Ten Amazingly Useful Tools for Small E-Commerce Business Owners
As previously noted in this blog, the world of e-commerce is extremely competitive, and it’s hard to stand out from the pack. It can be even more difficult for small e-commerce businesses to thrive in this environment due to time, manpower, and budgetary limitations. A small business owner wears many hats — sales, marketing, information technology, product research and development, content production and sharing, and often much more. Luckily, almost any task on your plate can be handled by an ever-growing ecosystem of online tools and platforms.
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of ten amazingly useful online tools to help you run your small e-commerce business. It includes tools to build websites, analyze their traffic and conversion rates, work with a team regardless of location, manage your social media presence, create and distribute content, provide customer service, and more. Most of these tools are relatively inexpensive (especially for businesses with small teams), and some are free.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there’s some overlap between entries, but it should be a great jumping-off point in your search for the best tools to run your business. To that end, we’ve also included some alternatives to our suggestions. Here we go!
Zendesk is an extremely flexible and comprehensive customer support platform for businesses of all sizes. You’ll get the tools you need to manage cases so you can quickly help customers. Make it easy for customers to troubleshoot issues and close their own cases with an online knowledge base. Automate repetitive tasks using macros and reduce the times agents spend on simple issues. Plans start at $5 per agent per month, and grow in customization options and versatility from there. Alternatives: Desk.com, Freshdesk
Dlvr.it is a tool to manage long-form content distribution. Dlvr.it continuously monitors your news feeds and RSS-enabled websites and automatically shares new content (such as blog posts) to your social networks. You can queue up and distribute content wherever you find it at optimal times when you know your audience is active and engaged. Dlvr.it also offers promoted stories to search, social, mobile and local media for expanded distribution. There’s a free plan available for five feeds, and three social pages and pages. Enhanced plans start at $9.99 per month, and promoted stories start at $9.95 per story. Alternatives: Buffer, Twitterfeed
Hootsuite helps you manage your social media conversations (as opposed to content distribution a la dlvr.it). Manage social networks, schedule messages, engage your audiences, and measure return on investment right from your Hootsuite dashboard. You can also monitor and engage your followers in over 35 popular social networks. Hootsuite’s social media analytics give you an in-depth view of how well your social media efforts are being received, so you can run with what’s working or change directions. Their individual plan is free, and paid plans begin at $9.99 per month. Alternatives: AgoraPulse, MavSocial
Google Analytics paints your full traffic picture across ads, videos, websites, social tools, through conventional and mobile channels. You’ll measure advertising and campaign performance, analyze and test segments of your traffic, and get insights into your audience (like where your visitors come from and how loyal and engaged they are). The basic version of GA is free, and you can contact them about premium pricing for features such as a dedicated account manager and 24/7 technical support. Alternatives: Clicky, Kissmetrics, Mixpanel
Google Apps is a suite comprised of many of the essential tools you need to run your business. Use Gmail for email, as well as search and integrated calendars for scheduling. Draft work collaboratively with Docs, create spreadsheets with Sheets, craft presentation decks with Slides, then save your work in Drive. Use Hangouts to give video presentations or host video conference calls. Pricing is $5 per user per month. Alternative: see below!
OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage and collaborative workspace solution. Securely store all your files and share them with co-workers. Each OneDrive for Business user gets 1 TB of storage. OneDrive for Business is fully integrated with Microsoft Office, so it’s easy to create, edit, and review documents with others in real time and even discuss them on Yammer, the private social network. Ensure that everyone is working on the most recent document and can view or revert to previous versions as needed. And when it’s time, you can set up a seamless review and approval process. Like Google Apps, OneDrive’s business plan is $5 per user per month; Office Online included.
MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, and track your results. Get insight about your subscribers and keep your contacts in one place. MailChimp features automated emails, send-time optimization, advanced analytics, flexible design options, and more. MailChimp offers a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Paid plans start at $10 per month. Alternatives: GetResponse, Constant Contact
UserVoice Helpdesk is a customer support application that’s a scalable and affordable solution for small business. UserVoice features three core products to keep customers happy: feedback forums, support ticket systems, and a knowledge base. Understand the feature requests that matter most to users, and make information easy to access, so you can help users instantly and reduce requests and tickets. Plans start at $15 per agent per month. Alternatives: Happyfox, Groove
WordPress is an open-source content management system. WordPress started as just a blogging platform, but now can be used to create dynamic websites of all types, including e-commerce stores, through the thousands of plugins and widgets and themes — there are over 35,000 plugins and 3,000 themes available. Best of all, WordPress is free! Alternatives: Ghost, Medium, Bolt
Wunderlist is a collaborative to-do list platform to help your team get things done. Delegate to-dos in your shared lists and accomplish more together. Use the comments feature to have team discussions about tasks. Add a reminder to make sure no to-do is missed. Set due dates, and get updates via push, email, and in-app notifications. Wunderlist is available on desktop, mobile, and the web, and real-time sync keeps all your lists current. Individual accounts are free, and business accounts are $4.99 per user per month. Alternatives: Evernote, Asana
We hope you’ve found something in this list that will help you take your e-commerce business to new heights. Enjoy!