March 16th, 2015

20 Tools to Run a Small E-Commerce Business

Category:E-Commerce | Posted By Mai Erne on March 16th, 2015

A small e-commerce business owner can assume many functions — from marketing, sales, human resources, information technology, and research and development. Fortunately, there are some terrific online tools to help you perform just about any company task.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of online tools to help you run a small e-commerce business. There are tools to schedule customers, collaborate with a team, manage social conversations, distribute content, build and analyze websites, and more. All of these tools are relatively inexpensive, and several are even free. If your favorite tool isn’t listed, be sure to include it in our comments below.


e-commerce business

Slack is an internal messaging app for your team. Slack features real-time messaging, file sharing, one-to-one and group conversations, online images and video, rich link summaries and integration with services you use every day. 

What’s the Cost?

Free account for 5 integrations and 10k message searchable archive. Paid plans start at $6.67 per usual per month.


Asana is a tool for team tasks and conversations. Organize your tasks into shared projects for your initiatives, meetings, and lists. Keep conversation with tasks, instead of scattered across email. Get automatic updates about tasks that matter to you. Visualize your team’s goals and milestones with calendars and dashboards.

What’s the Cost?

Get started for free. Paid plans start at $21 per month for 5 users.


Wave offers a platform of financial applications, for small e-commerce businesses with nine employees or less. The tools include invoicing, accounting, payroll, payments, and more.

What’s the Cost?

Accounting, invoicing, receipts, and personal finance applications are free. Payroll application starts at $9 per month, payments application is 30 cents plus 2.9 percent per transaction.


e-commerce business


Insightly is a customer-relationship management system for small e-commerce businesses. It helps you manage contacts, organizations, partners, vendors, and suppliers. The tool allows you to see everything about your contacts, including their background, email history, important dates, and projects in which they’ve participated.

Insightly also incorporates project management features, such as creating tasks and milestones, automated reminders, project views, and event reports.

What’s the Cost?

Free up to three users. Standard plan is $7 per user per month.



e-commerce business 5

Trello is a collaboration tool to organize projects. Trello uses boards, lists, and cards to create projects and develop your workflow. Create lists filled with cards, used with a team or by you. Drag and drop cards, and reorder as needed. Follow your project as the board updates in real time.

What’s the Cost?

Free. Premium plan is $5 per user per month.

March 13th, 2015

How Do I Know If People Are Finding My Business?

Category:E-Commerce | Posted By Mai Erne on March 13th, 2015

How To Tell If People Are Finding My Business

finding your business

So your company website has been up for a while now, but you’re probably wondering to know: who’s actually looking at it?

No matter which company is hosting your website, chances are they’ve set you up with a decent set of backend tools which you can use to see all of the statistics on your website, including traffic. However, if your host isn’t the most reliable provider of the information you seek, you should never shy away from outside sources.

What’s Your Alexa Rank?


Alexa is a great tool to see how your website stacks up among other websites. New businesses are always disappointed to see that their Alexa rank is unbelievably low, if not altogether invisible. You should always check Alexa to see how you’re doing. Keep an Excel spreadsheet and document your ranking so you can see the results on a day-by-day basis.

Google Yourself





This might sound pretty obvious, but if you’re not Googling yourself on a regular basis, you’re not going to see how you’re stacking up against your competitors. This example can’t be illustrated any better than through our initial screenshot. We’re an e-commerce consulting company, so clearly we’re going to be typing in ‘e-commerce’ into Google on a regular basis. So if you sell hardware, you’re going to want to type in ‘hardware.’ If you sell headphones, then you need to type in ‘headphones,’ and see how your headphones store is doing. If you’re on page 3, hey, you’re moving on up. If you’re on page 12, then maybe you have a lot of work ahead of you.

These are all the basics that even a non-techie should know… If you want to dig deeper, you should definitely read some SEO guides online. Keep educating yourself so you can stay ahead of the game, and then slowly you’ll see your business succeed.

March 12th, 2015

10 Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Category:Marketing | Posted By Mai Erne on March 12th, 2015

email marketing

Email marketing can be a very integral facet in running an ecommerce business. Most business owners can underestimate its importance, which is why we’re here to offer you several steps, and hopefully with these in mind you’ll be able to engage your customers in ways that you never thought were possible.

1. Re-examine your preference strategy


Most marketers don’t take the time to get to know their customers. You might want to build a preference page who ask them about their channel preferences, where you can also inform them about your social media outlets.

 2. Track your reports


In addition to looking at each marketing campaign’s preference, you should also be tracking consumer interaction with your messages over a period of time. One good way to do this is by tracking consumers over three to five campaigns and roll up their numbers.  That way, a conversion after a series of campaigns can be much more relevant than a click for just one.

3. Synchronize and correct your data


Many business have multiple sources of consumer data; make sure that your data is updated, and easily accessible to all channels. A simpler way to audit is to check if your ‘other sources’ of data match up with the master source of data.

4. Optimizing for mobile


It’s not enough to just transfer your laptop messages into a smartphone. Make sure the messages are properly optimized on your device, and use responsive design so that you render cleanly.

