ecommerce

Ecwid? Shopify? or Volusion? Which E-Commerce Solution is Best?

People today not only shop in person, but also shop and buy online with mobile devices, and social media. If you are a merchant with products to sell, it is crucial to use an e-commerce solution to globally reach tech savvy customers on the move.

Which e-commerce solution is best for merchants?

To help answer this question will depend on your needs and whether you already have a website or want to establish one. There are numerous e-commerce solutions available, but today I will review 3 that I am familiar with: Ecwid, Shopify, and Volusion.


ECWID

ecwidEcwid is short for “e-commerce widgets” and is a widget-not a standalone solution. It integrates with your existing website, social pages, or blogs. To make your life a bit easier, there are built-in features for Ecwid plugins with site builders such as WordPress, Joomla, Wix, and Yola. Some of Ecwid features include, but not limited to:

  • Four plans ranging from $0 to $99 a month. The FREE forever plan allows you to add 10 products to your store. The most expensive plan does not put a limited on the number of products you sell.
  • Fully hosted including upgrades and SSL-certificates
  • Limited to payments via PayPal
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • No transaction fees

Ecwid is perfect for merchants that already has a website and want to add a simple feature of selling products. Think of it as the “Spark” of vehicles to simply get you from point A to B in e-commerce. If you are on a budget and have a few products you want to sell, then the free plan is ideal for you.


SHOPIFY

shopifyShopify is not a widget like Ecwid and combines the features of being a website builder and an online store in one solution. That makes it a fully featured content management system. Some of Shopify features include, but not limited to:

  • Three plans ranging from $29 to $179 a month. There is no limited to the number of products you can add to your store. The costs vary depending on the amount of file storage you need and the available features you are wanting. There is also a 14-day FREE trial.
  • 100 + customizable themes available with some being FREE and others for an additional cost
  • Built in full blogging platform
  • Fully hosted including upgrades and SSL-certificates
  • 70+ international payment gateways
  • Transaction fees depending on plan chosen
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Discount codes and gift cards

Shopify is perfect for merchants that don’t already have a website or online store and is looking for a mid-range e-commerce solution. Think of it as the “Impala” of vehicles to drive you in e-commerce. If you are needing advanced POS functions, a full blogging platform, require numerous payment gateways, then Shopify is ideal for you.


VOLUSION

VolusionVolusion also combines the features of being a website builder, an online store, and a fully featured content management system in one solution like Shopify. What makes Volusion different is that it offers more functionality for customers to compare and view products online. It also lacks a blogging tool, but it is possible to link third-party blogs to your store. Some of Volusion features include, but not limited to:

  • Four plans ranging from $15 to $135 a month. There is no limited for the amount of file storage you need. The costs vary depending on the amount of products you are wanting to sell and features you are requiring. There is also a 14-FREE trail available.
  • 100+ customizable themes available with some being FREE and others for an additional cost
  • Fully hosted including upgrades, fraud score protection, and SSL-certificates
  • Multiple payment gateways
  • No transaction fees
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Built-in YouTube product video management
  • FREE Live Chat software

Volusion is perfect for merchants that want the “Cadillac” in e-commerce solutions. Volusion has been in the industry longer than Shopify and with that offers more experience and offerings. If you are requiring more functionality for your customers, less emphasis on blogging, and have the time and patience to utilize and navigate thru the numerous bells and whistles in this e-commerce solution, then Volusion is ideal for you.


Note: In my opinion, I would choose Shopify. It has affordable plans and enough options to for any merchant to sell products effectively online.


Are  you currently using an e-commerce solution and want to voice your opinion? Please share. I’m listening.
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www.usingmyhead.com

Squarespace vs WordPress: Which Platform is Best?

While in the planning stages of building your own website, you will definitely be overwhelmed by the choices of platforms that are available. Deciding on one is not always an easy task. I know. I’ve been there.

So, which platform is best? The answer to that question will vary from person to person depending on individual requirements for a website. But first, lets look at the features for 3 popular website platforms:  WordPress.com, WordPress.org, and Squarespace.

