflect new variants. You will now be required to edit all weights, prices, and shipping information on variant pages instead of the main product page.
You can either manage inventory on individual product pages or in the “Inventory” tab in the admin.
Set quantities for each variant, and set low stock notifications to make sure you always have items on hand when customers want them.
Use Shopify’s “Discounts” tab to create coupons and discounts for your site. You can make these discounts specific to select categories or products, and you can set minimum purchase requirements. You can also make discounts only available to certain customer groups and set active dates for the promotion. Discounts can be fixed amounts, percentages, free shipping, and Buy X Get Y.
You can also promote your store through order confirmation emails, abandoned cart notifications, and other email marketing strategies. Use HTML design tools to modify the email templates that Shopify provides.
Editing Site Design
This app is designed for sellers who have little to no technical experience. Shopify works to make all of their customization tools accessible to beginners, including website design. You don’t have to know a lick of code to edit the look and feel of your site (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt!).
Most merchants begin the site design process by selecting a theme from Shopify’s vast marketplace. There, you can find a range of mobile responsive themes that are priced between $0-$180. It’s a good idea to start out with a free theme and move on to a more sophisticated theme once you get the hang of the editing tools.
Shopify provides a few options for editing your theme. The easiest option is Shopify’s drag and drop feature: Sections.
Using Sections, you can add and rearrange blocks of content. For example, you can add a featured products display, a map, and an image gallery on your homepage. Then, just drag those elements around until the site looks how you envisioned.
Sections is currently only available on select pages and with select themes.
If there ever was a long answer to a short question, this article is one of them!
In short: Yes, Shopify is very easy to use!
Get Started With Shopify
The post Is Shopify Easy To Use? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Dropshipping is the sweetest gig in eCommerce, and sellers and advertisers everywhere sing its praises. They claim all you have to do is select the most profitable dropshipping products, and the dollars will roll on in. And while we are skeptical of these claims (check out our article 7 Reasons To Rethink Drop Shipping), for some merchants — particularly those who have done their research, found a dropshipping niche, and sell products in a traditional way as well —Â dropshipping really does work.
Just run a quick search on YouTube, and youâll find dozens of videos from bold teenagers who have made tens of thousands of dollars running dropshipping sites. If you look closer at some of these videos, youâll find another commonality: most of these dropshipping success stories came about on the Shopify platform.
Shopify (read our review) is one of theÂ most popular shopping carts in the eCommerce industry, especially for US and Canadian merchants. Shopify specializes in ease of use and simple, sleek design.
As a SaaS (software as a service) platform, Shopify manages the technical aspects of operating an online store, including the hosting and site security. Youâre only responsible for designing your site, adding content, and fulfilling orders. Shopify users benefit from simple daily operations and 24/7 access to a support team.
And if you choose to dropship with Shopify, your business operations will be simplified one step further. By following the dropshipping model, you essentially outsource your whole fulfillment process to your suppliers. When a customer places an order on your site, instead of picking, packing, and shipping the product yourself, you place an identical order with your supplier. The supplier will then ship the product directly to your customer. The product never reaches your hands.
If youâd like, you can go about this dropshipping process manually. For every order on your site, you head over to your chosen marketplace–often sellers use AliExpress–and place the order again.
Or, you could make the process more automatic with an app from the Shopify marketplace. Shopify dropshipping apps letÂ you connect your store to one or more supplier marketplaces. Products will be easier for you to add to your site, and the fulfillment process will be much simpler (in some cases, you just need to click âPlace Orderâ to fulfill).
In this article, weâll be covering seven of the best dropshipping apps for Shopify users. Weâve rated these apps based on their popularity and overall star ranking on the Shopify marketplace. Take a look at each individual app for more information on their pricing, features, and pros and cons.
To learn more about dropshipping with Shopify, take a look at the official Shopify dropshipping guide. This series includes plenty of great insights into how to start dropshipping on Shopify.
Get Started With Shopify
Oberlo is one of the most populardropshipping apps for Shopify, which is why weâre including it first. The OberloÂ app approaches dropshipping in two different ways. They allow users to link their Shopify accounts to AliExpress, and they provide their own product catalog from which merchants can select and sell products.
With this app, sellers are able to quickly add products to their Shopify stores and easily place orders with suppliers.
Oberlo prices their services based on the number of orders you want to fulfill each month. The highest-level plan will also give you access to advanced features and multiple user seats. Take a look at pricing below:
Starter Plan: Free
Up To 50 Orders/Month
Basic Plan: $29.90/Month
Up To 500 Orders/Month
Pro Plan: $79.90
Multiple Sales Channels
Oberlo includes features that allow for automation of dropshipping fulfillment. Take a look at their full feature list on Oberloâs website or view my abbreviated list below:
Import Dropship Products: Find and add products from AliExpress and the Oberlo Marketplace.
Fulfill Orders Automatically: All you have to do is click âOrder Productâ and then confirm.
Automatic Updates: Oberlo automatically transfers inventory and price updates from your chosen marketplace (Oberlo or AliExpress) to your Shopify store.
Edit Product Listings: Customize product titles, descriptions, and images.
Order Tracking: Find out where your shipments are in the delivery process.
Multiple Users: Available on the Pro plan. Let multiple employees access your Oberlo account at the same time.
TheÂ OberloÂ app has received significant praise for its ease of use and ability to streamline the process of uploading new products to a Shopify page. Some users have reported difficulties with getting the app to transfer orders from their store to their suppliers. However, these complaints are very much the minority.
Oberlo + Shopify is one of the most popular combinations for dropshipping merchants. If you havenât looked into Oberlo yet, you should do so now. Check out Oberloâs page in the Shopify marketplace and then take a look at Oberloâs website for more information.
Spocket is a dropshipping marketplacethat lets you add products from US, European, and Canadian sellers. Spocket vets these dropship wholesalers to ensure that they offer quality products and customer service. You can benefit from discounts on niche products in the Spocket marketplace and features like automated order fulfillment.
Learn more about Spocket below:
Spocket offers a free plan for merchants who choose to include dropship 25 or fewer products. If youâd like to list more products, youâll have to subscribe to a paid plan.
Real-Time Inventory Update
Real-Time Inventory Update
Real-Time Inventory Update
Take a look below at a few of the features that come included with every Spocket plan or view their webpage for more detailed information:
Products Ship Quickly: You can expect products to ship within 5-7 day (or 2-5 days locally). This may not seem fast in relation to Amazon Prime, but compared to many dropshipping suppliers, it is speedy.
One-Click Fulfillment: Place orders with your suppliers with just one click.
Discounted Products: Spocket offers a 30%-60% discount on all products to give you a higher profit margin.
Branded Invoices: Customize your invoices and add your logo.
Inventory Updates: Make sure you only sell products suppliers have on hand.
Merchants are big fans of those branded invoices; your customers will receive a branded insert in their shipments with your store’s logo. Merchants also like that Spocket is easy to use and features many desirable products. Some merchants, however, are discouraged by the amount of “Premium Products,” which you must pay to access. Spocket can also be difficult to contact at times, especially in their role as a supplier.
If youâre looking to find good products quickly, look no further. Spocket has done much of the grunt work on your behalf. Sign up for a free plan to take a look at what they have to offer. Visit Spocketâs page in the Shopify marketplaceÂ or view Spocketâs website to learn more.
Spreadr is different from the above apps because,Â in addition to providing a connection to a marketplace, Spreadr allows merchants to bring in affiliate income.
Use Spreadr to import products from Amazon to your Shopify store, and either dropship those products or market them in exchange for a commission.
The best part of Spreadrâs affiliate program is that you donât just get a commission on the products you market. You will also receive commision on all products visitors click on or purchase when they come through your site.
You should know, however, that you cannot use Spreadr to fill an entire online store. To qualify for this app, you must first fill your site with original content, whether that be products, posts, or reviews.
Spreadr offers their application at one flat rate: $5.00/Month.
Try out the app for free with a 7-day Free Trial.
Because Spreadrâs services are available at one rate, all merchants can expect to access the same features, no matter what. Take a look at Spreadrâs site for more info, or view my list below:
One-Click Upload: To upload a new product, just copy-paste the Amazon product URL and click âAdd.â
Customize Product Descriptions: Make changes to product descriptions, optimize for SEO, and customize product titles.
Commissions: Make up to a 10% commission on all purchases (including purchases customers make on products you donât list).
Use Amazon For Dropshipping: Instead of collecting commision, you can choose to use Amazon as a dropshipping source. Or, you can collect orders and fulfill them yourself.
Seamless Look: Amazon products appear on your site just like your own products. The only difference is that instead of an âAdd to Cartâ button there will be a âView on Amazonâ button.
Locally Stored Product Information: Store product images and information on your Shopify website in order to resize images and display information faster.
Enable Auto-Sync: Automatically update price and inventory levels to match Amazon.
Bulk Import: Import thousands of Amazon products in minutes.
Spreadr users love that the affiliate program is quick and easy to implement. While some merchants have a bit of trouble setting up their site, the vast majority are able to get things working very quickly.
Spreadr is a great way to start Amazon dropshipping on your Shopify store or to just make a buck from commissions. Try out a free 7-day trial by signing up on their page in the Shopify marketplace or read more on the Spreadr website.
4) AliExpress Dropshipping
This app from Appfreaker does exactly what you might anticipate. AliExpress Dropshipping for Shopify lets merchants easily import items from AliExpress and order those items through a semi-automated process.
The app also includes a Chrome extension that allows you to import products and edit product information as you browse.
Keep reading for more information on dropshipping with AliExpress, including pricing and features.
AliExpress Dropshipping is available through a subscription plan, but you can try it out for free with a 7-day trial.
Take a look below at a breakdown of pricing for the application. Pricing is based on the number of items you list on your site, and each step up in pricing gives you access to more Shopify dropshipping suppliers:
Basic Plan: $5/Month
Products Imported From AliExpress
Standard Plan: $10/Month
Products Imported From AliExpress PLUS
Pro Plan: $20/Month
Products Imported From All Of The Above
View all features on Appfreakerâs website or view a shorter list below:
Search Products: Search and import products within the application. Begin selling those products quickly.
Fulfill Orders: Take advantage of AliExpress Dropshippingâs semi-automated process. You just need to click âOrder Productâ and then enter payment information. Your customersâ shipping info will be imported for you.
Automatic Daily Updates: Update your products pricing and inventory levels as the information changes on AliExpress.
Chrome Extension: Take advantage of the single click import.
Edit Product Info: Edit product descriptions and images to better match your brand.
Pricing Rules: Set rules to update pricing in bulk as you import products.
Users comment frequently on how theyâve received good support from the platform. They often name specific representatives, which makes me believe they were encouraged to leave a review by the company. Nevertheless, these reviews seem to be genuine. Negative reviews include complaints that the user interface is outdated and that suppliers are slow to fulfill orders. Some customers also cite trouble with getting the app to autosync pricing information.
