With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, eCommerce has become more essential than ever for many small businesses. Even if you run a restaurant or coffee shop—businesses that tend to rely primarily on foot traffic—you can still adopt a strategy for increasing sales through online engagement.
So if you’re wondering how to start showing up in local search results, boost sales, and manage your shipments and finances, use this short guide to learn about ten affordable, and easy-to-use eCommerce tools for small businesses.
If you don’t already have a reliable eCommerce platform, step one is building an online marketplace. Shopify is an eCommerce business tool that allows you to sell:
- In-person or virtual services
- Customizable items
- Gift certificates
Even if customers need to collect their final purchase in person, they may prefer to view and pay for their purchase online. If you are starting an eCommerce business or already have one, turn to Shopify to set up your online storefront.
Shopify is one of the most popular platforms for building an online marketplace. Why?
- Shopify’s tools make it easy to build an attractive online store with zero coding or design knowledge necessary.
- It’s easy to connect your Shopify store to other platforms like Facebook or Amazon to provide a seamless shopping experience across channels for your eCommerce customers.
- Plans are relatively affordable, starting at just $29 per month.
Once you’ve set up your website and eCommerce store with Shopify or a similar platform, take advantage of additional tools to start engaging your customers and streamlining your sales.
If you own a brick-and-mortar business, friendly, in-person conversations are important to build customer loyalty. Online, this can become much more difficult—but you can greet your customers with a chatbot!
A chatbot can say hello, answer frequently asked questions, and direct your customers to relevant resources and pages on your site. Tools like Bostify make the chatbot setup process really simple. You can:
- Get started with a template bot designed for your industry
- Customize the bot to your products and services
- Plug your bot into your website, Facebook page, SMS, or WhatsApp
- Save chats and extract valuable customer data
- Make changes to your bot based on the questions that come up again and again
Custom Botsify bots are also affordable: 100 customers can chat with your bot for free, and after that, plans start at $10 per month.
Do you prefer to interact with customers yourself rather than leaving the task to website robots? Nextdoor is the best place to connect with verified residents of your local community online. Members on Nextdoor are high-intent purchasers that are eager to support their local businesses. 88% of Nextdoor members shop at a local business at least once a week and 73% believe they will patronize local businesses coming out of the pandemic. Claim your free Business Page on Nextdoor and get started interacting with current and potential customers that live in proximity to your business. You can:
- Customize your free page – Add pictures, location, and your business’ unique story to better reflect who you are as a business.
- Engage with Business Posts – Use Business Posts to connect with customers and other local businesses within two miles. Get creative — you can post about anything, including volunteering opportunities, donations or contributions you’re making to local organizations, or important business updates, like updated operating hours for the holiday season.
- Run promotions – Use Nextdoor’s Local Deals to market to Nextdoor members in your neighborhood directly and drive sales. Unlike social media sites where you have to “grow a following,” Nextdoor offers instant access to verified, hyperlocal customers.
As soon as your business has one recommendation, you’ll start showing up in local search results. It’s that easy! It also pays to be on Nextdoor. 70% of Nextdoor users believe that word-of-mouth is the best way to discover new local businesses and are happy to share them with other local members.
By connecting with these impassioned neighbors, you can raise your business’ profile and create deeper roots within your community.
How do you keep your customers updated about sales, new products, and events?
If you’re not already using an email marketing strategy, you might be missing out on a valuable source of leads and conversions. Close to 60% of consumers say that email marketing influences their purchase decisions, and email consistently generates one of the best returns on investment of any marketing method.
Are you looking for a way to create and track attractive email campaigns? Mailchimp is one of the easiest platforms to use and is available in both free plans and subscription plans with additional features. With Mailchimp you can utilize the following features:
- Design – Create colorful, professional-looking email campaigns from templates
- Segmenting – Send an email to your whole listserv, or only to customers who purchased a specific product (a “segment”)
- Analytics – Keep track of whether customers are opening, reading, and clicking on your campaigns to make strategy adjustments
For best results, consider creating high-value content like a newsletters rather than sticking to sales and promotions alone.
Can your customers purchase products or services while they’re browsing your Instagram?
If not, you may be missing out on potential revenue streams.
A fast, easy online shopping cart can inspire and enable customers to quickly order or purchase items from your social media accounts without visiting your website.
Ecwid is a fast, easy, and affordable way to create a shopping cart plug-in for:
- Your website
Best of all, the basic plan is completely free. You can upgrade and access some more professional features starting at $15 per month.