What is WordPress.com? WordPress.com has a basic FREE plan and is a fully hosted version of WordPress with these features:

  • Focuses on your creative content and they handle the rest.
  • Includes premium hosting and security with the ability to upgrade to a custom domain.
  • Intergrates with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and much more..
  • Includes sharing, stats, comments, and polls.
  • Available personal support and forums.
  • Hundreds of themes that can be customized.
  • Upgradeable to Premium and Business plans to increase your bells and whistles. Pricing between $99 to $299 a year.

This was the first website platform that I used to get my feet wet in building a website. It is perfect for blogging and for someone who is new to working with websites. For more information, please visit their site at WordPress.com.

What is WordPress.org? WordPress.org is a FREE, self-hosted version of WordPress with these features:

  • Hands on platform where you host your own website.
  • VaultPress is offered for security and backups, but you need to find a host and perform backups and maintenance yourself.
  • Build your own website with PHP and CSS or use installed custom themes.
  • Sharing functionality requires installing plugins.
  • Additional plugins required for your site’s functionality
  • Available forums for assistance.
  • No registration is required.

This was the second website platform that I used and found it a little challenging. My college is currently hosting the 3 websites that I built in this platform. So, there are costs involved for a domain and hosting outside of school. I also was able to add a webstore widget for e-commerce. It is perfect for someone who wants full control of designing and is comfortable in coding. For more information, please visit their site at WordPress.org.

What is Squarespace? Squarespace is a SaaS-based CMS that is structured by a website builder. blogging platform and hosting service. Features include:

  • Modern templates designed with mobile devices in mind.
  • Employ HTML, CSS, and JavaScript techniques.
  • Allows you to install multiple templates to a one site and work with multiple designs at one time.
  • Style editor to help you customize.
  • Customizable content layouts.
  • FREE typekit fonts
  • FREE Google fonts
  • Custom CSS can be applied.
  • Restore ability for content with original template at any time.
  • FREE 14-day trial

I am currently working in this platform and find that it falls in the middle of difficulty between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Meaning, it is not difficult to work with if you have little experience building a website and I don’t need to use any code to make a professional looking site. There is a little learning curve finding out where everything is and how it works, but they offer tutorials to help you out. There is an added bonus knowing that most of the work in designing has been done for you and all you need to do is to add your content and logo to make it your own. For more information, please visit their site at Squarespace.com.

Which Platform is best for me? And the winner is….drum roll please…Squarespace. I love the modern templates that are easy to customize with my own content. Although, it is limited in the way of e-commerce, I still know it is a fit for my purposes in website building at this time. The only down size is that you have to pay after the 14-day trial, but it is a very small price to pay.

I hope this blog helps you to decide on which platform is best for YOU!

Which website platform will you choose and why? Would you like to share? I’m here to listen and welcome your comments.

www.spi-global.com

3 Social CRM Tools for Small Businesses

Customers today frequently use social media to comment on product-related questions, like personal experiences using products, and share with friends and followers their intent to purchase a product. Traditional CRMs used by businesses are sales driven and lack the ability to incorporate the social interactions and data of your customers. This is where social CRM tools enter the picture. Social CRM tools allow businesses to connect with their customers thru social media channels and much more.

Nimble, Insightly, and GreenRope are 3 social CRM tools that I recommend and are ideal for small businesses. Let’s take a look at what each social CRM has to offer.


Nimble_logo_blue_423-180x80

Nimble works for your small business by providing a single view of the past, present, and future of all of your contacts. Nimble features include:

  • Tracking the history you and your contacts share on multiple channels.
  • Message sending thru Nimble or not. Use Outlook, Gmail, or Hootsuite widgets to mobilize your workflow.
  • Stay in touch reminders  and ranking with a star system based on importance.
  • Analyzed shared interests to inform you why a contact is relevant to you.
  • Categorized or segmented groups with saved searches and tags.
  • Filters and segments by recently contacted or last contacted from the sidebar.
  • Monitoring for your contact’s entire social stream.
  • Information about the connections you share in common with each contact.
  • and so much more…

The business plan is $15 a month per user. And, of course, there is a FREE 14-day trial to determine if this social CRM is an ideal fit for your business. For more information, please click here.


