How Important Are Online Reviews To Australian Customers?

Online customer reviews

They say that when you buy from a small business, a real-life person does a happy dance. The same goes for when they receive their first online review—unless, of course, the review is negative. In this case, it’s hard for small business owners not to feel a little deflated. 

Regardless of the review’s tone, business owners may be wondering: How important are online reviews to customers? Do they attract or deter other shoppers from buying products, services or software? To answer these questions and help businesses learn how to manage reviews, we surveyed 258 Australian online shoppers.

Online customer reviews

How important are online reviews to customers?

Australian shoppers are savvy, and it’s extremely unlikely they’ll make a purchase without doing their research first. According to our survey, 98% of Australians read online reviews before they make a purchase, and 94% believe them to be trustworthy.

By extension, Australian buyers have taken on a kind of communal ethos—84% expressed they’d left a review online at least once in their life. By sharing their experiences, shoppers hope to make the buying decisions of future customers a little easier. 

Who is most likely to leave a review?

Our research found that 56% of the respondents who had left a review online did so because the seller had prompted them to. This highlights a simple and manageable solution to engaging customers in the reviewing process: Ask them! 

There are plenty of free review management platforms that will help motivate loyal customers to share their experiences. Businesses that want to leverage this technology should take into account their typical customer demographic. However, it’s also useful to have a basic understanding of the average Australian customer reviewer too. 

Two-thirds of respondents who had left a review online have a job (full-time or part-time), and 78% of respondents who had left a review fit within the 20 to 40-year-old age category. 

Women were also twice as likely to leave reviews than men.

Which gender reviews more?
Which gender reviews more?

The research also revealed that Australians are foodies! Restaurants, bars, and cafes were the most reviewed category at 14%, followed by food and beverage products at 12%. Electronics and technology products (11%), clothing and accessories (11%) and education and training (11%) came in as the joint third most popular sectors to review. 

 

most-reviewed-shopping-sectors
Most review categories in Australia.

Why do customers review?

Although some customers need a gentle nudge to leave business reviews, just under half of them happen without any kind of prompt. According to a global study by Trustpilot, the motive is usually to:

  1. Help other customers make a better purchase decision.
  2. Share an experience.
  3. Reward a company for good performance.

However, the research also showed that reviews can be a result of buyers acting on emotion, positively or negatively. If the customer has had a poor experience, they’re likely to vent their frustration—particularly if they feel personally wronged or mistreated. 

In the same vein, an exceptionally good experience can move a customer to share it with others. This happens more often for customer experiences with small or local businesses.

What does the perfect review look like?

The data revealed that Australian’s trust positive and negative feedback with equal importance. They also prefer a range of written content over a perfect star review. 

We asked respondents:

When browsing online, which of these two online customer reviews would make you more inclined to trust the product?

Product A: Five out of five-star rating with 5 written reviews

Product B: Four out of five-star rating with 15 written reviews.

 

More than three quarters (76%) of respondents said they would prefer product B. 

This result demonstrates that written comments can carry more weight than star ratings. But star ratings still serve an important purpose: They help businesses know if their previous customers were happy. Similarly, they help shoppers make a snap judgement on the quality of a product.

So, what do shoppers look for when checking reviews? 

What do shoppers look for in reviews?
What do shoppers look for in reviews?

According to our research, businesses should ensure their reviews platforms include:

  • At least 15 written reviews.
  • Fresh reviews, ideally submitted within the last three months.
  • An honest reflection of the brand.

In the eyes of a consumer, a perfect star rating feels superficial. No product, service or software is without flaws. With that in mind, businesses should never delete reviews that discuss the difficulties or challenges faced with the product, service or software.

Why should businesses care about reviews?

Together with the fact that 98% of Australian’s won’t buy a product, service or software without reading them, customer reviews also help to:

Improve website visibility

When your business consistently gets good feedback online from customers, it affects your ranking in search engines. As a result, you’ll sit higher up in the search results and more customers will discover you.

Convert browsers into customers

Shoppers trust the word of other shoppers almost as much as their peers. Reviews create a huge network of micro case studies for your business.

Create a community

Customers have the opportunity to engage with each other, and with you. Businesses can thank customers directly for their appreciation, or let them know they’re listening to their feedback. 

Drive conversations

Customer review pages are a fantastic source of information for social listening. The conversations not only provide key insights into the quality of your product, but they can also help shape the messages behind your future marketing campaigns.

How can businesses drive positive online reviews?

Here are a few ways you can create social proof of your product, service or software:

  1. Give them lots of different platforms: Don’t limit your customers. There are plenty of spaces for customers to give their opinion, including your social media sites, third-party review sites, and platforms like Google my Business.
  2. Ask them directly: Deploy an email campaign to your existing customers using email marketing software. Alternatively, automate the process using review management software.
  3. Stress the importance of reviews to staff: Customer service teams should always follow up a positive customer conversation with an invitation to review your product, service or software.
  4. Make it easy: Include a link on your website that brings customers directly to your most popular review platform. Why is this so important? According to Neil Patel, ‘if a customer has a good experience with your business, they aren’t likely to go out of their way and leave a review. Customers who have had a negative experience are likely to go out of their way to speak their mind.’ 

Bear in mind that while positive reviews are the goal, you don’t have complete control over the social perception of your business.

How should businesses respond to a negative review?

More than half of our survey respondents admitted they’ve published at least one negative review online. Yet, 58% of the respondents didn’t get a response from the seller, despite 82% of them stating they wanted one. 

In most cases, consumers simply wanted to help other shoppers with their purchasing decisions by sharing their own experience. Acknowledging a negative review is crucial because users want to know that the problem has been heard. It also helps to rebuild broken trust. But for a small business, who has little to no staff dedicated to this area, it can be tricky to know where to start when it comes to formulating a response.

According to the respondents, Australians most want businesses to:

  • Offer a refund (90%)
  • Correct the issue (88%)
  • Write like a human, not a corporation (85%)
  • Take accountability (85%)
  • Provide an explanation (81%).

Bad reviews can happen regardless of the quality of product, software or service. No matter how undeserved they feel may, businesses shouldn’t shy away from the concept of negative reviews. 

Whose opinion counts?

As well as customer reviews, we asked respondents to give their opinions on other sources of information. Respondents said their peers are the most trustworthy, while influencers were the least. The media and journalists were also listed as reliable sources.

Trust has a significant impact on the purchase decision journey, so businesses must pay attention to the information that helps to convert shoppers into loyal, happy customers. 

Would you like to learn how to leverage reviews to boost SEO and PPC performance? Discover how Capterra connects with software buyers using customer reviews today.

The methodology of the study

To collect the data for this article, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of Australian online shoppers. The survey includes the answers of 258 participants who qualified to complete the survey through screening questions (out of a total of 300 participants) in January 2020.

