It’s essential to have an arsenal of eCommerce tools to expand your business and invest in its growth. However, deciding on the exact best eCommerce tools depends on the maturity of your business. For our recommendations, we’ll start with tools that assist in launching a store (for beginners ?) and expand to eCommerce tools for scaling (more advanced ?️).
The categories of best eCommerce tools we’re going to cover:
Best eCommerce tools for website building and managing orders
Launching an online store is much easier today than it was a few decades ago. Finding an idea for a product or eCommerce business turns into a reality with the help of eCommerce platforms like Shopify. As one of the most popular eCommerce site builders, Shopify starts at $29 for a full website, hosting, inventory management, and themes.
The Shopify community is filled with advice for running your store, and the app store ensures that you’re able to expand your services on a regular basis, all without knowing how to code.
An alternative to Shopify is called BigCommerce. We like BigCommerce for sites interested in growing as rapidly as possible, as it provides an enterprise system and great pricing and features for scaling as you grow. With stunning themes, expert assistance, and an app store, BigCommerce is one of our favorite eCommerce tools.
The pricing for BigCommerce is similar to that of Shopify and starts at $29.95 / month.
3. WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin
BigCommerce and Shopify are both sold as SaaS (software as a service) products. This means you surrender some control over your design and flexibility for a full package of hosting and eCommerce features. WordPress, on the other hand, is a self-hosted (complete control and flexibility,) open-source website builder, and the WooCommerce plugin does the trick for turning it into an online store. Running your store on WordPress and WooCommerce is also much cheaper.
Is WordPress right for your online store? As a short response, stores that use WordPress and WooCommerce usually have a development contact or plan on hiring a developer. Yes, you have far more control over the design of your website, but WordPress has a slight learning curve. Not to mention, a self-hosted website requires consistent management. On the other hand, a SaaS offering, like Shopify, delivers a complete online store for those who don’t know much about coding. As a trade-off, you’re limited to the features provided.
If you’re interested in learning more on how to launch an online store with WordPress, read this in-depth guide.
Magento is one of the most popular solutions for constructing online stores because of its unlimited building power and the fact that it has a free, open-source version.
Magento works best if you have a developer on your staff. Customizations are endless, but there is a steep learning curve. Having said that, Magento delivers a system meant for global expansion and rapid scaling. Similar to WordPress, you host your own website with Magento. Because of this, it opens up options for advanced capabilities such as omni-channel selling, headless commerce, and B2B selling.
Read this comparison of Magento vs its main competitors.
5. A good web server
A secure, fast server is essential for running a successful store. Otherwise, your customers won’t trust the site, and you’ll struggle with optimization, speed, and SEO. A high-quality server is typically provided through a service like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Squarespace.
As for a self-hosted website, this is where you must either run your own server or locate a host that provides sustainable, high-performance servers for you. We often recommend managed hosting so that the hosting company handles most of the work for you. That, however, is a solution only if you’re running your store on WordPress.
Check out our recommendations for the best eCommerce hosting services in the market.
Images are often the primary reason for slow sites. Unfortunately, eCommerce sites have hundreds or thousands of high-resolution product photos. In order to speed up your site and boost your SEO, automatically optimize all site photos with a tool like Optimole.
Want to learn more on the importance of image optimization? Read our in-depth guide here.
Store owners often don’t have designers on staff to create the many photos and documents required for marketing. Canva is a free (with an option to upgrade) design tool that replaces more expensive and complicated software like Photoshop. Design everything from social media posts to logos with Canva.
8. Envato Elements
Going along with the need for affordable design elements, most online stores require stock photos, videos, graphic templates, and even music. These assets are usually insanely expensive. Envato Elements cuts the cost to as low as $16.50 per month.
Best eCommerce tools for product sourcing and fulfillment
Deciding on third-party product fulfillment means you pay another company to store, package, and ship your products. Many fulfillment companies exist, but one of the best in the business is ShipBob.
To learn more on the eCommerce fulfillment options available, read this.
