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From the eCommerce platform to marketing - what are the tools that every small and medium online businesses can leverage?
Establishing an eCommerce store is essential for small and medium businesses (SMBs) to improve sales. Online merchants can maximize their brand awareness and sales by using eCommerce tools like marketing tools, analytics tools, etc. Some of the tools like payment gateways, and shipping services will help the merchants optimize the customer experience.
eCommerce tools play an important role in promoting the products and services a business offers and ensuring customer retention by providing a smooth shopping experience. Let’s look at 10 eCommerce tools that will help an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to be an online merchant.
1) eCommerce Website Builder
An eCommerce website builder is the most important tool for any online business. Online businesses can launch, host and manage their products and build meaningful customer engagements on a good eCommerce website builder that provides template designs where branding can be customized. Example: Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Squarespace
Advantage: Full control over your brand and message. Ability to see visitors’ behavior end-to-end. Create personal touch and tailor experiences for customers. Collect first-party data of your customers.
Disadvantage: Moderately difficult to set up everything and takes time to connect and utilizing the full potential of online tools (e.g. SEO, site tracking, selecting checkout payment gateways) at one go even for a relatively experienced retailer.
2) Huge Online Marketplaces
Many brands and retailers piggybacked on eCommerce platforms or marketplaces' huge advertising spending. In Southeast Asia, special promotions and deals are designed to lure over 650 million people to spend every month. By driving significant traffic during major identical-date campaigns on 11.11 or 12.12, becoming store sellers is a favorite for brands and retailers, microbusinesses, and even homemade products. Top platforms: Lazada (Southeast Asia), Shopee (Southeast Asia), Tokopedia (Indonesia), Taobao (China), Rakuten (Japan), Gmarket (South Korea), Tiki (Vietnam)
Advantage: Grow fast and gain huge traffic on mega-campaign spike days. Relatively easy set-up process and takes a shorter lead time to create a seller account than setting up a standalone eCommerce website.
Disadvantage: Limited control over your brand, prone to dilute important brand messages. Limited visibility on visitor behavior, relying on third-party data. Highly competitive pricing requires regular promotions to attract customers.
Some retailers and brands have online standalone retail and a presence in the eCommerce marketplace. Some create a strategy for having a presence in both, selling past seasons items in eCommerce marketplaces, and protecting their main branded website with new or limited edition launches on their website. However, only brands with strong capital and huge teams can afford to have a presence in both areas.
3) Payment gateways/providers
Online businesses can increase the number of sales by integrating with a reliable digital payment processor. If customers find it easy and smooth to make an online transaction while purchasing any goods or services from your online store, they are more likely to return.
Payment gateways with mainly credit card networks
Advantage: Payment gateways that use credit card methods have wide network coverage, offered by established companies like Visa and Mastercard
Disadvantage: Credit card companies charge higher fees (set up fee, annual fee, transaction fee) and merchants are liable for chargebacks (more fees!)
Payment gateways with alternative payment methods (APMs)
Advantage: Lower fees (set up fee, annual fee, transaction fee) than credit card networks due to much fewer financial intermediaries. No chargeback liability
Disadvantage: There are many types of alternative payment methods, such as QR-enabled transfers, e-wallets, cash on delivery, and direct bank transfer
XanPay is a unique payment gateway that offers faster, safer, and cheaper online payment services to SMB merchants with easy eCommerce plugin integration. With competitive low platform fees, merchants increase their revenue, and grow within the local market while expanding to overseas countries using XanPay. Some of the popular plugins include WooCommerce, Magento, and Opencart.
4) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO tools cannot be ignored these days. Whether you want to rank on the first page of google or drive more traffic to your website, researching the target keywords and optimizing your blog posts is important. You can also optimize your business's social media profile with the help of SEO.
The number of sales increases if the number of visits to your website and social media accounts increases. Some of the best SEO tools are, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, AnswerthePublic, and SEMrush.
Advantage: SEO tools help in bringing more traffic to your website and also improve your website ranking so your business can be easily found
Disadvantage: Difficult to understand and utilize the full potential of different SEO tools Google offers. It is recommended to start doing SEO with simple keyword research by UberSuggest and then slowly implement on-page and off-page SEO.
5) Content Marketing and Management Tools
Content marketing adds huge value to online businesses compared to traditional marketing strategies. Whether it is a blog on your website or daily posts on your social media account, content plays an important role. It educates the audience about your products and attracts potential customers.
