What’s better than having a successful eCommerce business? Having a successful eCommerce business that runs like a well-oiled machine instead of you into the ground.
In today’s episode, I’m sharing some of my FAVORITE tools to help you set up and manage kick-ass processes in your eCommerce business. From customer service platforms, and social media schedulers, to sales tax management and almost everything in between. Tune in to hear what you need, the best options for your business, and scroll down for direct links to all my favorite platforms.
In this week’s episode, I’m sharing some of the most important tools you’ll need to run your eCommerce business like a well-oiled machine. I know that at the beginning of the new year, so many of us are anxious to get organized and get some new systems and processes in place, so I thought this was the perfect time to talk about these things.
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Basic tools for every eCommerce business
We’re going to talk about systems and processes for the back-end of your business, and then in next weeks’ episode, we’re going to cover the must-have apps for your Shopify store, which will be about expanding the functionality of your website, while also increasing the overall effectiveness and performance of your website.
Shipping label printer
Stop using your standard document printer and get yourself a thermal printer. These print much faster and don’t use ink. They’ll save you so much time and money in the long run. I also recommend accordion labels, instead of labels on a roll, because when you’re printing a lot of packages, they’ll come out back into a roll too and it’s super annoying. My favorite is the Rollo printer, though lots of people love their DYMO label printers too.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Even if you never look at them, you’ll want to get them installed and set up from the very beginning so you can start collecting data right away.
I cover all the Google Tools in episode 17 of the podcast, so check that out here.
A quick reminder when you install Google Analytics is that you have to check “use enhanced eCommerce” inside of Shopify AND you have to turn on eCommerce tracking for each view inside Google Analytics.
There are a ton of tutorials on the internet for this, including Google’s own documentation and Google Analytics Academy, so it’s easy enough to get it properly installed.
An eCommerce platform
If you’re brand new and haven’t even launched your online store yet, you’ll need an eCommerce platform. My favorite is Shopify, and while it’s certainly not a perfect system, it’s at the top of its class. Like the iPhone, it gets all the apps first and partner integrations. Plus, they have their POS system that makes it really easy to sell in person while keeping all of your inventory synced.
An email marketing platform
My #1 pick is for sure Klaviyo as it was built specifically for eCommerce. I know it can feel cost-prohibitive for some of you who are just starting out and you might be tempted to use Flodesk because it’s so easy and pretty, but
Check out episode 81, where I did an entire episode comparing the two platforms.
If you’re REALLY not ready to go the Klaviyo route for whatever reason, you can use Mailchimp, though I find the way they nickel and dime you for features by the time you get the full suite of tools you need, you might as well just pay for Klaviyo.
Another option is OmniSend. They are the closest in terms of features and functionality to Klaviyo for a little less money.
And if you’re really, really budget-conscious? First, I want to challenge you by saying you have to invest a little to make money in an eCommerce store. But I understand we’re all at different places in our business, so I would still recommend MailerLite, over Flodesk.
A review app
You’re also going to want a way for people to leave reviews for your products. Collecting social proof is so important and really helps new and returning customers make a buying decision.
I go a lot more in-depth on this, in episode 16 if you want a more in depth discussion.
Shopify Review app vs. other advanced review apps
The native Shopify review app is fine if you’re just getting started, but my biggest gripe with it is that it has no built-in way to request reviews from your customers, so you will have to set this request up in your own email platform. The customer will have to navigate back to your website, click the leave a review button, and then leave their review. This can be a bit of a pain in the ass for the customer. This doesn’t mean they won’t leave them, just that it’s a bit more friction on their end to accomplish.
On the other hand, a review app like Stamped, which is my current favorite, will send those email requests automatically and allow the customer to leave the review inside the email itself, never having to navigate back to the website. So it’s a lot easier for them to accomplish.
In addition to having that social proof to help you sell more products, it’s also a great way to get feedback from your customers. The reviews they leave will give you sooooo much insight into what your customers need from you and how they feel about your products so you can continually improve everything in your business.
Managing sales tax
Another tool you’ll want to have in your arsenal is something to help you manage sales tax in your eCommerce business if you’re in the US. There is still a lot of misinformation on the internet about this, and many people think you only need to collect sales tax in the states where you have a physical presence, known as nexus.
