Starting up your own eCommerce website is a fairly straightforward matter. If you want to work in retail online, you’re going to need product, a means of shipping your product, plus a way of receiving payments.
You will also need a platform (website, or sometimes called a content management system (CMS)) through which to showcase your items.
Beyond that you have what appears to be an infinite number of online business tools that you can use to help you run your online store.
The question is, which are the most important tools for running a retail website?
You can waste a lot of time and a lot of money sifting through all of the excellent, and not so excellent tools for running your retail business.
You can’t use all of the eCommerce software and tools that are available. Some you don’t need, some are too expensive, some don’t even really work that well.
Having owned and operated a successful retail website in the past, I have collected this list of the ten best tools for running a retail website.
Managing your Communication
- Orgnaise your customer support
- Co-Ordinate work team communication
- Respond quickly to suppliers and clients
I’ve been using Freshdesk for a few years now. Though I have never needed the full paid version, I would gladly upgrade if I needed to.
FreshDesk allows you to communicate with your customers outside of your own email address. It means that your own personal email accounts are kept free of clutter.
Freshdesk helps you to keep track of the services and support you provide and the correspondence you have between suppliers and customers. It’s great if you’re working in a team and even on the free version you could have three free agents looking after various aspects of pre and post-sales support.
Freshdesk integrates with Google Calendar and Google Drive as well as a number of other social media and content management systems. It has individual and Company profiles which you can set up if you’re managing or working with large corporations wear your corresponding with more than one person.
You can also correspond between agents Within Freshdesk and link Freshdesk up with a number of other communication platforms.
The list of compatible adults with Freshdesk is almost endless and includes Shopify, Magento, PayPal, Slack, Prestashop, MailChimp and more.
2. Google Drive
Sorting and Storing your Content
- Store all your content
- Set visibility and download parameters
- Manage images and documents
Google Drive is my favourite place to go for sorting and storing my content. I realise many people have gripes about privacy issues with Google drive, or I simply anti-google. However, at the end of the day, if you just want to get the job done, Google Drive will let you do it.
Google Drive let you store all of your images, business and Commerce related documents and the artwork and content for your retail or e-commerce website.
It is naturally integrated with all of Googles other services including Google sheets for your accounting and Google documents, presentations, drawings and more.
Integrates well with many other systems and enables you to store a great deal of data for free. It also integrates well with your Gmail account if you use one of those.
Google drive has a brilliant search facility. And, as someone who requires a large database to manage my work and share it with appropriate people, Google Drive lets me collaborate and set controls on who sees what.
It will also allow you to synchronise your Google drive folders on your home or office business machines and laptop which is fantastic. It will sync with your Android devices so you can access your information from anywhere.
3. Wave Accounting
Integrated Invoicing on the Go
- Send invoices quickly
- Manage payrolls
- Monitor income and expenses
It seems as though Wave Accounting has been around almost as long as the Internet – which is probably pretty close to the truth. In recent years the company has reinvested and reinvented itself as a stellar online accounting and financial online management platform.
Wave Accounting allows easy invoicing and full integration online banking.
Wave Accounting is a simple and ideal solution for any e-commerce or retail store on mine that wants to be able to manage it’s invoicing, and it’s double entry accounting.
The Wave Accounting software is web-based software ideal for small business. It allows you to customise invoices, prepare sales receipts and invoices. You can tie it all into a system like PayPal and choose how you want to accept payments on your store.
The basics include accounting, payroll, invoicing, payments, recurring billing and more. It can handle location-based taxation like GST and VAT.
The Wave Accounting reporting and small business tools are ideal for online business and freelancers on the go. For those looking for a Wave alternative, FreshBooks is the next best thing.
Managing your Social Media
- Organise your social media
- Schedule sharing
- Increase user engagement
Buffer is a great example of what can happen when you take an existing idea, turn it on its head and find ways to genuinely improve it.
Buffer is not the first social media share management application to come onto the market, but it is a true leader.
Most small retail outlets online could get away with the free version which will allow you to schedule and share breaking news, product information and service announcements along with any other relevant content to any or all of your social media accounts.
Buffer lets you set times zones specific to your target market and allows you to craft each of your social media shares.
Paid accounts allow more customisation and the incorporation of RSS feeds.
You can let Buffer suggest the best time of days to share and simply add your content to the schedule. Or, you could set specific days and times to your content to be shared, or we shared across specific social media platforms.
Buffer is pretty much all we use around here. We use it on all of our own accounts, and we use it on all of our clients’ accounts whenever we can.
If you are using Woo Commerce or WordPress, then you can plug buffet straight into your site and have it take care of all of your new content. It will share to Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and more.
Buffer is very easy to use and easy to edit, and I highly recommend you check it out if you want to be able to share what’s going on with your retail or e-commerce store.
5. Mail Chimp
Keep Your Customers in the Loop
- Schedule email marketing
- operate multiple customer lists
- Build a loyal audience
There is not a lot of difference between the top contenders when it comes to email automation and marketing for small business.
I have used vertical response and may occur with a measure of success. However, for ease of use and if you want a straightforward email marketing platform so that you can get the job done, my choices MailChimp.
The only downside with MailChimp, as far as I can tell, is the lack of easy integration with WordPress for sending out new posts. I would love it if I could send out updates easily from my blog.
