It can often feel like there are too many eCommerce tools for any company to manage. Every time you go to Google, it seems like there are new ads, articles, and search results for “the next big thing” promising to revolutionize your business. Some tools are right for you, while others may not work with your platform, products, or budget.
To help you think about necessities, we’ve put together this guide to eCommerce tools and categories that are useful for nearly every operation. Whether you make your own products, work with suppliers, or even drop ship, these are designed to make life a little easier — and make profit happen a bit sooner. Dive in to see what you might need or have overlooked.
Please note that tools and services mentioned throughout are just examples of different market options. We aren’t making any specific recommendations or advising what your store needs. The eCommerce tools list is to help you start thinking about your business so that you can build the unique tapestry of apps, services, and support that help you run a successful operation.
eCommerce tools and platform
The best place to start when looking at eCommerce tools for small businesses is your website and your current eCommerce platform. In many cases now, these are the same tool. Specific platforms allow you to build a website with direct sales capabilities. Others use established website services like WordPress and then add their eCommerce capabilities as a layer on top.
If you’re launching (or relaunching) a store, look at what tools your competitors use. What are customers responding to, and who do you think has an appealing aesthetic? Here are some storefront building tools to consider:
Shopify gets the most buzz for its ecommerce platform that allows you to make a website and use plugins to run your business. It can take under an hour to get a new eCommerce store up and running on the platform. Basic plans start at around $30 per month, and it’s consistently improving through a growing library of services and partners.
But, as one of the top ecommerce platforms, it’s almost impossible to use the version of Shopify that you get out of the box without customizing it. Before long you’ll realize that you need to hire a Shopify developer. There are a number of ways to find a good Shopify developer:
- Look to Fiverr or Upwork to find a cheap (er) freelance Shopify developer. You may need to go through a few of them to find a good competent fit, but the prices are generally much lower than you’d pay if you needed to find a hire a full-time permanent Shopify developer who has expertise with Shopify store platform specific coding.
- Go directly to the source, and search for vetted Shopify experts on the directory at Shopify.com/experts. You’ll need to pay more for this level of knowledge and skill, but you’ll know you’re getting a Shopify expert who has enough qualifications to be included in the official directory.
- Bennett Queen, Digital Marketing Specialist at Commence Studio, a Shopify Development Agency that has developed Shopify sites like Death Wish Coffee, shares a unique tip to find Shopify Developers: “Go to your favorite e-commerce website and look at its footer. Oftentimes you’ll find a tag that says “Website built by X” which links back to the person who built that site. If you like the way it looks, then the person that built it might be a perfect fit for your brand.” An example of this is at the bottom of another website that Commence Studio has built: Gravallese Co.
An example of what types of customizations can be made for a Shopify store is, Queen says, “for Deso Supply Co. we took a pre-built theme from the Shopify theme store and brought it to life by adding Deso’s logo, colors, and voice to make the theme feel like their company’s. On the backend, we added “meta tags” to the products and product categories that made it easier for the owner to add new products and for customers to find what they’re looking for. With their old website, their team would have a sale and have to manually add each item to a “sale” collection. With the customizations we added, all they had to do was add a checkmark to the product, and items would be included or excluded automatically. The Deso Supply Co. website took about 6 weeks from start to finish. On top of normal development time, we had to upload and retag all of the products once we built the back-end functionality, which added some time to the back end of the project. Our base package starts at $8,500.”
If you have a WordPress site already, you can add WooCommerce easily to power eCommerce sales. It has some coding requirements but can still be managed even if you’re new to WordPress. The service starts free, but there are some costs you’ll face as you grow.
This is the most notable competitor to Shopify for the B2B space. BigCommerce’s website builder is fast and simple with a reliable support team. Capabilities like bulk pricing help set it apart. Rates are less clear, so you’ll need to schedule a demo and talk with a sales rep to understand what you’ll pay.
Not the villain from the X-Men, Magento is a safe and secure platform. It’ll have the highest development/coding knowledge required. However, there is a thriving community for support and some free tools plus a considerable ability to customize.
