Every fairy godmother needs her magic wand, every knight needs his shining armor, and every eCommerce business owner needs their tools. Tech tools, that is. The digital gadgets that allow for a smooth operation, day in and day out. While each eCommerce business will have their own unique setup, we’ve compiled a general guide to get you started and help you fill in the blanks of your current configuration.
So, if you’re ready to expand your business with the help of some trusty technological sidekicks, this is the article for you. Grab a snack, sit back, and enjoy!
Tools for Marketing (and Sales)
Marketing is the loudspeaker that puts your awesome products on the map. Without it, millions of potential shoppers would live their lives completely unaware of your fuzzy cat towers or holographic koozies — and that is not what we’d call a blissful existence. Because marketing is so important, it deserves some kick-ass infrastructure.
It’s worthwhile noting that, in the world of eCommerce, the line between marketing and sales is often blurred. That’s basically due to the nature of eCommerce — compared to the traditional sales structure of a brick-and-mortar store, it’s a very different ball game. So, while we’ll be focusing on marketing tools, please keep in mind that they directly impact your bottom line and overall conversions.
Got it? Let’s dive in!
The term “conversational marketing” is fairly new to the game, but it’s reinventing the wheel of the buying process by shortening sales cycles and creating a personalized, memorable experience for new and returning customers — think live chat, but with a marketing-centric approach.
Our pick? Drift, a tool we use daily here at ShipMonk. While not necessary for all businesses, Drift (and conversational marketing) could be worth a shot if your product is on the unique or complex side.
Contrary to popular belief, email is far from dead. In fact, it’s one of the most versatile marketing tactics at your disposal, allowing you to send order updates, promotional messages, and newsletters through a straightforward, (mostly) universally accessible platform. If you ask us, that’s pretty invaluable!
When looking for an email marketing service, keep your fingers on the pulse by emphasizing automation and personalization capabilities. Gone are the days of uncustomized, generic emails. Now, it’s all about keeping the customer front and center through engaging, personally relevant content.
Getting your business out there is as easy as pie if you enlist the help of social media. Okay, so it’s a bit more complicated than that, but the efficacy and affordability of social media cannot be denied. The platforms you choose are up to you, and, luckily, there are plenty at your disposal. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even TikTok can all be valuable assets when it comes to targeting your demographic and scaling your business.
Of course, as your company scales, it’ll become harder and harder to keep up with the latest jibber jabber. Enlisting the help of a social media management service, like Hootsuite, will give you a bird’s-eye view of the trends, branded content, comments, and ads across all your social channels.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
A solid marketing strategy just isn’t complete without SEO. It’s no secret that eCommerce is highly competitive — which means that, if your online store isn’t visible through search engines like Google, the likelihood for success (and global domination) becomes much, much slimmer.
SEO software like Ahrefs and Moz provide you with the tools and insights needed to give your rankings a boost. And, by knowing which keywords to rank for, you’ll actually improve your content production as well.
Oh, and let’s not forget Google Analytics! It’s an absolute must if you’re interested in tracking how potential customers find and interact with your website. From there, you can actually work on boosting your conversion rates using real, tailor-made data.
If you’re lucky enough to have an artsy free spirit in your midst, you won’t have to worry about crafting cutting-edge design for your website and social media platforms. But, if you’re short on resources, you’ll need the appropriate tools to support a hands-on approach to creating eye-catching graphics.
We’ve all heard of Photoshop, but it can get a little pricey, especially if you’re not planning on winning any design awards. GIMP is a free, open-source alternative to Photoshop, and Pixelmator is another great go-to.
Tools for Business Management
Your sales are bountiful, like a lush field of wheat. As you frolic among the tall grass, it hits you — there’s more work to be done. Generating revenue is fine and dandy, but you need a well-rounded foundation in order to keep the momentum going.
Communication & Project Management
Your therapist said it best — ”Communication is key.” Talking to others (and sometimes to yourself), is the only way to stay updated on your company’s latest developments, especially for larger teams.
For short-form, informal communication, we like Slack, an instant messaging platform which lets you DM coworkers and create private groups. For long-form, formal communication, you can’t go wrong with Gmail. Bonus points if you sign up for a G-Suite account, which, in addition to other benefits, allows you to create your custom email address — @gmail.com no more!
For more heavy duty stuff, Asana is a fantastic way to stay on top of tasks, manage your work, and simplify virtual collaborations.
No one wants customer service issues to arise, but, when they do, you need a way to deal with them as efficiently as possible. Freshdesk, Zendesk, and Zoho Desk (note the desk theme) are all fine choices, relying on an email ticketing system to give support issues the boot.
But, if you’re on a budget or running a small-scale operation, there’s actually a free tool right at your disposal — contact forms. Or, more specifically, plain ol’ email. See, we told you email wasn’t dead!
Don’t you just love accounting? There’s nothing quite like determining nexus on a crisp Sunday morning. We’re kidding of course (unless you’re into that type of thing), but numbers and taxes are a necessary evil of running your own eCommerce business. If this is an evil you wish to take on yourself, then have at it, Batman — QuickBooks as the industry standard.
Tools for Order Fulfillment
You can have all the right tools and optimize your online store until the cows come home, but that won’t do you much good if you don’t have the proper order fulfillment strategy. Aside from warehousing services, like picking and packing, it is essential for an eCommerce business to be equipped with software capable of handling order, inventory, and warehouse management.
The bigger the company, the greater the technological demands. While a spreadsheet may work nicely for an in-house setup with a low monthly order volume, an expanding customer base forces your requirements to change considerably. If it’s the right decision for your business, a 3PL can save the day by taking over the logistical challenges of your daily operations so that your customers’ orders can get to them quickly and cheaply.
And there you have it! While our recommendations are by no means extensive, the apps and services mentioned above are tried-and-true additions to any growing eCommerce business.
You might have noticed that we forwent shopping carts and marketplaces for this article. That’s because, as the platforms responsible for hosting your products and processing yours sales, they deserve a blog post of their own! Worry not, because that’s exactly what we’ll be covering next week. Stay tuned!