Over half of British employees don’t think they get enough recognition at work

94% consider employee recognition to be key in retaining talent

The highly competitive landscape has forced companies to regard recognition as a vital part of employee retention. Money, treats such as gift card or voucher or simply public acknowledgment is sometimes more efficient in keeping workers happy and engaged. So does this mean that employee recognition is critical to retain talent? 

In the past, the most common form of recognition would be given privately during performance reviews, however, Millennials have shaken up the way companies reward their employees. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) have traditionally struggled more to find and retain talent against larger corporations. We conducted a survey amongst SME employees to understand how they feel about recognition and how can it impacts their engagement with the company.

Highlights of the study:

  • 78% of respondents said they would work harder if they had more recognition 
  • 56% don’t think they get enough recognition from their companies 
  • 50% believed that employee recognition is a priority in their company 
  • 34% have at least received a verbal thank you for a job well done at work as recognition
  • When received recognition, the two ways more used are one-on-one with a manager (36%) and informally within teams (29%)

Recognition, a strong motivator for Millennials

78% of respondents said that employee recognition is a strong motivator for them, with another 22% stating it doesn’t make a difference for them. Out of those that responded yes, 41% were aged between 25-34. 36% of those who responded no were aged 35-44.

According to a report from Robert Walters, 32% of Millennials considered recognition of individual achievements at work keeps them engaged.

In addition, half of British respondents in our survey stated that recognition is a priority in their company. 78% mentioned they would work harder if they had more recognition at work, and out of those, 41% are aged between 25-34.

This could mean that older generations are not so worried about getting recognition at work in order to motivate themselves to work harder, whilst younger ones seem to have a ‘need for this in order to keep motivated at work. 

This is not surprising if we think that, Millennials are going to make up most of the workforce in 5 years, so companies should start implementing strong recognition practices now.

The type of recognition matters

When asked about the type of recognition that employees have received at work, a third (34%) stated a verbal thank you for a job well done. The two most common ones following this are treats given to staff (15%) in the form of vouchers and gift cards and monetary ones (13%) such as bonuses.

Nevertheless, over half of respondents (57%) don’t think they get enough recognition from the company, with 16% being recognised once a month and a further 10% once a week. When asked what type of recognition they would like to get, the three most popular ones are a verbal thank you (22%), treats (18%) such as vouchers and gift cards and monetary (16%) as bonuses. A personal note (11%) and a handshake (11%) are also mentioned by respondents as preferred ones.

When asked about how would they like to receive recognition over a third (36%) prefer it to be done in a one-on-one with their manager, whilst 29% of them don’t mind it being done informally within teams. When looking at the way recognition is communicated to the team, a third prefer it to be done in private (33%). 

If you want to keep your employees, it’s critical you recognise them: A staggering 94% said that employee recognition is key in retaining talent. The results also reveal that employees are more interested in personal recognition than monetary ones such as treats and bonuses.

We wanted to know what software are companies using to provide recognition. Respondents cited Slack, Microsoft Office or Sage 200cloud as some of the ones that companies are using to recognise employees either in a written or a verbal way, however, 82% of companies are not using specific software for this at present.

Employee recognition software is linked to HR software and Talent management software, and can help collaboration, as well as promoting peer-to-peer recognition, increasing the satisfaction of employees as well as their engagement and motivation in the company. A win-win situation for all. 

Methodology of the study

To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of the target market UK.  Over 300 participants qualified to participate in the survey through screening questions out in December 2019. Qualified participants are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed) and work in a small to medium sized enterprise (1-250 employees).

Get resources under control with the cost and resource planning Excel template

How many employees do I need to complete the project on time? Am I on budget with procurement? What are the unplanned costs of my project? In order to be able to answer these and other questions, a cost management plan is carried out in projects to determine the best actions. 

First, let’s start with a definition of the term ‘resource’. The resource is a generic term that can refer to either employees, material or financial resources within a project. And exactly these resources need to be planned as efficiently and effectively as possible in the interest of project success. 

In order to help your company, we have created a free cost and resource planning Excel template for you. 

What has to be considered when planning costs and resources?

Before planning costs and resources, a work breakdown structure needs to be created for the Gantt chart and bring the individual processes into a sequence. It’s important, however, to estimate the processing effort for each process. 

As soon as the effort has been estimated, the resources and/or team members can be assigned to the individual processes. This is best carried out by the project manager together with the team. Once this is done for the next planning stage (e.g. milestone or sprint), you should take a closer look at each resource’s exposure profile. 

Is a machine accidentally used in parallel or has a team member been over- or under-scheduled? If this is the case, they will need to adjust your planning or reconsider your resource allocation. 

Capacity here is the keyword – the availability of a resource, including the available volume. For example, if an employee is scheduled for more than 100% of his or her capacity, this is referred to as overload. If this overload occurs because the person is dispatched for two competing or parallel operations, it is a resource conflict.

Resource conflicts can also arise across project boundaries. Is the employee still needed for tasks or do other projects in the company want to access the same resource at the same time? Another frequently used term in this context of project resource planning is the bottleneck resource. This is a resource that is only available in certain cases due to limited capacity or multiple loads. 

The use of cost and resource planning tools

In practice, the project manager uses a tool for cost and resource planning. Project management software or Excel templates offer the possibility of carrying out work packages including resource management electronically. 

The cost and resource planning Excel template can be used for small projects. As the project grows or it becomes more complex with many work packages, it’s advised to switch to project management or project planning software

The great advantage of software programs is that they automatically detect conflicts related to resourcing and help resolve them using data analysis. In addition, the software automatically generates a Gantt chart including all dependencies. 

How does the cost and resource planning Excel template work? 

The cost and resource planning Excel template is a simple form to give you a quick overview of the costs incurred in your project. The template contains three tabs, the first tab Basic Data is used to enter your project-specific framework data. Here you can enter the general project data and the cost types (from internal and external personnel costs to material and license costs). Then you can assign the appropriate types, units and costs to project members, services and materials in the Resources area. 

Under Types, you can differentiate between internal and external costs, whether the units are hourly rates (for persons) or lump sums. While the hourly rates are fixed for the duration of the project, the flat rates differentiate between planned costs and change costs.

In the second tab Overview plan you can enter all the work packages of your work breakdown structure. Name the corresponding work package, assign it to the corresponding WBS element, and assign the corresponding resource. However, you can only select resources that you have stored in the basic data. After, you will be able to enter the forecast quantity in the green area called ‘Planned costs’ and the corresponding price will be calculated automatically. If you need to make any modifications to the costs due to changes, then note their quantity in the red area ‘unplanned costs’. The field ‘Release on’ only affects the unplanned costs.

With cost and resource planning, we end our series of downloadable Excel templates to provide your company with a free alternative for planning small projects.