AliExpress Dropshipping is not a perfect application, but it is a good one for those who want an easier way to import and sell AliExpress items. Take a look at the Shopify Marketplace for more information and to sign up for that free 7-day trial, or view their website.
Importify allows you to connect your Shopify site with the most popular marketplaces. These marketplaces include Amazon, Aliexpress, Etsy, Walmart, and DHgate.
You can use a Chrome extension to import products, and youâll be able to customize product info like images, variants, and descriptions.
If you subscribe to Importifyâs Gold Plan (see pricing info below), youâll get access to semi-automatic fulfillment for Amazon, AliExpress, and DHgate.
Importify is available on a subscription model. You can try out the software for free with a 1-day free trial. (A single day is the shortest trial period I have ever seen, and I canât imagine youâll get a good feel for the software in that time, but at least itâs something?)
Take a look at pricing information below. Note that the higher up you move in the pricing tiers, the more features youâll be able to access.
Import Products From Less Popular Marketplaces
(Take A Look At Importifyâs Supported Websites)
Shopify To Shopify Importer
Free Chrome Extension
24/7 Customer Service
All Of The Above PLUS
Products Import From AliExpress & Amazon
All Of The Above PLUS
Semi-Automatic Order Fulfillment From Aliexpress, Amazon, DHgate, DropshipperUS
As always, you can view a full list of features on Importifyâs website. Take a look at my favorite features below:
Product Customization: Make products your own by editing product info like pictures, variants, product titles, and descriptions.
Price Automation: Set smart pricing rules so that your products are automatically priced at import.
Chrome Extension: Filter marketplaces to find the best products with fast delivery from trusted sellers.
Order Fulfillment: Available on the Gold Plan. Take advantage of semi-automatic order fulfillment.
Customers appreciate Importify’s responsive customer support. They also love that Importify gives you the ability to take your pick of multiple suppliers and marketplaces — particularly useful if you have fairly niche products that may be hard to find in one place. The biggest downside to the software is that in order to access AliExpress and Amazon, you’ll have to subscribe to a Premium or Gold Plan. What’s more, semi-automation is only available on the Gold Plan. This could make Importify one of the more expensive options, depending on your business’s needs.
I have some concerns with Importify, mostly that you have to pay more to access AliExpress and Amazon, and only the highest level plan offers semi-automatic fulfillment. You can find these features available at a much lower cost with many of the applications Iâve already included in this list.
On the other hand, Importify allows merchants to list products from multiple marketplaces, which is a feature thatâs a bit harder to find with other applications. So, if you are an eCommerce vendor who wants to include products from many different marketplaces, Importify may be the way to go. Visit the Shopify marketplace and Importifyâs website for details.
6) Advanced Shipping Manager
Advanced Shipping Manager does just what its name implies. With this app, youâll have advanced control over your dropshipping process.
Advanced Shipping Manager specializes in two areas: suppliers and shipping. Like other apps, Advanced Shipping Manager connects your Shopify account with many supplier and wholesalers. In addition, Advanced Shipping Manager gives you extensive control over shipping methods and markups.
Keep reading to learn how you can take control of the shipping aspect of your dropshipping business.
Advanced Shipping Manager is available at one flat rate: $85/month.
Sound like a lot? I thought so too, but Advanced Shipping Manager guarantees that you will see a return on your investment within your first month on the software, or theyâll refund your first monthâs subscription.
Advanced Shipping Manager has quite a few features built into their software. I recommend you head over to their website for the full information. I have included a summary below:
Origin Zip Code For Items: Create specific shipping rules based on origin zip code, courier, and markups. You can also offer free shipping.
Dimensions: Set dimensions for your items to better calculate shipping rates.
Ship Individual Items Alone: Mark fragile items as âShip Alone.â Set shipping costs appropriately.
Multi-Box Items: Set weights and dimensions for large, multi-piece products that ship in multiple boxes (like a sectional sofa).
Shipping Tables & Real-Time Shipping Rates: Calculate rates any way youâd like.
Dropshipping Markups: Set markups for products that are dropshipped.
Advanced Shipping Manager does its job well. Sellers report that the app gives them excellent control over shipping, and software is easy to set up and use. The only potential disadvantage is that the Advanced Shipping Manager’s flat rate is significantly higher than you’ll find elsewhere. (You should note, however, that that is my own personal concern. I have not seen any users complaining about price.)
If you arenât scared off by the $85 price tag, and youâre looking for a way to better manage your shipping, give Advanced Shipping Manager a shot. Thereâs a lot you can do with the application, and it just might solve your shipping woes. Learn more by going to the Shopify Marketplace and/or visitingÂ Advanced Shipping Managerâs website.
Modalyst is a Shopify dropship integration that lets you upload products from three different marketplaces onto your Shopify site. You’ll have access to the Modalyst marketplace (which is the main purpose of the app), and you’ll be able to use a Chrome extension to upload products from Shein and Wish.com.
When you upload a product, you’ll instantly add inventory information, images, product descriptions, and pricing to your store.
Read on to learn if this app is a good integration for your store.
Basic Plan: Free Forever
25 Product Limit
5% Transaction Fee
Pro Plan: $45/Month
Access To Shein.com, Wish.com, Modalyst Marketplace
2% Transaction Fee
Premium Plan: $150/Month
Access To Shein.com, Wish.com, Modalyst Marketplace
1% Transaction Fee
See Modalyst’s website for a full list of features. Read my own summary below:
Shein.com Integration: Get free standard shipping to the US on orders over $49. Learn more about the Shein.com integration.
Wish.com Integrations: Order forms are automatically filled out with customer info. Learn more about the Wish.com integration.
One-Click Add: Add products to your site quickly and easily.
Real-Time Product Updates: When your products are updated in your supplier’s website, they’ll be updated on your site too.
Customize Products: Edit product descriptions, pricing, variants, and images.
Pricing Rules: Set rules to price items as you add them.
Modalyst users appreciate that the app is easy to use, and they report having good experiences with customer support. The main complaint I’ve seen is that some customers have experienced inconsistencies with Wish.com, stating that there are occasional discrepancies between Wish.com’s price listings and what you actually pay.
Before you make a paid commitment to Modalyst, I recommend you sign up for the free trial. That way, you can browse through Modalyst’s marketplace to get a better understanding of the selling potential for your site. Sign up for a free plan in Shopify’s app marketplace, or view the Modalyst website for detailed information.
When it comes to Shopify dropshipping, you have quite a few options to choose from, and each dropshipping app claims that it will help you get rich more quickly and easily than the next.
As you research Shopify dropshipping apps, take every developer’s claim with a grain of salt. Read customer reviews on each application, and sign up for any available free trial.
We recommend that you start your research with the apps we’ve included in this list. They have all been thoroughly tested by the Shopify community, and have emerged with high praise. Test one or two of these Shopify dropshipping apps, and see what a good extension can do for your ecommerce website.
Get Started With Shopify
The post 7 Shopify Dropshipping Apps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re planning to create a website, you’ve probably spent a lot of time considering how exactly you want to build it, who to hire to build it if you don’t want to build it yourself, the features and/or apps you want to include, how to monetize your site, and so on. One thing to which you may not have devoted much deliberation, however, is which domain registrar to purchase your domain from and which web host to go with.
What is a domain registrar? For those new to the technical aspects of getting a website online, a domain registrar is the service through which you reserve yourÂ site’s domain for an annual fee. Want to create a website at www.catfoodart.com? You’ll need to reserve catfoodart.com with a domain registrar first. Common domain extensions are .com, .org, .gov, .edu, etc. Most businesses will use a .com extension, though some go other routes.
What is web hosting? And how web hosts related to domain name registrars?
Importantly, a domain name registrar service is not the same thing as a web hosting service. Web hosting is the practice of storing the actual files that comprise your website on a physical server. The difference between a domain registrar and a web host is obscured by the fact that many domainÂ registrars also offer web hosting (and vice versa). For the sakeÂ of convenience, many websiteÂ owners choose to reserve a domain with the same company they use for web hosting, though there are some in the field who advise against this. Just know that despite the fact that many companies offer both domain registration and web hosting, they are, nonetheless, separate services.
What is the best domain name registrar? Who offers the most comprehensive web hosting services? Good questions! In this article, we’ll explore some of the leading domain registrars and web hosting sites.
BlueHost has become known as an easy-to-use domain registrar/web host and a solid choice for those seeking to get a site online for the first time. In fact, BlueHost is one of only three web hosts to receive an official recommendation from WordPress.
As BlueHost’s pricing currently stands, a .com domain will cost you $11.99 for the first year and $15.99 for all subsequent years. Unfortunately, if you want domain privacy protection so that your name, email address, phone number, and home address aren’t publicly available for doxxing, that will cost you an additional $14.88 per year.
If you decide to go with BlueHost as your web host as well as your domain registrar, you can get a domain with no extra cost. BlueHost’s hosting packages differ wildly in their pricing, as the company offers many different types of hosting, but in terms of shared hosting — the most common type of website hosting — BlueHost’s packages currently start at just $2.95/month, though this is subject to change. Furthermore, the $2.95/month Basic plan becomes more expensive if you buy yourÂ hosting package for less than a 36-month term and/or if you add on such things as domain privacy protection, SiteLock security, and BlueHost SEO tools.
If you’re interested in BlueHost as a domain registrar and/or web host, check out its offerings at its website.
Visit the BlueHost website
GoDaddy is more than just a widely recognized brand and controversy magnet. With over 75 million domains registered for over 17 million users worldwide, GoDaddy is the world’s biggest domain registrar. Let’s take a look at just what they have to offer.
GoDaddy is known for eye-popping first-year prices. To this end, they currently advertise an extraordinary deal: you can register a .com domain for just $0.99 for the first year, renewing at $14.99/yr. However, if you want domain privacy protection — and you probably do; it’s a really good idea! — your first-year price will jump by $7.99, the cost of privacy protection for the first year (it’s $9.99 each subsequent year).
On the hosting side, GoDaddy offers a host (haha) of options, with the cheapest hosting option being their Economy shared hosting package, which goes for $2.99/month and includesÂ a free domain for the length of your subscription before renewal. However, as with BlueHost, the $2.99/month price only applies if you lock in your subscription for 36 months. Add-ons like SSL security and website backup will boost the price further.
GoDaddy also offers a website builder called GoCentral for those who want a domain, web host, and website builder all from the same source. Read my GoDaddy GoCentral review to learn more!
To get further details on GoDaddy’s products, visit GoDaddy’s website.
Visit the GoDaddy website
Unlike GoDaddy and BlueHost, BuyDomains is strictly a domain registrar. BuyDomains owns many in-demand domains, so if your desired domain is under the company’s ownership, you can simply purchase it and it will be yours. These are premium domains, however, and they typically run upwards of $500-$800 apiece.
