Making your e-commerce business stand out is a bigger challenge every year. More e-commerce sites crop up all the time, Amazon constantly evolves into a more powerful behemoth, and the competition always gets tougher and smarter.
The e-commerce businesses that succeed are the ones that know how to use the latest tools, technology, and digital marketing to their advantage. Yes, there’s more competition than ever, but there are also many more resources to help you gain an edge.
Here are our recommendations for five essential tools every e-commerce store should have.
1. Reliable Email Marketing Platform and Web Hosting
Acquiring customers is only a small part of your battle as an e-commerce business. When you get down to the numbers, it’s arguably even more important to retain your customers after you’ve acquired them. Email marketing is a fantastic way to show your customers that you’re alive, innovating, and offering new deals and/or solutions constantly.
An email marketing platform is also great for rewards programs. By rewarding your loyal customers, they’re more likely to feel personally cared for and come back to your business.
There are so many email marketing platforms out there that it can be overwhelming to decide between them. We recommend MailChimp or Constant Contact. As major platforms serving tens of thousands of companies or individuals, their technical reliability is near guaranteed. They’re also user-friendly, allowing you to import and manage your email list very easily.
There are many other email marketing platforms out there, so if you have specific needs in mind (easy, premade designs or detailed subscription options) make sure you hunt around and do your research. Email marketing is a critical part of any e-commerce business, and you shouldn’t neglect it.
2. Multiple Payment Processing Options
If you’ve been operating an e-commerce business for a while, you know that abandoned shopping carts are to be avoided at all costs. They cause inventory management skewing, poor conversion rates, and a sense that you’re doing something wrong at one of the most critical moments.
One of the best ways to improve conversions after the product is in the shopping cart is by providing a variety of flexible payment options. Many customers abandon a product because they don’t want to have to create yet another account or go through a tedious, cumbersome process to fill in their payment details. Seeking out payment processing solutions that cover multiple payment options is increasingly important in this competitive age of e-commerce. If your competitor offers ACH payments but you don’t, for example, that could be the sole factor that causes your customer to choose them instead.
The more small business payment processing solutions, the better—to a point. Yes, it’s important to have a large number of options for your customers to pay with, but you shouldn’t have to pay a hefty credit card processing fee if only 0.1% of your customers use that specific credit card. Invest in payment processing software that covers the most widely accepted payment processing options without charging you exorbitant fees.
And make sure you get a system that integrates with your accounting software—this will save you countless time and avoid critical errors. Your business accountant will greatly appreciate this.
Data analysis is necessary for your e-commerce business to improve and grow. For a digital business, you can’t simply point to a shelf in your store that no one is touching and redesign the display or change your stock. Hotjar is the virtual version of following your customers around the store to see what catches their eye.
Hotjar features a unique heat-mapping feature that lets you see where your customers are navigating on the page. This has many uses: it shows you what features your clients are missing, where their eyes are traveling on the page, and how long they stay on each page.
This kind of data is invaluable in this day and age. Online UX testing with in-person focus groups is impossible to do with 100% accuracy, but with this tool, you can make even customers who failed to convert a valuable data point.
Poor shipping times or poor communication during the shipping process can lead to one of the worst things an e-commerce business can have: a bad review. Software like AfterShip that lets you track, monitor, and estimate delivery is a must-have tool for your e-commerce business.
Allowing your customers to easily see what stage of shipping their package is in after they’ve ordered gives them peace of mind, and saves them from constantly ringing up your company to make inquiries. This kind of shipping transparency is becoming more and more commonplace, and customers are coming to not only appreciate it, but expect it.
AfterShip has a number of helpful features that add value to your e-commerce business and improve customer retention. It automatically monitors your shipments and, upon request, will send the status of the order to your customer via text, email, or push notification.
AfterShip integrates well with almost all e-commerce platforms. It has a friendly user interface that both you and your customer can navigate easily. We highly recommend this tool for any e-commerce business.
Magento is our top choice for an all-in-one e-commerce platform. Not only does it make creating and updating your products easy, but it accommodates almost every size company and their specific needs.
Magento lets you build an online store from scratch. It uses a drag-and-drop user interface so that users of virtually any technical capacity can edit and maintain a catalog. You can use Magento in conjunction with all four of our aforementioned products so that you have every tool you need for a successful e-commerce venture.
It also has valuable analytics tools that help your company track sales, conversions, and trends. Magento identifies unique customers so you can better determine which SEO and CRO strategies are working and which ones are falling flat. It also tracks individual customer spend over a lifetime so you can retain your existing customers.
There are many e-commerce platforms out there, and while Magento is our personal top choice, you may find a platform like Shopify or WooCommerce works better for your business. Ultimately, it comes down to what you’re selling and what features you require.