With total revenue expected to show annual growth of 8.3%, there are a lot of good reasons to start an e-commerce store. That statistic puts the total U.S. e-commerce industry at about 652.417 million by 2022.
But with a growing industry comes growing competition, and e-commerce stores must deliver an excellent experience both on-site and off to stand out and find success. There are a myriad of tools out there that claim to drive results for e-commerce businesses, but if you’re just getting started, here are 5 tools that your business can’t do without.
Shopify is the e-commerce platform that grows with small businesses
Shopify has emerged as the clear winner in the website builder platform space. They boast powering 600,000 businesses and processing over $55 billion in sales.
Shopify plans are tiered (ranging from $29 to $299 per month) to support businesses of all sizes. The basic plan offers a low barrier to entry for new businesses, but does not include some functionality like gift cards and abandoned cart recovery. As your business grows, it is easy to switch between plans, there is even Shopify Plus, the platform’s enterprise option.
In today’s retail environment where in-person selling opportunities are as important as online sales, Shopify also offers their own POS add-on platform. This feature can be added to any plan ($49 per month) and offers shop owners the ability to seamlessly integrate inventory, customers and orders across selling channels.
But in-person and online aren’t the only channels that Shopify supports. They offer integrations with all of the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (and others). As with everything in Shopify, usability is key, and adding a social selling channel is no different. Simply add the channel in your Shopify account and connect your profile. As social commerce grows, your business will be well positioned to capture your followers’ attentions and turn them into customers.
Shopify also integrates with other business tools like quickbooks, inventory management systems and the next four apps on this list.
Mailchimp Helps Businesses Execute a Powerful Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing is a crucial part of any e-commerce site. That’s because for every $1 spent on email marketing, marketers see a $44 return.
But a powerful email marketing strategy is about more than just sending promotional campaigns. It’s about using segmentation to send the right message at the right time, and sending automated campaigns like welcome emails and abandoned cart recovery. (320% more revenue is attributed to welcome emails than other promotional emails.)
Mailchimp offers small businesses all of these necessary features, and it’s even free for up to 2,000 names. After that, pricing scales based on the number of names on your contact list.
Mailchimp is strong on design. The drag & drop email builder is user friendly, making it easy to create on-brand email campaigns and landing pages without having a designer on staff. The landing page feature is particularly useful in running campaigns directed at growing your email list.
What really sets Mailchimp apart from competitors like Constant Contact are the automation and segmentation capabilities. Mailchimp integrates with Shopify, so you can set up order confirmation and follow up emails at designated intervals. These automation processes can be a single email or a series of emails sent out over time. And with segmentation, you can send specific emails to a chosen group of your contacts based on predictive demographics, their e-commerce activity or how they have interacted with past email campaigns.
Nurture a Loyal Customer Base with Smile.io
Acquiring new customers is important, but what’s more important is making sure to retain them once they’ve placed an order. It can cost five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Smile.io is built to help you build that loyal customer base. This app lets you quickly and easily set up a customized a loyalty program for your customers. Pricing for the full app starts at $50 is based on number of customers, but there is a free version with limited customization available for users with up to 500 customers. This makes it a great tool when you’re starting small.
Smile.io was formerly called Sweet Tooth, which has been around since 2010. There are a lot of loyalty apps available, but Smile.io is the new and improved version of an already market leading program. It now offers three types of programs: points, referral, or VIP, which can run in combination or separately.
Easily Create a Facebook Product Feed with Facebook Product Feed
Selling on Instagram used to require the use of a third party tool like like2haveit , but with the expansion of Instagram’s native shopping feature and integration with Shopify, selling your products directly on Instagram now only requires a Facebook Product Catalog. However, setting this up (and keeping it up to date) is not an easy feat. (Instructions on that here)
The Product Feed App creates and updates a feed of all of your products that are listed on Shopify. Once the link is generated, you just add it to the Product Catalog in Facebook’s Business Manager.
The next time you login to Instagram, go to your account options and under shopping select the product feed you created. Now you can tag your products in your Instagram posts just like people. This product feed also allows you to create Dynamic Product Ads in Facebook, which is a great option for retargeting your website visitors.
Import, manage and ship your ecommerce orders with Shipstation
Once you have your store setup and orders are coming in, you have to get your products to the customer. Customers have a lot of options, so making this process seamless is a critical step in encouraging loyalty and word of mouth referrals. Shipstation is a tool that allows you to easily import orders from all selling channels, manage the process for fulfilling those orders, printing shipping labels and getting them out of the door.
Shipstation plans start at $9 per month, and scale based on your number of monthly orders and number of users.
With Shipstation, you import orders from every different sales channel and fulfill them all with a single process. The platform allows you to create batch automation rules, compare prices from different vendors and quickly print shipping labels. Once the orders are fulfilled, Shipstation will update the selling channel and send an automated shipping confirmation to your customer.
It’s easy to get lost in the seemingly endless options of apps, software and tools promising to help grow your e-commerce business. There are a number of good tools out there, but they all require commitment from you to learn how they work and to make the most of them. Starting a new business makes your time your most precious resource, so always start with the tools that will give you the greatest return. These tools are the best for getting started. What are you using to improve your e-commerce site? Tell us in the comments below and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to access more great content.