BuyDomains also lets you register a new domain. You can buy a domain for anywhere from one year to 10 years, but the price will remain the same: $24.95 a year for a .com. Domain privacy will set you back another $9/yr. Other available add-ons include an SEO tool ($50/month), SiteLock security ($35-$120/yr), and listing your business URL atÂ whoisbusinesslistings.com ($20/yr).
Visit BuyDomains’s site at the link below if you’re interested.
Visit the BuyDomains website
As the name would suggest, CloudWays specializes in cloud hosting. Cloud hosting differs from shared hosting in that your site is hosted on a cluster of servers, not just one single server. Unfortunately, CloudWays doesn’t offer domain registrar services.
CloudWays’s hosting packages currently start at $10/month and top off at $1,035/month. You’ll get escalating levels of RAM, processor speed, storage, and bandwidth with each subscription level.
With so many hosting options, it’s all the easier to select just the package you want with the features you need.
Visit the link below to find out more about CloudWays.
Visit the CloudWays website
Domain.com is… wait for it… an internet domain registrar! As it happens, Domain.com offers hosting as well, so the name doesn’t tell the full story. In other words, Domain.com is about more than just…domain names.
A new .com domain from Domain.com costs $9.99/yr and comes with URL forwarding, email forwarding, DNS management, and transfer lock. Domain privacy will cost you an additional $8.99 per year.
Domain.com offers a broad range of hosting options. The cheapest packages come in the form of their Basic hosting packages, which cost $3.75/month for the Linux version and $4.75/month for the Windows version. Sadly, these hosting plans don’t include the cost of registering a domain. The Deluxe hosting package, by contrast, includes hosting, a free domain name, use of Domain.com’s drag-and-drop website builder, and personalized email for $6.75/month.
Click the link below to get more information on Domain.com’s domain registrar services and web hosting packages.
Visit the Domain.com website
HostGator is another internet company offering domain registrar services, web hosting, and a drag-and-drop website builder — the web trifecta. HostGator’s shared web hosting is highly regarded in the industry.
If all you want is a domain, HostGator has you covered — .com domain names will cost you $12.95 a year, though domain privacy protection will set you back an additional $14.95/yr. If it’s a hosting package you’re after, HostGator’s Hatchling plan sells for $2.75/month and includes a domain for no additional cost. HostGator’s Baby plan and Business plan both offer unlimited free domains and cost $5.95/month as things stand.
If you want hosting, a domain, and a website builder, take a look at HostGator’s Starter plan for all-in-one hosting and site-building. For $2.75/month you get a domain, hosting, and a website builder. And for $9.23/month, you can get eCommerce on top of all that with HostGator’s eCommerce plan.
For more on what HostGator has to offer, check out the company’s website below.
Visit the HostGator website
DreamHost is akin to HostGator in that it offers the would-be webmaster the ability to get a domain, web hosting, and a website builder from the same source.
If you’re just looking for the cheapest domain registrar you can find, DreamHost offers up solid value. A .com domain will cost you $11.95 for the first year and $13.95 each subsequent year. What makes this a great deal is the fact that domain privacy protection is included at no additional charge.
On the hosting side, DreamHost’s shared hosting plans start at $7.95 a month and includes one free domain and privacy protection. DreamHost also offers VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, and WooCommerce hosting.
DreamHost’s website builder hosting package starts at $4.95/month and includes hosting and a free domain for one year. However, when the domain comes up for renewal in a year, you’ll have to pay the regular domain rate for it.
Check out DreamHost’s site below to learn more.
Visit the DreamHost website
FatCow is another internet company offering the trifecta of domains, web hosting, and website building. FatCow’s website gives off something of a dated vibe, but let’s take a closer look at the company anyway!
On the domain side, you can register a new .com domain for $10.99/yr, though domain privacy will cost you another $9.99/yr. As for FatCow’s web hosting, the standard shared hosting package can be had for $4.08/month for the initial term and $12.95-$14.95/month subsequently, depending on the length of the term. A domain, a website builder, and an online store building tool are all included in the price, though domain privacy is not.
To learn more about FatCow and their web offerings, you know what to do.
Visit the FatCow website
Like the previous three companies I’ve mentioned, iPage offers domain registrar services and web hosting and throws in a website builder to boot. And like GoDaddy, the company offers an eye-catching introductory offer to would-be site owners.
If it’s just domain names you’re after, iPage offers .com domains at $10.99 per year, with domain privacy costing an additional $9.99 per year (renews at $12.99/yr). On the hosting side, iPage offers web hosting for just $1.99/month for the initial term. Tempting, eh? This hosting package includes unlimited domains (domain privacy is still extra though), a website builder, free email addresses and free marketing tools. However, when it renews, it will renew at the regular rate — $7.99 to $9.99 per month, depending on your chosen term length.
Check out iPage’s website if you’re intrigued.
Visit the iPage website
WPEngine is a web host that, unsurprisingly, focuses on one thing: managed WordPress hosting. WPEngine is not a domain registrar, so you’ll have to get a domain somewhere else.
WPEngine’s WordPress hosting options are as follows:
WPEngine’s cheapest plan goes for $35 a month and includes all the features you see above. While $35/month is significantly more expensive than the cheapest/most basic hosting plans offered by the other web hosts I’ve mentioned, it’s actually pretty competitive in the world of WordPress hosting.
Looking to take a WordPress site to the next level? Check the link below and look into WPEngine.
Visit the WPEngine website
A post like this can only scratch the surface of what’s available online in terms of domain name registration and web hosts, considering the countless such options in existence. However, by providing an overview of some of the better-rated and higher-profile companies operating in these spaces, I hope to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay for these services and what features to be on the lookout for.
The best domain registrar for your website will depend on a number of factors, including the domain extensions you want, whether you need SSL certificates, how long you intend to use your domain and whether you need to purchase an existing domain. The best web hosting service, on the other hand, will depend on your need for good customer support, whether you want eCommerce built-in, and your preference for shared servers vs VPS. Some businesses may want to find a web hosting company that offers packages for both domain registration and hosting.
Building a web presence isn’t rocket science. Just make sure to do your due diligence before signing up for a multi-year hosting/domain deal — you don’t want to be locked into an inadequate hosting arrangement!
The post 10 Best Domain Registrars And Web Hosting Services Of 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Spend a little bit of time reading up on Stripe (read our review) and Square (read our review) and you’ll start to see the similarities. They’re both giants in the payment industry, media darlings that have transformed the way people pay for things and the way merchants accept payments. They’re both on the leading edge of technology and rely heavily on machine learning to drive their payment processing systems.
Most importantly, both Square and Stripe offer huge assortments of commerce tools that make it easy for merchants to run their businesses. With the various APIs and integrations available, there are almost limitless possibilities for creating a custom system with everything from invoicing to email marketing and more.
But that’s where I stop pointing out the similarities. Once you get past that point, it becomes harder to draw apples-to-apples comparisons because Square’s offerings are much more varied. Square really is an all-in-one processor that can handle in-person and eCommerce payments, as well as inventory management, customer databases, and more. Stripe is more limited to eCommerce, both for websites and for mobile apps, but it has powerful tools for global enterprises, subscription-based businesses, and other online companies.
To keep things fair and within a manageable scope, we’re going to limit the scope of this comparison to each companies’ online and mobile commerce tools. That means, for the most part, we’re not going to look atÂ mPOS apps, POS integrations, appointment booking, or email marketing…except to say if you need them, Square is the better choice.That also means we’ll be ignoring Stripe Atlas, the company’s service for helping international merchants establish themselves in the US.
If you want to sell online and Square and Stripe have made your shortlist, you should start by asking yourself some questions:
What features do you absolutely need? Which features aren’t essential, but would be very nice to have?
What percentage of your transactions are from outside the US?
Do you have a developer or advanced coding knowledge yourself?
Do you have limited tech knowledge and need an easy solution?
Are you looking for specific integrations?
What industry is your business part of?
How advanced are your subscription tool needs?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can sit down and look at each company in more detail. Read on for our comparison of Stripe vs. Square!
Products & Services
It’s so important to have a list of must-have features before you set about choosing any sort of payments or eCommerce software because you don’t want to make the decision and then find out that you’re missing a very important function. But it’s also important to think about where you want your business to go and what tools you want to invest in as your business scales up. If you pick the right service, it could mean you never need to switch. But if you don’t think about growth, you may wind up having to make a complicated switchover later in the future once you’ve outgrown a solution.
The good news is that for the most part, Stripe and Square are both very good solutions that scale up as a business grows. It just comes down to in which direction a business wants to grow.
Square Tools and Services for Online Merchants
Square initially stood out among mobile competitors by offering a free webstore to its merchants. Since then, the company has branched out considerably to include eCommerce integrations as well as developer tools. For a more in-depth review of all of Square’s offerings, check out our full review.
Online Store: Square’s free online store is very basic. There are only four templates to choose from, and you can only customize portions of the site (such as filling in your business name and address in the footer) in addition to loading your products. This is not a good solution for anyone with a large and diverse inventory, especially if your shipping costs vary significantly or if you’re looking for a particular visual aesthetic.
eCommerce Integrations:Â When you first take a look at Square’s eCommerce offerings, you’ll see that Square very conveniently groups everything by a merchant’s level of technical expertise. I think this is a really helpful approach.
The easiest integrations are listed on the site and Square lets you know that you can choose from an assortment of templates.
The intermediate level includes eCommerce integrations that require a bit more work and technical knowledge to get set up.
Square’s list of integrations includes some of the best shopping cart options, and the list keeps growing. That makes me happy, but if your preferred integration isn’t on the list yet and you do have the technical knowledge (or an eager developer on your payroll), there are more tools at your disposal. You can check out the list of Square integrations in the app marketplace.
Developer Tools: Square’s dev tools make it possible for you to create almost any custom integration you could need. For eCommerce, there are two APIs, Checkout and Transactions.Â Square Checkout is a premade form that can be dropped into a site with minimal fuss. Using Checkout means merchants are eligible for some perks, like next-day deposits and chargeback protection. The Transaction API, combined with Square’s payment form, is more customizable. Square has other APIs to handle other aspects of commerce, but you’ll find that Square doesn’t readily support in-app payments.
Dashboard Reporting: Square’s reporting tools are fairly advanced, especially for a company that started as an mPOS. They’re very popular with merchants who want to know what’s selling and how much they’re processing and need standard business data. The dashboard is actually quite intuitive, as well. However, Square doesn’t allow for a huge amount of customization in reports unless you get into the Reporting API, which allows you to create real-time notifications using webhooks.
Additionally, Square offers the following tools:
Advanced Inventory: Square will reconcile online and in-person sales and give you an up-to-date count on your inventory, including low-stock alerts when you hit a specified threshold. Plus, you can bulk upload products and generate SKUs, create variants, and more.
Fraud Protection Tools: Square uses machine learning to analyze transactions and identify and flag possible fraudulent transactions.
Customer Database: Save customers’ contact information and build a database with records of their purchases so that you can market to them later.