Wondering what type of merch to make and how to ship it? Printful provides an online merchandise designer, printing service, and shipping options. This means that all of your products are original, and you get to set pricing for things like hats, t-shirts, and posters.
A newer form of fulfillment is called dropshipping. In short, dropshipping is where you partner with a supplier and link their products to your website. You never see the products. Instead, a customer buys something from your site, then a dropshipper like Spocket packages and ships the item. Many dropshippers send from China, but you want a solution like Spocket for fast delivery times and quality products.
To learn more on dropshipping and how to start a dropshipping store, read this guide.
If you plan on inventing or designing a brand new product, or you’d like to self-fulfill items and buy them for cheap from China, Alibaba is the place to do it all.
Alibaba connects you with thousands of suppliers and manufacturers, mostly in Asia. The wholesale pricing is the best in the world and you can make or buy anything you want.
Best eCommerce tools for sales and marketing
A wide variety of email marketing tools are available for you to link to your online store. Sendinblue is a reliable sender with a free plan to get started. It also comes with eCommerce linking features, social media integrations, SMS marketing, and chat boxes.
It’s ideal to find a marketing plugin, app, or software that handles most of your marketing requirements. Optimizely is a great option for A/B testing, landing pages, and conversion optimization.
Eventually, social media marketing comes into play for your eCommerce business. The easiest way to manage the chaos of social media is to link to a social planner and scheduler, like Buffer.
Starting at $15 per month, Buffer lets you link to options like Facebook and Twitter, scheduling your posts far in advance and providing suggestions for content.
Although not always thought about as a form of marketing or sales, eCommerce companies need search engines to convert customers. Therefore, proven SEO software is necessary. SEMrush is pricey, but the search analytics, keyword research, and ad optimization features cover the cost in no time.
Alternatively, you can also check out Ahrefs. Learn what the differences are between SEMrush and Ahrefs.
17. Smile Rewards
You have quite a few marketing possibilities, but none are more exciting for customers than rewards programs. Smile Rewards build brands loyalty and engagement by gifting customers who complete tasks and buy products.
Best eCommerce tools for shipping and inventory
Storing, packaging, and shipping your own products is called self-fulfillment. It has its pros and cons, and it’s still one of the most common ways to get products to customers. It does seem that third-party fulfillment is becoming more prevalent than packing and shipping yourself, but options like Shippo are great for keeping postage costs low, sending out tracking emails, and knowing that all of your packages have the right labeling.
Shippo integrates, and has apps, for some of the top eCommerce platforms, and you can look at the many other shipping and postage apps for your website builder as well.
Sometimes you don’t have to ship physical products. If you’re interested in, or already selling digital products, a solution like SendOwl is right for you. I also like to recommend Easy Digital Downloads if you’re using WordPress. Both of them configure an online store and shopping cart for items like eBooks, music, and photos. When someone purchases from your store, the item is “shipped” to them in the form of an email with a download link.
20. Zoho Inventory Management
Choose your inventory management software based on your sales volume and your needs. Serious eCommerce site builders already provide inventory management tools suitable for small and medium-sized businesses. As you grow, an app or software may help out. For instance, Zoho has inventory management for areas like warehouse management, multichannel selling, and order fulfillment. It’s one of the more affordable inventory software options as well.
Best eCommerce tools for customer support and communications
21. Tidio Live Chat
It’s tough to argue that any other customer support medium is faster and easier for customers than live chat. It’s important to have offerings like a phone number, knowledge base, and email. However, the Tidio Live Chat box gives your company a leg up by using canned responses, bots, and links to the products in your store. Some of the features we like the most from Tidio include a visitor list, previously viewed pages, and a chat transfer feature to send a customer directly to the person who knows the most about their issue.
Customer support for an eCommerce store comes in varying messages. One person may send you a message on LinkedIn, while another sticks to Facebook. You’re bound to receive emails, tickets, live chats, and phone calls. Whatever support option is listed on your site will see some use. A configuration like that is helpful for customers, but wildly tedious for the support reps.
Gorgias pulls all customer support messages into one dashboard. View the full customer picture from one area. You can reply to a Facebook message, respond to a text, and send out an email, all from the same module.
