Startups are exciting, bewildering and hugely risky things to be a part of. There’s the constant worry of the whole thing imploding under the weight of your multi-pronged business ideas. There’s the fear of being chewed up and spit out by larger competitors with deeper pockets. There’s also the need to attract the fickle online customer and retain their loyalties for as long as you possibly can.
In this race against time and resources, every smart e-commerce startup could do with some tools that make their lives just a tad bit easier. Here are my top four picks.
Startup environments are buzzing with ideas. Every new idea has the potential to be the next revenue stream for your e-commerce startup. Stay on top of every idea and project that you think up by putting them all up on Trello.
Trello lets you create project ‘cards’ with detailed information on every aspect of the project. From people involved to assigning responsibilities, to letting each person add their own comments to the project, to seeing edits made by team members in real time, it’s an end to end project management tool. You also get notifications via email for any new activity in your project card.
It allows you to upload pictures, files and folders to your projects. Files can be a maximum of 10 MB in size Create checklists to avoid missing out on any little detail. Track back into project history with saved comments, create project timelines with specific milestones that come with their own reminders, even create labels for your project cards making them easy to find.
The best part? You can carry Trello on the go with its great iOS and Android apps complementing the desktop version perfectly.
Trello is a free service with the option of upgrading to ‘Trello Gold’ at $ 5 per month which allows you some cosmetic extras along with the option of uploading larger files to Trello – up to 250 MB in size. There’s also ‘Trello Business Class’ which is essentially an enterprise version of Trello with greater admin controls over the contents of all cards and project boards, access regulation options, as well as the option of connecting to Google Apps.
Handling an e-commerce business is challenging enough without the need to juggle multiple sales platforms as well. Every channel – online, traditional stores, mobile, eBay or Amazon stores and so on – has its own peculiar problems that most business automation systems struggle with. Agiliron on the other hand is an ERP system, designed especially for multi-channel businesses, that packs a big punch at surprising affordable rates.
Agiliron offers multi-channel businesses a variety of tools to manage every possible business function. From POS systems, to building e-commerce platforms, to product and inventory management, pricing, supply chain management, finance and accounting, to marketing and business intelligence; this comprehensive ERP system handles them all with equal aplomb.
Agiliron lets you set up and run your own e-commerce store from scratch using its own CMS platform. Pick from a variety of built-in templates or design your own store – the options are endless. Agiliron’s robust analytics tool connects to Google Analytics to help you track, measure and optimize your conversions.
It has a great marketing and sales module that tracks visitors and nurtures them into leads, qualifies leads and helps sales team convert these qualified leads into actual customers. Manage email marketing campaigns, customer service programs even order management from right within Agiliron.
Backend operations are effectively handled through Agiliron including functions like inventory management, order fulfillment, vendor management, QuickBooks integration and more. It lets you generate detailed reports and dashboards allowing you an in-depth view of each function, every sales channel as well as the overall business.
For such a versatile tool, Agiliron is surprisingly cost effective. It offers a 30 day free trial option post which you can upgrade to a paid version of the tool. Paid packages start at $ 49 per month and can go up to $ 199 per month based on the number of features you choose to go with.
Resumes tell you only so much about a candidate’s abilities. For functions like software development, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Hacker Rank is the rebranded version of the acclaimed Interview Street tool. It allows businesses to recruit the best software developers for short term or long term projects. It can also be used as an effective testing tool during regular recruitments – as essential step that no e-commerce business must skip while taking new employees on board.
Pick from a set of programming challenges from Hacker Rank’s existing library or create your own coding challenge designed around your specific business requirements. You can send the candidate a URL take the challenge via email or host it on your own website. Hacker Rank also allows you to conduct a real-time coding test during a phone interview, saving precious time and resources required in a face to face interview.
Hacker Rank lets you to watch while the candidates go about the coding process and lets you compile and run the code written during the test to check for effectiveness. What better than to see actual code in action to compare the skills of competing candidates!
Hacker Rank offers a 14 day trial option that allows you to test up to 30 candidates for free. The basic or ‘startup version’ as they call it, comes for $ 199 per user per month that allows you to send out up to 50 invitations per month. There’s an enterprise version that offers a host of additional benefits like plagiarism detector, additional user accounts etc which come at a higher cost.
A startup enterprise needs to keep improving itself at every possible opportunity. From problems that customers face while using the website to customer ‘wish lists’ to things that customers love about your site; it pays to be in the know of such information and take appropriate actions at the right time.
Survey Monkey is one of the most popular tools out there that let you get in touch with your customers on a one on one basis and learn their thoughts, opinions and what makes them tick.
Survey Monkey allows you to create your own surveys or pick from their library of survey templates. You can customize the look of the survey to match your website, add branding, logos and more. Each survey can host a variety of question types – from simple multiple choice questions to a variety of rating scales. Surveys can be sent to people you want to quiz in the form of a simple URL that can be embedded in emails, on your website or even on social media. Want to get opinions from people who are NOT your customers? Use Survey Monkey’s Audience tool that lets to define the type of respondent you want to reach out to and Survey Monkey will send it out to the specified audience type from their own database of regular respondents.
Answers are automatically collected by Survey Monkey and can be downloaded in Excel, CSV or other formats for your own reference. Survey Monkey also offers in-depth analysis and reporting for all surveys created, which can also be downloaded at will.
Survey Monkey has a great free option for limited use surveys that will be sent to small audiences. All other features like skip logic, custom design of surveys, custom URLs, exporting data etc. come with paid accounts that start at $ 26 per month. More expensive versions can go up to $ 300 or $ 780 per year with enhanced security controls, extra accounts, SPSS integration, question randomization, flipping, A/B testing options for more unbiased results, 24/7 customer support and more.
E-commerce startups live in a world that is fiercely competitive. Apart from the people you hire and the hard work that each of you put in, the real difference between success and failure in an e-commerce set up is picking the right tools for combating the vagaries of everyday business.
Know of any other great e-commerce tools that made a real difference to your startup? Share your thoughts and spread the love.