We've run almost 100 profitable online stores over the last 10 years and have tried pretty much every shopping cart platform, live chat service, web hosting service, toll-free phone service, credit card processing service, affiliate program software, and [whatever else you can think of] on the market. We know the PROs and CONs of each and have experienced their customer service and support first-hand. Here on this page, we'll give you our #1 recommendation (and in some cases #2 and #3) for each type of service you may need for your store. These are the services that we use ourselves because they're the best you can get for a reasonable price.
Recommendations for Your Store
BigCommerce is our recommendation for larger ecommerce stores, those with 1,000+ products and sales volume of $50k+ per month. There are few shopping carts out there that are as easy to work with as BigCommerce. Not only does it include everything that you'll ever want or need in the average eCommerce store, but they have great tutorials for just about anything. And as an added bonus, we've written a bunch of additional BigCommerce tutorials for our clients. Here's more to love about BigCommerce:
- 100% customizable URLs
- Built-in blogging system
- Full control of HTML
- Over 60 pre-integrated merchant account providers
- Abandoned cart saver (on higher plans)
- 100+ pre-integrated templates
The most popular cart in the world today is Shopify. They have become the top choice for eCommerce entrepreneurs for good reason. Their storefronts are beautiful and easy to build and maintain. Just like 3dCart andBigCommerce, they have many built-in templates for free and a lot more for a premium price. Plans start at just $29 per month plus a small fee per transaction (if you use a payment processor other than the one provided by Shopify themselves). Here are a few more features offered by Shopify:
- All stores are mobile ready
- Multiple languages
- Search engine optimized
- Sell on Facebook
- Sell digital products
- Unlimited products & bandwidth
Click the button below to start your 14-day free trial (or login and refresh this page to for an extended free trial period exclusively for Store Coach members).
Another great cart for startups is 3dCart (we have several stores on this awesome platform!). The 60+ themes that are included with every store subscription make it very easy to get your store up and running quickly. The price to get started is just $29/month and if you use our link they will automatically double your free trial and make it 30 full days. Here are a few more features that are worth mentioning:
- All plans are full-featured
- Built-in blog
- Mobile-friendly templates
- Admin panel mobile app
- Facebook store
- HTML knowledge not needed
- Many 3rd party integrators
Their standard free trial is 15 days, but we've teamed up with them to offer you a trial that's twice as long!
Accepting credit cards ON-SITE is an absolute must! We recommend that you also accept PayPal Standard and/or Amazon Checkout, but it's critical for a good conversion rate that you provide a way for customers to pay with a credit card right on your website. In order to do that, you need two things: 1) a merchant account (which includes a payment gateway), and 2) an SSL certificate (see the section immediately below).
United States & Canada
Reasons we love Durango:
- Low 2.35% processing fees
- No application fee
- No long-term contract or termination fee
- Can use 1 account for multiple sites
- Includes payment gateway
- Low $25 monthly fee
- Customizable fraud protection settings
- Can call your account rep directly
Don't let the PayPal name fool you... PayPal Payments Pro is a merchant account. It just happens to be offered by PayPal. But it's completely separate from PayPal Standard (where customers leave your site to make payment at PayPal.com). With PayPal Payments Pro, customers pay with credit card on your site and have no way of knowing that PayPal is the "bank" processing the transaction.
- No set-up fee, contract or termination fee
- $30 monthly fee
- 2.2% - 2.9% processing fees (depending on volume)
- Can use 1 account for multiple sites
- Includes payment gateway
- No batching - funds are available immediately
- Payments go into same account as PayPal Standard payments
RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
Your best option will be PayPal Payments Pro. This is different from having a personal/business PayPal account. PayPal Payments Pro is a true merchant account and allows customers to pay with credit card right on your website. The merchant account just happens to be provided by PayPal (instead of some other bank).
PayPal Payments Pro costs £20 per month and includes the secure payment gateway (so you don't need to get a separate gateway account). There is no long-term contract, no monthly minimum and no cancellation fee. The per-transaction discount rate is normally quite low.OTHER COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE
2CheckOut (2CO) offers a unique (and awesome!) solution for online store owners throughout the world. It's not technically a merchant account, but it functions exactly like one. 2CO iframes a secure checkout form into your website (much like an embedded YouTube video is iframed into a page). So the customer is technically entering their payment information into a 2CO form, but the customer stays on your website for the entire checkout process.