Invoicing:Â Create invoices from within the Square dashboard or from within the mPOS app. Square also allows customers to store their cards to automatically pay invoices (using this Card on File will cost you a bit more). You can also create recurring invoices. However, if you want extensive subscription management tools, you’ll need an integration with a service like Chargify, which will add to your costs.
Free Virtual Terminal: If you want to process payments over the phone or you don’t have access to the mPOS, you can use Square’s virtual terminal. Transactions will be processed at the manual entry rate (3.5% + $0.15) rather than the eCommerce rate, but the solution is PCI compliant and is designed for regular use.
All in all, while it’s worth noting that Square really is an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to sell anywhere without needing to build a complicated system of integrations. But it has some shortcomings, especially for digital merchants. Subscription tools are nearly nonexistent, and fraud protection doesn’t compare to the tools Stripe offers. If you want advanced, custom reports, you’ll be better served by Stripe. However, Square’s tools and overall design are incredibly easy to use, especially for business owners who don’t have a lot of technical expertise or a large budget to hire someone. And it has very strong tools for merchants who sell physical products in particular.
StripeÂ Tools and Services for Online Merchants
Stripe has earned its name as a developer-friendly option, but you can also integrate with a host of third-party apps to accept payments with ease. The company focuses on internet and mobile commerce, but developers have extended Square’s power to include mobile payments and more. Just take note, there’s no free storefront option here. For a more detailed look at different features, check out our complete Stripe review.
eCommerce Integrations & Plug-Ins:Â Stripe outclasses Square in terms of shopping cart integrations by virtue of sheer numbers. In addition to integrations with major eCommerce software providers, developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for businesses operating on WordPress, Magento, and other websites. If you’re not really sure where you start, you might end up doing a lot of research to decide the best course of action, but you can at least take heart in knowing that there’ll be something that will meet your needs. You can check out the full list of eCommerce integrations on Stripe’s “Works With” page.
Developer Tools: Stripe is much loved by developers for its flexibility, its extensive documentation and its support for multiple programming languages. Its APIs allow you to create invoices and subscriptions along with many other features.
Stripe Sigma: Stripe offers your standard user dashboard with some general sales reports at no charge. But if your business is heavily data-driven, Sigma’s customizable reporting is the perfect solution for you: you can generate reports based on SQL queries. This is pretty cool, and it’s a great way to make sure that anyone on your team can get the reports they need without creating an information bottleneck. Pricing is based on a sliding scale rather than a set additional monthly see.
Stripe’s additional tools include:
Stripe Billing: Stripe’s subscription tools are industry-leading, with the ability to charge clients based on a recurring quantity or metered usage, to set free trial periods, and much more. You can also create invoices or set up recurring billing tools. However, new businesses will pay a small additional charge per transaction to use these tools.
Stripe Radar: Stripe makes a big deal of its fraud monitoring tools, bundled under the very-apt name Radar. The system uses machine learning and a host of criteria to analyze every transaction and decide whether it is legitimate or possibly fraudulent. Radar also lets merchants set custom criteria for rejecting transactions and review flagged transactions to decide whether to accept or reject them.
Marketplace Tools: Merchants who want to operate a marketplace can use Stripe to build the platform. Stripe’s marketplace tools are grouped under the moniker “Stripe Connect.”
Multiple Currency Displays & Dynamic Currency Conversion: These tools are a major reason why Stripe is such a powerful tool for global businesses. Whereas Stripe will automatically convert transactions to USD (usually at the cost of a fee toÂ the cardholder), Stripe will allow you to display prices in local currencies based on where the customer is located. Stripe then automatically converts them for the merchant, charging a small markup over the exchange rate. This makes a business more appealing to international customers.
There’s no doubt that Stripe is very powerful. It can handle all sorts of payments, from digital subscriptions to retail goods. It’s one of the best solutions for global businesses with its currency tools. But it does have some limitations. If you plan to sell across multiple channels, there’s no option for in-person payments unless you have an integration like Flint Mobile (read our review), but it’s still more costly than other mPOS options. There’s no virtual terminal, either. While Stripe does allow you to manually enter a transaction if all else fails, it’s a last resort rather than a tool to be used on the regular because of PCI compliance issues.
Stripe’s inventory tools aren’t on the level of Square. They’re powerful, but if you want advanced inventory management, you’ll need to tack on an integration. I also don’t think that Stripe’s inventory tools are even half as intuitive as Square’s. But I think part of that is Stripe’s focus on online payments and tools for digital merchants, compared to Square’s omnichannel approach.
All in all, it’s really hard to say one of these companies is inherently better than the other. Both have a good assortment of integrations for shopping carts and other tools, though Stripe has a greater number of supported integrations. If you want ease of use, especially if you sell physical goods,Â Square is the standout option. But if you need flexibility, robust tools, and advanced data, Stripe is the better choice. So it ultimately comes down to your business’ needs.
Fees & Rates
I am happy to say that pricing for both Square and Stripe is mostly straightforward:
2.9% + $0.30 per online card transaction
There are no monthly fees, no monthly minimums, no statement fees. That’s very nice to see.
I do want to point out thatÂ Square charges different rates for its card-present and keyed transactions (2.7% and 3.5% + $0.15, respectively).Â However, invoices process at the same rate as eCommerce transactions unless you’re using Card on File, which process at the keyed transaction rate.
Square also has no chargeback fees, which is very unusual. Not only that, but the company has rolled out Chargeback Protection, which will cover the actual chargeback costs on qualifying disputes up to $250 per month. This doesn’t apply to merchants who use the Transactions API, but it is available for those who use Stripe Checkout.
You can getÂ volume discounts if you process above $250k per year AND have an average ticket size exceeding $15. That’s a mark in Square’s favor for large businesses. However, nonprofits don’t get any sort of special discount, which you can often find with other processors.
Stripe’s pricing has become a tiny bit more complicated. In addition to card transactions processed at 2.9% + $0.30, you can also accept ACH transactions for 0.8%, capped at $5 maximum.
The base fee per transaction is simple. And for each chargeback, Stripe will assess a $15 fee, unless the chargeback is decided in your favor. In that case, you’ll pay absolutely nothing.
Stripe’s subscription tools, lumped under the name “Stripe Billing” along with invoicing, will cost you a small percentage fee (between 0.04% and 0.07%) on top of your transaction.
Existing Stripe merchants are grandfathered out of this new pricing. Large businesses will actually pay the higher 0.7% markup, but it seems Stripe has compromised by offering lower transaction fees.
You’ll also pay a monthly fee for access to Stripe Sigma. The cost is a sliding scale based on the number of transactions you process each month, which is a great way for very small businesses to still get crucial data. But for a company that built its reputation on not charging any fees beyond transaction processing, it’s a little bit disappointing to see that model disappearing. You can estimate your cost with Stripe’s tool.
Stripe does offer enterprise pricing for very large businesses, andÂ some nonprofits may be eligible for a special rate. Stripe doesn’t make any promises about nonprofit pricing apart from “let us know and we’ll see what we can do.” So you shouldn’t assume it’s guaranteed.
With Stripe, you may also be able to negotiate for micro-transaction rates.Â Whereas per-transaction fees like the $0.30 Stripe and Square charge can eat up fees from small transactions (less than $10 in particular), micro-transaction rates typically include a higher percentage and a lower per-transaction fee that can save merchants money. This is ideal for anyone who sells digital goods and other low-cost items.
Because it’s something offered as part of a custom package, Stripe may not offer this deal to everyone. If you’re unable to get a micro-transaction plan from Stripe, it might be worth looking at a third option — PayPal (read our review) — instead. The 5% + $0.05 fee could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
All in all, Stripe and Square are fairly evenly matched in pricing. Some merchants might enjoy the lack of chargeback fees and included chargeback protection that Square offers. But Stripe might be a bigger draw for other companies, despite the additional charges for using its subscription tools or Sigma reporting.
Contract Length & Cancellation
Both Stripe and Square offerÂ pay-as-you-go processing with no locked-in contracts or early termination fees. It really is that simple. Stripe will even help you transfer your customer data to another processor in a PCI compliant way.
If you’re using any of Square’s monthly services in addition to eCommerce processing, you can get a free 30-day trial, and then if you choose to continue with the service, you can cancel at any time. Square doesn’t bill annually for those services the way many SaaS providers do. (Conversely, you also don’t get any discounts for paying annually, either.)
Sales & Advertising Transparency
One of the reasons I like pay-as-you-go processors is that they are, on the whole, very upfront and transparent. They tend to not have extensive sales teams, and if they do have a sales team, they’re all in-house. They’re very clear about their pricing and terms, and they’re applied fairly to all merchants.
Square and Stripe both fit this pattern to a T. You won’t see reports of misleading sales pitches or rates not as promised here, which is always nice to see. You can find Stripe’s terms of service on the site, both the general user agreement and the Stripe Payments agreement. Like Stripe, Square has separate agreementsÂ applying to general use, payments, and other services. I do recommend you be cautious and check that your business doesn’t fall on either list of “prohibited businesses,” because that’s an easy path to account termination.
Overall, I’m really happy with both companies in this category, and you shouldn’t have any worries about whether you’re being told the truth or whether you’ll pay what you were quoted.
Customer Service & Technical Support
I think it’s fairly clear that Square outshines Stripe in terms of its customer support — both in quality and in the number of channels available.
Square offers merchantsÂ phone and email support, as well as an extensive knowledgebase. That’s pretty typical of any processor, but on top of that, Square operates the Seller Community, a community forum about all-things Square.
You can get answers from other Square merchants as well as from Square support reps. It’s a pretty powerful tool. But on top of that, Square’s team monitors Stack Overflow for questions about Square products and responds to them.
And that’s not even talking about Square’s dedicated Twitter support handle (@SqSupport), or the developer portal and documentation.
I can’t say that Square customer support is all sunshine and rainbows, because I do see customer complaints about the quality. However, without a doubt the biggest complaint about the quality of customer support comes from merchants whose accounts have been terminated. In that case, Square cuts off access to phone support and will only communicate via email. This is unfortunate and I don’t know if it’s actually a good solution. But I am sure part of the reason to reduce the odds of a customer support rep saying something they shouldn’t, and to prevent support resources from being tied up dealing with complaints from terminated merchants whose accounts won’t be reinstated.
Stripe is more limited in its support options. Its primary support channel is email. However, Stripe also operates an IRC Freenode chat (#Stripe) that developers may find useful.Â There’s no dedicated social media support with Stripe, but you can follow the general @Stripe twitter feed.
Stripe also maintains a self-service knowledgebase, though I don’t think it’s as extensive or detailed as Square’s.Â But I will say that Stripe’s documentation is pretty legendary, and so it’s going to be one of the best resources you can get.Â You can also find questions about Stripe on Stack Overflow, but I am not able to ascertain whether Stripe’s team is active on the forum at all the way that Square is.
