Home & Gift Harrogate (19th – 22nd July)

Home & Gift show opens its doors on Sunday 19th of July and runs until Wednesday 22nd of July at the Harrogate International Centre. Home & Gift is the industry’s much loved summer trade show for retailers, trade buyers and distributors looking to stock the finest gifts and greeting cards – it’s a retailpalooza!

We’re excited to announce that this year Nochex will be attending the event and that we’ll have our very own stand. From the 19th – 22nd of July you’ll be able find us in Design Point Debut & Spotlight, Stand G13.

Looking for a payment processor? Want know more about online payments? Or just want to say hello, why not pop by stand G13 and talk to one of our representatives.

Bonus: You can save £50 in setup fee if you sign up for a Nochex account at the show!

We look forward to seeing you there.

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Nochex vs PayPal vs Stripe vs Worldpay

We compare the pros and cons of the other popular payment processors in the industry

If you have found this post it is likely that you are in the process of choosing a payment gateway for your online store. Maybe you are already processing with one of the above but are dissatisfied with the service so you are looking for a better solution.

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Whatever your situation, if you want to find out which payment gateway is the right fit for your business then you have come to the right place.

Banks

Before we talk about the dedicated payment gateway operators, let us take a look at what the banks have to offer. If you have a relatively high turnover or particularly sophisticated payment needs, then getting a merchant account with a bank might be the right fit for your business.

However, when working with a bank, it can take a long time to get set up. Banks take a long time to make a decision – even a decision to decline your application can take several months. A bank will want to know a great deal about your business and require a large amount of documentation and jumping through hoops in support of your application.

Unless you are processing very high volumes we would recommend staying well clear of the banks. If you are a small business they can charge expensive fees and will more often than not decline your application. It is expensive for banks to run accounts for small businesses so they will reduce their costs by taking on less business and charging higher fees.

Banks can provide a great payment solution for your website, but it is worth building your turnover with a dedicated online payment solution before approaching a bank as you will find that a good trading history can significantly speed up a bank’s ability to process applications.Banking-history

Fortunately, there are many payment processors out there providing great value and taking the stress out of accepting card payments online.

The Payment Gateways

There are a plethora of payment gateway operators claiming to offer the best solution for your business. Few are completely transparent and many will oblige you to sign up to a long-term contract with a limited window of opportunity for getting out. Choosing the right one is like navigating a minefield. Luckily Nochex are here to help.

Here we compare the major pros and cons of our following friends:

  • PayPal
  • WorldPay
  • Stripe

PayPal

PayPal is one of the most commonly used processors worldwide. The success of parent company eBay and prominent position in online superstore Amazon has helped make PayPal a household name.

The Pros

Contrary to popular belief, PayPal can be used for more than paying via a PayPal account. It can also be used to process credit and debit card payments.

One advantage to PayPal is it is very easy to set up; account authorisation can be completed almost instantly. It is a simple and secure method that anyone can use.

If you have customers that use a personal PayPal account then this provides a quick method for them to make a payment. Some of our merchants will provide this option alongside Nochex to increase the variety of options by which shoppers can pay.

The Cons

PayPal is buyer’s friend and sellers need to be careful about who they sell to. You may have read horror stories of the Californian company closing accounts and freezing funds with little to no explanation. This is probably because the easy set up process makes it a popular target for fraudulent sellers so they are extra cautious around disputes and suspicious activity.

It is easier for them to side with buyers and provide a refund than investigate every dispute. Unlocking an account can be stressful as their customer support team have been known to be unhelpful and difficult to engage in times of trouble.

A common complaint of PayPal merchants is that buyers are pushed to sign-up to a PayPal account.  This can be unpopular with consumers and adds an unwelcome extra layer to the payment process.

Worldpay

Worldpay is another huge American figure in the payment industry. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, like PayPal they are a name that is synonymous with online payments.

The Pros

Worldpay are fully PCI DSS compliant and provide 3D secure so your customer’s card details are safe when they pay using Worldpay. They also partake in fraud screening in order to protect you from fraudulent payments.

Prices can go down with high volumes so if you are a big business they can help you out with a cheaper deal.

The Cons

There can be a large transfer delay when trying to access your money. WorldPay promise a quick turnaround but has been known to take over 4 weeks to give you access to your money.

WorldPay charge a monthly fee and has other fees such as the £29.99 annual PCI compliance management fee and £15 minimum monthly trading volume that make things difficult for small businesses. In tough times these fees can be a nuisance.

Their prices can differ for businesses in different industries and they have been known to renegotiate rates to favour the most successful merchants. It is worth checking out their full terms and conditions if you want to know what the true cost of using their service is.