You can find our other free templates here:

The Gantt-Chart Excel Template for easy project planning

The Burn Down Diagram – Efficient Tool for Agile Teams

 

Payroll processing: What Is It? And How To Get Set Up

monthly payroll processes

Payroll processing refers to the steps taken to pay employees for each pay cycle. It takes into account the employee’s salary, working hours, bonuses, benefits, and tax remittance. 

On the surface, that may sound quite straightforward. In reality, payroll can be a complex process—especially for someone with little to no finance background. In this article, we cover the basics of payroll processing and highlight the technology you’ll need to begin.

monthly payroll processes

Who should handle payroll within a small business?

According to ABS data, there are approximately 781,908 businesses with 19 or fewer employees in Australia. That’s around 36.8% of Australian businesses. In most cases, these companies don’t have in-house finance management. 

For a small business that doesn’t have a dedicated payroll administrator, payroll processing often falls to the business owner. There is a lot to consider when filing multiple payroll records.

With that in mind, it’s worth investigating the option of payroll software, third-party outsourcing, or a combination of both.

Why businesses need an efficient payroll process

Your employees are your best resource, so it makes sense to look after them and their remuneration. Beyond perks and benefits, the first thing businesses have to ensure is:

  • Employees receive an accurate pay rate
  • Salaries get paid on time
  • Management of annual leave (and other types of leave) is correct
  • Commissions and bonuses are honoured.

These processes should be smooth, seamless and without any major issues. As a business grows, technology can help an organisation to handle multiple employee salaries at once.

In-house payroll vs outsourcing: which should you choose?

Inhouse vs outsourcing payroll process

A big choice you need to make before investing in any software is whether to keep the function in-house or outsource it to a third-party. The decision is crucial and could save your business thousands of dollars. 

Let’s look at the benefits and challenges of each:

Outsourcing payroll

Benefits:

Here are a few ways a company might benefit from outsourcing the payroll process:

  • Time-saving: The main benefit of outsourced payroll processing is the amount of time saved from the endless hours spent calculating pay, deductions and keeping track of income tax withholdings.
  • Avoid mistakes: With payroll comes workplace agreements and EBAs. When a mistake happens, it can be costly. Third-parties ensure the minimum standards are adhered to.
  • Focus on core business activities: By outsourcing payroll to a third-party, organisations can focus on the functions that generate revenue and drive growth.
  • Security: A good payroll processing service will have robust payroll systems that are fully secure. Sensitive information is therefore protected by the company.
  • Peace of mind: The hassle and pain often associated with payroll processing are mitigated through the help of experts. 

Challenges:

Outsourcing also has its shortcomings. It costs more than software, and even though you’re putting the process in the hands of specialists, there is still potential for human error. 

In-house payroll management

Benefits:

Here are just a few reasons to bring the payroll process in-house:

  • Cost: The upfront cost may be larger initially because you’ll need to purchase and implement software. However, the processing of payroll is extremely cost-effective in the medium to long term.
  • Data control: Sensitive information, such as salaries, benefits and work status remains in-house. The data remains on a secure database owned and managed by you, giving you greater control. 
  • Flexibility: Changes, such as deductions or salary increases, are easy and quick to apply.
  • Employee empowerment: Payroll platforms should include the option to self-service. This means employees have access to the platform and can take responsibility for keeping their data up to date.
  • Fee transparency: The price of payroll technology is consistent and transparent. A third-party may provide extra fees for activities such as changes, or adding overtime.

Challenges: 

In-house payroll processing is the less expensive option, but there are some extra costs that businesses may need to consider. 

Even if a business has 19 or fewer employees, by law they’ll still need to purchase a single touch payroll software. This is because the Australian Government requires businesses to report payroll information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

However, don’t view the requirement as a punishment. Payroll platforms make the process significantly more manageable. Instead of administrators having to manually calculate and pay salaries, wages, taxes and super, they can simply automate it.

How much does payroll software cost?

In a recent poll that we put out to 250 Australian customers, we discovered than 98% of people will read through reviews and compare a product, service or software before buying. When we asked which piece of information within a product listing was most vital, 85% of people cited pricing.

So, how much will payroll technology set you back? Some common factors determine the cost. These include:

  • The pay cycle
  • The total number of employees
  • How many states your employees reside in
  • Whether you require direct deposit
  • Demand for additional tax filing-services.

Most payroll programs have a per-employer or per-paycheck fee, on top of the base account fee. The base fee varies per software, but you can expect to pay anything between AUD$20 to $100 per month. 

Additional fees, such as a one-off set up fee, may also apply. Before committing, it’s worth exploring payroll software that offers free trials

What are the features of a payroll system? 

Here are five features you should pay attention to when investigating software platform options: 

Setup and support

When you first use the software, you’ll need to enter your company’s and employee’s information. Guidance from the software company will make it easier to transition your current payroll system to a software program. They will also help with any teething issues you face and provide some basic training.  

Payrolling processing

The platform you choose should automatically calculate the pay for individual employees every pay period. The system takes into account updates to wage rates, hours worked, overtime, holiday pay, and taxes. It will also factor in relevant deductions.

The platform then automatically makes the payments to employees by direct deposit, prepaid debit cards or a paper check. 

File and pay payroll taxes

Taxes are the most challenging aspect of the process, which is why the Australian Tax Office insists that small businesses should submit reports through single-use payroll software. The program calculates taxes for you, and some file and deposit payroll taxes for you too.

Ensure the platform you select stays up to date with changing payroll laws and tax rates. A cloud-based platform should apply these updates automatically for you. 

Multiple payment options

Payroll software allows you to pay employees electronically—one option is via direct deposit. You can pay the employee’s wages directly into their bank. This way, there’s no need to print and distribute paychecks. 

Other payment options include:

  • Digital payments: Send salary to platforms, such as PayPal. 
  • Paper checks: A system that doesn’t get used often today, but could be useful for companies with very few employees.
  • TransferWise: A useful option for those who have employees abroad.
  • Prepaid Debit Cards: This method is similar to direct deposit, but exists for workers without bank accounts.

Having these alternatives allows employees to be flexible to those who don’t want to be bound to traditional banking.

Employee self-service portal

Allowing staff to log into the portal and update their paperwork is a useful feature for payroll administrators. They can also review and download their payroll history.

This aspect also works well with time-tracking. Employees pay will automatically update according to the data. 

How to choose payroll software

When it comes to exploring what options are available to you, refer to this article as a checkpoint. We’ve included all the crucial aspects you’ll need to decide which solution will suit your needs best, the expected budget, and the benefits you’ll see in return. 

Ready to purchase payroll software? Check out Capterra’s software buyers guide to selecting payroll software today. 

