The following blog was written by guest author Alex Borzo, a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors, and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months.
Ecommerce is the fastest-growing area of the modern retail landscape. In Q1 of 2020, e-commerce sales grew as much as they had over the 10 years prior (McKinsey and Company 2020).
This growth has come with a lot of businesses selling more online than ever—or even for the first time. The race to e-commerce has included B2B and B2C, product and service-based sellers, direct-to-consumer and wholesale, and just about every niche. However, the starting pistol for the race sounded before most businesses were even laced up. Looking at the competitive market today, to make an impact, sellers have to use the specific tools that can give them a leg up.
E-commerce has become synonymous with branding, SEO, and product data enrichment. Fortunately, SaaS and app developers have been quick to respond with the tools that streamline these and other aspects of e-commerce selling. This has lowered the bar to e-commerce entry for thousands of brands that would not have the resources to build these solutions on a proprietary basis.
There is such a thing, however, as software overload. When software solutions start to overlap in their roles, your processes get confused and bloated—and software spending gets out of control. With almost 22 billion visits to e-commerce websites in June 2020 (compared with 16 billion in June of 2019), the time is now to identify the right e-commerce tools and ensure they fit together in an ecosystem that supports your goals.
Keep reading for a high-level look at the ecosystem of tools that every ecommerce seller needs!
#1: Website Tools
Ecommerce platforms along with payment processing tools make the dynamic duo that a seller needs to graduate to a multichannel presence. The first tool is the platform itself, and it’s also loaded with a slew of other tools to manage online sales efficiently. Shopify and WooCommerce are two of the most popular platforms, and each comes with a suite of included services.
Part two, of course, is the payment processor. By making your products or services purchasable, your e-commerce presence is then live to launch. Third-party payment providers make payment processing more secure and easier to manage when they can be integrated into your e-commerce platform. Stripe and PayPal are two of the most popular options with a long list of ready integrations.
#2: Marketing Tools
Your e-commerce presence won’t sell unless you market it. While that means a different combination of marketing strategies for every business, one constant in today’s market is social media. This has become truer as Generation Z has aged into the limelight in terms of consumer spending, representing two to three times the spending on social channels than the industry-average consumer. Instagram and Snapchat are the primary platforms where these young buyers shop. Businesses interested in Millennials and Generation X need social, too, just on a different network—29.4% of Millennials and 34.2% of Generation X reports shopping regularly on Facebook, according to a survey by BigCommerce.
So, to gain this social presence, what tools are needed? A slick system of strategies from social media automation to affiliate and relationship marketing plus loyalty management and a long list of others make your head spin, but they all play a part. The marketing tools every business needs today focus on campaign performance tracking and time-minimizers to automate the stuff like content creation and scheduling so you can realistically do it all.
Schedulers like Buffer and Hootsuite marry content management with analytics, which not only saves you time but helps you craft a more meaningful social presence. Promoting products alone isn’t enough. To secure a real footprint in today’s e-commerce world, you need to dig deep into which consumers are drawn to what products so you can build a personalized buyer experience. Social media marketing is especially good for this since you can tap into each platform’s data on user preferences and behavior. Market testing is another thing you can do on social media, giving you yet another way to get to know the consumers you aim to reach.
Other social media marketing tools include email platforms like MailChimp, loyalty and rewards membership tools, and lead capture-and-nurture tools.
#3: Business Tools
Most brands will be working with multiple product types they sell online, and those products will also be spread across multiple channels. The data behind each subset of product offerings therefore relies on a keen eye for detail to manage the many formats and optimizations they require. In large volumes, this product information optimization becomes unmanageable.
Consequently, a product information management (PIM) software has become the heart of an e-commerce seller’s ecosystem of tools. The centralized management of product data in PIM software creates simple workflows to optimize product content, and acts as the air control to direct the right subsets of data to the right e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. A PIM also facilitates the analytics that help sellers pave the path to stronger conversion rates and more targeted campaigns.
Other important business tools include ERP systems (for business processes and inventory), PLM software (for product development), and CRMs for customer records, sales and more.
#4: Analytics and Research Tools
E-commerce sellers need to know how their businesses are doing. They also need to know how the other guy is doing. To this end, analytics and research tools are another set of tools every e-commerce business needs.
Analytics organizes the feedback of what has happened with your sales so you can spot leaks in your funnels and get to know your consumers better. Research tools, in contrast, dig into what your competition is doing so you can identify new opportunities in your niche. These two things go hand-in-hand since they both come down to a reflection on how you sell. Growing a successful e-commerce presence requires a competitive advantage, and it’s this reflection and opportunity that will get you there.
For sales performance analytics, solutions like SEMRush provide insights into page-by-page breakdowns, top keywords, and competitors’ ranking by comparison. The solution tracks more than 106 million keywords, so no niche is left out. You can also use this tool to audit your site or a competitor’s, and the SEMRush report will include strengths and weaknesses for you to assess.
Ahrefs is another popular analytics site that also has competitor research modules. Because of the related nature of these two types of analysis, e-commerce tools that include both are usually the best option.
Support a Healthy Ecosystem
When you first launch your brand into the world of e-commerce, excitement runs high. Excitement alone doesn’t pay bills, however, and building the right ecosystem of tools for your e-commerce business requires a hard look at the kinds of solutions you need and how they fit together. Planning means looking at the performance and scalability of each so you can invest where it really counts.