I do see comments from merchants that the support is pretty good. But I also see a lot of complaints from frustrated merchants about the lack of phone support. That complaint has actually become one of the biggest marks against Stripe. I’ve seen one mention that Stripe might be rolling out phone support to “select merchants” (presumably high-value clients). However, take this with a grain of salt. I wasn’t able to verify it through any sort of authoritative source.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
As far as complaints go, the single biggest issue for both Square and Stripe is a common one:
Account Holds And Terminations: This is unsurprising (understatement of the year, right there) because it’s a common issue with any third-party processor. Because these payment systems are usually open to almost anyone right away and they are all lumped into one large merchant account, there’s a greater risk that some of those accounts will be terminated for risky behavior. There’s very little scrutiny done before a sub-account with one of these processors is approved, which stands in contrast to merchant accounts, where the processing company will do a lot of underwriting and investigation before approving your application. Both Square and Stripe use a lot of machine learning to analyze transactions and flag suspicious behaviors. This potential for account holds or terminations is universal — you will encounter it with any third-party processor. If you want to avoid it, your only alternative is to seek out a traditional merchant account.
The other big complaint that I see with both is also a pretty common one:
Poor Customer Support: If I’m honest, reports about the quality of customer service conflict. But because of how common the complaints are, I’m listing it here. With Stripe, the most common issues are the lack of phone support and slow response times for email. With Square, a lot of the complaints about poor customer service come from terminated merchants, but I’ve seen a few complaints about slow or unhelpful email responses.
Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:
Lack Of Fraud Protection: I want to be clear: Stripe does have fraud management tools and a system to help merchants fight chargebacks. But I have seen complaints from merchants who don’t think these are adequate. Chargebacks are not settled by Stripe, so there’s not much the company can do beyond pass the requested documents on. But for fraud prevention, merchants need to make sure they have the appropriate tools enabled.
Not User-Friendly: There’s a lot of testimonials from users (especially developers) who really like Stripe and find it simple to set up. There are plenty of others who disagree with that idea. I’m inclined to think most people with a decent technical backing will get along fine with Stripe, but for some people, especially those with less technical knowledge, it’s not going to be a good choice.
For Square, there is one other common complaint:
Lack of advanced features: It’s not that Square doesn’t have enough features, or that it’s missing anything important. The complaints about Square often focus on the lack of very particular advanced features that you typically find in full-scale POS systems. In this case, I think Square’s lack of extensive subscription tools would fit the bill. Some merchants have been upset for quite a while over the lack of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) reporting. Square added this feature with its Square for Retail app, but not for online sales or its free POS. Square has some very powerful reporting tools, but in the end, they won’t hold a candle to Stripe’s Sigma offering.
I think, yet again, that the two companies are pretty evenly matched in this category. The largest complaints are identical, and that’s because they’re the same complaints we see with third-party processors. To be entirely honest, poor customer service is a common complaint across the entire payments industry. It’s frustrating, for sure. But you can take steps to better inform yourself — read our article on how to prevent holds, freezes, and account terminations. And please take reports of poor customer service with a grain of salt, because I see conflicting accounts there.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
As media darlings, both Stripe and Square have gotten lots of press. They’re both lauded for the way they’ve transformed payments.
I usually feel a little bit silly comparing two businesses in this category because it almost feels like a bit of a popularity contest. But in this case, we’re dealing with two companies who have both gotten a LOT of positive press over the years, not to mention high-profile clients. And the bits of each service that merchants love most are pretty similar, too.
Square merchants love how easy the service is to use. And I tend to agree — Square is one of the most intuitive options out there as far as payments and using the dashboard. Merchants also really like the predictable pricing and lack of fees. Other than that, the integrated invoicing feature and the seamless omnichannel commerce experience are big draws.
Stripe also wins merchants over with its pricing, and its tools are very much loved by developers. While if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, Stripe may feel foreign to you, developers say it’s incredibly easy to use. Also on the dev side of things, it seems like the quality ofÂ customer service is great, even if business owners don’t always like the lack of phone support. And unsurprisingly, merchants really seem to love Stripe’s robust subscription tools. The predictable pricing and lack of monthly fees are also appealing.
Stripe and Square have some very important core similarities: they’re both third-party processors with an assortment of tools that allow merchants to sell online. Neither one is suited to high-risk industries, and there’s a lengthy list of businesses neither company can work with. But despite that, both Stripe and Square offer tools that cater to a huge assortment of industries. They’ll both grow with your business, making it easy to scale up.
But despite their similarities in terms of business model, it’s also pretty clear that what each company does best is completely different.
Square is a spectacular all-in-one processor. You can sell in a store, on the go, and online and get all of your information and payments and orders collected in one simply, intuitive dashboard. There’s a huge array of add-on products that allow you consolidate a host of business functions under one name, and they’re guaranteed to work together perfect. eCommerce support is really the newest branch of Square’s offerings, and it’s a work in progress as the company establishes more partnerships and integrations with other major players.
If you have limited technical knowledge, Square is going to be much easier to get started with and to navigate through the different features. It’s free advanced inventory tools are also very well suited to retailers and other businesses that sell primarily physical goods.
Stripe focuses only on Internet payments (both on the web and in-app), but its tools make it possible for businesses to cater to customers all over the globe. The international appeal — from the local currency displays to the sheer breadth of payment methods accepted — make it clear that Stripe is already a global player.Not only that, but with Stripe’s APIs and documentation, a savvy developer could create all kinds of payments platforms for a business. Business owners who don’t have a developer on staff, and who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge themselves, might struggle with understanding how to use Stripe, especially if you want to do anything more than integrate it with some sort of shopping cart software.
You also get a far more limited scope of features. There’s no native support for omnichannel commerce. No mPOS app, no POS integration to support card-present pricing, no invoicing. If you need more than online payments on a regular basis, Stripe isn’t a suitable choice. But if that’s all you need, Stripe isn’t just a good option — it’s one of the best out there, period. If your business has a global reach, again you’ll find that Stripe once again tops the lists of best solutions.
I’m not comfortable saying that one of these solutions is better than the other because it really comes down to what your priorities are. Do you need something easy to use? Do you want to embrace multiple sales channels? Or are you limited to online sales and want best-in-class tools to reach a global audience, manage subscriptions, and even drive mobile commerce? Square can get the job done, and it’ll be the easier solution, but Stripe offers far more tools.
Sit down, think about what features are absolutely mandatory for you to have — and then look at which ones you’d like to have, but aren’t necessarily required. From there, it should be fairly clear which solution is right for you! Don’t forget to check out our complete reviews of Stripe and Square for more insights into how they function.
Have questions? Leave us a comment and we’ll help! Have experience using either of these tools? We’d love to hear from you.
As always, thanks for reading!
The post Stripe VS Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Shopify is a cloud-based, SaaS solution for online sellers. This ecommerce platform allows you to build a full website, add products, create promotions, and sell from your own site.
Shopify is an incredibly popular solution, hosting online stores for over 500,000 merchants; this popularity is due primarily to Shopifyâs simplicity and ease of use. Sellers of all skill levels can set up and operate their stores on Shopify.
Whatâs more, Shopify is well known for its excellent web design. The platform offers a wide selection of modern and elegantly designed website templates.
Like everything this company does, Shopifyâs responsive design is intended to be easy to use and accessible to merchants with little to no experience in web development. Keep reading to learn more about Shopifyâs design templates, design tools, and best practices for your own designs.
How Do Shopify Designs Work?
Shopify uses a theme marketplace to provide design templates to their users. Every merchant has access to Shopifyâs theme marketplace, which includes 63 themes made to fit a variety of industries and online stores.
When you find one you like, you simply download the whole package and enable it on your site (in some cases, you will have to purchase the theme). You can then tweak your site with a few of the available design tools. Weâll talk more about those design tools later. First, letâs talk about the kinds of Shopify templates available.
Types Of Shopify Templates
Free Shopify Templates
10 of Shopifyâs 63 themes are free to download. Those themes are a bit simpler than their premium counterparts. However, many merchants will find that the free themes fit their needs just fine.
Here are a few of our favorite free Shopify templates:
Premium Shopify Templates
If the free themes donât strike your fancy, take a look at Shopifyâs premium themes. These themes are a little more complex, and they are typically priced between $140-$180.
Here are a few examples of Shopifyâs premium templates:
Buying Shopify Templates
If you do choose a premium design, purchasing the template is a simple process.
Just go into the theme marketplace, and select the template youâd like to buy. Then, click the âBuy Themeâ button located under âTry Theme.â
Youâll be redirected to your admin where you can confirm the purchase.
Then, you can enable your brand new template on your site.
Available Design Tools
Once youâve found your template, itâs time to start customizing your store. Shopify provides a variety of tools for different levels of customization. Here are a few of the tools you can use to change up your site.
WYSIWYG Editor: Use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to quickly update copy and add content to your site, without touching the code.
Theme Editor: Use Shopifyâs built-in theme editor to make a few simple changes, and preview those changes in real time. You can use this tool to adjust the backgrounds, images, colors, and fonts of your online store.
Sections: Sections is Shopifyâs new drag-and-drop block design tool. Sections lets you make large-scale changes to your site by adding content blogs and rearranging widgets. This tool is currently only available with select themes. However, Shopify is continually working to expand its availability. View the Sections editor below.
Advanced Customization Tools
While the above tools are great for merchants who simply want to tweak their existing designs, they do have their limitations. If you want to alter your templates more than these easy editors will allow, youâll have to go deeper.
Hereâs how you can best customize your website design:
Hire A Shopify Expert: If you want to make changes to your code, but you donât have the skill to do it, look into outsourcing your customization to Shopify Experts.
Shopify Template Designs & Best Practices
When you select a Shopify theme, you get every template that comes with it. You will have a pre-designed template for your About Us page, storefront, blog, checkout page, etc.
As weâve already discussed, while most of the design elements are determined by the theme you choose, you can edit a few elements of your online store’s design using available tools.
Hereâs what you can do to make sure your site meets with industry best practices on every page:
Shopify Store Templates
Before we get into best practices for your storefront design, letâs take a look at one of Shopifyâs preset storefronts. This image is taken from the free Brooklyn theme.
Shopify does a lot right with this preset. And, with a little work, you can make this design even better. Here are a few of the most important factors to keep in mind as you customize your design.
Prioritize Site Navigation
Excellent site navigation helps your customers locate the products they’re looking for, hopefully reducing your store’s bounce rates. One of the best ways to improve site organization is by implementing a navigation bar with a drop-down menu at the top of your site.
This navigation bar should include categories and subcategories (which you can display using a drop down bar). Everything in your navigation bar, from titles to promotions, should be clickable.
Not only does a navigation bar aid your customers, but also it improves your online store’s overall SEO. Listing your categories and subcategories on every page gives Google more keywords to grab onto, helping your site rank better on organic search results.
Focus On Images
Studies show that image-focused responsive design inspires more engagement. Design your homepage to feature your products and your brand with engaging, high-quality images.