The benefits of apprenticeships for employers

This year’s National Apprenticeship Week, which will take place next month, between February 3rd and 7th, is now just a matter of days away. Across some 1,250 separate events spread over the week, the event acts as a celebration of apprenticeships and the great work being done by schools, colleges universities and businesses to promote apprenticeship programmes.  

benefits of apprenticeships for employers

Talent is in short supply

The week also provides a timely reminder of the benefits of apprenticeships for employers – not least when it comes to the promise of apprenticeship schemes to help solve one of the biggest challenges facing UK businesses: the skills crisis. 

Apprenticeships play a big part in addressing the skills shortage within the tech sector. The shortage of talent is hindering companies growth as it’s hard to scale teams at a pace to match the current growth of the tech sector.  

Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight

 

This challenge must be addressed urgently. The scarcity of skilled workers in the UK is a potential timebomb, and businesses warn that the skills shortages could harm the UK’s global competitiveness. It’s thought that the lack of digital skills is already costing the UK economy  £63 billion a year.

Addressing the skills shortage

Recognising the scale of the challenge, government, the education sector and business have started to act. Since 2010, secondary school age students have been able to attend University Technical Colleges (UTCs), which aim to provide 14-19 years olds with a technical education linked to a curriculum that reflects the needs of today’s businesses. From there, students can either continue their education at university, take up an apprenticeship or both. UTCs work because they connect people with the skills they need for their regional workplaces and local businesses with the skilled talent they need to meet their growth ambitions. 

Over the past few years, the government has also started to offer more direct support to SMEs to help them bridge their skills gaps. So, for example, 95% of a SMEs’ training and assessment costs for the lifetime of an apprenticeship is now paid for by the government. The government also pays a grant of £1,000 for every 16-18-year-old apprentice taken on by an SME. 

Seeking out new blood

For their part, companies have begun to realise that younger workers, although untrained and requiring investment, represent a largely untapped talent pool that could prove valuable. SMEs are engaging with their local UTCs to help guide the curricula and provide work opportunities for graduating students. Many are working through other third-party initiatives that seek to build links between schools and industry. The Design and Technology Association, for example, runs a programme where industrial businesses help train teachers by explaining the skills they need and the apprenticeship opportunities available to students.  

Looking to hire an apprentice? Check the benefits of apprenticeships to SMEs

The initiatives above may come from different angles, but they all recognise that apprenticeship schemes will play an important role in helping ensure SMEs have access to the skilled talent they need. This is good news, because apprenticeships bring with them a number of important benefits that can help SMEs thrive. We have created a checklist below with the main areas that 

These include:

Tailoring your workforce: by taking on young apprentices and training them your way, you can ensure that the skills most important to your business are prioritised. In essence, with many young apprentices, and pre-existing technical training aside, you are working with a blank canvass. There are fewer bad habits to iron out and you can ensure they are working from your template, using your processes, from day one. Once the upfront training is complete, apprenticeships can, therefore, make for more efficient and effective workers. 

They can help you grow: if, as is the case with many SMEs, yours is a high-growth business, it can be difficult to meet staffing requirements in the short-term. You might need help over a short period of time to help with a specific task, or you may need to promote a junior employee to a more senior role, leaving you shorthanded. Having an apprenticeship programme can help by giving you access to a flexible pool of workers that can be switched between task and roles with relative ease. Of course, apprenticeships shouldn’t only be seen as a means of fixing immediate skills gaps. You have a duty to train fully the apprentices you take on, and you never know – that investment today may produce the future leaders of your business.

Apprenticeship schemes are cheap: as mentioned above, the government shoulders all but 5% of the training costs for your apprentices. However, if you pay more than £3 million in salary costs over the course of a year the rules are different and you’ll receive funds to spend on training and assessing your apprentices. Either way, the support available to SMEs is generous and makes running an apprenticeship programme something of a no brainer. 

Apprentices bring fresh ideas: every new generation has different ways of thinking and different reference points. This is hugely beneficial for businesses. SMEs that can mix the varying outlooks, perspectives and ideas of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennial and Generation Y workers will find they can leverage a diversity of thought that can fuel innovation and drive competitive edge. 

Apprenticeship programmes drive productivity: three in four SMEs say they saw an increase in productivity after hiring an apprentice. 72% say apprentices have helped improve a product or service. The increase in productivity largely comes about because of the investment in specific, high-impact skills by employers. 

Of course, getting an apprenticeship programme up and running comes with its own set of challenges. You must find and acquire the best talent available, and then manage their journeys through their time at your business. This includes ensuring that their performance is measured, reviewed and rewarded appropriately and that they are trained efficiently and effectively in all the required areas. 

Having an apprentice will give you the potential to do some of the little things that could make a big difference to improving your customers experience that often we may be too busy to do.  Of course the best benefit of all is you are developing talent for your future growth molded to your own culture and ways of doing things. 

Carlene Jackson, CEO of Cloud9 Insight

 

These are tasks that can be solved by the right Talent Management Software. But which is the best fit for your business? Take a look at the Capterra directory; here we’ve listed the options available to you and provided user reviews to help you make your choice. With the right tools in place it’s never too soon to start enjoying the benefits on offer through apprenticeship programmes. 

 

What is IR35 and is your business ready for it?

what is IR35
In April 2020, the rules governing who counts as an employee (IR35) are changing. Find out what is IR35, what it means for UK businesses, as well as their contractors and freelancers.

what is IR35

What is IR35?

The original IR35 legislation came into force in 2000 and was aimed at reducing tax avoidance – specifically “disguised employment”. This refers to individuals working full-time for organisations, but billing the company as an independent contractor, rather than being paid through payroll. Taking their “salary” as dividends from a limited company means they pay no National Insurance and a reduced rate of income tax compared to pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) employees. It also means the client company pays less National Insurance.

Naturally, this scenario is beneficial for the businesses and contractors, but HMRC misses out on significant tax revenues, particularly as the contractors that often use this arrangement are in the well-paid finance, consulting, technology, and media sectors.

How is IR35 changing?

IR35 (the name comes from the original Inland Revenue press release in 2000) has been reformed several times. In April 2020 the regulations governing when off-payroll working rules (the “official” name for IR35) apply are getting tougher.

Prior to 6 April 2020, it has been the responsibility of the party providing a service to determine the status of a worker’s employment for each contract. In practical terms, this usually means that contractors, working through a limited company with one director, decide in their own favour. Now, the company hiring the worker must decide.

Who do the new rules affect?

Public sector organisations must already decide whether a contractor should really be working for them as an on-payroll employee. From 6th April this year, many private companies – including charities – will have to do the same. The changes apply if an organisation meets two or more of the following three criteria:

  • an annual turnover of more than £10.2 million
  • a balance sheet total of more than £5.1 million
  • more than 50 employees

Current contractors must also take note of the changes, as they may affect their employment and tax arrangements. Some contractors work through third-party intermediaries, such as employment agencies, in which case the intermediaries must also be aware.

