As a small eCommerce business owner, you have to wear many hats. It’s not enough being the CEO and founder, you’ll often find yourself acting as head of marketing, operations manager, product designer, and customer support all in a single day.
Marketing is an essential part of a growing business but it can be incredibly time-consuming. When I think back to the hours I used to spend manually updating my spreadsheet of customers so I could send out an email, or the days spent painstakingly trying to design product inserts, it makes my head hurt.
It can be difficult when you first start an eCommerce business because you’re often operating on a shoestring and every penny you have goes into developing and buying products. Not to mention managing stakeholders such as manufacturers and shipping agents.
I held off investing in software for a long time as I was scared of getting tied into expensive subscriptions and diverting money away from new products. Turns out, however, that there’s actually some amazing marketing software out there that costs next to nothing (sometimes it’s even free) and saves you hours of time.
In this article, I’m going to look at how marketing technology can help you grow your business and I’ll give examples of some of the tools that have been invaluable in helping me build my eCommerce business.
But first, what exactly do we mean when we talk about marketing software?
What is Marketing Software?
Marketing software refers to any tools which support you in your marketing activities. In other words, software that helps you manage your relationships with existing customers and/or help you to get future customers.
This includes different tools and functionality to help you:
Manage your customer data and orders,
Track the customer journey
Design software to help you create an amazing website or packaging design
Social media tools
Market research tools to help you identify new potential customers
Why do you need marketing software?
Or, to put it another way, how can marketing software benefit you and your business?
Save you time
As I mentioned, the main benefit of using marketing software is the time it can save you. Anyone who’s spent hours manually typing in new customer email addresses into a spreadsheet, or spent a day combing through Google to put together a list of keywords to use in their new product listing, knows how tedious and time-consuming marketing tasks can be.
The problem is they have to get done and, when you’re a new business, you don’t always have anyone else to outsource these manual, onerous jobs to.
Marketing software often has the functionality to take these manual jobs off your plate so you can get on with more important (and frankly more interesting) tasks like working on marketing strategy or deciding what new product to launch.
Reduce human error and increase accountability
Another benefit of marketing software is it help reduce human error. Typing out customer details by hand is a quick way to get a database full of typos. A piece of marketing software is far more reliable.
Marketing software can also keep you accountable. If you plan to send a social media post out at midday each day, sooner or later you’re going to forget or something more important is going to get in the way.
However, if you’re using a marketing software which enables you to schedule your social media posts in advance to go out at a certain time, you can rest easy knowing that a post will go out each day.
Compile complicated data and analytics
It’s not just manual jobs that marketing software can help with. For example, you can use marketing software to compile complicated data reports that segment your customers into groups based on specific preferences.
Or you could use marketing software that scours the internet to let you know what keywords your website or product listings are appearing for, or what sites are linking to your Shopify store for example. If you’re a data genius then maybe you can manage this by yourself, but most of us need a helping hand!
There’s clearly a strong argument for using marketing software in your business, but if you’re thinking “that’s all well and good but I haven’t got a massive marketing budget”—don’t panic.
The good news is that with the explosion in marketing software in recent years, marketing companies have had to offer increasingly competitive deals in order to attract business owners.
As we consider some of the key examples of marketing software categories, I’ll recommend cost-effective marketing tools that I’ve used in my own business and which I’m confident are worth the money.
Examples of Marketing Software
There are thousands of different marketing tools out there and you’ll find marketing software designed for just about every task you can think of. For this article, I’m just going to focus on the key types of marketing software which I think small businesses should consider.
Social media tools
74% of consumers use social media when making purchasing decisions, so no e-commerce brand can afford to overlook it.
Posting great content that your audience and demographic engages with is an essential part of building your brand and raising awareness of your products. It’s all about consistency, making sure that your posts are reaching the right people at the right times.
However, it can be time-consuming and easily forgotten among all the other tasks on your plate. Especially if you are managing various social media apps.
That’s where social media management tools come in. They allow you to create a load of posts in one go and then schedule them so they are automatically sent out at a later time and date. You can also create workflows to make your social media posting completely automated.
A good social media tool will also show you what the best times of day are the post and also make recommendations about which hashtags to use, as well as providing you with invaluable analytics.
Examples of social media marketing tools
Established eCommerce businesses: Hootsuite (£39 /mo)
Hootsuite is a sophisticated social media management tool that allows you to connect up lots of different social media channels, monitor interactions with your brand, schedule posts and it also has analytics tools.
Small eCommerce businesses: Tailwind (free package or $9.99/mo)
Tailwind is a more basic tool but it’s user-friendly and starts at a much cheaper price point. It’s great for scheduling posts and also comes with handy content suggestions.
Email marketing tools
Email marketing is one of the most important tools for an eCommerce business, but most businesses suck at it.
Most basic email marketing tools will enable you to create templates (so you don’t need to design your emails each time) and schedule emails to go out at a later date, as well as providing analytics about open rates and click-through rates.
Like with social media posting, sending out individual emails can be boring and laborious, but good email marketing automation software will make the process a lot easier. Many software providers now include marketing automation tools that allow you to create rules and sales funnels so that, when a customer or contact carries out a certain action, they are automatically sent a follow-up email or SMS.
This works particularly well for things like product abandonment, cart abandonment, order, and shipping confirmation. Many of these tools will also allow you to segment your contacts based on certain metrics like geographic location, purchase history, or other customer characteristics.
You can find email marketing tools designed for every kind of business, and the cost will vary immensely. At the top end, you could spend hundreds of pounds a month for tailored email marketing software which comes with really powerful automation and segmentation options which will be used by huge brands like H&M.