Keep Information Above The Fold
Make sure your most important information is displayed at the top of your page, so customers will see it before they scroll. This includes contact information, promotions, shipping information, and your shopping cart icon.
Shopify About Us Templates
The About Us page is your space to shine. Share your story with your customers, and let your brandâs personality come through. Scroll down for a few more tips for your About Us page.
Connect With Customers
Your About Us page should be a place where you build a relationship with your customers. Make sure to welcome customers to your site and don’t be afraid to use flattery. (âYou wonât settle for anything but the best!â)
Tell A Story
Every business has a story. Use your About Us page to put your history on display. Show your customers that you are regular people and demonstrate your businessâs growth to date.
As you write your About Us page, be sure to use your brandâs own voice. Include all the personality of your brand.
Consider Including Alternative Media
Got a video youâd like to share? This is a great place to put it! Consider using videos, images, and testimonials on this page, as well as links to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.
Shopify Blog Templates
We love that Shopify offers built-in blogs with all their themes and designs. Maintaining an active blog is a great way to build your brand, promote your online store, and harness some extra SEO power. Hereâs a look at Shopifyâs blog template for the Brooklyn theme. See below for more information on blogging best practices.
The most important part of having a blog is actually using that blog. Develop a publication schedule and stick to it! Posting frequently and regularly will show customers that your online store is still in business, and it will indicate to Google that your site is active.
Write Relevant & Useful Information
While your blog is an important part of your businessâs marketing strategy, your articles should not read like advertisements for your products. Write articles that are interesting, useful, and entertaining to your customers. Each article should have some value for its reader. Keep in mind your customersâ needs and interests as you write.
Shopify Thank You Page Templates
The Thank You page is the page your customers will see after they finalize a purchase. Shopify gives you an excellent starting place with their predesigned Thank You page. However, you can still do more to optimize this page.
Now that youâve secured a purchase, itâs the perfect opportunity to encourage more purchases. Consider displaying related products in the sidebar of your Thank You page. You could even provide a discount code for future purchases at your store.
At the very least, make sure customers can easily return to browsing with the easy âContinue Shoppingâ button that Shopify has already included.
If youâre already a Shopify merchant, you’re only a few steps away from a beautiful baseline for your online store. Just take a tour through the theme marketplace, test out any responsive themes that piqueÂ your interest with a demo, and settle on one that fits your website design plans.
Then, customize, customize, customize, until your site works exactly the way you need it to!
Are you already using Shopifyâs design tools? Do you have any favorite themes? Let us know in the comments below which theme youâre using and how web design is going for your online store.
The post A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
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As a reviewer of small business software and services — and a human who lives in the modern era — I’ve seen my share of business websites. Many of them are so basic that they serve only to confirm that the business in question, be it a bowling alley or an accountancy firm, is not merely a front for backroom bookie Big Sal and his associates(Fingers, Lefty, and Slippery Joe). What is dodgier than a business without a URL, after all?
(Read this article if you’re wondering whether your small business even needs a website. Spoiler alert: it does.)
Few websites are anything other than forgettable, and the ones that stand out usually owe their memorability to monumentally funny errors rather than to craftsman-level design.
Your website can be — and should be — more than just an online throwback to the yellow pages, a mere repository for basic information about hours and addresses and contact emails. Your website was destined for greatness. And I’m going to help you take it there. Here are several steps you can take to make sure your website stands out for all the right reasons:
Table of Contents
Join The 21st Century (Be Mobile Responsive)
When I say, “join the 21st century,” I am not being snarky in the manner of a 90s sitcom character. (If I were, I would have said: Welcome to the Oughts, holmes!)
I am trying to stress the importance of having a modern, mobile-responsive site. There’s a word for businesses with websites that don’t work well on smartphones. And that word is defunct.
Consumers are addicted to their mobile devices. And according to this article by Marketing Land, mobile devices now drive an estimated 56% of web traffic. That’s right — chances are that more than half of your customers will find your website on their mobile browser. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, I guarantee they will exit your page as quickly as they enter.
When viewed on a smartphone, non-responsive sites appear either too large or too small, requiring the reader to manually adjust the screen. Responsive sites, on the other hand, automatically adjust to accommodate each device, be it an iPhone, a Kindle, or a Galaxy Note8. Mobile sites are often simpler and/or allow the visitor to scroll down for more information, rather than navigating from one page to another.
Effective mobile sites are sleek, minimalistic repositories of information. They should be reminiscent of your full site and good ambassadors for your brand. They should not make people throw their phones in anger.
Happily, most do-it-yourself website builders allow for mobile responsive design; if yours doesn’t, it’s time to look for a new platform. And it goes without saying that if you’re paying a developer to design your site, you should insist that they make it responsive. If you want more information about this topic or tips about how to make it work for you, read our articles What Is Responsive Design? and Creating Websites For The Smartphone Generation.
Update, Update, Update
To stay competitive, your site has to look current. People are only becoming more attuned to (and judgemental about) the aesthetics of their technology. Older designs simply won’t cut it. You must update, and update frequently, to stay alive.
To be clear, we’re not just talking about upgrading from something like this…
If your site looks like that, you either went out of business in 1996, or you are using the design ironically. If it’s the former, and you’re now trying to get back into the game, good for you. Burn the site and start over. Burn it. If it’s the latter, you are invariably a hipster and I don’t want to talk to you or your handlebar mustache.
This is the horrible truth: your pages don’t have to be neon and underlined to look hopelessly dated. Sites built as recently as 2012 now appear sad and outre. First impressions matter, and the average consumer will ditch your site without blinking an eye if it looks sketchy or old.
To stay in the game, you must update the design of your site every few years. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it will cost you time, money, or both. But what you gain in street cred will be worth every dime.
Updating actually isn’t so bad if you’re using a modern website building platform, like Wix (read our review) or Squarespace (read our review). New, intuitive site editors make it easy to switch layouts, change templates and forms, and alter color schemes — without paying an hourly rate to a spendy developer.
Provide Accurate & Complete Information
I know I spent a good part of the introduction talking about how business websites need to be more than just storehouses of basic information. That is 100% true, and I stand by every word. But…and this is a big but…it is vitally important to put basic information about your business on your website, front and center, or everything else in this article is pointless. Highlight your operating hours, address, phone number, and digital contact information, and put that information in more than one place. If your business occupies a physical space, your address and phone number should be above the fold. In other words, website visitors should not have to scroll down or navigate to another page to see this information.
You also need to give potential customers and new visitors at least a hint of what your company is all about on your home page. Don’t write a novel at this point. As you’ll see in the screenshot of Merchant Maverick’s home page below, a simple summary phrase — Unbiased Reviews That Save You Time And Money — is enough to convey the purpose of our site.
An “About Us” page is a great place to go more in-depth about exactly what your business does, and why you do it. It can also be a good vehicle to introduce yourself or your staff. Include mini-bios and pictures if you can. People are social animals. We’re evolutionarily wired for relationships, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. The exchange of goods and services is occurring less and less in the meatspace, but we still like to know who we’re dealing with.
Avoid Grammar Mistakes
You don’t have dig deep to realize that American public schools are sadly failing when it comes to even basic writing competency. Just log in to Twitter for 10 seconds and yOull sea that Im rite. (There’s a little editor humor for you.)
You can get away with shocking grammar in Tweets, texts, and even over email (alas). But your website is not the place to be slipshod and careless. Save that devil-may-care attitude for Facebook or Christmas cards, where only some of your acquaintance will be judging you. If your website is riddled with typos and syntax goofs, you will lose customers, period. Error-laden copy connotes one of two things to your client base: you are illiterate or you are lazy. Ponder this riddle: What’s more off-putting to a consumer — an uneducated merchant or an indifferent one? The answer, of course, is moot. Neither one is going to survive.
This may all seem terrifying if grammar isn’t exactly your thing. But don’t worry! There’s no need to hastily enroll in a community college course. Simply running your site through spellcheck should catch most spelling errors, though you’d be surprised how many merchants neglect to do so. For higher level syntax and grammar issues, try using a service like Grammarly. It’s not perfect for higher level writing, but it catches almost 100% of basic errors (there/they’re/their, etc.), and it’s free. You can also enlist help from friends and family. The more eyes on your website copy before you publish, the better.
Write Engaging Copy About Your Products/Services
It’s not enough for your content to be grammatically perfect. It must also be useful and interesting. And there’s the rub.
How does one write captivating copy? Especially if one is trying to sell items as unsexy as, say, lawnmower parts or plumbing services? The key is to know your audience. Your stuff doesn’t have to be Dostoevsky-good. It doesn’t even have to be Reader’s Digest-good. Excellent website copy is defined by only three characteristics:
Let’s take them one by one.
Presumably, you understand your business and your products or services well. Take the time to describe them, providing as much or more of the minutia as is reasonably warranted. Color; size; shape; weight; feel; smell; taste. Go further into the aesthetic sensibility of your items if you want. The more your customer knows about the product or service, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their purchase.
The overall helpfulness of your copy will depend in part on how wisely you’ve used detail in your descriptions. But you must go even a step further. It’s not enough to state that a scarf is hand-knit, blue, and made of angora wool. It’s not even enough to say that it is 60-inches-long and machine-washable. For optimal impact, you’ve got to paint a word picture for your potential customers. Give suggestions about various ways to wear the scarf. Talk about occasions or events the scarf is appropriate for. If a customer can imagine your product as a useful part of their daily life, you’re far more likely to make the sale.
This one’s not so straightforward. The line between interesting copy and content that is mind-meltingly dull is thinner than you’d expect. When in doubt, go back to the advice above: know your audience. If you’re hawking lawnmower parts, it’s best not to be cutesy or make attempts at humor. You’re likely to simply irritate people. For utilitarian products and services, appealing equals factual and descriptive. But if bespoke spa treatments or patchwork quilts are your daily bread, be as whimsical as you want. Go nuts. Employ first-person language. Break out the charm. And if you don’t feel up to the task, hire someone who is. There are plenty of freelancers out there who write website copy for a living. Sites like Upwork are teeming with writers who would fist-fight each other for the privilege of generating your web content. (I know because I used to be one of them.)
Use Original Images
On the internet, as in life, it often pays to be unique. And not in an after-school-special, every-snowflake-is-beautiful kind of way. Search engines like original content. They give preference to it, in fact.
That said, unless your name is Dorothea Lange or Ansel Adams, you’re much better off using BigStock or Getty Images for your graphic content than simply uploading pictures from your digital camera or smartphone. Unique isn’t always equivalent to good. My iPhone pictures, for example, are invariably blurry and too dark, invoking what I’m sure are merely pity-likes on Instagram. Yours may be better (and likely are), but I can say with near certainty that they aren’t good enough to be featured on your website.
Website-quality photographs and images should be:
Artistically blocked, posed or designed
Images like this don’t grow on trees. They come from professional photographers and graphic designers who use professional equipment. In other words, you’ll have to pay for them. Craigslist is a good place to find relatively cheap freelancers in your area, or you can solicit help from sites like Upwork and Guru.