Insightly

With Insightly, you can unleash your inner hero. Insightly offers:

  • Powerful CRM to help manage your leads, contacts, partners, vendors, and suppliers.
  • Integrated project management with an overview screen where you can see the recent activity of any project.
  • Social CRM that lets you explore your contact’s public profile information thru any social channel where the contact has participated.
  • Sales reports and opportunities with dashboards, tasks, and milestones.
  • Mobile apps that allow you travel with whatever device you have.
  • and so much more…

Insightly also integrates with popular applications such as:

  • Google Apps & Gmail
  • Google Drive

The plans available includes a FREE plan for 2 users with basic features. There are robust plans priced from $12 to $99 a month per user. For more information, please click here.


GreenRope

GreenRope lets you take command of your business by offering all the turbocharged tools you need in one place. GreenRope offers:

  • Complete CRM to help you keep track of each interaction you have with your contacts
  • Marketing automation that allows you to set up processes.
  • Social media marketing tools so you can broadcast email campaigns to all of your social network sites
  • Video tracking that allows you to see who is watching your videos and when.
  • and so much more…

GreenRope also integrates with:

  • SalesForce
  • WordPress
  • Outlook
  • GoToMeeting
  • QuickBooks
  • Live Chat
  • Magento
  • Gmail

The affordable plans available include unlimited users and emails. And, of course, there is a FREE trial to determine if this social CRM is an ideal fit for your business. The fees range from $149 to $499 a month and are based on the number of contacts that you have. For more information, please click here.


Do you have a social CRM tool to recommend? I’m listening…

Best Simple Free WordPress Themes

A free waffle fry from a waste container may be a great snack for a squirrel, but you won’t find this college student dumpster diving for my next meal. Just because something is free doesn’t mean it is always a good choice.

In trying to find a free WordPress theme for my first blog, I had to decide what my blogging needs would be. I wanted my blog theme to:

  • Have a simple layout
  • Be easy to use
  • Support photographs
  • Utilize installed themes at WordPress.com

After doing some research on themes, I found five candidates to consider for my blog.

fictiveFictive:  This theme is categorized as being simple and ideal for blogs. The modern content is styled in one column and designed to be readable and easy to use. It also has a “sticky” menu on the left where you can put additional widgets and menus. Fictive also offers an area for social links in the sidebar along with your Gravatar. The article by WPTHEME is valuable because it offers a review and preview so you can see for yourself it will be a fit.

BlogumBlogum: This theme is simple, grid-based and modern. This allows for more focus on heavy blog content. On the right sidebar, it supports a widget area. The background can be customized and an option to hide the sidebar on pages using side width. The article by WPSHOWER is valuable because it offers a live demo and download. It uniquely provides information within the Blogum theme itself.

twentytwelveTwenty Twelve:  This theme is simple and easy to read. The design is minimal and allows for text, photo, and video.There are also options to set up as a blog site or a CMS. The widgets are front-page-only. The article by GCO Studios is valuable because it offers links for additional information and discusses the IE8 and below compatibility issue. A fix for this issue is offered.

wilsonWilson:  This theme is simple, ideal for blogs and personal sites. It supports four-post formats: standard, video, aside, and quote. It also has three custom widgets and two widget areas. The article by ANDERSNOREN is valuable because it offers a demo and a free download. There is also information about updates, versions, ratings, and downloads.

HexaHexa:  This theme demonstrates the new trend to post formats in the center while highlighting with color on a variety of content. Geometric shapes connect one post to the next. It supports large pixel images. In addition, it has three widget areas in a pull down section. The article by WPTAVERN is valuable because it goes into great detail about all the bells and whistles that this theme has to offer.

To satisfy my hunger for a free theme that is simple, easy to use, and supports photographs, I decided to go with the Fictive Theme. Which free WordPress theme is a good choice for you and will fit your blogging needs?

To find out more information regarding free WordPress themes, visit the WordPress Free Theme Directory.