But after the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc case in 2018, it’s no longer based on physical nexus but on economic nexus. Essentially, every state gets to make its own rules and create thresholds for when you have to collect sales tax in a particular state. It’s based on how much revenue you make in that state, and some states require you to collect sales tax on the first dollar that you ship there.
Tune into episode 36 for more details on this, and get yourself a tool like TaxJar to manage this for you. If you’re on Shopify Plus you can also use Avalara.
If you’re outside of the US, I do not know how the tax thing works, so please consult with a professional.
Standard Operating Procedures
I know when you’re a one-person show you feel like maybe you don’t need this because you have the processes all in your head. But the sooner you write all your processes down, the easier it is to outsource when you’re ready, AND the easier it is to identify holes in your operation. Start creating these before you think you’ll need them. Create them inside Google Docs or another easily editable format. I promise you’ll thank me later.
You’re going to want to develop systems to track your weekly sales as well. Create good habits in your business from the start and you’ll be in a better position to make data-driven decisions in your business. Plus, having all that data at your fingertips makes it easier for new employees or consultants to help you when you’re ready.
If you haven’t already gotten your hands on my FREE Resource library, head here to get on the list and get instant access. I have a tool in there to get you started.
Email address at your own URL
Don’t rely on just your business name at gmail.com. The easiest tool for this is Gsuite, which is the business version of the Google tools. It’s super inexpensive and will instantly make you look more professional and trustworthy in the online space.
I’m a big lover of Google Docs and have used it for years, especially for their spreadsheets. Recently, I started using Dropbox more and while the tools are very similar, Dropbox is much better for storing assets, like product photos, marketing banners, etc.
I’m even using Dropbox Paper, their version of Docs, a lot more. Dropbox Paper has come a long way since it was first released. It also integrates with Google Docs so if you prefer that functionality.
You can create a Google Doc within Dropbox, but it doesn’t sync to your Google Drive, so you’ll still only be able to access it from Dropbox. The biggest reason I’m slowly making the switch is I find Dropbox to be much faster and the desktop access it much more smooth and native feeling than Google Drive.
When you’re getting started, Google Docs less expensive, but as your storage needs grow, they’re neck and neck in pricing.
Social media management tools
There are a lot of variables to consider here, and it’s going to depend a bit on your needs, but one of the most popular is certainly Later. I prefer Planoly as it lets you save drafts of images with captions, where Later stores media separately and you can only add a caption when you go to schedule that media.
This may have changed, I honestly haven’t been inside Later in a long time, but it has always been a gripe of mine. With Planoly you can also schedule stories and reels as well as post to Facebook.
One of the most overlooked platforms is Creator Studio from Facebook, which you can post to your page and Instagram from. They also came out with a new tool called Planner, which you can access from the front end of your business page on Facebook, although not everyone has access to it yet.
If you have a social person on your team who is creating and scheduling all the content but you want to have an easy approval process, then you’ll want a more robust tool like Sprout Social.
If your product requires a lot of education and has a lot of evergreen content, like maybe a supplement, CBD or even a food product that shares a lot of recipes, something like Meet Edgar or Smarter Queue. Any business that has a lot of non time-sensitive content that can easily be recycled could benefit from these platforms.
Honestly, there are a bajillion platforms out there and the best one is the one that you and your team are going to use. Think through the most important features for you and then find the platform that works.
More advanced tools for growing eCommerce businesses
Now that you’ve got all the basics in place, and your business is growing, it’s time to step up your game in things like inventory management, customer service, and even team building.
Beefing up those SOPs
I love the tool Loom to create quick screen share and voiceover videos for training purposes. This is great if you’re going to outsource things like uploading products to your eCommerce platform, or the use of any software platform in your business. This way you can just have this library of videos to share with your new employees or contractors, making the onboarding process super easy.
It’ll also lessen the number of questions you have to field from your people because you can just direct them back to the videos. This definitely one of those things I recommend you create before you think you need them.
Password organization tool
If you work with contractors, or working on platforms that don’t let you create multiple users (like Instagram) then you need a tool like LastPass.
This is a password organization and sharing tool that serves essentially two purposes:
- It lets you store and access all of your passwords in one place with just one master password
- It lets you share your password with others, allowing them to use your login without ever seeing your actual password.
I use this with my VA, who I want to have access to my social media scheduler but don’t want to pay for an additional user, or my stock photo website when she pulls images for my blog posts. Use this to share access to your Instagram account or another tool that charges you for additional users. Now, of course, if you’re sharing access to your main admin account for a platform, that user is going to have a lot of control, so only do that with someone you really trust.
