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The essential tools In an e-commerce tech stack

by TaxJar April 25, 2022

There are seemingly an infinite amount of choices an e-commerce business owner can make in the process of running their company, from selecting a business model to deciding on the most efficient way to acquire customers. But whether you’re an online gift store or a performance sunglasses and apparel company, one of the most important choices you make will be which tools you use to run your online store efficiently. 

Essential e-commerce tools can help your company scale with ease and not miss a beat along the way. Here are a few of the essential tools needed in the tech stack of an e-commerce business.

Shopping cart

What it does

These digital carts enable buyers to add items to their carts, input their shipping info and pay for goods using the payment method of their choice. Marketing automation platform (and TaxJar Partner) Mailchimp also notes in a fascinating in-depth look at online shopping carts that their utility isn’t solely based on whether they can capture payment information: the right cart can increase conversion rates and enable ecommerce stores to re-market to customers based on their behavior. 

Vendors worth a look

Companies like Shopify, Adobe Commerce (previously Magento), Woo and BigCommerce offer online shopping carts with features like Level 1 PCI Compliance to ensure the safety of customer’s credit card information and multiple payment gateway options. One place to begin the journey to find the right shopping cart for your business is by checking out reviews for different options on G2.

Shipping software  

What it does

For shipping software to be beneficial to your business, there are a few things it should take care of: integration with your online shopping cart/store, the creation of shipping labels in bulk, and a way to compare pricing from multiple shippers. 

Shipping software available today aims to automate as much of the shipping process as possible, freeing merchants from having to spend crucial time selecting options like shipping methods and carriers for each transaction. 

Vendors worth a look

TaxJar is a Stripe company, and Stripe has partnered with shipping software providers like Easyship and Shippo. Shippo, for example, features the ability to validate addresses, which reduces the chance that you’ll spend time and capital shipping a product to the incorrect address. ShipBob is also a TaxJar Partner to consider, as it provides end-to-end fulfillment trusted by 7,000+ DTC brands. Other shipping software brands popular with growing e-commerce shops are reviewed on G2’s site.

Another shipping option is enrolling in Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), a program that allows e-commerce sellers to store their merchandise in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and delegate the packing, fulfillment services, and shipping for those products to the retail giant. For more information, we’ve written about the program in detail here.

Customer service help desk

What it does

Customers always have questions. They might ask you to provide a tracking number, question when a backordered item might be in stock again, or need a change of shipping address. And because the questions can come from social media platforms, phone, email, or via chatbot, merchants need a way to organize those requests so that they are answered promptly and correctly. 

When Amazon was a nascent digital-first company, it built its reputation through positive customer experience – a clear example that customer loyalty can be a key driver of growth. According to Qualtrics, “72% of customers expect a response to a complaint in under an hour,” and the first step to handling those complaints is a solid customer service help desk solution.

Vendors worth a look

Stripe has partnered with a number of customer service platforms, including Re:amaze and Intercom. Both platforms have high ratings on G2, which describes a help desk company as one that organizes and aggregates customer inquiries and assigns tickets to customer service reps for follow-up. 

Many help desk platforms have functionality beyond those base features: Intercom enables customer service representatives to view a customer’s subscription plan, recent payments, and account balances alongside their live chat conversations. Re:amaze not only offers chatbots, but it also has the ability to develop custom chatbots tailored to the needs of your business. 

Email marketing

What it does

Retailers know that digital marketing is a proven way to gain new customers, and the marketers tasked with finding those customers are always looking for the highest ROI for every campaign. According to Constant Contact, email marketing has a notably high ROI: an average return of $36 for every $1 spent. While email has been declared “dead” many times over, Statista notes that there were still four billion global email users in 2020, and that number is slated to grow to 4.6 billion users by 2025. 

Our friends at G2 say that an email marketing platform should have the following features, at the very least: enable the creation and sending of emails, provide email templates, track and segment email contact lists, and provide campaign-based reporting and analytics.

Vendors worth a look

Two Stripe Partners worth a look include Klaviyo, which provides an easy way to build lists using segmented data. It also has the ability to help you build automated emails that are triggered based on your customer’s actions, among other benefits. And MPZMail makes it easy to integrate with other platforms, including one-click synchronization to Stripe in order to send your customers payment confirmation emails, Google Sheets to make it easy to import emails into MPZMail’s system, and Slack to send custom notifications to you whenever customers open, click, bounce or unsubscribe from your campaigns.

Other top-tier email marketing tools include TaxJar Partner Mailchimp, which features an “AI-powered design tool” called Creative Assistant that generates custom designs based on your company’s images and logos for use in multichannel campaigns. And Robly touts proprietary technology that improves the deliverability of your emails and your open rates – potentially resulting in increased sales. 

SMS marketing

What it does

How do you get in touch with your customers? For most retailers it’s via paid media or email. But ad buys on social media can be cost-prohibitive, and shoppers’ inboxes are already overflowing with offers from other retailers. Attentive – a company that offers comprehensive, personalized text messaging solutions – produced an extensive look at the state of conversational commerce in 2022 that makes a strong case to add SMS marketing into the mix. 

The survey they compiled offers tremendous insights about the mobile audience: 81.2% of those surveyed in 2021 opted in to at least one brand’s text message marketing program, up from 55.9% who said they had subscribed by the end of 2020. And according to research conducted by Simple Texting, texts have a 98% open rate, and click-through rates for text marketing are higher than any other messaging channel. When you’re ready for an SMS marketing tool, G2 notes that it should enable you to reach existing customers, provide an opt-in opportunity for new subscribers, and offer analytics for your SMS campaigns. 

Vendors worth a look

Companies like Postscript can text high-intent shoppers with discounts to incentivize them to finish their purchase, and retailers that use them average a 9.1% conversion rate on abandoned cart automations. Textedly is another top-rated vendor, which offers the ability to send a text with over 300 characters. EZ Texting has a feature that allows retailers to receive and send texts using your existing business phone number – that should placate the 75% of consumers under the age of 44 who want to text a business, according to that company’s research. 

Sales tax compliance software

What it does

Retail industry expert Andrew Youderian of eCommerce Fuel laid out why sales tax compliance is so important for online retailers: “If you get way behind on sales tax in jurisdictions where you have liability, those costs can quickly escalate exponentially,” he noted. “It’s a real investment in the future of your business. There’s peace of mind as well to not get killed with a catastrophic cost.” 

A cloud-based sales tax compliance solution can automate the entire sales tax life cycle across all of your sales channels, including calculating accurate sales tax at checkout, producing up-to-date reports on sales and sales tax collected by state and jurisdiction, and automatically filing and remitting returns on time. 

Vendors worth a look

TaxJar’s sales tax compliance software is built for growth. Our sales tax platform will help you track your tax liability requirements and automatically calculate the accurate amount of sales tax for every item, in every state. TaxJar also compiles orders from all your e-commerce channels into one place, giving your team access to real-time reports and ensuring you are prepared for future growth. Start a free TaxJar trial today.

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