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7 Essential Tools for Ecommerce Businesses

Venzee Team
November 7, 2017
- Update on 
September 18, 2018
BACK TO BLOG

7 Essential Tools for Ecommerce Businesses

November 7, 2017
- Update on 
September 18, 2018
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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.

Ecommerce Platforms

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.

CRM

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.

Analytics and Advanced Analytics

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.

Accounting and Bookkeeping

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. QuickbooksBench, 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.

Inventory Management / Product Information Management

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.

ERP

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 NetsuiteSage 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.

Social Monitoring

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 HootsuiteSproutSocial, 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.

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5. Better consumer engagement requires more data.

“Rising customer expectations for seamless brand experiences underscore how important it is for commerce solutions to work together more closely than ever to harmonize information across systems and touchpoints.” - Brendan Witcher, Forrester Research.

As consumers drive the market, companies must consider how to better collect, manage, and analyze the data from consumer engagements. In most supply chains, this data is relegated to silos by organization, and often further siloed within organizations by department or function. The lack of connectivity makes it impossible to analyze data effectively, let alone action any learnings from the data that would improve brand experiences across systems and touchpoints.

Connectivity empowers brands, manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers to share data across organizations seamlessly, enabling them to respond to learnings with urgency with unified strategies to improve brand experiences across the entire customer journey and impact business results in a measurable way.

6. Organizations can’t respond to change fast enough.

Rolling out changes in retail supply chains that are made up of numerous external relationships takes too long. With the volume of data increasing as well as the number of parties involved (both internal and external), the challenge becomes even more complex. A key limiting factor in retail’s response time is the speed with which organizations can distribute product data.

And when unforeseen external factors come into play, brands and retailers must deal with the fall out, often to the tune of millions. For example, In October 2018, the US Postal Service announced an increase in rates to send packages. Credit Suisse analyst, Stephen Ju, reported this hike could cost Amazon between $400M & $1.1B, which doesn’t include the cost of system-wide price and third-party site changes (CNBC). How will Amazon scale these changes?

Competing and succeeding in retail requires agility. Brands and retailers must be positioned to respond actively to consumer data and analytics.

Connectivity enables rapid delivery of information and feedback across supply networks, and intelligent content distribution supports the growing range of product information standards and facilitates compliance with numerous regulatory standards and content quality and completeness requirements set by retailers.

7. Data bottlenecks prevent growth.

Retail’s data needs are growing, and reliance on manual processes prevents retailers from growing to meet consumer demand. Here are a few obvious areas where scale comes into play:

  • More products and more SKUs
  • More data attributes per SKU
  • More frequent changes to retailer data requirements
  • Increased volume of information being exchanged
  • More frequent updates to product information
  • More data being passed with each update
  • Brands and suppliers are selling to more retail channels

In each of the above examples, retail requires streamlined processes to manage product data. Without connectivity, retail can’t grow. Venzee offers connectivity that positions brands, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and technology partners to manage growth in all of these areas.

Connectivity facilitates scale. Period. Replacing manual steps with connectivity removes any limits on the speed of data exchange between trading partners. Once speed is no longer an issue, enterprises can evolve to become more adept at managing data and responding to the market.

Venzee’s API-driven solution provides the connectivity that retailers, suppliers, and content management systems need.

Venzee is solving the retail industry’s product data challenges with our intelligent content distribution platform that facilitates API-connected supply networks.

Venzee's Mesh-based Product Network
Venzee provides the digital core needed for better-connected supply networks.

Venzee facilitates the seamless connectivity that modern retail requires. With an API-driven, intelligent content distribution platform, Venzee is the easiest way for content management systems to connect to thousands of retailer channels.

With Venzee’s API solution, organizations can benefit from the following:

  • Consistent data everywhere
    One-to-many — Starting with a single source of truth, Venzee transforms and distributes product data to all desired sales channels.
  • Ability to meet changing demands effortlessly
    Venzee monitors data requirements, so retailers always receive data from brands that’s complete, accurate, and error-free. Buyers are happier and products get to market faster.
  • Future-proof, adaptable and lean technology solution
    Venzee’s pure-play, API-driven solution lets data management providers add content distribution functionality that adapts to market needs with minimal resources.

Serving as the infrastructure for the seamless exchange of product information, Venzee securely connects the data management technology of retailers, brands, and distributors, and their enterprise software partners via a single API. Our intelligent distribution platform transforms and delivers product information for over 20M SKUs across hundreds of unique formats to destinations like Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, and Overstock.

Improving the way your business handles product information will set your business apart and help you scale.
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