There are a very large number of tools and resources of which you can use for your online business, but I have made the process of finding the best one much easier for you. Each of these recommendations has definitely earned my seal of approval, and I hope that they do the same for you.
The two largest tools at the top of my list and for good reason, are Shopify and Bigcommerce. Shopify has a create a platform with the new business owner in mind, but still has the ability to cater to seasoned veterans in the ecommerce world. Not only that, but also the fact that Shopify is the leader when it comes to the app marketplace since all developers will design their apps for the Shopify store before even designing them for the Apple Store or Google Play!
On the other hand we have Bigcommerce. It is quite similar to the Shopify interface, but Bigcommerce tends to be more focused on those merchants and businesses who have been in the game just a little longer than the Shopify audience.
There are three specialty platforms that I would like to include here. The first is Gumroad, which is used mostly to conveniently sell both physical products and digital downloads (even from your social media account). The second is Selz which is actually quite similar to Gumroad, but still worth the mention here. Lastly, we have CrateJoy which has been built specifically to sell subscription-based products. Depending on what you are trying to sell, or if you are targeting a niche market, you may require a specialty platform.
Printful is by far the only resource that I really need to mention for selling custom goods and drop shipping. They will basically design every from t-shirts to tote bags for you, and have great platform integration with Bigcommerce and Shopify. This means that you can set up a completely automated business where people order from your Shopify store, the order is sent to Printful who then sends the item to the customer. All you need to do is sit back and let the money roll in!
Resources For Social Media
I am sure that you can afford $9 per month. If so, then I highly recommend that you check out Archie, which allows you to auto-favorite and like posts on Twitter and Instagram which means that you can build up a large following nearly on auto-pilot mode. To take that further, perhaps you would like to bring people from social media on to your website. If that is the case, check out Sniply which will take care of your social media links for you.
However, despite the great abilities of both of these resources for social media, at the top of my list sits Edgar. It is the only app that allows you to build a library up from all of your updates, tweets, and social media shares, and then schedules updates for you – but its trick is that it will use your library, meaning that you do not need to consistently come up with completely new content. On the downside though, it does have a price tag of $49 per month. If you can afford this in your budget, I highly recommend that you at least give it a shot.
If you are manufacturing products in the USA and want access to a directory with more than 7,000 US manufacturers, then check out Makers Row. If however, you are sourcing products from a Chinese manufacturer from AliBaba, then you MUST check out Examine China, which offers purchasing reports to support the legitimacy and quality of the manufacturers that you are buying from. Don’t be scammed.
You can have access to a wide variety of themes for your Shopify store out there. However, there are not that many tools out there which provide you with something of decent quality and with access to support. This is why I suggest Out of The Sandbox which offers all of the above, plus more.
There are 3 creative resources that you simply cannot go past without checking out. AppSumo is a free and simple tool that only requires you to sign-up and wait for your inbox to be filled with awesome tools every month. Creative Market sits at the very top with the highest-quality resources for all graphic, design, and photography marketplaces and industries. Lastly, TailorBrands is a very nifty little tool which will actually analyse your brand (name, values and industry), and then create a logo for you based on those factors. You will be quite surprised just how accurately it is able to represent the message your brand is trying to convey.
Store Apps and Tools
The internet is filled with many different types of apps and tools that you can use for your Shopify store, however, none are up to the standard that comes from BOLD Apps. BOLD Apps is an exclusive tool to Shopify which will dramatically extend the functionality of your Shopify store. They are that good, every one of their apps has received a 5-star rating!
In regards to apps and tools for specific needs, check out the following:
- Want to make exit-intent (“are you sure you want to leave?”) advertisements for your website? Check out Picreel.
- Want to create a viral campaign for the competitions that you run? Check out Gleam which will share your competition virally through social media.
- Looking for great product photos that take your store to the next level? Check out Pixc which will turn your ordinary product photos into images with clear and crisp white backgrounds in just 24 hours.
One of the most involved management-keeping aspects of running an online business is trying to manage your email account. Research conducted by Klaviyo states that for every $1 that one of their customers spends on email, they receive an average of $75 in revenue. That is a pretty appealing business model of which you can take advantage of. Alternatively, if you are looking for a standard email marketing tool, check out MailChimp which is free for your first 2,000 email subscribers.
Finding the right keywords to link search engines to your business can be a little tough at times. Luckily, there are 2 tools which can take your business to the next level: SEMrush and SEO Review Tools. Both will help you deliver quality content and an SEO strategy that works.
Selling products is one part of the equation of the shipping and fulfilment process. Would you believe that the experience that customers have of your products is also affected by what the product is packaged in? You don’t need to go crazy and spend a fortune on fancy boxes – you can try something as simple as a sticker with your brand logo on it, like you can do with Sticker Giant. However, if you did want to go down the path of designing or choosing your own packaging boxes, check out Pakible and Uline. Together, they have thousands of designs for you to choose from, but nothing is more simple than slapping a sticker on a box! (Just my opinion).
Shipping and Fulfilment
- Apps For Shipping and Printing Labels – you don’t need to be a large company shipping more than 50,000 products per month to take advantage of exclusive shipping rates. Check out ShippingEasy which is free to use if you are shipping less than 50 products per month, and has very easy one-step label printing. Alternatively, Shippo is for those who want to be able to set up an automated process which will automatically print labels as orders are made – all you need to spend is the postage costs plus 5 cents.
- Recommended Fulfilment Warehouses – if you are looking for a tool which can directly be linked to your Shopify store, with no minimum orders, then Shipwire is a must. Alternatively, if you are looking for a strong-valued, family-orientated business with a strong track-record and history, then ThinkLogisitcs and Fulfillrite are a further 2 options to consider. Just comes down to whether or not you want to support local businesses.
- Recommended Customs Brokers – the paperwork can get a little messy when importing products from places like China. This is why you need to deal with a professional Customs Broker who will deal will all of this messy work for you, and deliver consistent results. Check out Pacific Customs Broker for more information.
When first starting out in your business, you really need to only track the money coming in, and the money coming out. After all, this is the basics of accounting – and I mean basics. But, as you will quickly learn, keeping track of the growing number of expenses can start taking up a lot of your time, and hiring a professional accountant to manage this for you can add to those pile of expenses. Luckily there are tools out there such as Shoeboxed and Quickbooks which turn accounting into a very simple process – both of which can be linked directly to your online stores in order to directly import sales and expenses the moment that they occur. However, if you are confident in your abilities, you might want to consider Bench Accounting. A little pricey at $125 per month, but this is a tiny price which will afford you a professional bookkeeper who will take nearly all of the stress out of your financial paperwork.
One of the greatest reasons that people start an online business, is that they are faced with challenges and new opportunities every day. Entrepreneurs soon learn that to stay ahead of the pack, they must constantly redevelop their skills and knowledge base. Whether this is in the realm of Photoshop or InDesign, or perhaps even Business Law, then you should check out both Skillshare and CreativeLive – both which have video courses and discussion groups led by industry-experts.
The one thing that people complain of the most when starting a business, is that they don’t have enough time to complete all of the tasks at hand. Use these apps to give you more time to focus on areas of your business which need your attention. To manage your passwords, check out Dashlane. To organise all of your ideas and notes, check out Evernote. Lastly, everyone should have heard about Dropbox by now – the leading online storage solution which has removed the headaches from thousands (and quite possibly millions) of businesses around the world. It also allows you to access your files from anywhere around the world – provided you have a computer (or phone) and an internet connection.