5. Integrate social media


Any good marketer these days should know the importance of social media. If you’re sending out emails, you should post all of your email campaigns on your social media sites. You should also post user-generated content within your email campaigns. Speaking of which…

6. Create compelling content


In this new age of marketing, content is king. If your content is interesting, then your customers will have a reason to keep coming back. So keep that content fresh…

7. Plan your segmentation strategy


A multi-channel cataloger has created a very laudable segmentation strategy. In addition to buyers and non-buyers, they have taken it further to apply product interests, device interaction, and even house-holding information. Their micro-segments deliver four times better results than normal.

8. Grow your list, grow your engagement


Brands needs to check their email list size on a regular basis. If you can track your three metrics — net growth of your email list, net growth of email IDs for your direct mail file, and a steady increase in opens and as clicks, then you’re good.

9. Check your communication triggers


Some brands have created automated drip campaigns that are triggered by consumer action. Check the messaging to ensure that it is relevant. If you have not set up automated campaigns, take a look at doing it for some events.

10. Are you making it into the inbox?


Sadly, many email service providers (ESPs) are no longer vouching for your deliverability. You need to make sure you are “authenticated,” your emails are getting through, and your spam complaints are being addressed. An engaged list is going to go a long way to help you with your deliverability.

March 11th, 2015

Drop Shipping: How to Manage Orders

Category:E-Commerce | Posted By Mai Erne on March 11th, 2015

Airmail Shipping Delivery

Drop shipping requires three major data integrations between the retailer and the supplier: product catalog, inventory, and orders. 

Product catalog is the collection of descriptive data—title, brand, category, attributes, images—of that physical thing.

Inventory is the data that tells you where the item is, how many there are, and what they cost you as the reseller.

An order is where the rubber hits the road. A consumer has purchased a product that a retailer was selling virtually and now that order and fulfillment information needs to be sent from the retailer to the supplier, which physically has the product to ship to the consumer.

Order Exchange


The drop shipping order process is a two-way street. It’s an exchange of data back and forth between a retailer and a supplier. Catalog and inventory are based on a supplier publishing information that a retailer consumes. Orders are created by the retailer for consumption by the supplier, and then there’s a secondary fulfillment process from the supplier back to the retailer) of an order being acknowledged and shipped or canceled.

What follows is a list of the basic order data that should be provided by a retailer to a supplier:

  • po_number. The unique order identifier generated by the retailer’s ordering system.
  • line_item_sku. The SKU being ordered.
  • line_item_title. The title of the SKU being ordered.
  • line_item_quantity. The quantity being ordered.
  • line_item_expected_cost. The cost that the retailer expects to pay for the given SKU.
  • line_item_consumer_price. The price that the retailer charged their customer for the given SKU.
  • ship_attention. The name or title of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_first_name. First name of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_last_name. Last name of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_company. The customer’s company name to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_address_1. Address 1 line of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_address_2. Address 2 line of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_city. Shipping city of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_region. Shipping region of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_postal. Shipping postal code of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_country. Shipping country of the customer to whom the order is being shipped, using the two-character ISO country code.
  • ship_phone. Phone number of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_email. Email address of the customer to whom the order is being shipped.
  • ship_carrier. The name of the carrier that is preferred to be used for this order. Options could include FedEx, UPS, and USPS.
  • ship_method. Shipping method requested. Only those options supported by the supplier will be supported.
  • signature_required_flag. Is a signature required upon delivery?
  • ship_instructions. Allows for specific direction when the order is delivered.

March 10th, 2015

How to Implement Free Shipping (Without Going Broke)

Category:E-Commerce | Posted By Mai Erne on March 10th, 2015

free shipping

Consumer Expectations


The unprecedented success of membership plans such as Amazon Prime has conditioned many online consumers to expect free shipping. Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult for smaller merchants to implement free shipping and still remain viable.

Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions for implementing free shipping that still appeal to consumers, while still minimizing the total cost for an ecommerce merchant.

The eponymous webinar by Practical Commerce address several key points below, followed by a Q&A session by contributing editor, Armando Roggio.

Is Free Shipping Necessary?


Amazon and other large websites will offer free shipping, but that does not mean that an independent merchant will have to. We’ll offer an analysis to help decide if your shoppers expect free shipping, and whether it will help spur sales.

Competitive Landscape


Shipping strategies vary among industries and consumer niches. Reviewing the shippoing policies of your competitors is crucial to deciding your own policies.

All or Nothing


A merchant can decide to offer free shipping on part of her products, or a segment of them. It doesn’t always have to be all or nothing… The webinar will discuss selective free shipping strategies that appeal to shoppers that save merchants money.

Choosing Carriers


Shipping charges vary among carriers, based on the product, its size and weight, and the origin and destination of the package. The webinar will explain how to rate shop carriers, to help choose one or more of them that best fit to your products.

Distributed Fulfillment


Distributing inventory across a few, geographically-significant warehouses may be the single best thing online retailers can do to make free shipping affordable. It is the same approach that companies like Amazon use to help reduce shipping costs.

About the Presenter


Armando Roggio is a contributing editor for Practical Ecommerce, an independent ecommerce merchant, and a seasoned web developer. He has written hundreds of articles at Practical Ecommerce, covering virtually all facets of running a successful online store. He holds a B.A. in English Writing and Journalism from The University of Pittsburgh.