Battles aren’t just won with the right skills; you need the right sword and armor, too. I’m not a huge technology buff, but I think outside the box to solve problems I encounter every day as an e-commerce business owner, and usually software is the perfect way to do it. Building a business without a powerful technology stack is like building a house without any foundation.
Think Crucial’s e-commerce tools
I’m going to lay out the tools we’ve been using to optimize our e-commerce. Think Crucial (formerly, Crucial Vacuum) has been in business for almost a decade now, and here’s the software that we swear by, divided up by purpose.
Internal Communication/Project Management
When you have a team spread across countries and time zones, communication and task management can be a challenge. But no matter how diverse we are, no one is going to be great at everything. That’s why we need to reach further than just our own backyard when it comes to recruiting. We’re proud to say we have the best people despite geographic boundaries, and that’s what matters.
Involving your team during the planning process can make the difference between a project that stays on track, and one that falls apart. We use these tools to keep things organized and make sure our team is in the loop with what’s going on.
- Slack – We use this for quick internal team communications. If it’s a quick ping or a fun announcement, it goes on Slack.
- Trello – We have Trello boards to keep track of marketing and content projects. This is where we assign out work, track progress, and add due dates.
- Skype – This online video chat platform is great for communicating with freelancers and having team/partner meetings. A few other meeting tools are Zoom and GoToMeeting.
- Upwork – This platform is for finding freelancers to outsource to. It also has project management tools, a time tracker, and handles payments through the platform.
No business can survive without a solid marketing plan in place. After all, your brand is what will bring loyal customers to your store and drive conversions. When I started Crucial Vacuum in 2008, vacuum filters were all that we sold, and those aren’t sexy or exciting. Finally, last year (after tons of hard work) we expanded and added more home items into our store. That’s when Think Crucial was born. Much has changed in the Crucial brand after almost a decade of being in the business, but one thing stays the same; you have to adapt to these changes to stay ahead of the game.
Whether you’re dealing with content, SEO, advertisements, or social media, how you plan out and execute your marketing can either make or break your business. Here are the tools that helped us on our way to the top.
- Shareasale – This is a great tool for working with affiliates. It rewards others for recommending Skubana, and vice versa for our partners.
- Bit.ly – We use this simple tool to create customized, shortened URLs. This is great for branding and helping your audience remember an URL. ie. 123randomurl.com vs bit.ly/SkubanaTest
- Unsplash – We like using this amazing website to find free-to-use images under the CC0 license. They have a huge library of high-quality photos, and it’s a side project by Crew. We also use ShutterStock when we need to purchase an image.
- Moz – We use this for SEO and inbound marketing. We can check our metrics, monitor how we’re doing, and analyze our target partners’ sites. For example, we use the MozBar tool to check out websites’ domain authority to see if we want to pitch a blog there or not.
- Criteo – We use Criteo for remarketing ads. They provide real-time digital advertising so we can send relevant ads to our consumers and act quickly on what works.
- Sellics – Great for optimizing Amazon listings and PPC ads. We use them to make sure our listings are in top order.
- Privy – This helps us utilize on-site pop-up ads and so we can provide our audience with relevant offers and drive conversions.
- Recurring Orders & Subscriptions – This is a Shopify App that allows customers to subscribe to products. It’s excellent for letting our customers stay up-to-date.
Never underestimate the power of social media. There are a few new terms in the e-commerce sphere; “social-commerce” and “mobile-commerce.” In this day and age, it’s rare to find someone who isn’t on social media on their smartphones.
Social media can play a vital role in creating a trusted brand and building relationships with your customers. When you use the right tools to save you time, you can expand your campaign’s reach, answer queries faster, track the activities of your audience, and understand your consumers and fans much better.
- Hootsuite – This social media scheduling tool allows us to manage all of our social channels in one place, and pre-schedule updates when we want them to go out.
- Better Coupon Box – This is a Shopify app that helps us increase our social media following using our website. We can turn visitors into email subscribers, as well as fans on social.
Ultimately, your customers keep you in business. Even if you spend millions on branding and advertising, negative reviews will repel customers despite all your hard work. Existing customers can transfer to competitors, new customers will shy away, and you’ll end up spending more to acquire customers than simply retain them.
It’s a recipe for disaster. But it’s completely preventable. In fact, if handled properly, customer service can be turned into a powerful competitive advantage to retain loyal customers and win new ones.
- Klaviyo – We use this to personalize our emails.
- Zopim Live Chat – We provide on-site customer service, so if they want to ask a question they can do so in the chat box and get quick answers.
- Yotpo – Yotpo is great for getting reviews for our products.
- Returnly – A Shopify app for managing customer returns smoothly.
- Live Search – A Shopify app that helps us improve our website’s search bar, allowing our customers to find what they’re looking for easily.
- Minifier – A Shopify app that improves site speed, so we don’t get frustrated potential buyers clicking away from our site.
Aside from having the right skills and passion, we’ve always believed that software and technology are the absolute backbone of any e-commerce business. Running your e-commerce store with a wide variety of different tools that don’t integrate well and are spread out across marketplaces can cause a lot of stress.
At this point, we’re proud to say that we’ve overcome these challenges and more. We’re now running a fully automated, 8-figure e-commerce business with only 2 employees. Our company literally runs on its own; an all-in-one solution. It has taken the stress out of daily activities, and we get to focus on growing our business–that’s what we love most about it.
- Skubana – This is our own software, and functions as the central nervous system of all e-commerce operations. We built it to unify all the tools you need to run a business, from automation to forecasting, to analytics and inventory management. It’s also got unlimited app integrations.
- CartRocket – An excellent tool for reducing cart abandonment. It’s painful when you’re so close to a sale, and a potential client is so close to being a customer, but then the entire window gets exited. This tool helps to discourage that.
- Magento – Magento is a one-site shopping cart that handles sales efficiently. They’re an e-commerce platform that’s fairly easy to use.
- Shopify – We love using Shopify’s shopping cart, tools, and more. Their suite of software helps with marketing, transactions, and more.
Just like in any industry, it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in the business for some time now, a business needs to know strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities for growth. A smart move would be spying on your competitors to understand their other strategies and use them to your advantage.
- SpyFu – A great tool for discovering how competitors are approaching their SEO.
- BuiltWith – Use this tool to see what other websites are using, and all the software that went into building them.
- Sherlock – This Shopify app allows us to see if any customers are influencers, which we can then leverage.
Money is great when handled correctly, and disastrous when not. We use tools that are safe, secure, and organized to ensure no data is stolen, the money goes where it needs to, and we can keep tabs on everything.
- Paypal – Use this tool to get paid anywhere in the world and pay for services or products online.
- Amazon Payments – Amazon Payments provides secure payments for your e-commerce site.
- Braintree – A channel for mobile and app payments for e-commerce businesses.
- Shopify Payments – Here’s another tool for accepting payments online, which works best with Shopify.
- Quickbooks Online – We use this accounting software to monitor our revenue and expenses.
- Apple Pay – A great way to accept mobile payments. They’re also a digital wallet service.
What tools can’t replace
Thanks to all these amazing tools, we’ve been able to build and grow Think Crucial in more ways than one. Even so, there are things that software just can’t do. (Shout out to my hardworking team!)
What are the e-commerce tools that you use every day? Let us know in the comments below.