When you’re just starting out, shipping directly from the Shopify platform is fine, but as your volume grows and your product assortment expands, you’re going to need a more robust tool to manage this. While you get discounts on shipping when purchasing through Shopify, you may even still get better discounts when purchasing shipping through a third-party platform.
If you are a subscription box, my favorite is PirateShip. They built the software for shipping multiple of the same package. You can still use it for individual shipping, but it’s not the best for that because other tools that were built for singular shipments are going to have more features to help you in your process.
If you’re a more traditional eCommerce store with lots of different SKUs, that’s where a tool like Shipstation can really support you, even in the picking and packing process. It gives you a few different ways to pull your pick reports so you don’t have to pick order by order, running back and forth to the same spot in your warehouse over and over. You can just pull all the same items at the same time. You will also get discounts on shipping or hook up your own shipping accounts.
Another popular platform is Shipping Easy. I don’t have personal experience with it, so I can’t speak to its features, so I encourage you to do some comparison and decide which is best for you.
A customer service platform
Especially when you’ve got inquiries coming in from so many channels like email, all your social channels, and even those customers who prefer to contact you through chat.
Gorgias is a super robust all-in-one customer service tool that lets you centralize the communication with your customers. You can also automate your chat to answer frequently asked questions like where is my order? You can even integrate it with Klaviyo so you can exclude angry customers from your weekly newsletter.
If you’re interested in trying Gorgias, reach out to me on Instagram and I can introduce you to my partner contact there. They’ll even buy out your existing contracts for you if you’re switching from another platform like Zendesk, which I do have some clients who have already made the switch. They find it much more user-friendly, that it serves their needs better, and it costs them less than some other platforms.
Ultimately, whichever platform you end up using, I want you to consider the number of customer service inquiries and the speed at which you can resolve them, a KPI just as important as any other in your business. Customer service takes a lot of time and resources, so if you can make that more efficient in your business, it’s going to pay off big time.
Customer shipping insurance
Another tool, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with customer service, is a tool called Route Shipping Insurance. What’s super cool about this is it allows your customers to purchase shipping insurance at checkout for pennies on the dollar. Then, if a shipment goes missing, the customer goes directly to Route to handle the next steps, which saves you and your team a ton of time and aggravation, and your customer gets reimbursed for their missing shipment.
Shopify has some decent tools when you’re first getting started, especially since they introduced a cost field for your items a couple of years ago. This gives you insight into your cost of goods sold and subsequently your gross profit margin, which is so important for a product-based business. Outside of that, it’s pretty limited. Now there are definitely some apps you can use for this, but they are not all created equal.
If you’re a maker managing raw materials, then my go-to is Katana. Let me know if you need an intro there. I am also a Katana partner, so I can get you set up with a demo to ensure it’s the right platform for you. If you’re just selling finished products, then there are a lot of options out there for you.
A tool like Stitch Labs will give you more reporting in terms of your sell-through and category management, plus gives you an easy way to create purchase orders and send them off to your suppliers.
Shopify also has its own tool called Stocky. This gives you recommendations on what you need to order based on how quickly you’re moving inventory. It grades your products based on their popularity and allows you to send purchase orders to your vendors.
According to its reviews, it doesn’t have the best support, so depending on your needs, look into other options. Before you start your research, I recommend you take some time to list out the features you need based on your business today and where you think you’re going to go.
This is how I approach researching any SaaS product honestly, starting with that requirements list. Get your team involved in this one as well, because there may be things they’re struggling with that you don’t even realize!
The eCommerce Badassery free resource center
If you’re on my email list, you already have access to that, don’t forget to take advantage of those tools! If you’re new to me, you can head to eCommercebadassery.com/freesttuff to sign up and get instant access to those tools. Inside you’ll find things like a weekly reporting template, templates to help you reflect on your marketing campaigns, and a lot more.
Now of course I didn’t cover every aspect of your eCommerce business, we’d be here all day… but if there is a specific type of tool you need a recommendation for, you can always ask inside the eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group and I’m happy to help any way I can.
Listen to the Episode
All the Google Tools for eCommerce
Flodesk for eCommerce Should You Use it?
Customer Reviews: Everything you need to know about collecting & leveraging social proof
Are You Properly Charging Sales Tax in Your eCommerce Business?