Are you a small retailer seeking to sell your wares through major marketplaces?
Creating business pages from scratch for platforms from Etsy to Amazon can be incredibly time-consuming. Then, there’s the hassle of keeping track of inventory when you sell on multiple platforms!
Fortunately, Sellbrite can help you sell and manage your stock across multiple platforms including:
Whether you’re already selling on some of these platforms or just getting started, Sellbrite will link your existing pages together in one central place. Then, you’ll be able to post new products across all of your chosen platforms at once.
Take advantage of a 30 day free trial to see if Sellbrite streamlines your sales. After that, you can continue for free if you sell fewer than 30 items each month. Pro plans start at $29.99 per month.
Do you sell digital content?
Whether that means MP3s, eBooks, pre-recorded cooking videos, or yoga class packages, it can be difficult to figure out how to store, sell, and distribute your files.
Easydigitaldownloads is an eCommerce software that can make selling digital downloadables… well, easy! This product allows you to:
- Create an eCommerce store for your downloadable products
- Track and manage your customers
- Run promotions and discounts
- Access store analytics
A basic plan for this eCommerce tool is just $99.00 per year.
Does your small business maintain an active social media presence?
Major social media platforms have large user bases—and huge potential for businesses that can design and maintain effective, engaging accounts.
As a small business owner, you might have your plate full enough without tweeting twice a day or updating your stories.
A social media manager like Buffer can make it easier to:
- Draft and schedule posts in advance
- Tailor posts for different sites and audiences
- Post across multiple channels
- Automatically add comments to your own posts
- Analyze your campaigns
If you work with a communications or marketing manager, you can easily use this eCommerce solution to collaborate and approve content, too. The most basic plan is just $15 per month, although you can add on a few bells and whistles for an additional fee.
#9 Tax Jar
Using the above tips, you may be able to boost your online sales. If you do, are you ready to pay taxes on those recent transactions?
Tax season can be a burden for small business owners. If you try to do your own taxes, you may spend long hours with the calculator and spreadsheet trying to make the numbers add up, only to end up with a larger-than-anticipated tax bill. And paying an accountant comes with its own cost (and stress!).
You can simplify your taxes by using easy-to-navigate apps like TaxJar that calculate appropriate sales tax on all online sales. TaxJar can:
- Connect to multiple sales channels
- Calculate sales tax at check-out for different customer zip codes
- Adjust for sales and promotions
- Automatically file your taxes, taking one more thing off of your to-do list
Compared with many competing software, TaxJar is less expensive and more attuned to the needs of small business owners. So, if you’re ready to take the guesswork out of your taxes, utilize TaxJar and their AI-driven tax assistance.
Throughout this guide, we’ve mentioned multiple sales and promotional channels.
How do you tell which one is actually helping your profitability?
After all, it may not make sense to keep designing videos for a social media channel with low viewership and no engagement. Likewise, why keep selling your products through channels that generate fewer leads?
Looker is an eCommerce solution that makes it easy to look at the data analytics from different platforms and channels, all in one place. If you’re seeing some success on your eCommerce platform and want to double down on your efforts or scale, Looker is a great option to know where to invest your time and resources.
When compared with one of their competitors, Tableau, Looker was shown to be more cost-effective for SMBs and more user-friendly. With it, you can find out where your customers are coming from, which sites are resulting in the most conversions, and where you’re achieving the best ROI. Then, you can use this data to shape your decisions about which eCommerce tools are working best for your small business’ needs!
Connecting On and Offline
Data, schmata, you might think. Being a small business owner is all about connecting with your customers, not advanced analytics. Right?
Well, while building real connections with local customers can be incredibly valuable, why not get the best of both worlds? With the ten eCommerce tools listed above, you can put your resources where they matter most so that you actually have the time and energy to make those meaningful connections.
In short, these eCommerce tools can help you:
- Build an eCommerce website and make sales on different channels and platforms
- Market your business’ products and services
- Keep track of your finances
- Evaluate what’s working
Once you’ve figured out the recipe to eCommerce success, you’ll have more time to focus on what the next step is for your small business and the broader community.
HubSpot. The Ultimate List of Email Marketing Stats for 2020. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/email-marketing-stats
eCommerce CEO. 35+ Best Ecommerce Tools & Software For Business Startups. https://www.ecommerceceo.com/ecommerce-tools/
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.