Blog | Coherent - Part 2

Increase efficiency and lower costs on popular eCommerce platforms

 

Many online store owners wonder, “How on earth am I supposed to compete with Amazon?”
With their product selection and fast fulfillment times, it’s no wonder customers
are flocking to these eCommerce platforms.

Selling with Amazon and eBay

Since Amazon’s platform is so large, many shops opt to have products fulfilled by Amazon. However, the fees are undeniably high and can take away the profit you make on each item.

Lowering your seller fees is no easy feat, though. Amazon runs a complicated system where users are a flat fee per item as well as any associated category fees while eBay runs a percentage based system, taking anywhere from 8% to 15% of the item value.

Using Amazon, you can drop the £0.75 item selling fee by purchasing their £25.00 upgrade seller plan, which is great for larger stores on the platform. You may also opt to contact Amazon to purchase products directly from you, so they maintain inventory and you don’t lose any profit whatsoever, though this is a rather difficult process that will likely end in a rejection.

With eBay, opt to remove any of the additional “highlighting” features offered. A well written listing with professionally taken pictures will do wonders, compared to a bolded title, etc. You can save up to £3.00, so it’s definitely worth a look.

Alternatives to Amazon and eBay

While you can lower your seller fees with these popular eCommerce options, opening your own eCommerce store can be a great option to keeping more of your profit while also having greater control on customization. You might opt to have someone host your store for you, host it on our platform or perhaps run it yourself. Some options include Shopify, a cloud hosted shop platform and Magento, a free Adobe-owned eCommerce platform.

Costs for the software can range anywhere from the low, low cost of free up to hundreds of dollars, so be sure to weigh your options carefully. Shopify allows for easy dropshipping, while Magento’s most attractive feature is that it is free.

However, if you opt to use a self-hosted platform such as Magento or WooCommerce, it needs to be run on a server. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a cheap shared hosting plan though, as it will likely end up that you’re upsold to a virtual server or are suspended due to overuse of shared resources. As the old adage goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Automating accounting and finance management

Seeing your store grow and turn a profit is every shopkeeper’s aspiration. However, as you emerge as a retailer, you will eventually need to pay your staff and produce financial statements for tax purposes, especially in Europe, where value added taxes (VAT) are leveraged differently across member nations.

Whether you choose Xero or Sage, managing your accounts payable and receivable can be a nightmare, especially if you’re manually inputting client transactions. We can help you increase your business’s efficiency through the automatic posting of transactions, automated staff invoicing and more. Not only will this save you time, it can increase your business’s revenue as you can spend more time on what you love.

Increasing the productivity of your staff

A moderately sized business will usually have at least a few employees working to manage inventory, find suppliers, etc. Your team is the core of your business — it simply cannot run without them. Make their jobs easier with software — we can create something that manages stock, assigns work to staff and more. They’ll spend less time performing menial tasks and more time running your business, allowing it to flourish.

 

 

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Tablets for business: Time to get an iPad?

You may have heard the old joke – Steve Jobs was up late one night trying to think of a new product to appease investors. He sat at a table with several iPhones and eventually arranged nine of them into a rectangle, giving birth to the iPad.

Tablets in business: statistics

A surprising number of clients are telling us that they use tablets, and in particular iPads, in their business. In fact, Apple sold 11.4 million iPads in just the second quarter of 2017. As a result, their reach extends not only to businesses, but also to educators and consumers.

Just a decade ago, no IT professional would ever believe that tablets would ever control the market. With the introduction of the iPad, consumers and enterprise customers alike began transitioning, and for good reason. It features an advanced enterprise management system, making it perfect for all businesses due to its feature rich interface and restrictions system.

What we’ve done

We’ve worked with countless companies that wanted to reap the benefits of the Apple ecosystem. Take a look at Auto Car SOR, a dealership financing company that we’ve consulted for. We created an app that allowed them to increase efficiency and save resources by linking up their accounting, task management and document systems. Not only did this get recuperate lost time from manual data input, it also benefited from our bespoke development approach. Coupled with a modern interface and responsive support, they were pleasantly surprised as the system was implemented.

Another business that we’ve integrated the Apple ecosystem into is Capture Pod. They provide photography booth services to events. At an event, a customer was so impressed with their services that they wanted to leave a testimonial — something that they could not record at the time. We developed a bespoke testimonial app that stored video to the cloud and eventually was deployed in several stores in the United States. All of this was created to work on the iPad.

The benefits of having iOS devices in general deployed in your business environment is often times a benefit to productivity and efficiency. The management interface that is provided can prevent staff from trailing off, as well as keep the devices secure. With such a fantastic platform, it’s no wonder businesses love the iPad and it’s why we love it too.

Sources: MarketWatch – iPad sales in Q2 2017

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What it costs to develop an app

 

I am a hypocrite. When I speak to a designer, marketer or copywriter about a project, I can’t help but ask these three questions:

  1. What will it cost?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. What will the results look like, precisely?

Their businesses, just like ours, are project based, and the answers to all three depend on a lot of variables.