You can find more detailed information about which companies fall under the new legislation on the Gov.uk website.

What companies need to know

For every contract with a worker – including through an agency – affected companies will need to decide on that person’s employment status for tax. HMRC provides a useful online tool to help determine this. You must bear in mind:

  • The worker’s responsibilities
  • The degree of autonomy they have in the work they do, as well as where, how, and when they do it
  • The worker’s payment arrangements
  • Whether the engagement includes any corporate benefits or reimbursement for expenses

After you’ve made a decision, you’ll need to inform the worker (and, if required, the intermediary agency) and keep a record of the decision and the evidence you used to make it. You’ll also need to have in place procedures to handle disputes about employment status. If a worker does dispute your decision, you must respond within 45 days. Failure to do so will result in that worker’s tax and National Employment contributions becoming your responsibility.

How to manage new employees

If the reform has its intended effect, some freelance contractors will become employees. This means you may be adding new workers to your workforce, increasing your National Insurance contributions and bringing challenges for your human resources and finance teams who will have to incorporate new people into your company’s systems and structures. You may also face tough negotiations from existing contractors who will seek higher rates under PAYE to make up for the increased tax they’ll be paying on their income.

One way to ease the transition is with payroll software, which automates salaries, wages, bonuses and deductions. Organisations use it as a cost-effective alternative to outsourcing their payroll function. Payroll products can also integrate with popular accounting, HR, and business management software, too.

You can find more than 300 payroll software packages on our website, with thousands of ratings and reviews from other businesses, as well as links to download and buy.

Why Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Vital For Growth Strategy Success

Marketing and sales alignment

When you boil it down, a sales team and a marketing team have the same basic goal: To increase revenue. Both teams focus on bringing in new business, retaining existing customers, and spreading the word about your products and services. That’s why so many leading businesses concentrate on sales and marketing alignment.

Why marketing and sales alignment is crucial

If you’re not familiar with the concept, we’ll break down why it’s a useful strategy, and outline the CRM software solutions and other items you’ll need to get your sales and marketing team to work together.

What is sales and marketing alignment? 

Simply put, sales and marketing alignment means these two departments share the same strategy and support one another. In many businesses, sales and marketing are siloed, and will only communicate with each other on an as-needed basis. 

What does sales and marketing alignment look like? Members from both sides of the equation will have frequent and structured communications. They’ll also support each other toward the same larger goal of increased sales and revenue.

Some businesses take what’s known as a “Smarketing” approach. This means that rather than having a separate sales and marketing team, they merge the two departments. 

What are the benefits of aligning sales and marketing?

You can expect major benefits both internally and for your customers when you align sales and marketing.

Here are some examples:

Revenue increases

According to a study by MarketingSherpa, 79% of generated leads never convert to sales. Though there are many reasons a lead may not convert, a big part of the problem for many businesses is the lack of nurturing. To properly turn a lead into a full-fledged customer, businesses need to provide them with useful, relevant content and touchpoints to help them down the funnel. This is very hard to do if the people focusing on the beginning of the funnel (your marketing team) aren’t communicating well with the people responsible for the end (your sales team).

Improved customer retention 

Bringing in more new business is only half the job. It’s equally important for businesses to retain their current customers. Both sales and marketing have a role to play here. The marketing team must continue to offer new benefits, updates, and value to keep customers on board; the sales team, however, has a deep understanding of existing customers (as they are the ones bringing them into the business). By working together, your sales and marketing experts can come up with a strategy that prioritises retention. 

A streamlined customer experience 

The best businesses out there offer a streamlined experience for customers, with no disruptions as they move from cold lead, to warm lead, to a client. As a result, customers now expect businesses to have a smooth transition period, and they’ll take their business elsewhere if they feel neglected. By aligning your sales and marketing team, you can give your customers this same streamlined experience, leading to more conversions and a longer customer lifecycle. 

Improved internal collaboration

When kept siloed, it’s not uncommon for the sales and marketing team to be at odds. Because they are working toward the same goal, it’s hard for teams to know where their responsibilities start and end, which can lead to tension. By aligning the sales and marketing team, this tension will dissipate, and your internal staff with experience new cohesion that will help them function better as a team.  

How to start aligning your sales and marketing team

Does sales and marketing alignment sound like something you want for your business? If so, here’s how you can get started: 

Outline and assign the roles and tasks needed

The first step toward sales and marketing alignment is to take stock of the existing roles you have on both teams and decide how they can begin to complement each other. For this process, involve leadership from both sales and marketing. Start by outlining every role on both teams, looking for places where roles may overlap or complement one another. Once you’ve done this, you can determine whether you want to move to a fully integrated “Smarketing” team, or simply align certain aspects and members of either department. 

Organise a series of strategy sessions

Next, it’s time to get all the key players in your newly aligned department(s) together to build out a growth strategy. The teams may already have some in place, which means you simply need to work to align the strategies, or you can build one from scratch. Start with the goals you want to achieve—set these clearly, and make sure that the overall goals are the same for everyone. Next, have team members discuss the best methods for achieving those goals. As the two teams discuss their plan of attack, they’ll likely discover new ways to support each other and work together. 

Enhance your communication methods

Your team will need to make sure they are communicating effectively and frequently going forward. You’ll need to put standards in place for communication. It’s also a good idea to arm them with technology that makes the process easier. For example, you may want to install a new internal chat system to make it easier for people to communicate no matter where they are.

Don’t be concerned if you hit some road bumps in the process of aligning your sales and marketing efforts. Changes often cause friction, but as long as your team work together and align their goals, you’ll see long-term success. 

A CRM system allows your marketing and sales team to track and update leads as they advance through the funnel. Ready to get started? Compare Capterra’s directory of best CRM software today.

Use the ‘7Ps of customer-centricity’ to motivate your team and engage with customers

In recent years, the term customer centric in marketing, service and product development has often meant the integration of tools and methods such as data collection, design thinking and testing. All these factors play a key role in customer-centricity. But for me, is one thing above all else: leadership. Working on people. And with people. It’s the way companies and their employees work together to shape the relationship with their customers. Or not.

customer centric marketing

It’s important to understand that a focus on the customer also contributes to employee motivation. Dutch bank ING has already established customer-centricity as an integral part of its employee goals – and thus motivated all employees to bring products and services with agile iterative processes closer and closer to the measured customer needs. With impressive results: since 2014, the number of primary customers has increased by 25%. So the question is, how can this enthusiasm be used strategically for a company? The system I would like to introduce here is called “The 7 Ps of customer-centricity”, providing a solid framework leadership and cooperation in the age of the customer.

Perspective change

Customer experience is a strategic change that takes time. Allow yourself and your team enough time and training for the new way of doing things. Likewise, encourage your team to exchange experiences between themselves on this. 