2CO can set up an account for virtually anyone in the world (there are only 5 prohibited countries, per US law). There is no setup fee, and there are NO monthly fees, statement fees, gateway fees, or hidden fees of any kind. The only ongoing fee is the per-transaction fee, which varies by country.Note: All store owners should also accept PayPal Standard in addition to having a merchant account and accepting credit card payments on-site. A decent percentage of shoppers prefer checking out with PayPal.
Online fraud is a huge concern for almost every eCommerce store owner. A single fraudulent order can wipe out your profit from 5 or 10 legitimate orders! Many store owners try to combat the risk of fraud by a) spending 10-20 minutes to manually review every order, b) setting overly rigid rules (such as requiring billing & shipping addresses to match exactly), or c) doing both! This results in A LOT of wasted time and lost orders. And because fraudsters are so sophisticated, most stores still lose hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars every year to fraudulent orders!
NoFraud completely eliminates the risk of fraud. For a low per-transaction fee (starting at just 0.45%), NoFraud analyzes every payment using their ultra-advanced algorithm that employs virtually every fraud detection technology and technique available. It then provides a simple PASS or FAIL response (which you can see right inside your store's admin panel), eliminating the need for you to make any "judgment calls" or analyze any of the data yourself. And best of all, NoFraud gives you full-blown chargeback protection for every order that PASSes. This means NoFraud will reimburse you if you get a fraud chargeback on any order that PASSed their analysis.
- Completely eliminate fraud - If you ever do get a chargeback, NoFraud reimburses you.
- Nix "false positives" - Stop refunding orders that look "questionable."
- No manual reviews - NoFraud provides a simple PASS or FAIL.
- Lowest cost in the industry - Rates starting at 0.45% for full-blown fraud protection.
- No strings attached - No monthly minimums, monthly fees or long-term contract.
In order to take credit card payments on-site, you MUST have an SSL Certificate. Why? Because it's the thing that encrypts the customer's personal and financial information they enter during the checkout process. It makes the transaction private and secure. Without an SSL Certificate, customers won't see the green padlock icon in the address bar and, worse, they'll likely see security pop-ups warning them that the site is not secure. Obviously, this will scare off 99% of shoppers! Having an SSL certificate will also allow you to insert a security seal (like the one in the top-right corner of this paragraph) that makes customers feel "warm and fuzzy" about shopping on your site.
NameCheap's PositiveSSL product simply can't be beat. It'll set you back a whopping $9.00 per year, so we're literally talking 75 cents a month! (Please don't get duped into paying $50-200/year by your shopping cart or hosting provider.)
There's seriously no competition here... Phone.com is hands-down the best toll-free phone service provider. Here's why:
- Only $9.99/month (which includes 100 minutes - additional minutes are dirt cheap if you need them)
- True 800 number at no extra cost (other providers charge $50+ to get an 800 numbers instead of an 877/866/855 number)
- Includes all the fancies: call handling rules, scheduling, automated call forwarding, hold options, multiple extensions, custom greetings, e-fax, conferencing and so on
- Super easy set-up
Let's be clear about why you would pay for a third-party customer review service when virtually every shopping cart platform on the planet includes a built-in customer review/rating system. There are two huge reasons:
Reason #1: Internal, unverified reviews obtained or created through your shopping cart are NOT trusted by or syndicated to Google and therefore do NOT show up by your AdWords ads or Product Listing Ads (PLAs).
Reason #2: Many online shoppers have gotten to the point where they simply don't trust internal, unverified reviews shown on websites since it's so easy for website owners to write the reviews themselves.
So that's why it's a smart investment to pay for ShopperApproved merchant and product reviews. ShopperApproved is by far the most affordable review service that is approved by Google so that reviews are syndicated to Google and show up next to your search results, Google AdWords ads and PLAs. This is HUGE! And customers on your site are much more likely to trust the reviews - after all, Google does!