It’s because of these variables that we don’t normally publish prices or turnaround times on our website. Every project is different and, although we want to be open and transparent, it’s important to understand that minor details can have a large impact on a costs and turnaround times.

But really, what does it cost?

Our day rate is £490+VAT. This is extremely competitive by UK standards.

For a very basic app, for one platform (i.e. Android or iOS), a sensible minimum is about £3,000+VAT. Double that for both platforms. For a small app, most of the time goes into laying the foundation, so doubling the feature set doesn’t usually double the price.

Are Android apps cheaper than iOS apps? Are iOS apps cheaper than Android apps?

Generally, they are roughly on par. There are extra costs associated with buying the Apple hardware and licences needed to build, test and publish apps, but the smaller range of devices and interface designer makes up the difference.

How long does it take?

There are typically three phases for mobile apps:

  1. Design phase. We create a unique “look” for your app. This can take 2-4 weeks depending on complexity. To save time and costs, this stage can be omitted if there are no specific aesthetic requirements.
  2. Build/test phase. Minimum 2 weeks for a very basic app. No maximum!
  3. Publishing on the App Store / Play Store. It can take at least a week for Apple to approve your app and list it on the App Store, allowing people to download it. Google is generally a bit quicker.

I have a great idea. Can you build the app for free?

It’s shocking how often we’re asked this – especially about mobile apps. Sadly, ideas are easy; execution is difficult. We also need to keep the lights on, so no, we don’t work for ideas, equity, exposure or appreciation.

What about cross platform development (e.g. HTML5, ReactJS?)

We don’t do a lot of cross platform development. There are a few reasons for this. First, Apple and users generally dislike apps that do nothing more than a mobile-friendly website could. Second, most cross-platform development toolkits deliver a sub-par user experience (e.g. lag). Third, some more advanced functionality isn’t available at all, so it’s possible that an HTML5 app may need to be rewritten entirely later.

That said, we know HTML5, ReactJS and Java, and if you’re dead set on a cross platform app, do get in touch.

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Our software engineers take on Total Ninja

 

One of the most exciting developments in Manchester’s Trafford Park has to be Total Ninja. I was really excited when I heard about the launch and saw the promotional video – and what better place to take the team out of the office for a team building day?

Last week, we took most of our software engineers out of the office (and off their chairs!) for most of the day to attempt the obstacle courses at Total Ninja. The courses were more difficult that we had expected – and quickly showed us who has been keeping up their fitness and who hasn’t.

Obstacle courses at Total Ninja

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Coherent to exhibit at the North Lancs Expo

 

We’re pleased to announce that after exhibiting at the inaugural North Lancs Expo, organised by the excellent Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce, we’ll be exhibiting (with a much larger presence this time!) at the 2018 expo.

The expo is due to be held at the Lancaster Brewery (hint!) on the 23rd and 24th of September between 10am and 4pm.

Please come by and meet some of our team! We’ll also be giving away plenty of goodies.

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Bringing Worldpay’s payment pages into the 21st century

We know that, to put it nicely, Worldpay’s hosted gateway payment pages (“pay by link”) are a little dated. We manage because:

  1. They are the UK’s largest payment processor and one of the most cost effective,
  2. There are other options, such as “direct XML”, if you really need it to match your brand.

Recently, we found ourselves addressing a separate problem – the lack of integration between Worldpay’s core products and the Xero accounting system. There has been huge demand for this, for years. Worldpay ended up responding to this by bringing out Worldpay Online. Worldpay Online is their modern, easy to integrate payments platform that unfortunately is much more expensive than their core products. Despite a finally seeing a direct Xero-Worldpay integration, the community responded exactly as you’d expect.

Software development is what we do and, as active users and developers of both systems, we decided to take on the challenge of integrating the two systems as the community wants. The result is our second app, Coherent Pay.

Coherent Pay works well (we’re biased!) but the weak point is the part of the process where customers are redirected to a payment page that was probably built in the early ’90s and changed little since. With this in mind, we got our design hat on and created a new look for both pages (click to enlarge):

Worldpay modified payment page 1Worldpay modified payment page 2

We’re releasing these, free of charge, to Worldpay users everywhere, whether or not you use our Xero integration!

How to install the new pages

  1. Log in to the Worldpay Business Manager and click on “setup”
    Step 1
  2. Click on “Edit Payment Pages”
    Step 2
  3. Choose your installation ID (probably called Pay by Link) and click Edit Payment Pages
    Step 3
  4. Click “Header and Footer”:
    Step 4
  5. Click “Edit Header” and then repeat the following steps for “Edit Footer” as well
    Step 5
  6. Paste the header (footer) code into the box and click “Save File”
    Step 6

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Coherent supports the Django REST Framework

 

Django is the gold standard for creating web applications in Python. The Django REST Framework (DRF) is the gold standard for creating RESTful API-driven applications in Django.

DRF has been a key building block to ensure the quality of our bespoke Django development for over two years. It has:

  • Provided new developers in our team with a wealth of documentation and examples,
  • Made it easy to test our applications and contributed to our test-driven development (TDD) approach,
  • Helped to define a coherent structure for our API-driven applications.