Maintain A Blog
Blogs aren’t just for bloggers. Used wisely, a blog can be an excellent marketing tool for your retail, restaurant, or service business.
For starters (to reiterate my point in the section above), search engines give preference to original content. They gobble it up, in the manner of hungry hippos. To be clear, Google is an equal opportunity tool in that, if you have a URL, you’ll show up in an appropriate keyword search…eventually. But if you want to rank a little higher than the two-millionth results page, you’ll need to put it a bit more effort. Creating unique, high-quality content for your site increases your visibility to potential customers online. The key phrase here is high-quality, by the way. Search engines employ highly trained digital bloodhounds that can sniff out BS filler-content a mile away. You can try to cover redundant or pointless copy with metaphorical coffee grounds, but Google algorithms just keep getting smarter.
If you equate blogs solely with hot-button social issues like politics, the Mommy Wars, religion, and the like, it may be difficult to see how having one could benefit — or even apply to — your business. There are only so many edgy articles you can write about lawnmower parts.
Blogs don’t have to be hilarious rants or incisive social commentaries. In fact, if you want them to work well for your site, you should avoid controversy and/or high-art altogether. Instead, think about what kinds of things your customers are interested in, and provide content that caters to those interests. Do you sell custom clothing? Write a few how-to posts about accessorizing or blog about fashion trends. Run a pet shop? Talk about what pet owners can do to keep their dogs healthy. Rank cat toys from worst to most purrr-fect. Cat owners in your area who search for toy ideas may just stumble on your article and become loyal customers. Blogs exist to provide helpful information for your current clients, but they serve to draw in new customers as well.
Here are some articles types that work well for business blogs:
Top 10 Lists
Dos & Don’ts
Best Of/Worst Of Lists
Trends & Fads
If you don’t feel up to creating the content yourself, hire someone who is.
In our increasingly digital society, your website is the most visible face of your business. It behooves you to make that face as clean and attractive as possible. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to create a professional, effective site.
Consider the tips above and take action where you can. With just a little TLC (and a little cash), your website can go from bland and forgettable to sleek and profitable.
We’ve talked about seven ways that you can create a better website for your business. Here are some other resources to help you get started.
Starting From Scratch?
Check out our large selection of do-it-yourself website builder reviews or compare top website building software vendors. If your website needs to incorporate an online store, you’ll want to peruse our eCommerce software reviews and compare some of the top shopping carts.
Read these articles if you need help deciding on a platform:
Looking To Improve Your Current Site?
If you already have a site, but need some tips on how to take it to the next level, these articles should help:
Want Tips On eCommerce?
We’ve written a comprehensive ebook on starting an online store. It’s free and well worth a read. If you’re operating an online store already or are thinking about adding one to your website, check out these articles:
Need Help With Social Media For Your Business Website?
Social media is a huge part of good business marketing, and it’s helpful to integrate your social media channels with your website. Check out these articles for more information:
Julie Titterington is a writer, editor, and native Oregonian who lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley with her husband and two small children. When she’s not writing or testing software, she spends her time reading early 20th century mystery novels, staring blankly at her iPhone, and attempting to keep her kids fed, clothed, and relatively uninjured.
Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships. Learn more.
I like Weebly (see our review).
There, I said it.
Weebly isn’t the most exciting or buzz-worthy website builder around, and it is generally not the choice of web designers who design high-end websites for their clientele. However, Weebly occupies a special place — in my heart, at least — for its supreme familiarity and ease-of-use. There isn’t a service out there that makes the website building process easier. Throw in the 300+ feature add-ons available through the Weebly App Center and you’ve got yourself quite a handsome little package.
However, there are plenty of reasons you might want to go with a different website builder. Maybe Weebly’s just too basic for you. Maybe its templates just don’t do it for you. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of alternatives to Weebly out there just begging for your attention and money. Let’s explore 10 of them!
Table of Contents
Wix (see our review) is undeniably the colossus of the website builder industry. A publicly-traded company with 110 million users in 190 countries, Wix is one of the few website builders with the resources to be able to advertise on the radio, on the sides of buses, and at the Super Bowl.
Like Weebly, Wix offers a limited free plan — one that, of course, requires users to use Wix advertising and a Wix-branded URL — while paid plans run from $5 to $25 per month.
Wix’s website editor is more advanced than that of Weebly, allowing for greater precision in designing your pages. However, if you want an editor that guides you along and holds your hand the way Weebly’s does, just use Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) — Wix will take your content and color/font choices and create a website for you, which you can then edit using a simplified Weebly-like editor. Essentially, Wix is two website builders in one.
Wix’s App Market is an expansive repository of in-house and third-party add-ons that rivals that of Weebly, and its eCommerce system — more advanced than Wix’s — doesn’t take a platform transaction fee from your sales.
There’s a reason why Wix is the world’s most popular website builder, and it’s not just marketing!
Squarespace (see our review) is the fancypants of the website builder industry, technically-speaking. Their templates are widely regarded as being the class of the field. It can’t compete with Wix or Weebly in terms of sheer number of users, but that’s due to the fact that Squarespace has no free plan (though you can try it for free for 14 days). Squarespace’s subscription plans are a bit more expensive than those of most of the competition, with plans ranging from $12 to $40/month.
Squarespace’s emphasis on style means that people might assume your DIY site is the work of a professional web designer. And with Squarespace’s excellent eCommerce and blogging capabilities, you get a lot for your money. You’ll have to spring for one of the two pricier plans if you want eCommerce without a 3% Squarespace transaction fee, though.
I enjoy Duda (see our review), and not just because Duda’s creators named their company after The Dude from The Big Lebowski (true story).
Duda’s free subscription plan includes a 10-item online store, and I’m always partial to website builders that offer some degree of eCommerce for free. Their two paid plans go for $14.25 and $22.50 per month, respectively.
Duda’s photography templates are particularly appealing and make Duda a great choice if you’re looking to set up a photography portfolio or blog. But what really sets Duda apart is their use of what they call “personalization rules.” These rules allow you to create elements which appear only when certain conditions are met. You could create a message that displays only to repeat visitors to your site. You could set up a contact page that displays different contact info depending on the time of day — a “click-to-call” button could appear during business hours while a contact form displays during non-business hours. It’s a versatile and innovative feature — one that makes Duda worth looking into for any small business.
From the Russian & Ukranian makers of the old-school code-based website builder uCoz, uKit (see our review) is a website builder that really punches above its weight in terms of quality vs. the amount of attention it gets.
Sadly, uKit doesn’t offer a free plan. Their four subscription plans start at $4/month and go to $12/month.
uKit’s editor is fantastic, combining depth with supreme ease-of-use. You can build your website piece-by-piece, or you can stack and re-arrange preformatted content blocks. Their template selection is both vast (over 250 at last count) and high-quality. Their blogging tool is top-notch, and they are fully integrated with Ecwid’s online store. All in all, uKit might be the most underrated website builder out there.
Webflow (see our review) is a unique website builder. While Weebly and Wix focus on making website building as accessible as possible, Webflow is a precision web design tool geared towards professional web designers who build websites for their clients. The platform certainly isn’t restricted to web designers, though — just don’t expect a simplified experience!
Remarkably for such a sophisticated site builder, Webflow has a free subscription plan. Their paid plans are categorized into “hosting” plans and “designer” plans, with “team” plans available for teams of designers working on projects together.Webflow’s blogging system is backed by the full weight of a CMS, thus making Webflow a possible alternative to WordPress for bloggers. The one major feature Webflow lacks is built-in eCommerce.
There has recently been a spate of new website builders dedicated to creating single-page websites designed for easy scrolling on mobile devices, and Strikingly (see our review) is probably the best of the bunch. Forbes even put out an article that described the company’s creation.
Strikingly offers a free plan that includes eCommerce, though you’re limited to selling one solitary item. Their two paid plans go for $8 and $16 per month respectively.
As I said, Strikingly’s specialty is single-page websites. Businesses whose customers find them largely through mobile devices may find this kind of website appealing — people surfing the web via smartphones often just scroll through a business’s homepage without clicking on any other pages. And with blogging, eCommerce (with a Pro subscription), and a third-party app store, and you’ve got an impressive package for the right kind of business.
Pixpa (see our review) is a stylish, attractive website builder with a singular focus: the creation of photography portfolio websites.
Unfortunately, Pixpa has no free plan. Their four free plans run from $5 to $20/month.
What’s cool about Pixpa is that not only are their photo galleries an ideal way to showcase your work, but you’re also given the tools to monetize your images.
Pixpa’s integration with Fotomoto (an eCommerce service through which you can sell your images as prints or downloads) means that you can take those pictures that are just sitting there uselessly on your SIM card and turn them into cash.
Zoho Sites (see our review) has some unique advantages as a website builder. It isn’t the most visually spectacular builder and the templates aren’t the freshest, but since the Zoho Corporation (sounds like a villainous outfit from a comic book) puts out a wide array of highly-rated SaaS business packages, you get a lot of top-notch features lacking in much of the competition.
Zoho Sites has a free plan, but it lacks many of the features that make Zoho Sites the cool product it is. Their three paid plans cost $5, $10 and $15 per month.
The main thing Zoho Sites brings to the table is integration with their advanced business services. Their form builder is so formidable that it could easily stand alone as a piece of software. It’s the most advanced form builder in a website builder I’ve come across.
One feature that businesses that handle large amounts of data will benefit from is Dynamic Content. With this feature, you can link to a Zoho Creator database where you can edit your content, which then automatically updates to your Zoho website (along with any other Zoho SaaS product you have linked).
There aren’t many website builders that cater to data-heavy businesses, so Zoho Sites has this niche nearly all to themselves.
Jimdo (see our review) was once considered one of the top website builders out there, and while they may have lost a step, they still boast a formidable user base of 15 million. Let’s explore further.
You can use Jimdo for free and get the basic features, but if you want more — like the eCommerce — you’ll have to spring for one of the two paid plans ($7.50 and $20/month).
Jimdo doesn’t really stand out in any particular way, but everything they do, they do well. With solid blogging, eCommerce, and a nifty mobile editor (more website builders need to allow for editing from a mobile device — it’s 2018, folks!), Jimdo is a good, steady choice for individuals and small business owners.
From the makers of IM Creator, XPRS (see our review) is a nifty mobile-responsive website builder that gets less attention than it should.
XPRS has three subscription plans: a free plan, a Premium plan ($7.95/month), and a plan that allows you, for $350 a year, to white-label the website builder. That means that a web designer can build sites for their clients and then let their clients edit their sites on their own using XPRS.
XPRS’s templates lend themselves very well to mobile devices, though they look slightly underwhelming on a desktop. The editor itself is incredibly easy to use. Every bit as easy as Weebly, in fact. Blocks of content are referred to as stripes. Adding, mixing, and rearranging your stripes couldn’t be more intuitive.