Worldpay recently attracted criticism for using a Visa interchange fee change to cover up a secret price increase that went over above the corresponding cost increase.

Stripe

Stripe is a great disruptor company. It burst onto the U.S market in 2010 and gave PayPal a serious run for its money. Stripe made payments cool. For a company that has been trading for a relatively short amount of time, Stripe has really made a name for itself. In just five years it has established itself as one of the biggest names in the industry and is available in 18 different countries.

The Pros

If you are a technical whizz then you can do some really cool things with Stripe. It markets itself as being built for developers and in the right hands can be used to do great things. For example, ride-sharing app Lyft use Stripe for their innovative mobile app.

The development opportunities with Stripe make it ideal if you are technically minded and want the ability to play around with every tiny detail of your payment gateway and make changes to it.

The Cons

Stripe does not provide 3D secure, so you are at higher risk to fraudulent payments. The most common reason that Nochex merchants have given for migrating from Stripe is that they were the victims of fraudulent chargebacks.

PCI DSS is a stringent set of rules that all companies who handle sensitive cardholder information must adhere to. If you are using Stripe then you need to carry out a self-assessment to ensure you are PCI complaint. With other solutions the payment gateway will take care of everything so you do not have to worry about it.

If developers like it then it will likely cost you more! Your developer can spend hours, at your expense, adjusting the functionalities of Stripe. Sometimes simpler is better and is certainly cheaper. If you do not have an advanced knowledge of coding and do not want to spend lots of money hiring a developer to do it for you, then it might be easier to go with a simpler solution.

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Emulating German success: Bringing the Mittelstand to the UK

UK ink supplier Sprint Ink opened up shop in 2005 and now approaches its tenth successful year in business. How have they done it? – By doing business the German way; keeping things simple and not overreaching.

What is the German way?

German industry has continued to prosper throughout a tough economic climate. Entrepreneurs from all over the world flock to Germany to learn the secrets of their success. Much of this success is put down to the ‘Mittelstand’ which makes up 52% of the country’s GDP and 60% of the workforce.

The Mittelstand refers to the midsized manufacturing businesses tending to specialise in a relatively narrow range of products. They are often family run businesses that have been passed down through several generations and will rarely be known outside of their small town locations and niche markets.German Flag

The culture among these companies differs greatly from their adversaries in the UK. UK manufacturers are constantly looking to expand their product range in attempts to offer every possible product available in their industry. In Germany, Mittelstand companies may have just one or two products and will focus on mass producing these products at a high quality for a low price. Joachim Kreuzburg, boss of laboratory equipment manufacturer Sartorius, says of the Mittelstand “We are not digging for gold. We are selling shovels to the gold-diggers”.

Dominating the door handles

Karcher Design are a textbook example of a Mittelstand organisation. They produce door handles, bells and knockers. From their HQ in German town Bad Rappenau, Karcher sell handles to businesses all over the world. Karcher are a small family run firm that mass produce on a global scale. They are the epitome of the Mittelstand success that the UK wants to emulate. Through specialising in a narrow product range Karcher has achieved an extremely firm grip on their niche of door handles and knockers.

Door Handles

Where do Sprint Ink come into this?

Sprint Ink has managed to successfully apply Mittelstand principles to the UK market. Sprint Ink, who are now in their tenth year of trading, sell printer ink cartridges. They don’t sell tablets, headphones, kettles or vacuums cleaners; just ink. Pretty Mittelstand eh?

Whilst other ink suppliers get caught up varying their product ranges beyond the realms of ink into the likes of gadgets and other household appliances, Sprint have stuck to their guns and focussed on what they are good at.

Passion for Printing

If you walk into your average electronics store and ask a worker about printer ink, you will be speaking to an expert in electronics with some knowledge of ink. With Sprint Ink, however, you are speaking to someone who is an expert in printing. Business owner, Ian Wilson, has been running the outfit for ten years and knows everything there is to know about printing.

Sprint Ink Logo

This is where the Mittelstand principles of selling mainly ink give Sprint a level of credibility superior to that of their competitors. Ian Wilson is always eager to answer customer queries and provide honest advice on finding suitable printing solutions. On his website you will find an endless list of blogs covering a variety of topics from printing on post-it notes to achieving the perfect colour balance when taking photographs. His expertise in printing is second to none.

Ian set up a merchant account with Nochex in 2008 enabling him to take payments online and sell to consumers all over the world. In the seven years since then he has expanded his product range the German way – without overreaching. He now stocks an incredibly broad range of cartridges. Whether it be for home or professional use, whatever the brand – Sprint have the ink for it. There is a selection or printer paper, pukka pads and pens thrown in for good measure but the focus is very much on ink cartridges.

