by Tracy Vides
The web is awash with web-based tools and apps that can potentially solve some of the most pressing problems small business owners face worldwide. Some of these tools are so powerful and efficient that you might not even find the need to hire people anymore.
Yes, some of these tools are that powerful. E-commerce was already at US $1 trillion at the end of 2012, according to Emarketer. And that gave rise to even more robust tools to meet the demand.
Here are some awesome web-based tools you might or might not have heard about:
A little pop quiz: What’s the most important thing to do when you decide to launch an e-commerce store? Is it the building of the e-commerce store itself? Is it to get the backend processes up and running? Forecasting sales? Planning customer service?
The answer: everything except the building of the store itself. Sales and customers take priority, of course. Yet, many e-commerce storeowners and wannabe e-commerce entrepreneurs are guilty of spending more time on store building. It’s time to change that with ShopIntegrator.
With ShopIntegrator, you can basically bring in your existing website and turn it into an e-commerce-enabled powerhouse. Of course, there’s a content management system built right inside to allow you to use content to make the marketing wheels go spinning.
The tool is enticing enough that it allows you to build a complete retail store just by dragging and dropping. You can add everything in there that matters, such as creating and managing coupons, setup secure, PCI-compliant pay processing workflows, and customizing the checkout processes. The tool allows you to build a store, manage your store, add mobile e-commerce to the mix, and more. See a demo and see what it can do.
That’s not even the beginning of “good stuff.” ShopIntegrator is free to use if you never plan to sell more than 50 items. In case you go bigger than that, pick pricing plans from $9.50 per month to $66.49 per month.
A retail store isn’t a “set it up and take off to Hawaii, drink Pina Colada” thing. It’s a “setup and tweaks forever and ever” thing (that’s the reality, no matter what anyone told you). But to your advantage, you can manage your e-commerce store completely virtually (sipping a drink on the beach won’t change a thing about managing it). You can collaborate with your web/mobile developers, designers, copywriters, vendors, partners, and drop shippers using just this one tool. For the seemingly endless series of projects, tasks, and teamwork on deadlines, Asana is awesome to work with.
Asana is completely free to use for up to 15 users and it has everything in it for you to manage a team (virtual or not). You can create projects, tasks, and sections to organize your activities better, and assign deadlines that’ll eventually show up on the “team calendar.” It also has integration with Harvest (a time-tracking app), Google Apps, and more.
While there’s no “in-review” phase for tasks (which is a slight inconvenience), there’s definitely a lot going for Asana including color codes for projects. You can use it for a lot more than project collaboration.
We’ve come a long way from doing things manually, for most things at least. E-commerce businesses can rejoice with sophisticated inventory, warehousing, and management solutions such as FishBowl. This is a QuickBooks product with a focus on Inventory Management. Here’s a rundown of the services available:
- Group together bill(s) of materials, work orders, and more.
- Track thousands of parts without letting anything slip through the cracks.
- Build streamlined processes to pick, pack, and ship products. Meanwhile, avoid overstocking as well as going out of stock.
- Benefit from multiple integrations with other e-commerce solutions.
- Track assets using barcodes, place automatically reorders, and stay informed with data updated in real-time.
You’d doubtlessly be on social media engaging, building rapport, starting and taking part in conversations, sharing your own blog posts, and going all out to spread the word. Until now, there wasn’t really a surefire way to get a Call to Action out for all these updates you might end up doing in a single day.
Now, there is Snip.ly.
- Create a “snip” – a way to shorten your links but with a twist: any page you point to will now have a customizable call-to-action.
- If your fans take action and do what you want them to do, you can track that as a conversion.
- Make use of your statistics on the “dashboard” to make better decisions on how to really make social media work for your e-commerce business.
You are selling products. In fact, you are selling solutions to people’s problems. But there’s another issue: what if 20 other online shops sprout up almost instantaneously (which is possible, and you know that)? There’s always a way to differentiate yourself from the pack and that’s called “customer support.”
With solutions like ZenDesk, you don’t have to break the bank, find a hundred people in a third-world country capable of managing your customers, or build a renaissance customer support program for your team. You just have to use the robust toolset ZenDesk that provides to create a Knowledge Desk, arm your team with sophisticated (but simple to use) tools, and put your customer support processes on a sprint.
Today, we have a good problem to have: there are way too many apps and tools available (and most of them are really good) for anything remotely related to running an online business. So, instead of spending on building anything from scratch, use any of these tools to give yourself a quick start, followed by a solid run.
While running your e-commerce business, what does your workflow look like? What tools do you use to run your business? What are your favorite apps and web-based tools?
Please give me a shout in the comments. I’m excited to know what works for you!
Tracy Vides is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene compared to her illustrious She Owns It counterparts, Tracy has started off well by building a good online reputation for herself. She’s now a “serial blogger” with posts featured on Sprout Content, Steamfeed, Soshable and elsewhere.
Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat any time!