The technologies available to modern ecommerce vendors can be a bit overwhelming. On top of your ecomm platform and your payments system, there’s a nearly inexhaustible range of tools that can help you sell more and sell better. Picking the right ecomm tools isn’t always a matter of picking the best or biggest, but finding the ones that are best suited to you, or the ones that integrate with what you already have. Your tech needs are going to grow and change along with your business, so it’s a good idea to get on top of your tech stack now and monitor how it’s working for you regularly.
Ultimately, choosing the right tools for your ecomm tech stack can mean the difference between just surviving and really thriving. With that in mind, here’s part one of our quick guide for ecommerce vendors looking to build a great tech stack with the right ecomm tools for their business.
The ecommerce platforms you choose to sell through are some of the biggest decisions you can make. These choices are going to directly impact your livelihood, so choose wisely. This isn’t the place to take wild risks – go with the names everyone knows. That’s also where the customers are.
Walmart, eBay, Amazon, and Etsy are the no-brainer options for platforms to check out first, along with Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. You can also check out this mega list of top 32 marketplaces for ideas of where you can sell.To select the best platforms for your business, start by making a list of your must-have features, and review them against that list. In addition to great features for your shoppers, look for platforms with easy to use admin backends and good tech support. Those will come in handy when you start to move serious product.
Once you have picked where you’re going to sell, its time to figure out how you’re going to manage your sales funnel and buyer process. You’re going to have to put in some time to find the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that suits you best, but it will be time well spent. A good CRM will help you keep track of your leads, opportunities, and customers, help you automate and understand your sales process, and link your marketing, sales, and support channels. HubSpot Sales and Insightly both offer free versions, but you get what you pay for. If you need more features check out SugarCRM or Zoho, or pay for Hubspot. But if you need the best, there’s a reason everyone always talks about Salesforce. It’s a beast with dozens of available integrations, but if you get big enough to need Salesforce, you’ll know.
Google Analytics is the industry standard, and definitely helps you understand your site and landing page traffic at a basic level. It’s the benchmark for solid, site-based metrics – and it’s free, easy-ish to learn, and fairly reliable. But if you really want to dig into your site performance you can go a lot deeper than GA. Tools like CrazyEgg and Hotjar will give you heat maps that show you how your customers are engaging with your site and let you visualize how customers get from a landing page to checkout. Event-based analytics tools like KissMetrics and Heap can provide you with richer conversion data that makes your sales funnel more accurate, and make it easier for you to patch any leaks.
If you’ve got products listed on a couple of platforms, customers making orders and money coming in, it’s time to sort out your bookkeeping and accounting. The good news is you likely don’t need an accountant until tax time. There are some great SaaS accounting tools that can easily handle the day to day of tracking profit and expenses, logging your sales tax collected versus what you’ve paid out, and stacking up your profits. Quickbooks, Bench, and Freshbooks can all handle the full range of ecommerce accounting, but as you grow you’ll need to ensure your accounting tool aligns with HR and inventory platforms, among others.
If you’re still using spreadsheets to manage your inventory and product data, even if you’re just starting out, you’re doing it wrong. Sorry to break it to you. The simple truth is that spreadsheets are no way to organize your products, distribute and update your catalog information, or handle rich media like product images. A good Product Information Management software will save you a warehouse-load of data-entry time and dramatically reduce the chance of human error issues that you naturally get with multiple spreadsheet processes. Going with a PIM tool also gives you clean and consistent product data that makes it easier for your customers to find and buy your products.
But traditional PIM tools have their limitations. That’s why we built Venzee to take PIM to the next level. Our platform actually transforms your data so you can work seamlessly with all your retailers (and shopping carts) and their unique data requirements. As you grow your business you’ll be adding SKUs and updating product information constantly, and wanting to work with more retailers all the time. You have to find ways to export and manipulate your data to match your retailers’ needs, and standard PIM attribute mapping doesn’t give you that level of flexibility. Venzee allows you to connect to the major retailers you sell through and see what it’s like to truly transform your data.
