It’s never been easier to harness your own entrepreneurial spirit and establish an e-commerce storefront of your own. An online store offers a host of benefits, from the existence of few barriers to entry to the ability to work largely from the comfort of your own home. However, the e-commerce landscape also poses many challenges, including appealing to new customers, digital data tracking and making your business stand out among the thousands of others in your niche.
To give yourself a leg up on the competition, it’s important that you have the right tools and resources to ensure your success. Read on for some of the most important business tools that every e-commerce company should have to grow and thrive in their business.
- The Right E-Commerce Platform
Though you will need to have a platform to host your website and feature your storefront, you don’t have to know much about computer code in order to find yourself a place on the internet to do business. E-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, Wix and WooCommerce make it simple to create pages, navigation, menus and display your products on landing pages.
These sites also offer the ability to integrate third-party widgets and features so you can maintain a clean-looking storefront and create a free online database to help you with behind-the-scenes tasks all at the same time.
- Email Marketing Tools
In brick-and-mortar storefronts, customer interaction happens organically when a patron enters your shop. In the digital world, store owners need to utilize other forms of communication to keep in touch with their customer base, release promotions, feature new products and alert customers about current services.
Many email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp and HubSpot, allow you to create appealing emails that can be sent to existing customers, new customers, customers with abandoned carts and repeat customers in the hopes of increasing conversion rates.
- Payment Processing
One of the simplest ways to do business online is to set up an onsite payment processing tool so your customer can purchase your products or services with just a few clicks. Third-party software options can be linked directly to your bank account and integrated on your website to accept many forms of payment, including card, e-check and mobile wallet payment methods. You can even include more than one online payment tool on your site to make it easy for the greatest number of potential customers, and Stripe, Square, Paypal, Google Pay and other systems can all be used as options at the checkout stage.
- Shipping Integration
When your business really starts to take off, shipping or delivering products yourself can take a great deal of time and effort that could be best spent in other areas of your business. A shipping service can handle label creation, shipping quotes, packing orders and delivery to your customers while you provide backend coordination and organization. These services are capable of relatively automating the logistics of shipping and delivery to cut down on lead time and maximize the rate you can fulfill orders.
The only way to know where and how to direct your efforts to increase conversions and boost your revenue is to analyze what is working and what isn’t with your e-commerce business. Basic analytics tools can track data well enough, but advanced analytics tools can assist you in better understanding consumer behavior and habits so you know how to increase your shop’s performance and better meet your customer’s needs. These tools analyze metrics such as traffic sources, pageviews, conversion rates, bounce rates, sales numbers and ad efficiency.
- Social Media Management
In today’s digital landscape, a social media presence is nearly vital for businesses. A social media presence that is updated regularly, and demonstrates your brand clearly and effectively, can go a long way in growing your business. However, it can be time-consuming for a small business to run multiple social media platforms while handling everything else on your company’s plate.
Social media management solutions can help you to compose and schedule posts, predetermine an aesthetically-pleasing feed across multiple platforms, track analytics, recommend hashtags and identify audiences ideal for targeted ads.
- Customer Service
Your customers keep you in business, and nothing is more important than their satisfaction with your products, services and interactions with them. The easier it is for your customers to locate and access information, receive support, resolve issues and engage with your company. Many customer relationship tools enable live chat to provide automated, real-time customer support that even functions to direct customers to resources and answers while you’re away.
- Budget Tracking
To an e-commerce business, intentional growth is critical to your survival. In order to see where you’ve come, where you are and where you’re going, it’s important to have a way to visualize your affairs and plan for the future. Any worthy budgeting tool should contain ways for you to track purchases, expenses, profits and losses, as well as automate graphs and other visualizations that can display relevant info in an easy-to-understand fashion.
These visualizations can not only help you to see where your budget goes, but the best tools have features that can provide suggestions or highlight areas of improvement as well. These tools are invaluable when it comes time to compose monthly reports and balance your cash flow. These reports are crucial for tax filing, too, as it makes the process go a lot more smoothly when you have a clear picture of how much you’ve spent and on what, how much money you received and what expenses you can write off.
- Paid Marketing Tools
Traffic is everything to an online business, and every e-commerce storefront owner wants their products and services to end up in front of their ideal customers. By using paid marketing tools, you can take advantage of collected consumer data to increase brand awareness, market to the right customers or run ads using business-specific keywords. Each of these tools operates using an advertising model that isolates consumers based on their interests, online behavior, location, gender, age and income levels.