Squarespace is a niche provider that initially focused on services like designers, writers, and artists. It has expanded with eCommerce support and is cheaper than others, but it will require more development and outside tools for support.
Payment support and services
Up next to consider are the eCommerce tools that let people pay you for your products. You’ll need to set up a payment service provider on your website and create a separate account on their site in many cases. This enables you to link the payment options to your site and offer these options to customers. For example, if you’re running a Shopify account, you’ll need to set up a PayPal account first to offer PayPal checkout on your site.
Some payment options to review are:
- Services offered by your eCommerce software, such as Shopify Payments and Shop Pay.
- Mobile-focused payment options like Apple Pay
- Third-party payment services like PayPal
- Stripe and other Web tools that also have point-of-sale support
- Flagship Merchant Services and similar options for processing credit cards and supporting chip cards
- New tools that allow people to pay over time, such as Klarna.
Analytics and traffic eCommerce tools
You’ll need to understand your audience and traffic if you want a successful store. You can turn to eCommerce tools for help here, too. Analytics will help you look at your current audience and test how any changes impact your sales and leads. Here are a few areas to consider when you’re trying to analyze operations and potential:
- Analytics suites like Google Analytics can show you how people behave on your site. Look at how they visit, page views, time spent on your site, conversion rates, bounce rates, and even information on the performance of your Google ads.
- Kissmetrics has some eCommerce tools that help you analyze your sales process, revenue totals, new visitors, conversion rates, and even how people search your website. As you provide more details, it’ll help you determine the characteristics of your most lucrative targets.
- You’ll also want to consider SEO tools like Moz to help you understand the right keywords for your business. It has a free suite to analyze your site and determine keywords, links, and your online presence. Look for solutions that help you determine the next steps.
- When you’re well-versed in analytics, it can be time to move to eCommerce tools like Putler. These look across multiple apps, sites, and sales channels to give you consolidated reports and growth recommendations based on customers across multiple channels.
Chatbot eCommerce tools
Chatbots are an amazing sales tool, where you automate sales and service options. Chatbots can move customers down the funnel, answer common questions, and more. Lego even used a Facebook Messenger chatbot service that asked people questions and recommended products to use as presents ahead of the 2017 holiday season.
You should narrow your options based on your site’s most significant need. If customers reach out for questions regularly, a chatbot focused on providing answers may improve your lead qualification and support. If people browse but leave your site, a chatbot that prompts with sales messages and curation offers more robust support.
Here are some of the tools we’ve encountered recently while browsing different sites and services:
- BotMother – A chatbot creation tool that is very flexible and allows for things like PayPal payments, but may have a higher requirement for rollout
- Chatfuel – A chatbot that has a variety of support and promotes its ability to integrate with ads and landing pages
- Netomi – a chatbot focused on providing customer service across all sales and eCommerce channels
- ShopMessage – A service focused on Facebook Messenger that prioritizes sales and aims to reduce cart abandons
- Tidio – Chatbot service focused on eCommerce sales and support, offering a variety of templates to minimize coding and other needs.
Chatbots generate a lot of data. You may want to look at the eCommerce tools you use so that you can leverage this information. One of the more common options to help you utilize this data is integration with Zapier, allowing chatbots to provide form fields and other useful options.
Social media is a common area where you can find people and their wallets. So, some of the better eCommerce tools as you grow are designed to support social selling. They’ll run the gamut from ads and content posting through direct sales. Many channels, especially Facebook and Instagram, can sell directly within the platform. You might want to use their native tools or look for third-party options. Let’s think about the different kinds of tools you might want to consider.
The first place is generally to look at ways to leverage your existing sales site. Some tools work on your feed while others make shoppable ads simpler. Outfly is one such tool that uses your website content and makes it easy for you to build ads, campaigns, GIFs, and other elements to use across social media channels.
Others allow you to leverage your social content on your website. Search for tools that support what you’re doing or can automate processes. For example, if you have a Shopify store, some plugins add your Instagram feed to your site to make it shoppable there. That leverages the content you would already be creating on Instagram so that you don’t have to make a lot of images or duplicate work.