Sustainability is a key element of Bavarian business culture and it is thought that this is achieved through the focussed exploitation of narrow niche markets. Sprint have dominated their niche of printer ink and as a result have secured a safe long term future. Around the world the belief is that if Mittelstand culture can be exported into other markets then the success of the German economy can be repeated.

What is fascinating about Sprint is that they have applied these principles to the UK consumer market. The Mittelstand, who are often referred to as the backbone of the German economy, tend to sell parts and components to other manufacturers. Hopefully if more UK firms can make like Sprint Ink and bring German business culture to the retail market we will have a British Mittelstand in no time.

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How to get more Facebook likes without spending money on advertising

I am the marketing intern at Nochex Ltd – the online payments people. Part of my brief is to increase the number of likes the Nochex Facebook page has to over 1,000. This is the story of how I did it. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and avoid some of the traps along the way.

In February we set ourselves a goal to reach 1000 Facebook likes by the end of March. In order to reach this target I needed 863 new likes in 6 weeks. I wanted quality likes as well meaning no robots or spammers. I was aiming for real people who buy and sell on the internet; the sort of people who use Nochex every day.

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Why don’t you just buy some likes?

If you want more numbers on your page then there are people online who claim to sell Facebook likes. As well as being illegal in the eyes of Facebook this does not produce quality likes. Pay-for-like services will either provide fake robot accounts or trick people into liking your page without their knowledge. These aren’t quality likes. We wanted real people who liked Nochex because they chose to – not because of some technical voodoo trickery.

Okay. What about paid Facebook advertising?

Facebook say the best way to get likes is to use their paid advertising service. A recent report by global cloud computing company Sales Force into the effectiveness of Facebook advertising found that UK businesses pay, on average, 87p per like. This would make the cost of my 863 new likes £750. This was way out of my budget (I was told to spend no more than £30!) so I explored other options hoping to find a more cost effective method of raising our profile.

Expensive

If you don’t want to buy likes, what can you do?

With Facebook advertising out of the question I needed a plan. I already use the page to publish and share useful content which is great but doesn’t generate the results I desired. I wanted to bring in lots of likes and quickly. I sent posts out on other social media accounts including Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ asking our social media friends to like our Facebook page but this returned only a limited response.

I needed to provide an added value to our Facebook page that would persuade lots of users to like our page and do it quickly. I had a eureka moment when a man in a van offered me a free slice of pizza. The van was covered in hashtags and twitter profiles, encouraging pizza eaters to tweet about their lovely free pizza. As a happy pizza recipient I got straight to Twitter and let the world know about this lovely giveaway. Looking at the featured hashtag told me there were tonnes of other satisfied pizza eaters doing the same. I thought if I could run a similar campaign with the Nochex Facebook page then I would get the likes I needed. By offering to give Facebook users a prize if they like by a certain date people would definitely start liking at speed.

A give-a-way, great! So what’s the plan?

After deciding on the competition route, I set to working out how the competition would run and be promoted. The first step was choosing the prize. We love helping our merchants out so it was a no brainer to pick a prize provided by a Nochex merchant. At Nochex there are a thousands of sellers operating in a multitude of industries giving a wide variety of possible prizes.

The tip here is to give people what they want. Wine is always a nice prize idea but limits your possibilities by ruling out anyone who doesn’t drink and leaves you in a bit of a legal kerfuffle when you’ve accidentally sent a bottle of wine to a thirteen year old. Clothes are good but throw in more obstacles as dimensions and tastes are subjective depending on who wins. The final choice seems obvious in hindsight: chocolate! Who doesn’t like chocolate???

Nochex has many quality chocolate selling merchants so choosing which one was another task in itself. Whilst trying not to pick favourites (Nochex loves all merchants equally!) I ended up going for Cambridge based Chocolat Chocolat. They are well known for their delicious chocolate which is handmade in store by one of their fine chocolatiers. It is said that they are the finest chocolatiers to grace the planet since Willy Wonka closed his factory. After we informed them of the competition they were ecstatic to be involved. Their luxury bouquets (pictured below) made a perfect fit for the high quality image we wanted to project.

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The Rules

Now it was time for the fun bit: the rules. Facebook have their own set of rules regarding promotions and it is important to follow these if you don’t want your page to be shut down. A key factor is that you are not allowed to ask users to share, comment or tag their friends. Essentially, the only activity that can be used as the criteria for a competition is a like. Fortunately, Facebook likes are what I wanted so these rules were fine by me.

