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262. Auditing Your eCommerce Tech Stack

262. Auditing Your eCommerce Tech Stack

If you’ve been hanging with me for any length of time you know that I’m a sucker for a great tech tool and I encourage you to use them when they can save you time, make you more money, and of course if it can do both. 

You also probably know that I’d rather see you use the one that is the best for your needs, even if it feels expensive. This is especially true when it comes to email marketing platforms. Instead of figuring out how to save money on your email marketing platform, figure out how to make more money from email instead, ya know?

At the same time though, it’s really easy to test out and invest in tech platform, not use them to their fullest potential, or sometimes even forget we have them at all. 

Prefer to listen to the episode? Click here.

If that’s you, don’t feel bad. We did this at my previous day job too. You see the shiny object, get excited, invest, realize it’s more work than you thought to get set up or maintain, or you just don’t have the time to facilitate the program that it’s responsible for, (like a rewards or affiliate program)

That’s why I want to talk to you about auditing your tech stack. Let’s figure out what you’ve got, what’s paying for itself, what needs to be optimized, and potentially what needs to be prioritized. Maybe you’ve got something that isn’t quite cutting it at the moment but would be if you set aside a bit of time to dig in. 

Or maybe you just know you’re not going to be able to prioritize this tool or strategy right now and it just doesn’t make sense to keep paying for it. 

Or maybe, after last week’s episode when we talked about what marketing activities you were going to focus on this year, you realize you’re paying for a tool that isn’t going to matter in your business anymore. 

Now, only you will be able to answer that question for sure… but my goal today is to walk you through some of the tools you’re probably using and some questions to ask yourself while you’re evaluating whether or not you need to keep it. 

I’m also going to give you some insight into what tools you should absolutely prioritize using in your business and what to look out for if you’re considering downgrading to a free or lower-cost version of something so you can decide if it’s really a feature you need right now in your business. 

Alright, let’s kick this off with On-Site tools

On-Site Tools

When it comes to expanding the functionality of your website and providing a better experience for your customers, you’re probably using a lot of apps to help you do this. Some of them, generate revenue like a cross-sell app, and others don’t hold any value unless you’re actively using them such as heat mapping software. 

I want you to take a deep dive into the apps you’re currently using on your site and make sure it’s truly worth having them. 

Cross-Sell App

Yes. This is worth having and if it’s not generating enough revenue to pay for itself and then some, I would set aside some time to optimize this before the end of Q1. I dive deeper into how to use cross-sells and upsells in your eCommerce store on episode 49 of the podcast, but ultimately unless you’re a one-product store, there’s no reason why this app should not be adding profit to your bottom line. 

Review Apps

Reviews are an important part of running a successful product-based business. Consumers look to reviews to make buying decisions… but there are a multitude of different apps out there it can be overwhelming to find the right one for you. 

This is a must-have app, but you might be able to get away with using the free app from Shopify. This is especially true if you’re early in your business, and it’s unlikely that your customers would submit photos as part of their review. 

The good news about review apps is that it’s super simple to switch. So whatever decision you make today, you’re not at all stuck with it. 

I go deeper into review apps pn episode 16 of the podcast but here are a few reasons why you might want to use a paid app. 

  • You need to combine reviews across products. For example, if you have the same product, in multiple different colors but you list them separately. 
  • You want and your customers are likely to submit photos with their product reviews
  • You want to reward points for product reviews

Paid tools are also going to give customers the option to leave their reviews in the body of the review request email. Now, there are paid tools that have a free tier that gives you access to this feature – but they often have limitations on the number of requests they’ll send out. If you’re running out of requests, but you’re not really getting the reviews to justify the cost of upgrading the app, I would put your energy toward optimizing your review request process, which you can learn more about in episode 16

Rewards Apps

Rewards programs are a great way to keep your customers engaged and loyal to your brand, but it does take some work to facilitate that engagement from your customers. But, you want to make sure that your rewards program is actually bringing a lift in your repeat business and your bottom line, otherwise you’re just giving money away. 

The first thing I would do is analyze the spending habits of your rewards members vs. your non-rewards members. Can you see any difference in their purchasing frequency, their lifetime value, etc? 

If the answer is yes, then you’re probably golden. If the answer is no, then I would make a concerted effort to really engage that group of customers. What special events can you hold for them, what special emails can you send them whether automated or in one-off campaigns? Ask yourself, am I showing up for my rewards members the way they deserve? Rarely does a rewards program just bring a whole bunch of repeat business without any effort on your part. 

