E-commerce businesses are a big target for marketing, customer, order, and website tools. It’s a booming industry, so everyone wants to make something just for you. That’s great, until it really, really isn’t.
So, instead of trying to load up 1,000 different things on your site and then spend hundreds of hours learning them all, it’s time to take a beat. Breathe in and out, and then look at what you need and what you can skip.
We’ve got just five things to focus on when you’re in startup mode, and they’ll also help you keep the big growth picture in mind. Let’s dive in now.
1. E-commerce platform
No e-commerce startup is ready to sell without a true e-commerce platform. That may seem obvious, but you’ve got plenty of competitors who are running a range of disconnected systems to take orders, notify customers, and manage their inventory. Lots look at e-commerce costs and wonder if they’re not large enough for platforms or think that their current website will handle it.
The good news is that they’re wrong. E-commerce tools are both affordable and available for most platforms. And they cover your full functionality from displaying products to managing shopping carts and handling payments. You don’t need a lot at the beginning and can slowly grow to choose different services for individual functionality at a steady pace.
Common platforms that have many useful tools and effective management options include BigCommerce, Shopify, and WooCommerce. A variety of options allow you to work with any existing site you have built. You can either use the website builders they come with or look for integration options, like Shopify and WooCommerce’s WordPress support. Quick installation makes it easy to manage products, customers, orders, and more.
Tags on your website allow you to gather information and start actions. You can tag products, pages, and other elements to track how users access your store, what they do on your website, what they look at and buy (or don’t), and much more. Tags can also manage visitors based on how they found you.
A significant tag benefit for ecommerce businesses is that you can send advertising and marketing messages to visitors who looked at a product and then left, or who put items in their cart but didn’t finish checking out from your store. Tags also track a wide range of data, building better customer analytics.
There are multiple tools to help, but Google Tag Manager is generally considered the best option for startups and growing companies because of its ease of use. Previews, tests, rollouts, and even integration with AdWords are all simple.
Analytics tools can help you understand user behavior on your website, how well marketing is performing, if your sales funnel is following the right steps, overall traffic, where people come from, and even who is adding what to their shopping cart (whether or not they buy).
You’re going to get a small mix of analytics from each of the other sections we’re mentioning. However, this data works best when it is unified. So, you’ll want a tool that looks across your website, sources, inventory, customers, and advertisements.
Again, one of the most popular options comes from Google. Google Analytics offers a robust, free solution that tracks your website, AdWords campaigns, Facebook and other social ads, and much more. You can even dive deep with product-specific metrics to see if something is popular or if user trends are changing.
Because it is another Google tool, you can integrate it with Tag Manager to control how events happen and are monitored on your website. This allows you to expand preferences or what you display to customers on new products without having to get IT to code anything for you.
4. Email capture
While this functionality is often part of marketing suites, dedicated email capture tools can be a big boon for an e-commerce operation.
One of the most popular options is Sumo, and not just because it’s free. Sumo is quick and easy to learn and helps you set goals and identify the right actions to take to achieve them. There are multiple types of pop-ups, contact forms, welcome messages, exit messages, mobile notifications, and built-in analytics for each.
Tools like Sumo should work with other platforms. Support for Google Tag Manager is also smart because it simplifies the process of capturing a visitor’s email and then not asking again after you have it.
Also, find something that works with marketing tools, such as MailChimp. They’re often called CRMs (customer relationship management), and they’ll allow you to create campaigns, track customers over time, reward loyal shoppers, and take many more marketing steps.
5. Order and warehouse management
Many e-commerce platforms can handle your orders and ensure you get paid, but they need to hand off that data to your warehouse. In some cases, you might have a small platform that’ll print orders for you or input inventory but won’t keep up with an active warehouse.
Quickly, e-commerce startups need to upgrade to order management or even larger warehouse management tools. The most significant benefit here is that you grow into using tools that doublecheck your work for you. Support of mobile devices with cameras or handheld barcode scanners ensures that you’re picking the right products for each order.
Warehouse management tools also help you understand how to organize your warehouse and your labor requirements. Try demos because you might find that you don’t have the staff, space, or time to run your fulfillment. If that’s the case, you might want to outsource it instead, which should start with research and building lists of questions to ask fulfillment companies.
Fill in the gaps
You can easily find a list of 30+ or even 50+ software tools that someone says your e-commerce business needs. Don’t worry about spreading yourself that thin. Our list is to help get you thinking about what software can do and how it can be applied to your business overall. Your mission is to think about activities taking up your time or operations you can’t complete. Identify those gaps and fill them. Take your time and grow smart. And good luck.