My competition rules were simple. To partake, all entrants needed to do was like the Nochex Facebook page and at the end of the six week period one of these lucky likers would get some chocolate.

Promotion

With the prize in place and the rules set up all that was left to do was let the world know. In these situations social media and online mediums be extremely useful. The internet is great because it allows you to advertise to your target market for little to no cost from the comfort of your desk.

Facebook was my first port of call but considering the aim was to attract new likes I needed to do more than inform those who have already liked the page. Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs and even buzzfeed were utilised to let people know about our fantastic competition. I combined this with the use of posters with QR codes on local notice boards for a great mix between offline and online marketing.

I discovered early on that the offer was popular with compers, people that enjoy entering online competitions. Compers are lovely individuals who will share the competition with their friends, post it on forums and leave lots of nice comments on your page. This is great because you aren’t allowed to ask them to do this but they do it anyway!

The largest referrer for the Nochex competition turned out tobe financial advice website: Money Saving Expert. Money Saving Expert has a popular section of its discussion forum dedicated to sharing great competitions like ours. Once the Nochex competition was published here the likes came flooding in.

The Results

The end results of this competition were fantastic. I managed to go over and above my target of 1,000 total likes achieving well over 1,400 likes. The same feat would have cost an estimated £1,131 in Facebook advertising. Seeing as our chocolates were £15, our competition cost us less than 2% of the would-be advertising cost. This really demonstrates the lack of cost effectiveness in Facebook advertising.

4 Quick tips to take away

Here are a few things to learn from our Facebook give-a-way success:

1- Raise your profile online with a competition  Running a social media contest is an effective method of getting your desired results for minimum cost. We achieved 1,400 likes for less than 2% of the equivalent Facebook advertising cost demonstrating the efficiency of Facebook competitions.

2- Read the rules  Whether your competition is on Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social network there are rules to adhere to. To avoid having your page shut down make sure you read the rules beforehand and follow them carefully.

3- Utilise Online Forums – The internet is full of discussion forums for just about every niche interest imaginable. There will be some related to your industry, some related to your prize, and definitely plenty for online competitions. Share your give-a-way in these forums and you are guaranteed to get the numbers in.

4- Enjoy Yourself! Giving out stuff is fun! Studies have found that random acts of kindness can increase happiness and prolong life expectancy. A social media give-a-way may not quite be a ‘random act of kindness’ but none-the-less you can still find joy in knowing that someone has received a lovely prize.

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Jack Vettriano – A new breed of professional painter

Jack Vettriano was born in Methil, an industrial town on the East coast of Scotland. He grew up in poverty and was sent out to work from the young age of 10, halving his wage with his father to support his family. He started painting for a hobby in his twenties. It was not until his forties when two of his canvasses sold immediately after submission to the Royal Scottish academy that Vettriano decided to paint full time.

Vettriano is part of a new breed of professional painter. In past years it was only big names like Monet, Picasso and Dali who made any money from painting. Today the accessibility of low value reproductions makes it easy for painters to make money from selling their work. These low value prints are how Vettriano has made his name.

His seductive style is instantly recognisable and has become synonymous with his name. He sites his inspiration as ‘many years of sexual misbehavior’ and the women in his paintings are said to represent different women from his past. The popularity of his paintings has made them incredibly marketable across a multitude of formats.

Vettriano’s popularity in cheap reproductions has helped make him a staple name in art shops and gift shops around the UK. His versatile and erotic style make his paintings an ideal fit for greetings cards and greetings cards are where his work has sold in the thousands. The fact that there are businesses such as Vettriano Cards, an online store dedicated to producing greetings cards of his work, demonstrate his popularity in this market.

The Singing Butler

Critics have often criticised Vettriano for relying on cheap reprints for his popularity but his response to this is priceless. In an interview with Radio 4’s today programme he said this: “Let me put this to you, if Van Gogh were alive, if Monet were alive, and you were to say to them, ‘look, you can sell a print to a Frenchman for 10 francs’, they would have jumped at the chance.”

He doesn’t mean to compare himself to the greats of Van Gogh and Monet but the notion is poignant. Today you can buy cheap Van Goghs for as little as £10 but in the 19th century Tesco didn’t sell Van Gogh. In fact, in the 19th century Tesco didn’t sell anything at all. Artists crave recognition and respect but what is better recognition than being sold in 3000 stores up and down the country?