Live Chat or Chat Bot

This is definitely one of those I would say there is really no reason not to have it, as long as it’s optimized. I don’t think live chat is quite as important, as long as you can set up answers to some frequently asked questions, etc. The goal is to make sure the customer can get any easy answers as quickly as possible which should ultimately help with conversion. You can get started for free with Shopify inbox which includes the ability to set up FAQs

Heatmaps & Session Recordings

I love a good heatmapping and session recording software. These can be especially useful when you’re working on optimizing your on-site conversion rate.  But often I find these are the types of tools that aren’t being utilized to their fullest potential and can often be costing us unnecessary funds. 

While the best answer would actually be to prioritize using the tool, that can prove to be pretty difficult if you don’t have the manpower to manage it. If that’s you, I recommend you set aside time throughout the year to deep dive into this. Ideally, when you see an uptick in traffic so you have more data to work with. When you’re not intentionally utilizing the software, you can remove it and stop paying for it. 

A/B Testing or Personalization

The same is true for A/B testing and personalization software. This was something we were terrible about utilizing at my previous day job. Honestly, I just had too much else on my plate, and if it came to sending an email or setting up a website A/B test… I was gonna send an email 

These are typically on the more expensive side, so if you’re not actively engaging in CRO, but you’re paying for these tools… I would either outsource it to someone else or scrap the tool altogether. 

Other Apps

You’ll also want to look at apps you might be using for things like adding a mega menu to your store, filters, or even custom fonts. Sometimes we add apps for things our themes can’t do at the time… but newer versions of our themes will have these features built-in which can ultimately save us money and page load time. 

Of course, getting rid of apps like this takes a bit more thought because it might require a theme update, which is a whole other project you might not want to take on at the moment – but it’s worth a look. 

Social Media Marketing Tools

While I’ve been on a tear about social media these last few months, the truth is for a lot of businesses, it’s a powerful way to get in front of your perfect customer. But running a really great content marketing strategy on social media is more than just posting pretty pictures. There’s planning and creating, posting, engaging, and getting people off of the platforms, there is a lot that goes into it. But not all tools are created equal so let’s run through some of the ones you might be using and whether or not it’s actually worth it. 

Content Schedulers

I’ve spent a lot of time testing and trying all the different content schedulers, and honestly – unless you need additional platforms like Linkedin and Pinterest or you recycle a lot of content and want a tool that doesn’t that automatically for you,  you can probably get away with meta’s own scheduling tool. They’ve definitely upgraded it and you can easily adjust your posts for Facebook & Instagram. 

Unless you’re super in love with the tool you’re using, you can probably save a couple of bucks. 

List Growth Tools

What I think is way more valuable than a scheduler is list growth tools, how do you get people off of Instagram and onto your email list. There are two in particular that I love, ManyChat for DM automation and PopSmash for giveaways.

Both of the founders have been on the podcast and my affiliate links get you a special deal. I’ll put links in the show notes for you to check those out. 

But again, if you’re worried about investing in these I say drop the scheduler and invest in these instead. 

Content Creation & Editing Apps 

Content creation and editing apps are another place that you can likely save. There are a ton of free options out there and even the paid ones – if you’re using them awesome. But now is a great time to double-check what you’re paying for that you might have forgotten about. 

I don’t know about you – but I have some apps with yearly fees that I completely forget about until the charge comes through, so make sure you take a peek at your app subscriptions. 

Biz Operations

The next category is biz operations. This is likely a place you’ll want to invest in, especially if it can streamline your operations and save you money. And after today’s episode, you might find that instead of eliminating apps, you might need to add some. 

Customer Service

As you start growing your business, one of the first things you might want to invest in is a more robust customer service platform. If you’re finding you’re spending a lot of time going back and forth through emails with customers and it’s hard to keep track of your inquiries and interactions, it might be time to invest in a true helpdesk. 

Gorgias is definitely the go-to in the eCommerce space, especially for Shopify stores. Their tool is deeply integrated with Shopify, so checking order details, processing refunds, etc. can all be done from right within their tool. If this is something you think you need, I would make them your first stop for research. I’ll stick my affiliate link in the show notes so you can check it out. 

