The sheer number of ecommerce tools available on the market can overwhelm any new business owner. Setting up your online store shouldn’t be so confusing; but, with shopping cart software, marketing automation tools, analytics, social media aggregation, task management programs, and more -- how do you know where to begin? Let’s break it down.
All ecommerce tools can generally be categorized into these five groups -- Website, Research, Business, Marketing, and Analytics. While each category serves an important function for an ecommerce business, investing in every tool wouldn’t be a financially feasible option for any successful enterprise. That’s why our most important advice is to invest in tools that serve your specific business model and workflow. Not every business needs to send out a newsletter to be successful -- but almost every business needs a good website. Here are our picks for each category that serve a broad spectrum of needs. Treat it as a buffet -- choose what looks good to you!
These are tools that help you set up your store and manage it and can affect your site’s visibility, down time, and the financial cost to you. When considering where and how to host your site, you’ll need to address the needs of your business -- like scalability, logistics, SEO, and mobile-friendliness -- while you also appraise the needs of your shoppers -- like loading speeds and an aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly experience. These factors, combined with your technical ability and budget, will determine which option is best for you. Our top choices are:
- Shopify is the easiest and also one of the most popular options to use -- plug and play, scalable, and feature-loaded -- although it may not be the best option for WordPress users.
- X-Cart is an excellent choice if you are proficient with programming. It’s incredibly scalable, customizable, user friendly, and WordPress compliant -- but you must love coding to keep up with it.
- BigCommerce is a SaaS option that offers off-site hosting, lots of features, and is easy to set up – however, it is one of the more costly options.
- Woo Commerce, on the other hand, is free. It offers a great user experience for your customers and is WordPress compatible – but, not as easy to scale as other options, and you have to buy into add-ons for full functionality.
Cultivating a successful ecommerce business is impossible if you’re in the dark about your competitors -- it’s all about working your advantages. That’s why research tools are important to learn about other players in your marketplace, recognize opportunities in your niche, and learn how to improve your web and marketing assets. Some tools that might help you are:
- JungleScout identifies top products specifically for your industry and tracks their performance on Amazon so you can decide the best items to add to your store.
- SEMRush tracks page performance, top keywords in your target, and competitor information – PLUS, it offers you the option to audit your site and get reports on strengths and weaknesses to improve SEO and ad campaign performance.
- Ahrefs is a tool that analyzes competitors' marketing strategies by looking at their backlinks.
Opening an online store is the easy part -- and running it is the challenge! You have to maintain inventory, manage employees, track your budget, and tackle the day-to-day tasks -- and business tools are available to help you keep everything running smoothly. Look for tools that fit in with your organization systems and streamline your business processes.
- Task Managers like Monday, Asana, or Tickspot are productivity tools that help organize and oversee tasks, projects, leads, and content calendars.
- Companies like Shipwire, Oberlo, Inventory Source, Veequo, Sourcify, and Ecom Dash were designed for inventory management to help you simplify your operations and connect you with manufacturers.
- Comprehensive Finance Management tools like Wave keep your accounting organized so you can effectively scale your business and route your growth.
Don’t overlook this one! To make sales, you have to help your customers find your site -- that’s where marketing comes in to let the world know that you exist, build your brand, drive traffic to your store, and convert leads into sales. There are hundreds of options out there addressing various needs, but look for one that allows you to track campaign performance, lets you segment your customer base, and minimizes the effort you have to put into tasks that waste the most of your time. Of the countless apps available, these are some of our favorites:
- Klaviyo is an excellent choice for newcomers to the ecommerce world who don’t have the budget for full-time digital marketing. It’s a multiservice tool that handles everything from A/B testing to email autoresponders. It can be integrated with virtually any app or they offer a number of their own integrations. Plus, it’s free for up to 250 contacts!
- Active Campaign is known for analytics and has a reputation for rapidly updating and changing based on user comments.
- Buffer is a social media tool used for tracking your audience’s interest in topics, planning your post calendar, and boosting engagement.
- Antavo works to gamify your marketing and build brand loyalty with a system that encourages referrals.
- Exit Bee is a tool that uses behavioral psychology with well-timed popups to increase lead conversion and email subscription rates, decrease cart abandonment, and provide targeted messaging to your customers.
- Feeds4 aggregates and distributes content for affiliate marketing.
- Mail Chimp is an email service with tons of easy-to-customize templates and features an analytics-heavy backend ready for segmentation.
Last, but by no means least -- every business needs analytics to prove what’s working and point out any leaks in your sales funnels and missed opportunities. Analytics can help you understand what customers want, why they came to you for it, and how you can draw in more of them -- insights crucial to the success of your business.
- Google Analytics is free and packed with information that can improve conversions on pay-per-click advertising, optimize your site and product descriptions for SEO, and track visitor behavior on your site.
- Neatly has all the features of its competitors in a smooth and attractive user interface that helps keep you organized to make the most of your data.
- VWO (Visual Website Optimizer) allows you to test, analyze, edit, and target campaigns. It integrates well with most major ecommerce platforms and provides heat maps and click maps you can use to optimize conversions.
Remember, when you’re first starting your ecommerce business, the worst thing you can do is overextend yourself over a plethora of tools you may not even like using -- so choose wisely based on your business model, technical knowledge, and budget. Try free options first, or take advantage of the many free trials companies have to offer. That way, you can determine which tools best fit your unique needs that can scale with you, and invest where it counts.