Always remind yourself and your team that customer experience does not only concern the marketing and communication of your company but the wider digital transformation of your company. If there is one thing you can learn from start-ups is that they are constantly radically improving access to their customers, employees and resources.

Also, working with Business Intelligence will ensure that data about your customers and competitors is always available as insights for decision-making. If internal data is not accessible for this purpose, it’s recommended to use “social listening” for initial information in order to gradually expand it. The better you understand your customers, the more targeted you can meet them.

Personas

Customer experience affects the entire company. A good way to engage employees is creating personas that represent your target audience and presenting them to the entire organisation, e.g. by having such profiles hung up in offices and discussed regularly. When business challenges are discussed, it helps to have these profiles as a reference point for the conversation.

Always ask yourself questions together as a team when making decisions:

  • What would the customer think?
  • What would the customer do?
  • What would the customer appreciate?
  • What can I do to improve the customer experience?
  • Would I do that with my mother?

Promoters

Nominate “customer ambassadors” within your teams. This will help other employees see how to improve their social communications using the ambassadors as examples.

Processes

Actively look for possibilities to bridge silos in the interest of the customer and promote them! 

Encourage cross-departmental learning from each other. The better people understand what your work is about and that you are working for common goals and customers, the more your work makes sense.

Rely on excellent content. Externally and internally. Content that really helps your customers and employees. For example, when merging departments, it makes sense to have the specialist departments prepare relevant questions such as ‘Who can I contact regarding my move?’. Employees are also customers and greatly appreciate customer-focused measures that help them to meet challenges.

Platforms

Clean up your CRM: Today it is more important than ever to have clean and clear which customers can be contacted and how. For a customer-centric approach and a sustainable business model like subscriptions, you need a stable CRM. 

Studies show that companies now spend up to 95% of their marketing budget to convince people who have not yet shown interest in their company. A long and arduous path. People who have already shown interest, on the other hand, appreciate a consciously appreciative approach.

Use a tidy CRM as a starting point for further thinking about your customer platforms from the customer’s perspective. Which service can you use to provide comprehensive digital support for your customers’ problem solutions, especially beyond the core service (need for information, interaction, …)?

Performance

Check the use of marketing, sales and communication and measure the results. Include customer satisfaction as a KPI for evaluating the work of your teams. If necessary, this may need to be weighted according to the situation in individual teams. However, if your overall corporate goal is to optimise customer contact, this must also become a success factor.

Purpose

If you want enthusiastic customers, you need enthusiastic employees – and you see employees as customers. This makes conscious contact with employees and customers vital to achieve the right purpose.

Make sure that you really deliver on your service promises to your customers and continuously optimise them. A good customer satisfaction software can help you collect, organise and manage feedback.

customer centric marketing

About the author:

customer centric marketing

Johannes Ceh helps companies to align digitization with customers and employees. Customer centricity, new forms of collaboration and digital responsibility were already the focus of his work during his time at Springer & Jacoby, Jung von Matt, Ogilvy, Sport1, Sky, BMW and Daimler. Today Johannes Ceh passes on his experience as a consultant and author, among others for the market research company Gartner.

12 Communication Tips For Recruitment Leaders

internal-communications-for-recruiters

It may feel obvious, but a successful leader relies largely on his or her ability to communicate well with their team. What you say, how you say it and when you say it matters enormously. Even more so? What you don’t say. 

Similar to building a house, without a strong foundation, your business is likely to collapse. Along with the right software, good internal communications creates the bases of a strong company. It also helps drive a positive culture. And happy, engaged employees make for more productive workers—so your business will benefit too. 

internal-communications-for-recruiters

But the advantages don’t stop there. 

Benefits of a strong internal communications plan

You may feel that having an internal communications strategy is a luxury, rather than a necessity. Yet not having one can cost your business significantly. But if you’re in a management position within an SME, it’s likely that budgets are limited—and it can be tricky to know where to start. 

Here’s the good news. You don’t need to hire an entire department to manage it. Start with top-level management and strong internal communications will spread throughout the business. Here are a few reasons why that’s a good thing:

  • Employee advocacy: Employees who feel valued through transparency and openness are much more likely to stay loyal to your business. 
  • Company culture: Strong internal comms is vital for building a work environment where everyone feels like they matter. Employees don’t want to be treated like just another cog in the machine!
  • Business goals are clearer: Strongly communicated goals means your team members understand their purpose in the business and how they contribute to the bigger picture. 
  • Stronger employee communication: Internal comms works both ways. By creating a two-way communication system, employees are much more likely to flag problems and emergencies, so that you can respond to them quicker.

How to drive effective internal communications

They say your mistakes make you successful, and I would agree with that. Since I’ve made most of these mistakes already, maybe I can save you from making them too. To sum up my learning, I created 12 communication best practices in what I egotistically like to call, the ‘Savage 12 Communication Commandments’ for internal communications.

The Savage 12 Communication Commandments

1. You will never be accused of over-communicating

Over-communication isn’t a thing. How likely is it that you’ll conduct an exit interview where the employee says: ‘I’ve had enough! I was kept too informed, and there was no need to keep me looped in on plans, strategies and motivations. More often, you’ll hear the opposite reasons for a premature resignation.

2. Communicate early and often

It’s easy for people to fill in the gaps with incorrect information when they don’t know the facts. And they will. Communicating once and then expecting people to ‘get it’ simply won’t suffice. People are busy, distracted, and let’s be frank, often not concentrating on every message from leadership. Repeat the message in different ways and at different times in the way that will resonate best.

3. Tell them everything or tell them nothing

I’ve learned that when you only tell someone half the story, they’ll fill in the missing information themselves. This can be dangerous for both your candidate and your client. I’ll give you an example. I once worked with a Manager who discovered that the office lease was up in three months. The news meant a fast office move was required and as a knee-jerk reaction, she panicked. Without thinking, she runs to inform the team of the news that they’d need to move office as soon as possible—beginning the announcement with the fateful phrase: ‘Don’t panic, but….’

Of course, they panicked. The team immediately started jumping to conclusions that the reasons behind the move were catastrophic. They believed the business was going bust and that they’d all be made redundant, which was far from the truth. The manager would have helped the team avoid sleepless nights of worrying by simply staying quiet until she could explain the news with all the facts. Where you can, paint the full picture, anticipate follow-up questions and concerns, and address them immediately. 

4. Empathise before you communicate

Many recruiters get this wrong, yet it’s a critical step in the candidate communication process. If deliver bad news, but with no understanding of how that will impact the team, they will be upset and resentful about the lack of empathy. 

 

For example, imagine you need to reduce the recruitment advertising budget. Don’t just deliver that news as a fait accompli. Instead, acknowledge the pain points, explain why the decision fits in with the bigger picture, and provide support with any adjustment that is required. 