Influencers are a top way to use social channels to find new audiences and reach hungry shoppers. There are services like Gatsby that specifically target both influencers and fans. It’ll also help you add social media handles and other content to your forms, allowing people to connect with you.
Business and order management eCommerce tools
You’ll need help to run your business, such as dedicated tools for operations. In the eCommerce space, business management often goes hand-in-hand with managing orders and customer information. That’s because inventory usually takes up most of your capital unless you’re drop shipping. Thinking of the “big picture” about business and operations, there are a few pieces of software for you to consider.
Here are some eCommerce tools your business may need:
While your eCommerce store likely has some inventory and order tools, you may find that it’s hard to track things across multiple reports and dashboards. Many eCommerce companies will grow to use single order management tools that allow them to look at all sales and orders within a single dashboard.
Inventory tools help you understand what stock you have in your warehouse or at partner locations. Basic tools make it easy to see your stock, estimate its costs, and look for opportunities like kitting. Sometimes inventory and order management features are within a single tool. Look for that or the ability to easily integrate data between the two.
Drop shipping product and partners
If you’re a drop shipper, you have specific needs. Services, often based on your sales platform, make it easy to not only add product details and information but can help you find suppliers. Tools like Oberlo make this integration smoother, allowing you to import details and availability using data provided by the supplier themselves.
Many eCommerce companies offer products from multiple manufacturers. If you need assistance connecting with these companies or want to know what’s available, there are platforms and services that can help. AliExpress is an eCommerce marketplace that focuses on these connections and has integrated tools to support them. What you might not have thought about is that many merchants make introductions here and then use those relationships on other platforms.
Don’t neglect standard business tactics just because you’re focused on eCommerce. One core element is accounting and invoicing, which requires precision. Look for invoicing software that include features around payroll tax calculation, inventory cost analysis, receipts management, general record keeping, invoicing, and support for paying your bills.
You need a way to communicate quickly and easily if your eCommerce operation has multiple people involved. While email is a business default, many companies benefit from a chat-based tool, too. Slack is a popular service thanks to its instant messaging and support for phone and voice calls. Microsoft Teams can be a great option if you’re already paying for Microsoft services like Outlook.
If you’re in the same office and need more help managing activities, consider upgrading from Excel sheets to project management tools. These can help you create roles and responsibilities, assign tasks, and keep an eye on their status. Not only are you communicating about internal goals, but you’re also working together to accomplish them.
There are a multitude of project management services, and some of the best eCommerce tools include:
- Asana – Easy project management with strong reporting tools
- Breeze – Simplified project management designed to minimize tasks and in-app work
- Trello – Card-focused service for sprints and waterfalls
- Monday – Project management with tools for HR, marketing, CRM, and more
- Teamwork – Easy to use and scale with your team
Warehouse management software
Warehouse management software (WMS) services are the platforms you’ll use to track your inventory, packaging, and equipment in the warehouse. This helps you fill orders, print shipping labels, and get products out to customers quickly. Every part of your fulfillment can be improved and supported by a WMS, especially when you use automated inventory management options.
There are more WMS options than anyone likely realizes. You have options that help you run multiple warehouses around the globe, or some free tools designed for a single location and a small number of SKUs. Map out your business, inventory channels, and how you sell. That information will help you narrow down your options.
The best place for many companies to start working is a comparison tool like this one from ExploreWMS.
3PLs and eCommerce tool as partners
Not everyone thinks about other businesses as eCommerce tools, but 3PLs like Red Stag Fulfillment might be the right option to help you grow.
Every eCommerce business needs to manage its operations and get orders to customers accurately, on time. A 3PL can simplify this process as you start to expand or if you have a sudden increase in sales.
Did you start off drop shipping but are moving to selling your own products and filling orders directly? Adding a 3PL can enable this for you without needing to hire or get your own warehouse. You’ll be handling products and having higher margins, but still can focus on sales and marketing instead of order and inventory management.
We’re designed to make your business easier. That’s one reason Red Stag offers guides like this. When your business is ready to take the next step toward growth and expand to offering faster, more affordable shipping and fulfillment, it’s time to contact Red Stag Fulfillment.