I, for one, lament the 15 minutes spent patrolling the greeting card aisle searching high and wide for a card that looks like it was not purchased in a petrol station the night before. In the future I will definitely think in advance and buy a Vettriano card. In practice, however, it is more likely to be a case of hoping the nearest petrol station happens to stock Vettriano cards.

Purchase Vettriano cards from http://www.vettrianocards.com/

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Manaleak – Magic: The Gathering fantasy gaming

Magic: the Gathering was created in 1993 by Dr Richard Garfield and published by gaming company Wizards of the Coast. The same company which later acquired popular role playing game ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and published the globally popular Pokémon trading card game.

When launched at events across 1993, Magic: the Gathering found instant success. At a gaming convention in August 1993 the game completely sold out of 2.5 million cards, a supply which had been scheduled to last until the end of the year. In its early days Magic was so popular that Wizards of the Coast were reluctant to advertise the game because they were unable to keep up with demand. 22 years on and the honeymoon has not stopped. It is currently the world’s most popular trading card game with over 12 million players worldwide.

This huge Magic community has created a market for all things Magic, whether it be the trading cards themselves, Magic merchandise (such as these cute figurines) or events such as competitions and conferences.

Magic players can even win large prizes at these competitions such as the $40,000 grand prize taken home by the winner of the Pro Tour. These illustrious competitions have given rise to Magic celebrities including the infamous Jon Finkel who has won over $350,000 during his playing career. Finkel is a name so synonymous with the Magic community he has been immortalised in his own Magic playing card.

Magic: The Gathering card design

The Magic community has given rise to businesses catering to Magic players. One such example is Manaleak which cover just about every aspect of the industry.

Manaleak is a great example of a bedroom project developing into a nationally known business thanks to the efforts and entrepreneurial nature of the brains behind it. It started out in the bedroom of a university student. Today Manaleak is the market leader in the UK gaming market and plays host to the country’s largest online community for players of Magic: The Gathering.

Managing Director of Manaleak, Tu Nguyen, has a real passion for Magic and this shows in the way he runs his business. He knows what Magic fans want and seeks to provide this whether it’s via the extensive collection of cards and merchandise available in the online store, top quality Magic related articles or the forums that provide an online community for Magic fans to discuss all things Magic.

For an online community of all things Magic and a one stop shop for all your playing needs, go to http://www.manaleak.com/

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5 easy tips to declutter your home

Clutter

As a follow up to last weeks merchant profile on the marvelous Scatty Squirrel, today we are going to give some tips on how to declutter your home. Easter is a popular time to reorganise the house and get rid of that unnecessary clutter. But how does one go about starting. We list five easy-to-follow steps that will get you on the right track to decluttering your home.

Declutter specific areas at a time

Where to start? – Is a question so difficult that it is often easier not to start at all than deal with this mind-boggling problem. You are unlikely to have the time to do the whole house at once so choose one small area of a room and do that before you move onto anything else. I like to start with the desk as this is often covered with piles of documents and papers, most of which can be filed neatly in the shredder.

Create an efficient filing system and learn to file quickly

After I have decluttered the desk I will tend to move on to a shelf as my second port of call. Completely clear a shelf and designate it as a filing system with different sections for different documents. Once documents have their own place, keeping tidy will be a lot easier. It is easy to fall into a habit of putting all document, leaflets and magazines into one super, all encompassing pile of ‘things’ but if you have an organised filing system this won’t happen.Clutter

Learn to throw things out

The biggest cause of clutter is rubbish. Going round the house with a bin bag (or three) will take care of most of the decluttering without having to find a new places for all those household goods you never use. This is easier said then done and it is easy to become a hoarder. It is time to admit that video player that has not been used since 1998 and those spare aerials that don’t appear to have originated from anywhere whatsoever are never going to be used and have to go.

Donate

If you are struggling to throw things out because you think they are still of worth then donate them to charity shops instead. You may find it is easier to get rid of something that you never use if it is going to a good cause. Hopefully there will be someone out there who actually has need for that TV that looks like it is still in black and white.

Make use of storage space 

Your home is likely to be full of underutilized storage space goldmines. Under the bed, for example, is one space that is rarely used to its full potential. Instead of just pushing bits and bobs under there like a modern day Mary Poppins get some baskets or boxes and give each item a rightful home.

There are lots of innovative storage solutions on the market right now that can turn dead space into creative storage ideas. For example, these door hanging pockets from Scatty Squirrel will turn any door, cupboard or end of shelf into a storage goldmine.

Wicker baskets are very popular right now and can easily transform a collections of miscellaneous items into a great addition to the aesthetics of a room. This basket, for example, will store your items, look good in the process and also double up as a stool. Talk about multi-function furniture!

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