We are therefore very, very proud to employ DRF in our stack.

[ninja_form id=4]

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What the GDPR means for software

The GDPR is the successor to the Data Protection Act in the UK. There is a lot of worry and panic about the changes it brings.

If you’re in the Northwest of England, I recommend attending a talk by Baines Wilson on the practicalities of the GDPR. It could be the best 2 hours and £25 that you spend for a long time (but I’ll forgive you if you can drink 8 pints in 2 hours).

Cumbersome as the changes are for some businesses, they make a lot of sense from a technical point of view. They’ll help to stop sensitive personal data “floating around”, email addresses being “subscribed” to email marketing lists and data sharing and aggregation between apps and websites.

Your Software

The key point for business software is governance. Governance has always been a part of big business. Now it needs to be a part of every business.

Example

The Data Protection Act required that businesses only retain sensitive data that they need. The GDPR goes further by requiring businesses to have a demonstrable process to remove sensitive data they don’t need.

The difference might seem subtle but if you store customer records in a CRM, does your CRM let you set up a “rule” to remove unneeded data automatically?

If not, how laborious would it be to log on every month and remove stale data?

Divide, then Conquer

You need to identify each system that stores sensitive personal data. For each system, identify the risks of a data leak and what you can do to mitigate them.

The easiest step you can take to mitigate risk is to remove data that you don’t need. If your systems make it easy to identify data you don’t need and delete it, great. If not, you may need to consider new software.

You should also identify the safeguards in place in each system. Who built the system and what is their track record like? Where is your data located? Do you have full control over it? Do the systems have appropriate protection against attacks?

New Software

Some systems you use might not be adequate. If so, now is the time to devise a plan of action.

Are your systems generally good but lacking in some areas?
Consider a bespoke integration to add additional governance to your existing system.

Do your systems need to be replaced completely?
We might be able to create software to help migrate your data to a new system.

Should you consider a bespoke software package?
If off the shelf packages are expensive or limiting, now might be the ideal time to consider moving to bespoke software. Bespoke software gives you more control, more oversight and generally lower ongoing costs.

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We’re the Northwest’s first Xero Developer Partner

 

We have recently become the first and only software development company in the Northwest to be accredited by the accounting platform Xero.
Our accreditation follows a range of highly successful projects incorporating a Xero integration. Our Xero integration work creates bespoke functionality on top of your accounting system to tailor it to your own business needs.
Typically, our integrations fall into two categories:
  1. Connecting Xero to one of your existing systems to ease manual work – for example, if an invoice is created in another system, it automatically flows over to Xero and when it’s paid in one system, that payment automatically flows over to the other system (how much time would that save?!).
    Read more about our Xero integration work and join the likes of Jacadi, Chaney Associates and Wealth Preservation Holding Company
  2. Bespoke software including a Xero integration. Most of what we do is building entirely bespoke systems.
    Read more about our bespoke software development and join the likes of Thunderbird Releasing, CareRadar and ACCq.

 

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Think before registering a “new gTLD” domain

TLD stands for Top Level Domain. It’s the last part of a domain name – for example “.com”. The “g” stands for global which just means it’s not tied to a particular country.

About a year ago, there were just a few gTLDs and everyone wanted a .com for their business, their brand or their own name. .com was thought to be the most credible option since it stands for “company”.

The web has been around a long time, though, and good .com’s are in short supply. If you’ve ever had a great idea for a business name or a product name only to find that the .com is taken and isn’t being used for anything in particular, you’re not alone. Because they’re cheap to register and keep, and potentially very valuable, some people have made a very tidy living from hoarding good names and selling them at very inflated prices.

To try to solve this problem, about a year ago, a lot more TLDs arrived. Coffee shops can get a .coffee, clubs can get a .club, accountants can get a .accountant and so on. We very quickly went from a small number of TLDs to a huge catalogue.

For a lot of brands and businesses, it means that you can finally get the name that you actually want.

But it isn’t quite that simple.

Each gTLD, new and old, is maintained by a company. That company leases names on gTLDs they own, to wholesalers (“registrars”) who sub-lease it to you. The older gTLDs are generally provided by Verisign, an American company that has been doing this since around 1985. Over the last 32 years, they’ve not changed much. Their prices have increased roughly in line with inflation and there hasn’t been any notable foul play.

The new gTLDs are owned by a range of other companies. The best known is Uniregistry. There isn’t any evidence of foul play from Uniregistry either – but they don’t have the decades of stability that Verisign has.

Because of the regulations governing TLDs, instead of giving notice to increase their prices, Uniregistry have set fairly high prices for many of their extensions and have discounted them initially to gauge demand. This means that they can effectively increase the price of domains at the top of a hat if demand isn’t what they had expected. This has already happened to some of the extensions, including .guitar and .hosting.

In conclusion, you don’t get any more or any less guarantees buying a “new gTLD” relative to a traditional one. You do get more uncertainty, though.

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