XPRS’s blogging system is rather lacking, but their eCommerce system — an integration with Shoprocket — is top notch, though the fees are a bit much. All in all, XPRS is a solid website builder that, judging by user feedback on Trustpilot, is well-received by users.
If Weebly has treated you well over the years but you find yourself looking for alternatives, there’s a world of website builder options out there for you, of which these 10 are but a few. The right choice for you, of course, depends on the nature of your business or pursuit.
Jason Vissers is a writer, cereal chef and Netflix aficionado from San Diego. A native Californian who enjoys the beach, Jason nonetheless prefers to do his surfing on the World Wide Web, the raddest wave of them all. Jason can’t eat raisins.
Shopify vs. Squarespace – they are two of the most well-known brands in the online store / website builder industry. I’ve written a Shopify review here and Squarespace review here. But how do they compare directly to each other?
First, a bit of background. Over the past few years, online store software costs have plummeted, and the technology to get a website from idea to reality has blossomed.
All-inclusive ecommerce builders have been particularly interesting. Companies like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce – not to mention platforms like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon – have brought ecommerce to everyone regardless of their coding skills.
On the wide spectrum of ecommerce store building solutions, they all live on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website.
That is in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something to be aware of when you’re choosing one of them as a solution since it affects your website both long and short term.
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.
Using an online store builder is 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.
Shopify, Squarespace and other options like BigCommerce and Weebly as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file.
The last preface I’ll mention is that Squarespace is an all-around website builder with ecommerce capability.
Shopify, in contrast, is strictly an ecommerce platform.
This focus puts Squarespace behind as an advanced ecommerce tool and Shopify behind as a general website builder tool. With their respective free trials, you can quickly see the differences.
Try Shopify for Free
Try Squarespace for Free
Make sense? Awesome – let’s dive into the comparison.
Side note – if you want this comparison in a BuzzFeed-style quiz, you can take my online store builder quiz here…
You can also look at my posts on –
Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, ecommerce features, marketing features, and customer support.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my professional experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Comparing pricing between Shopify and Squarespace is fairly straightforward if you have a clear idea of your needs. This comes from the fact that Shopify focuses on *only* online store owners whereas Squarespace markets to everyone.
The short version is that Shopify is more expensive. But there’s a few caveats to look at.
The first caveat is credit card fees.
Squarespace syncs with Stripe and PayPal. Their fees are 2.9% + $.30 per transaction.
Shopify has their own payments gateway that charges lower per transaction fees. But – if you use a non-Shopify gateway, Shopify charges an additional transaction fee that Squarespace does not have.
So why is this important? If you already have a gateway (ie, Authorize.net for your physical pop-up shop) and you want to use them with Shopify – then Shopify’s transaction fee kicks in. But – if you want to use Shopify Payment’s for your online store – you can save a bit of money on transaction fees. Those fees add up. If you have revenues of $100000 – a 0.4% reduction in fees could equal $500 per month.
The second caveat is value pricing.
On front-end features alone – Squarespace is significantly cheaper than Shopify, especially on their Advanced plan, which compares almost directly with Shopify’s Standard plan.
See Shopify’s Plans here.
See Squarespace’s Plans here.
But – like I mentioned in the introduction, it’s hard to compare their pricing tables directly since they are really different products for different audiences.
It’s a bit like comparing the pricing of a motorcycle vs. an SUV.
Sure, the motorcycle is much cheaper and it gets you from A to B. It has wheels, an engine, and it drives on the road just fine. But it’s also meant for a certain type of driving.
It all really comes down to what you need for you project – two wheels that will get you where you need to go or a vehicle that has plenty of room along with lots of features. So let’s look at other differences.
Aside – if you’re curious, Shopify’s $9/mo Lite plan isn’t applicable since it’s more of an inventory/payments software than an online store builder software. You can upload products, manage them, and accept payments, but you can only sell them via other platforms such as a Facebook plugin or a button on an existing website. Same goes with Squarespace’s Business Plan. It’s meant to do a website that happens to have a couple things for sale – not really a full online store solution. I’ll set both those options to the side for the moment.
Onboarding & User Experience
No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”
Onboarding is the process of guiding you past that point. In theory, a huge selling point of online website / store builders is that they have a near-zero learning curve. They have a straightforward process from website concept to website reality.
On this point, Squarespace and Shopify both do alright but in different ways.
Shopify has a quick path from free trial signup to site launch. They have guided tours and a very straightforward setup. They also have customer support outreach focused on getting you up and running quickly.
However, Shopify also has many more features, apps, and technical options available that can present a challenge. The most daunting hurdle is linking your domain name to your store. It’s not difficult but is daunting at the mention of “setting your CNAME” (in fairness, you don’t have to direct your domain if you purchase via Shopify for a bit more per year than via a 3rd party).
Since Shopify functions as a platform for payments, offline inventory and more – their website store setup is actually on the second menu of their main dashboard rather than front and center.
Squarespace has a ridiculously fast sign up to live site process. Their backend is fairly intuitive for basic websites. However, they to have a “Squarespace jargon” to get used to. They like to appeal to developers and freelance designers – so there are advanced tools that can clutter simply launching a site.
Their support emails and tours are structured well. But since their software is made for all types of websites, the ecommerce features are a bit buried (and limited) from the perspective of an online store owner.
I would not rule either provider out on onboarding/user experience. But their differences are sort of like a restaurant with a waiter (Shopify) vs. a fast casual restaurant with a menu above the cashier (Squarespace).
If you want more help and more customization, then Shopify is your choice. If you want to quickly see and order from the features, then Squarespace is less daunting.
Part of the overall value of website builders is simple, straightforward design – no web designers necessary.
But good design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.
Both Shopify and Squarespace use templates (aka “themes”) for design. But they are very different in customization options.
Shopify has a solid drag and drop design feature. You can create any layout element you’d like and drag it into place. You can click and edit any portion of any web page – including both content and design.
But – Shopify does not combine design and content. You have to get your design right – and then add content in a separate area (ie, it’s a template).
Since you can edit HTML/CSS with Shopify, you can build any design possible. There are few, if any, limits to any design that you see on the Internet. Additionally, Shopify has a drag and drop template editor.
Squarespace has a hybrid approach. They famously have beautiful pre-built designs.
They also have drag and drop – and pretty intuitive editing.
But – they also combine design and content with their editor. This approach has tradeoffs. On one hand, you can edit the design for specific pages. On the other hand, your design can go “off-base” pretty quickly – especially with content for hundreds of products.
The other drawback with Squarespace is that their off-the-shelf themes require *a lot* of really good imagery. If you don’t have access to high-quality photography, their themes are not going to work well. Many of Shopify’s designs are fine and functional regardless of product imagery.
They both have large marketplaces for premium designs (in addition to professional designers).
If you are a fan of raw functionality – then you’ll appreciate Shopify’s approach to design. If you want your site to look amazing off the shelf, love to edit details, and have access to good imagery – then you’ll appreciate Squarespace.
The absolute core features of an ecommerce store are a –
That is it.
But, especially in 2017 (and 2018 and beyond), there is a *lot* more than can (and should) go into an ecommerce store. There’s everything from selling via Facebook Messenger to syncing with Amazon FBA to integrating with eBay – not to mention features for executing on marketing fundamentals.
Even for advertising products, there’s selling via Buyable Pins, Google Merchant, Twitter cards, and more. There’s remarketing and coupon codes. There’s A/B testing. There’s inventory synchronization with vendors like AliExpress. And there’s order synchronization with shippers like UPS and USPS.
And that’s all a drop in the bucket.
Obviously, not every store needs every feature. If you are trying to sell a couple T-shirts or a couple specialty products – you certainly don’t need them all. But if you want to grow and expand, you’ll need your options open.
For ecommerce features, Shopify wins hands down, though Squarespace does make it simple to sell your product. Squarespace has a few advanced features (like abandoned cart recovery), but it’s nothing like Shopify.
Shopify not only has more features directly integrated into their platform, but they also have a well-established app store that includes free and paid apps to extend your store with every feature you could possibly need.
That said, this section is a bit unfair to Squarespace, because, again, they are a general website builder that includes ecommerce. Shopify is strictly an ecommerce platform.
If Shopify didn’t “win” on ecommerce features it would be a surprise. Technically, Squarespace competes more with the likes of Weebly and Wix or WordPress who are also website builders that provide core ecommerce features.
In short – if you need core ecommerce features integrated in a simple, straightforward way, then Squarespace is fine. If you actually need a full suite of ecommerce features to grow, then Shopify is hands-down better.
Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really “matter”…until they matter a lot. I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.
On this point, Shopify does very well – and not just compared to Squarespace, but compared to any hosted platform.
Traditionally, hosted platforms presented a risk for web designers, developers, and marketers who wanted to work on the technical aspects of the site.
I know that I flinch anytime a prospective client tells me they are on a hosted platform of any kind.
But Shopify and Squarespace perform well in general. Many skeptics of hosted platforms note that they actually take care of the technical features well. You still don’t have FTP access to your server, but you do have access to change things via their Liquid editor (Shopify) or Developer Mode (Squarespace).
Where they differ (especially for me) is in their potential for technical features. And again, here, Shopify’s app store is their “killer” feature. Even if a feature is not native to Shopify, a non-developer can usually add it.
On the flip side, Squarespace has a lot of native features that simply “work” – and a process of continually adding & revising existing features.
Both Squarespace and Shopify have inherent limitations as hosted platforms (ie, when you leave, you a lot of your data), but Shopify does a bit more to eliminate the weaknesses and capitalize on strengths as a hosted platform.
In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Like any business, you have to actively promote and market your online store for anyone to show up.
Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.
For marketing features, both Shopify and Squarespace both do really well. They support header scripts. They integrate with many products. They add meta data, product schema and open graph tags automatically.
But like design & ecommerce features, there’s the same catch. For an ecommerce store owner, Shopify has many more (and higher quality) built-in features plus a better, more developed app store.
Squarespace has core marketing features built-in, but with more limits.
Support & Service
Customer support and service are difficult to judge. Like I’ve said in most of my reviews, a single customer can never really know if they happened upon a disgruntled rookie or if the company is really that bad.
That said, there are ways to look at a company’s investment in both customer services and support.
For Shopify vs. Squarespace, I think the clear “winner” is Shopify. Shopify not only provides more channels for customer service (phone, chat, email, forums, social media, etc), they also have an incredibly extensive help center.
The help center not only tackles technical issues, it also tackles customer success issues (aka problems with making money).
Squarespace has email support, and limited chat support – but no phone. Their knowledgebase does not have the attention or the depth that Shopify has.
So Shopify vs. Squarespace – which one is a better fit for your project?
If you plan on running a growing online store and want all the features possible, then you should go try Shopify.
Go try Shopify for free here.
If you want a simple store – or a general site with a beautiful look, then Squarespace might be a good fit for you.
Also – bookmark my post on creating an ecommerce marketing strategy here.