On the other hand, there are some really fantastic options for new eCommerce businesses which will have all the tools you need for a fraction of the price. A lot of email marketing software will be free until you reach a certain number of contacts.
Examples of email marketing solutions
Established eCommerce businesses with 5000+ contacts: Drip (starts at $89/mo)
Sophisticated platform which integrates with your store to provide behavior-based customer segmentation and personalization, A/B testing, and a wide range of automation.
Small ecommerce businesses: Klaviyo or Mailchimp (free for first 250 contacts)
Klaviyo also integrates with Shopify and allows you to create behavior-based customer segmentation. It also comes with a lovely range of email templates to get you started.
Chances are as an eCommerce business you will need to invest in advertising of some kind, whether that’s on Google, Instagram, Facebook, or on a marketplace you sell on. Google ads continue to be the leader in this field with nearly two-thirds of people (63%) likely to click on a Google ad.
Managing advertising campaigns involves regularly reviewing a huge amount of data—a job that can take a lot of time and be very painful if you’re not a data-driven person. Luckily, there are lots of online advertising tools out there which will analyze the data for you, monitor your spend, conversion rates, and automatically update your keyword bids.
Depending on where you’re advertising, you can find advertising tools specifically for that marketplace or channel. For example, there are a whole host of tools designed for advertising on Amazon specifically.
Examples of online advertising tools
Established eCommerce businesses: TapClicks ($79/mo)
TapClicks is a sophisticated campaign management tool that provides campaign analytics, management, and reporting across multiple different sales channels.
Small eCommerce businesses: Google Ads Manager (free)
If you’re advertising on google ads, you’ll have access to Google Ads Manager for free which comes with loads of analytics and tools to help you keep on top of your ad campaigns.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital part of growing an eCommerce business. In order for your website and products to get found by customers, they need to be ranked for the right keywords so that they appear in customer searches.
Search engine optimization tools will enable you to identify what keywords you need to rank for in order to get in front of your target customers and track how well these keywords are performing for you.
Like online advertising, there are a lot of SEO tools designed specifically for the sales channel you’re selling on. For example, there are tools designed for specific marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy.
Examples of SEO tools
Established eCommerce businesses: Ahrefs ($99/mo)
Ahrefs is a powerful tool that allows you to track what keywords your website is ranking for, monitor backlinks, identify keywords to target, and analyze competitors
Small ecommerce businesses: Keywords Everywhere ($10 for 100,000 credits / 1 credit = 1 keyword)
Keywords Everywhere is a simple but effective tool that allows you to analyze keywords on a competitors site, find search volume for keywords, and identify keywords
Not all eCommerce businesses will need a separate CRM software as many eCommerce platforms and email marketing tools come with a basic CRM which will be enough for small brands. However, if you’re a large eCommerce business or you have multiple sales channels then you will most likely want a CRM.
A good CRM will help you organize and manage information about your customers and potential customers, allowing you to create effective marketing campaigns, email campaigns, plan marketing strategies, and spot opportunities for growth.
Examples of CRM tools
Established eCommerce businesses: Hubspot (from £38/mo)
Hubspot is an all-in-one marketing software tool combining a powerful CRM with a whole range of tools including social media, email, marketing automation, and analytics.
Small eCommerce businesses:
Email marketing tools like Drip and Klaviyo include a basic CRM which allows you to analyze and segment your contacts.
Unless you already have a designer in your team, the chances are you will need to use some design software at some point in order to create things like product inserts, social media posts, infographics, and imagery for product listings or your website and product packaging.
Again, there are a massive range of tools out there, from free online image editors to sophisticated design tools. Personally, I’m not particularly design literate so I love tools like Canva which come with lots of templates so I don’t need to spend ages coming up with ideas.
Examples of design tools
Established ecommerce businesses: Adobe Creative Cloud (£39.95/mo)
Adobe Creative Cloud includes a whole range of design tools, including Photoshop and InDesign. It’s not exactly user-friendly but for serious designers, it’s a must.
Small eCommerce businesses: Canva (free or £10.99/mo)
Canva is an amazingly easy-to-use design programme with hundreds of great templates for all kinds of design projects. I mainly use it for coming up with infographics, product inserts, and graphics for product listings.
Marketplace Specific Software
Selling on marketplaces such as Etsy and Amazon is really important for eCommerce businesses. In the US, 45% of all eCommerce transactions took place on Amazon US last year!
When considering effective marketing software, it’s important to remember that there are a whole host of tools designed for specific eCommerce channels such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay.
Many of these types of software will package together with a range of marketing tools that an eCommerce business owner might need, which can end up being more cost-effective than using lots of different software. Here are some key marketplace specific tools that are worth considering if you sell on these platforms:
Many Amazon and Walmart sellers swear by Helium10. It offers several SEO tools, advertising management, emails, landing pages as well as lots of operational tools.
Jungle Scout ($49/mo)
Like Helium10, Jungle Scout is designed to help Amazon sellers with all aspects of their business including SEO research, market analysis, and product launch tools.
eRank offers a wide range of tools designed specifically for Etsy sellers including SEO tools and competitor research analysis.
Marmalead is another Etsy tool offering help with SEO, keyword tracking, and competitor analysis.
Marketing is really important for your business, but it can use up a lot of time and brainpower.
The right software can revolutionize your business, reducing the time and effort it takes to build customer relationships and grow your brand. There are options out there for all budgets so it’s just a question of working out what you want help with and then finding the most suitable option for you.