Venzee also opens up the option to scale your business to fit new retail channels, making an independent retailer strategy an achievable and realistic target for every vendor. By letting small and independent retailers pull your product data directly from the Venzee platform, we’ve eliminated the hassle of having to send out individual spreadsheets, and given you new marketplaces to sell through. You don’t get any of that with a standard PIM tool.
Enterprise Resource Planning used to be reserved for the big guys, but thanks to smaller cloud-based ERP tools, ecomm vendors of any size can get an integrated business suite that’s the right size for them. As a vendor you can use an ERP like Netsuite, Sage or Shopify Plus to provide visibility around your distribution, supply chain, shipping, orders, customer service and even your HR. By automating backend functions through a good ERP, you can save time and ensure all your tools are aligned.
Knowing what your target audiences are saying and sharing online can have a big impact on your bottom line, if you know how to monitor social media. The same way spreadsheets are a major waste of time in the PIM world, monitoring social channels individually is a nightmare. Instead, check out tools like Hootsuite, SproutSocial, and Buffer that consolidate your social posting and monitoring into one tool. Both have free plans to get you started, but the features in the paid versions are worth it for most growing ecommerce vendors. Keeping an eye on the social conversations your customers are having is a great way to inform big decisions about what products to carry, where and how to promote your products, and what trends are rising and falling.
We love to hear how ecommerce vendors are building their tech stacks. Let us know what tools you’re using, how you picked them, and how you integrate them into your business in the comments.We’ll publish part two of our guide to building your ecommerce tech stack next month. Part 2 will dig into advertising tech, retargeting, inbound marketing, A/B testing, SEO optimization, loyalty tools, and more.
AH: Ok, I get it, but isn't "content syndication" something that standards-based data pools solved decades ago?
JA: Good question but sort of like suggesting the covered wagon solved for the challenges of distributing physical goods. Times change and needs change. But, let me give credit where credit is due. In 1974 a number of innovative organizations came together to prove that with a machine-readable barcode and access to an organized data structure, the process of grocery check-out could be made more efficient. And, in June 1974, at Marsh’s Grocery in Troy, Ohio a pack of Wrigley gum was accurately scanned at check-out. Amazing stuff. Innovative. Transformational.
But we're in a different world today. That pack of Wrigley gum sits in the Smithsonian and Marsh's went bankrupt in 2017. Yet the organization - and the data structures supporting that transaction some 50 years ago - still persist today in the form of a standards-based database that needs to "synchronize" globally on a nightly basis. Brands, manufacturers, and retailers reliant on that sort of outmoded technology (and there are tens of thousands) are now challenged - and candidly, failing - to provide the type of rich, engaging, actionable data today's consumer demands.
Venzee was built in an era of cloud databases that persist globally with no need to "synchronize." We are API - which is code for “easy to connect with” - on inbound and outbound transactions. And, we leverage deep learning and other advanced tech to recognize, communicate, and resolve anomalies across the whole of the content distribution system.
AH: Impressive. But what does that mean for growth at Venzee?
JA: There are significant implications. Our goal for 2019 is to continue to grow our partner relationships and improve their clients content distribution. We are in the process of integration with our announced partners and expect those to go live.
And, while I don't have a crystal ball, I can tell you that our partner discussions and current engagements all tell us the content distribution pain Venzee eliminates is a critical challenge their clients need resolved to remain competitive.
If that is true - and I believe it is - then Venzee, as a modern, pure-play content distribution solution, is well positioned to facilitate the digital connection between brands, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers on a global scale. I don't exactly know how to assign a value to that statement, but if the choice for a brand or retailer today is between tech in the Smithsonian or Venzee, Venzee wins every time.
AH: Many thanks for your time John,
Please don't hesitate to reach out to me with any further questions or comments.
Arlen Hansen, President, Kin Communications Inc.