 

Here’s a suggested script for delivering the news: “I know to cut the advertising budget is going to make it harder in some respects, and we are not happy about that. So, for a while, you will need to adjust, but what we do now is not working, so we want to spend the money smarter, on more effective candidate sources.”

5. Deliver on commitments

Over-promising yet under-delivering is one of the most disappointing things a leader can do. It can also be incredibly damaging to a manager’s relationship with their team.

We normally make these type of commitments with the best intentions. For example: ‘Next week, Bob, I will make time to come to two client visits with you.’ However, we have to be realistic of what we can genuinely achieve and offer. Even with the smaller underdelivered promises, people start to take your promises with a pinch of salt. And if people can’t trust you to deliver on smaller promises, they definitely won’t believe you on the big ones.

6. Use informal and formal channels

Different communication channels serve different purposes, and they often depend on formality. For example, email, newsletters and staff briefings tick the box in the sense that, ‘the information has been passed on.’ Yet, how often does a person take the time to review the information and make sure they’ve fully understood it? These channels also don’t always invite people to fire questions back—or people don’t feel like it’s the right platform to do so.

 

Follow up in a more personal way, such as kitchen conversations, casual drinks, or on the way back from a client meeting. This is where you will get the real queries and concerns that are not raised publicly but could be causing confusion for others. You can then provide clarity and address concerns in real-time.

7. Celebrate wins – small and frequently

In the recruitment industry, we’re great celebrating milestones, be it a record quarter or the top biller. However, a great leader understands that success builds belief. Small and frequent celebrations are superb for reinforcing positive behaviours and build confidence in reaching goals. 

If Mary places her first candidate, share it. If Fred wins a retainment, shout it out for everyone to hear. People want to work with people on the road to success, and love to hear the outcomes of positive war-stories. Communicate the day to day wins, as well as the big ones. 

8. Share confidential information regularly

Approach this one cautiously, but I believe that total transparency builds trust and buy-in from teams. For ten years, I operated as International CEO of Aquent for ten years where I managed all of the business outside of the US. During that time, I adopted a nice tradition I learned from my American colleagues, called ‘The Fireside Chat’. 

Every month, I would address everyone in the company. Absolutely everyone—which involved 25 offices in 17 countries! We used video, skype and dial-in conferences to announce that I’d gained the responsibility of the European-side of the business. Within those conferences, I’d share the company results, operating profit against budget, margins, client revenue, top biller fees and just about any other sensitive information you can think of.

I found that people were mature and would value being brought into ‘the inner circle’. I respected and recognised my staff, and we took responsibility for results together.

9. Where possible, speak, don’t email

You need to feed out some information to someone. What do you do? Bang out an email! 

Task complete, right? Wrong. In nearly every case, it’s better and more effective to communicate verbally and face-to-face. Follow up with an email if you had to communicate a lot of information. 

10. Plan and prepare for delivering tricky news

Sometimes, we have to communicate something distasteful. Always prepare genuine, honest answers that you’ve thought through ahead of time. People will likely respond with questions, and you should anticipate what these might be so you’re prepared with an appropriate response. If appropriate, involve a member of your human resources too. 

11. Tell the right people the right things

Here is a golden rule: it might be tempting, but never speak to one recruiter about the deficiencies of another recruiter in the team. 

Here’s a situation where it could happen: You congratulate a recruiter from another team about their record month. He replies, ‘yes, it was great! But Betty didn’t hit her target.’ Without thinking, you fatally remark ‘Ah yes. Sometimes I feel that Betty doesn’t put 100% effort in.’ This piece of information will likely work it’s way back to her, and deriding one staff member in front of another reflects badly on you as a professional. It destroys people’s confidence in you and stunts engagement. Don’t do it.

12. Don’t have ‘communication favourites’

Another trap we can easily fall into, especially within an SME, is only sharing news, plans or updates with a select few people. Maybe it’s because you want to run information by the people you have a close relationship with first, or simply want to share something exciting with them. However, often this information is then passed on further and the information becomes office gossip. Additionally, those people who were told first get a reputation within the business as ‘office favourites’, who are privy to special information and attention.

I learned this lesson the hard way through. It had a divisive effect on my team and created a negative situation, which wasn’t my intention. A moment of letting my guard down within a casual setting and revealing some news that was to be announced at a later date led to feelings of distrust and resentment. 

So, there you have it: The ‘Savage 12 Communication Commandments’. Use them alongside internal communications software as your template for successful communication systems.


Greg Savage bio image

About Greg Savage 

Greg is the author of the best-selling book: The Savage Truth. With a career spanning four decades, Greg is a founder of 4 highly successful businesses, is a trusted advisor and respected voice across the global recruitment and professional services industries, and a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world.

5 Free Photoshop Alternatives: Trialed, Tested & Reviewed

Best free Photoshop alternatives

When you think of graphic design programs, the first thing that comes to mind is Adobe Photoshop. The platform has well and truly earned its stripes as the industry leader. But Photoshop might be overkill for small businesses that only require everyday image editing functionality. There are several free photoshop alternatives available on the market for those who need something more simple. 

We tested five of the best free photo editing programs available to Australian businesses. With these tools, you can make images look picture perfect without spending a penny on editing software. 

Best free Photoshop alternatives

Top free photo editing software

 

This list is for users who are looking for a full alternative to Photoshop that works well with masks and layers. There are also tools for those who are interested in a more simplistic tool that accommodates for fast image editing.

Here are our 5 top picks, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. Fotor
  2. GIMP
  3. Photoscape X
  4. Pixlr
  5. Polarr Photo editor

 

5 free Photoshop alternatives
Chart comparison of 5 free Photoshop alternatives.

5 free photoshop alternatives

Photoshop alternative #1: Fotor

 

Fotor's free editing software
Screenshot of Fotor’s free editing software.

What is Fotor?

 

Fotor is available on a desktop (Windows and Mac). It combines the most frequently used functions of mobile picture editing programs and displays them in a simple editing process. You will go through the following steps to be able to export your finished image at the end. 

  1. Scenes: Filter options (such as lightning and landscape).
  2. Crop: Correct the angle, rotation and size of your photo.
  3. Customise: Play with the tool and edit colours, curves and vignettes. The downside is that you can’t select a specific area to edit—every change you make applies to the entire photo. We therefore only recommend Fotor for basic processing of your pictures.
  4. Effects: Apply filter presets again (the step repeats itself).
  5. Margins: A practical tool for brochure and leaflet creations to ensure quality isn’t lost when the design goes to print.
  6. Textures: Image overlay options.
  7. Focusing effects: Focus your photo through blur effects.
  8. Text tool: The text tool is the highlight of Fotor because it stands out from the other programs in the list. You have full control over the font and the text field. For example, you can rotate it and control the vertical and even manipulate the spacing between characters

Since Fotor does not work with layers, every step processes directly in the image. As soon as you switch to another tab, you cannot undo the last action. If you do different edits in different tabs, you have to reset everything if you want to undo a step.