And if you’re locked into a contract with another platform that you don’t love, reach out and let me know. I can introduce you to a rep there and I’ve had a few clients who were able to get their contracts bought out by them to make the switch. It’s a pretty sweet deal. 

Inventory Management

Inventory management is another area that you might end up adding a tool to your roster instead of removing it. When you’re just getting started, Shopify’s internal inventory management tools are usually fine. But if you have a really wide product assortment, have to manage raw materials, or just as you grow… you’ll likely want to invest in a more robust tool. 

This might also be the case if you sell on multiple platforms that can’t be integrated with your eCommerce platform. If you’re using Shopify, you might not run into this as they have a pretty extensive integration list. But if you are on a platform that doesn’t integrate with Shopify, you could invest in a 3rd party inventory management platform that sits between all of your other systems and becomes the master of your inventory. 

We did something similar at my previous day job. We used NetSuite for our ERP and POS system for our physical stores. NetSuite was the master of our inventory and the available quantity just synced back to Shopify. 

Another situation might be if you do printing in-house and sell from the same inventory of blanks across multiple products. In this case, you can get away with a tool like Bundles by Gazebo which will sync your inventory across your blanks and your individual products in the back end. In that case, you don’t need a full-on inventory management system. 

If on the other hand, you end up going in the opposite direction, where maybe you’re no longer managing raw materials because you’re outsourcing your manufacturing… then it might be a tool that you can dump. 

Shipping Tools

You can get away with using Shopify’s internal shipping functionality for a long time, but as you start to grow and expand your sales channels… it might make sense to move to a platform like Shipstation or Shipping Easy. 

These are most powerful when you want to be able to compare rates across carriers, if you sell on a sales channel that doesn’t integrate with Shopify & can’t pull your orders in, or if you just have a high volume of orders and need to streamline your fulfillment process. 

Project Management

Project management tools can be a great way to keep your team in sync and even keep yourself on task. But a lot of the platforms out there can actually complicate the task management process. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you – but don’t be afraid to dump your project management software if you’re not using it or if you’re a one-person show. 

Reporting Tools

With all the data available at your fingertips related to your eCommerce business it can be really tempting to invest in high-priced 3rd party reporting tools. While this might make sense for businesses with multi 6-figures in revenue, it’s likely not necessary before that. 

The only time I would say it’s worth it is if it’s the difference between you looking at the numbers and not looking at the numbers. 

SEO tools like Ubersuggest also fall into this category. 

Email Marketing & SMS

Last on the list for today are email and sms tools. This is definitely one of the places I don’t want you to skimp on. Email is a revenue generator, it doesn’t make sense to sacrifice functionality and reporting capability to save some money. 

I’m not going to go into all of the details of my favorite platforms today, I’ll stick some links in the show notes for you, but a few things I want you to keep in mind. 

If your email platform is not paying for itself, the platform is not the problem – it’s likely your strategy

Keep your SMS and email in the same platform if you can so that you can see your engagement and conversion metrics across the two channels in the same place. Most of the SMS platforms only share subscribers, not any sales data. 

If you’ve been using a 3rd party pop-up tool, I would take another look at the capabilities of your email tool. Most of them have really leveled up their internal forms and it’s not necessary to pay for a separate tool. Plus, your internal tool is generally better at recognizing existing people on your list than when you use a 3rd party tool like Just Uno for instance. 

Conclusion

Okay… so what is the moral of today’s episode? Software tools should save you time, make you money, or do both. While each individual tool might not cost all that much, those fees can certainly add up quickly if you’re not careful. Plus, all those excess software tools are just another form of digital clutter.

Take some time to look through all the tools you’re using and evaluate how they’re contributing to your business. 

If it’s something that doesn’t align with your business goals this year or you’re really not utilizing it right now, let it go. You can always get it again later if you’re ready to focus on that thing at a later date. 

If it’s something that isn’t quite paying for itself and then some, but should be – like a cross-sell app or email platform, focus your energy on optimizing how you’re using it and get it to perform better before you throw in the towel. 

And ultimately, just make sure these tools aren’t adding unnecessary complexity to your business. 

Alright friend… I know this is A LOT of information. Take some time to soak it in. Start thinking through your goals and focuses for the new year, set aside some time to check through the tools you’re using a paying for – delegate it to an assistant or VA if you’ve got one. And just make it a goal to review before the end of Q1. 

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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