Recommendations for Marketing & SEO
That's why we highly recommend the My Blog Squad service. For a very reasonable monthly fee, My Blog Squad 1) researches and chooses interesting topics, 2) writes the posts, 3) logs into your blog & posts them, and 4) posts "updates" on your social profiles about each new blog post. My Blog Squad basically puts your blog on auto-pilot, giving you all the benefits of having an active on-site blog without having to do any of the work yourself!
Please note that MyBlogSquad team has also just launched a new "long copy" Power Page service, where they research, write and publish extremely high quality pieces with 3,000+ words. This is journalist quality content that can be used for the purpose of link building through content marketing (outreach) or as high-converting sales pages. Like the other MBS plans, the Power Page service is available through a monthly subscription and there's no long term contract.
- Schedule Posts - Save time by scheduling out dozens/hundreds of social posts across multiple social media platforms all at once.
- All-in-One Dashboard - Monitor and manage ALL of your social profiles for ALL of your websites from a single easy-to-use dashboard.
- Track Results - Easily measure the effectiveness of your social media campaigns and track your performance with custom social analytics reports.
iDevAffiliate is definitely the way to go if you've chosen to use WooCommerce or another self-hosted shopping cart platform, since you can just pay the one-time payment of $199 - $399 (the $199 version will work for 95% of store owners) and never pay another penny. iDevAffiliate is also a little bit cheaper than OmniStar (our other top recommendation) if you're paying month-to-month, but it's not quite as easy to configure or as easy to use on an ongoing basis. iDevAffiliate is pre-integrated with both BigCommerce and 3dCart (our highest recommended hosted shopping carts).
OmniStar is #1 in terms of ease to set up and user-friendliness. For the few extra bucks a month it costs (over iDevAffiliate), we think it's well worth getting OmniStar if you're using a hosted cart like BigCommerce or 3dCart (like iDevAffiliate, OmniStar is pre-integrated with both). You'll absolutely love OmniStar's easy set-up process and the user-friendly interface. Another major plus of OmniStar is that it includes a 15-day free trial so you can try it out risk-free for a couple weeks.
Whether you're just getting into eCommerce and would like an expert's advice and input on your niche ideas, supplier outreach efforts and store build-out process OR you already have a store and want a personal mentor to help you put together a custom marketing plan and help you with SEO, paid advertising and conversion rate optimization, our private coaching plans give you the 1-on-1 guidance and mentoring you need! All 3 plans include private 1-hour phone calls with your personal Coach (frequency depends on which plan you choose) along with a daily 2-hour block of time where you can live chat 1-on-1 with your Coach via Skype. Click here to learn more about private coaching and claim your spot now (seats are limited). There's no long-term commitment, so why not try it for a month and see what you can accomplish with a private mentor by your side?!
- 1-on-1 private phone calls with your own personal Coach
- Daily 2-hour block of time to live chat with your Coach
- That's over 40 hours per month of private, 1-on-1 help from your Coach!
- Discounted admission to Store Coach Live! events
- No long-term commitment
Many of our clients have reported 2-4x increases in their conversion rate after implementing the suggestions we have given in our custom site review reports. Others have immediately shot up in Google's rankings by following our guidance on improving their site health, on-page content optimization and/or backlink profile. Your site review will likely pay for itself within just a few weeks of increased traffic and sales!
For most store owners, Wave Accounting will do the job just fine. And it's FREE! Wave is basically a free, simplified, online version of QuickBooks. It lacks a handful of the bells and whistles QuickBooks offers, but hey, you can't beat free!
QuickBooks beats Wave in almost every respect, except for the fact that you have to pay for it (although it's not terribly expensive, really). QuickBooks gives the capability to track income and expenses by "class" (i.e. by website), and its reporting functions are much more robust.
We can help you get WAY MORE for your store than you'd be able to get trying to sell it on your own! And using our brokering service will take away a lot of the guesswork and actual work involved with selling a website. We've bought and sold dozens and dozens of websites over the last decade and know how to prepare the listing, drive interested parties to it, get maximum exposure, conduct the bidding/due diligence process and ensure a smooth transaction. Click here to learn more and get a no-obligation quote for our brokering services.
Store Coach is an affiliate for many (but not all) of these recommended tools and services and, as such, we earn an affiliate commission for referring customers. That being said, we don't recommend any service we don't truly believe in. These are all services that we've used ourselves.