The software is not complex, and the user interface is simple and intuitive to use. Images can be saved as JPG, PNG, BMP and TIF.  Note that Fotor only opens flattened photos.

Photoshop alternative #2: GIMP

 

GIMP image editor
Screenshot of GIMP image editor

What is GIMP?

 

GIMP is a desktop-based tool that you can download for free on both Windows and Mac. We tried the desktop version for MAC for our test. GIMP allows you to work with layers and there are several blending modes that you can play with. Users can also work with channels and paths like you can in Photoshop.

Users can adjust any parameter on the brushes you use. There are also many fine adjustments for colours, curves and exposure. The platform allows you to share the screen view when testing filters so that you can easily compare the version before and after. There are some vector shape creation and editing tools that make GIMP a good option for combining photos with drawn elements.

In addition to editing the basics, such as font, size, alignment and colour, the platform enables its users to adapt text fields. GIMP is, therefore, also suitable for working with text and images.

GIMP can be useful for editing images and creating layouts that combine graphics with photos and text. But, during the test, we experienced a few problems that could frustrate or limit GIMP users:

  1. Actions in GIMP take longer to process than other tools.
  2. Sometimes the cursor disappears and reappears somewhere else, which is likely because of the above issue. 
  3. Most photo editing programs have a similar user interface with only minor variations in the menus, buttons and shortcuts. If you switch to another software, the transition is generally quick and easy. However, the functionalities appear elsewhere in GIMP. It isn’t a big disadvantage, but we found it made adjustment slower. 
  4. GIMP offers its users numerous functions and options, which on the one hand is a great advantage of the tool. On the other hand, the multitude of options, unfortunately, complicates simple tasks. For example, if you click the “New Layer” button, not only a new layer will open. First, a window opens and then users have to name the layer, add tags, define opacity, set the blending mode, and so on.

PNG and JPG, as well as PSD files with flattened layers, work perfectly in GIMP. More complex PSD files with smart objects open, but may lose some properties.

Files export in many different formats, including JPG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, GIF and EPS. There is also the option to save the file as a GIMP Open File.

Photoshop alternative #3: PhotoScape X

 

PhotoScape-Z
Screenshot of PhotoScape X interface.

What is PhotoScape X?

 

PhotoScape X is a powerful tool that is available on smartphones and desktop (both Windows and Mac). PhotoScape X combines all functions that you find in conventional mobile image processing programs such as VSCO Cam or PIXLR Express. The software enables users to create and optimise images for free. Advanced features are available in the PRO version of the software.

The “Editor” tab features include: 

  1. Adjust depths, clarity and temperature.
  2. Add filters—just like when editing a photo on Instagram. Some of the filters are free, others are purchasable.
  3. Frames and lighting effects are available to edit in terms of size, opacity and colour.
  4. Graphics, stickers and other visual elements come with the free version. This gives users flexibility when editing their images, as they can create stickers or graphics elsewhere and then load them into PhotoScape X.
  5. Although users cannot use layers for image corrections, each inserted element is multi-layered so that you can play with blending modes, opacity and colours.

The Tools tab offers some interesting options to try out, such as the drawing brush, distortion tools, and softer skin and mosaic effects. However, the brush types of the free version are somewhat limited. Users can group images into a mood board, collage, or animated GIF with various options (defining transitions, setting the time for each slide, and adding text).

It’s easy to group photos in batches and add edits to all photos at the same time. If you want some of your pictures to have the same vignette effect, this is quickly and easily achievable.

One great advantage of PhotoScape X is that it can open PSD files. The PSD file flattens in PhotoScape X, but this function is still useful if you don’t have an exported image of the required file. Files are available to save in JPG, PNG, BMP, TIF and GIF.

Photoshop alternative #4: Pixlr Editor

 

Screenshot of Pixlr image editing tool
Screenshot of Pixlr image editing tool

What is Pixlr Editor?

 

Pixlr is a browser-based tool that combines the functions of a photo processing program and an image generator. You can edit a photo and create a graphic from scratch by combining different rendered effects, shapes and filters.

One advantage of Pixlr is that you can work with layers, like in Photoshop or GIMP, and you can use many blending modes. The masks are also easy to use so that you can play with image overlays. This is very helpful for creating graphics that combine a photo with brushes, text, shapes, rendered images and so on. The Pixlr user interface is similar to Photoshop, making it easy for Photoshop users to find the tools and tabs. 

The brush tool also performed well in our trial. You can add custom brushes and brush sets in Pixlr and tweak those you already have. There are a large number of render filter presets. Pixlr also enables its users to adjust curves, levels, brightness, colour balance, and much more.

Pixlr wasn’t as strong as some of the other tools for creating graphics with text. It only offers standard functions, such as selecting the font, adjusting the font size, aligning text and changing colours. You also have no control over text fields and have to interrupt text manually.

If you zoom in and out, the text and your applied filters don’t scale proportionally. You’ll lose some steps if you want to view your image at a different size during the editing process.

You can open both flattened images (as PNG and JPG) and PSD files with flattened layers in Pixlr. Don’t expect Pixlr to import complex PSD files with smart objects. You can save your graphics in JPG, PNG, TIFF and also as PXD (Pixlr’s Open File)—but note that Photoshop doesn’t support this file format.

Extra note: Pixlr users receive a gift voucher for 25 GB of storage space on Dropbox.

Photoshop alternative #5: Polarr Photo Editor

 

Screenshot of Polarr Photo Editor
Screenshot of Polarr Photo Editor

What is Polarr Photo Editor?

 

Polarr is a tool that is available to download on Mac and Windows PC. Polarr combines the functions of Fotor and PhotoScape with some personal processing tools such as recognising faces and adjusting skin tones, as well as eyes, mouth, nose, height, width and brightness.

There are five different tabs in Polarr:

  1. Filters: Offers a wide range of free filter presets. 
  2. Graphics: Includes text boxes, shapes, and partitions that you can use to lay a layout over your image.
  3. Retouching: Allows you to adjust faces and remove objects.
  4. Format: Crop, mirror, resize, and so on.
  5. Image overlays: Contains a wide range of options, including dust, scratches, textures, clouds, gradients and backgrounds. Drag one or several PNGs with a transparent background over your photo to use. 

The advantage of the tool is that the effects apply to each tab in a new layer. This means you can edit everything individually, and change the order and transparency. The disadvantage of Polarr is that the free version only allows you to export one image per day.

Whether you are looking for a feature-rich Photoshop alternative or a free photo editor to quickly edit your pictures, this list has something for everyone.

Did you not find the image editor you were looking for? Then take a look at GetApp’s list of the best free Graphic Design software for image and photo editing today.