23. AfterShip Returns Center
Every online store needs a return policy. When starting out, the policy may simply state that you don’t offer returns. Or maybe you’re strict in the sense that returns are only accepted after a few days. As your business nears maturity, returns become crucial for keeping your customers happy. The AfterShip Returns Center tool is a full-service return management system for self-service returns, notifications, and return management. You can also make a dedicated Returns web page.
Help desks and knowledge bases are usually considered the same thing. They’re pages that reveal contact information and documentation to guide users through features and services, while answering common questions along the way. HelpDocs installs an instant support page on your website, with reliable search tools, article formatting, and importing tools. It’s a necessary solution for eliminating time-consuming customer support chats, calls, and emails.
Best eCommerce tools for analytics, reports, and finances
Popular eCommerce platforms include statistics and reports of some kind, but eventually it pays to advance your analytics approach with a tool like Kissmetrics. The Kissmetrics app isn’t cheap, but it’s designed to pay for itself and much more, offering funnel and activity reports, A/B testing, cohort reports, and impressive features for checking cart abandonment rates and forecasting revenues.
An alternative to a premium stats and reports tool is Google Analytics. With this, you get an in-depth look at audience behavior and conversion information. Many website builders and eCommerce platforms include integrations with Google Analytics, making for a free way to evaluate site behavior, run reports, and segment your audience. Google Analytics does have a learning curve, but this is typically worth it considering it also links to the Google Ads platform.
As an online store blossoms into a thriving business, legitimate accounting software must replace an Excel spreadsheet or that mess of expense reports you have on your computer. The inDinero app takes you to that next stage, sending your financial information to the cloud and providing real-time insights to maximize your tax savings without much work on your end. You benefit from automated bookkeeping and on-the-go financials sent right to your mobile devices.
For a cheaper alternative that’s more geared toward smaller businesses, you can check out FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Xero, or Sprout Invoices. Learn the differences between them.
Best eCommerce tools for security
28. SSL certificates and PCI compliance
There are various elements to security that must be taken care of when running an online store. Luckily, platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce automatically implement items like SSL (secure socket layer) certificates and PCI compliance. An SSL certificate creates an encrypted connection, while PCI compliance ensures that customer financial information isn’t stored on your servers. Both are necessary to appear safe and to abide by rules and regulations.
If you’re not sure about your compliance, check with your hosting provider or eCommerce platforms.
Making your online store compliant is one part of the security puzzle, but how do your customers know that you offer connection encryption, malware blocking, and identity protection? The solution to that is to add a TrustedSite emblem on your website, letting people know that they don’t have to worry about any breaches. TrustedSite gives you trust logos and it offers a wide range of security tools like vulnerability scanning, PCI compliance, and breach insurance.
Store security isn’t only about making your customers feel comfortable and safe. Your revenue is at stake if people are trying to hack into the system. Riskified does a wonderful job of identifying fraudulent and legitimate shoppers and blacklisting the ones that are bound to cause you financial hardship. This type of account protection is essential so you don’t have to constantly monitor the payment activities on your site. We particularly like the chargeback guarantee, which reduces customer chargebacks and cuts overhead in the process.
Which of these best eCommerce tools are right for your business?
That question is answered by looking at the stage of your business. If you’ve developed a new idea and want to sell it, look at eCommerce website builders. If you’ve been selling for several months or years, maybe it’s time to explore more advanced security or logistical eCommerce tools.
Overall, your goal is to take the online business work on a step-by-step basis. Signing up for too many eCommerce tools leads to unnecessary expenses and overwhelming your employees and systems. Check in with your current infrastructure on a regular basis (every month or quarter,) then decide which of these eCommerce tools are up next for improving your business.
With this type of evaluation you’ll eventually decide that it’s time for a chatbox on your site, or an advanced analytics tool, or a software to improve your sourcing.
If you have any thoughts on the eCommerce tools we’ve explored, let us know in the comments below! Also, be sure to share any of your other favorite eCommerce tools that can help business owners.
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