Use different formats of written, audio, and video content to engage your customers. Some of the best examples of content management tools are, BuzzSumo, HubSpot, Slack, Asana, Trello, etc.
Advantage: Content marketing helps increase brand awareness, trust, and loyalty. Increasing the traffic, and quality content such as educational and informative pieces will help you increase the conversion rates over time.
Disadvantage: Time. Content creation requires time. These elements are important - market research, copywriting skills, design, consistency, and customer survey - to appeal to your product to the target audience.
6) Video Marketing
Some people prefer watching videos more than reading lengthy texts. Probably, this is the reason YouTube, Instagram, and Tiktok gain huge popularity.
Video marketing can increase customer engagement. When your audience is engaged, the chances of them turning into customers increase.
Advantage: You can connect with your audience on a personal level with the help of video marketing. Increase brand awareness quickly by jumping onto a video trend.
Disadvantage: Writing the video script, shooting, and editing a video is a laborious process. The trends are moving very fast, it can be hard to keep up. And it is certainly not easy to create a viral video.
7) Website Analytics Tools
Feedback always helps in improving your job further. Web analytics tools assess how your website performs and in which areas the performance can be increased. By collecting past data, web analytic tools analyze data and give reports.
Analytic tools also help in understanding customer behavior like determining what products are sold most and how much time customers spend on a particular page. Google Analytics, Open web analytics, and Adobe Analytics are commonly used tools.
Advantage: Web analytic tools track online behaviors. By using the data provided, businesses get to know their audience better to plan promotion strategies and generate more sales. The data will show the areas that are getting more traffic and help you understand which areas require your attention to improve.
Disadvantage: Setting up the tool, and learning how to analyze and interpret the data is a time-consuming process.
8) Social Media Management
Social media presence is undeniable for any online business in this digital era. We can hardly find a person who is not using any social media. SMBs need to leverage different platforms to target their potential customers. Merchants who have a good social media presence are also seen to be more credible.
Maintaining a social media account requires strong organizational skills and effort to produce content consistently. Plan contents weeks or months in advance, then automate postings using social media management tools. Some of these tools allow you to track engagement analytics.
Depending on budget and the importance of tracking social media metrics to your business, Buffer Publish, Hootsuite, Zoho are the most commonly used social media management tools.
Advantage: Scale your businesses quickly and tap into platforms with a large audience base. Gain huge exposure with Instagram/FB ads, while quality organic content attracts and cost-effectively retains followers.
Disadvantage: Requires a person savvy with social media to manage and build the brand. Business owners can choose to hire someone full-time, get a freelancer or engage an agency. It is important to note that it will take time before seeing returns.
9) Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of the most-used strategies to build customer loyalty and communicate personally to your community.
Businesses can share new product launches and announce the hottest deals and discount offers through emails. MailChimp and ActiveCampaign are tools that help automate the scheduling of emails and allow you to track open and engagement rates.
Advantage: Email marketing is cost-effective and easily shareable. It improves sales conversions by reaching a larger audience.
Disadvantage: Sometimes emails may not get delivered to potential customers and are stuck in promotions. In that case, the discount offers and product launches are not known to the customers.
10) Live Chat Software
No matter how many tools you use and how good your product is, if customer satisfaction is not up to the mark, it is difficult to grow your business. Live chat software tools will help your small business in engaging customers.
It is necessary to have effective communication with your customers. Companies mostly use live chat tools to provide customer support. When compared to toll-free numbers and emails, live chat tools are proven to be cost-efficient and provide better customer satisfaction. LiveChat, Zendeck Suite, PureChat, and LiveAgent are some live chat tools you can use for your small and medium-scale businesses.
Advantage: Live chat tools give a great customer experience. Customers can engage directly with a brand like a person while business owners get instant feedback, and what to improve on immediately
Disadvantage: Require you to train a support team or implement scripts for chatbots who could answer questions and resolve customer issues quickly. The non-meaningful resolution will lead to more customer frustration.
These are the 10 best tools for online merchants. Software tools and automation are good when it is being utilized well, but before you feel overwhelmed by the number of tools listed here, think about who is your target audience and where they spend their time digitally (for you to have a presence) and which 2~3 tools is crucial for you to have. Start from there and be patient.
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