As far as features go, MailChimp integrates with multiple platforms. It can manage monitor your lists and your duplicates and keep all your subscription list tidy. If you only have a small list, then you could probably get away with the free version.
It can track the activity of those who receive your email, and you can even run Facebook ads that target your email subscribers.
The template so easy to configure and use and you can get your mail out quickly.
If you are super keen, you can set up sales funnels to track the success of each campaign for your retail store.
Meet, Greet and Answer Questions on the Spot
- Answer questions live
- Respond quickly to problems
- Build trust with your clients
Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to pay for useful software and online business tools. However, many of the free ones are just so good I cannot pass them up.
Tidio is one of those applications. It looks good on every device, and it is so simple to use.
It enables you to interact with your clients or customers at the point of decision and tackle any concerns, questions or objections they might have.
Chatbots are an essential element in Your arsenal of customer service tools. With Tidio you can respond to people on the go with the native mobile app. You can analyse behaviour, geography, and other details of those who visit your site.
You can send automated messages and canned messages, and you can do it on a huge number of platforms.
We used Tidio on our site for its modern design, and it’s feature-rich functionality, even with the free version.
If you want to answer customer queries on the spot and add an additional layer of quality support, then chat program like Tidio is an essential.
Create Stunning Media to Captivate Your Audience
- Create stunning graphics
- Develop eBooks and other rich media
- Build your brand
I have been using Canva since it first came online. I’ve mentioned it’s features and benefits elsewhere, but the primary benefit of Canva is its ability to create and deliver engaging and rich images.
Canva is a free image creation and editing tool with paid options.
Actually, to call it and editing tool is a gross injustice. Canva can look after all of your social media image needs, create infographics, posters, presentations, covers and more.
We have used it in all of our featured images and also in creating entire ebooks.
There are plenty of templates you can use, and you can spend a few dollars and end up with some incredibly professional results.
In e-commerce and retail, you can use Canva to create a good-looking call to action and create feature specials for your store.
Now and then a new product or two accounts online that needs little to no improvements. Canva has been fundamentally the same since it first came to life on the Internet and is just as compelling and relevant and useful as ever for a small business or retail store.
8. People’s Host
Pain Free Hosting
- Fast hosting
- Affordable soltuions
- Excellent customer service
I’ve only been with people’s highest for a short period. Friday people’s host I had spent most of my days online being hosted by People’s Host.
(That’s our direct affiliate link to People’s Host). They offer great customer support but eventually it was the cost of the service that got to me.
I switched over to people’s host for a number of reasons. First of all, they are offered both the VPS hosting and the shared hosting that I was looking for at an excellent price. Secondly, they offered a full money back guarantee.
People’s Host offer excellent up-time and will backup your e-commerce or retail store on a daily basis.
But one of the things I really liked was that people host wouldn’t oversell on shared hosting. That means you don’t have to panic about the server getting overly crowded and cramped. The network should not slow down but maintain a good network speed.
People’s host offers all the usual cloud and cPanel hosting you would get at other posts. Perhaps the most standout feature is the customer service.
Fast and Friendly eCommerce Platform
- Open source and fast
- High customisation
- Free to good home
If you have been working in the e-commerce or retail space for anything of time you’ve probably already made your choice as to the platform you’re going to use.
Nevertheless, here is my top pick. Prestashop is, unlike Magento in my opinion – lightweight and fast. It’s open source, and the basic version is free.
You only pay for the enhancements and addons that you think your retail store will need. There is a host of customisations, and the open nature of the platform has developed from strength to strength since it’s inception.
Prestashop was my first platform for e-commerce when I came online many years ago. The forums are still active today, and the product is continually improving.
If you want a simple yet very good-looking solution for your e-commerce or retail store in Prestashop is worth a look in.
As open source software, PrestaShop has a lot of features and a great deal of participation in the open online retail market.
You can add unlimited categories products and attributes to your shop and set up product comparison this with these. It enables quantity and stock management as well as cross-selling and related product customisation.
The basic free service and enables product reviews and comparisons and high-quality product image zoom ability.
You can also customise your store design with PrestaShop themes, and the whole store is search engine friendly.
Trustworthy and Functional Payment System
- Secure online payments
- Multiple currencies
- Multiple options
There is a reason why PayPal is so successful. They have struck the right balance between providing a service that everybody wants and providing it in a sophisticated and elegant fashion.
PayPal allows you to organise and Complete Business solution that, as noted above, will integrate well with bookkeeping and account management services such as Wave Accounting.
PayPal can be used as the basic cart payment method on a retail store, and you can enable invoicing from your tablet, phone or any other compatible device. Money can be easily transferred to your credit card, bank account, and your Paypal account.
The fees for Paypal have remained Stable for some years and a still highly competitive.
If you want to get started quickly, PayPal might be the right choice for you.
PayPal offers exceptional security and mobility. It has a range of payment options beyond invoicing.
The range of services May differ from country to country and you should check for your own country is PayPal service to find out what your options are for business and online retail.
Well, that wraps up our list of what I believe are the ten most useful online tools for a retail website.
I know there are many other tools I could have listed here, many of them are exceptional in their own right. But if you want to get underway and cover all the basics, these tools are low-cost or even free and enable you to set up a fully operational a commercial retail website quickly.