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How to choose the right tools for your e-commerce business

Whether you are a pureplay online retailer or an omnichannel retailer, choosing the right tools to augment the customer experience and drive operational efficiency can be daunting, overwhelming and downright painful.

When I use the word “tools”, I’m referring to the email marketing, live chat, shipping and postage, reviews, personalisation, loyalty programs, data and insights and site search solutions that you might use on top of your commerce platform. And under each of these categories, there are dozens of great platforms offering diverse features, services, pricing and support.

It’s an overwhelming list, and it can seem impossible or even risky to decide which tool to use. While many e-commerce managers are knowledgeable about a variety of areas, including platform performance, SEO, paid search, social advertising, product merchandising and UX, internal teams can only be expected to develop so much expertise.

But let’s say you have no other option but to select your business’s e-commerce tools yourself. How should you approach the decision-making process?

What do you hope to achieve?

When assessing a tool it is important firstly to understand the motivation for a tool change or introduction, as this will impact your ability to achieve your objectives. 

A new tool may be introduced and implemented for some of the following reasons:

  • Operational efficiency: to automate or streamline a manual task 
  • Improve experience: to simplify a difficult interaction for your customers
  • Drive revenue: to create activities and events that increase average order value, win back old customers and upsell existing customers
  • Reconfigure systems architecture: to enable the change or migration of other components within the business tech stack
  • Cost saving: to deliver savings for the total cost of ownership of the online operation

Once you know why you want to select a new tool, it’s critical to work out how to understand, rate and in turn decide on the best one.

Criteria and tips for choosing the best tools

1. Budget

The $64,000 question; how much budget do you have available to invest in this tool, and what is the cost structure? This should be something any sales or support team from a tool can easily answer. Be sure to ask and understand:

  • Setup costs: what are they, and what do they include?
  • Monthly license fees: is the level of the license is impacted by database numbers, sales figures, etc.?

2. Location and support

Where is the support team for the tool based? Be cautious of local sales teams with support teams based overseas. If the team is based in Europe, there may be a lag time of 24 hours if you need to log a ticket or have a question. A great question to ask is whether they provide any commitments on response times. Even better, ask about the average ticket resolution timeframe for customers on the same plan or license agreement you are considering. (They may not give this to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!)

3. Scalability

Can the tool scale and grow with your business? You might be doing $200,000 in online orders per month now, but what happens if that doubles, or triples? What will happen if you open five new locations across two new countries?

4. Features

This overlaps pretty closely with the first point, but performing a simple analysis of the cost versus features can help you make the right decision and ensure you are unlocking the best features of the tool for the right price.

5. Ease of use and training

Can your team understand how to use the tool and get the best out of it? Is there training, online resources or demonstrations available? Alternatively, do you work with an agency that has a partnership with the tool? They may be qualified to provide additional support.

6. Integrations

The word “integration” is enough to send a chill down the spine of most people in the e-commerce industry. Does X talk with Y? Do we have a central source of truth? If tool X is implemented, does it affect the running of tool Y?

There are many factors that come into play when choosing the best tools for your e-commerce business. 

The above is a great start, but if in doubt, asks for the basics: how much, what does it do, can you show me, and how long will it take to implement?

Laura Qureshi is Overdose Digital’s managing director in Melbourne.

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