Start Selling Online

Updated on 8th July 2020

Sell anything, to anyone with these top ecommerce tools

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You’ve got your killer business idea or course.

You’ve picked the domain name. Nailed the brand.

There’s only a few steps left before you fulfil your dream of selling online.

Thankfully there’s an army of marketing tools to effortlessly help you get there. We’ll cover:

  • Resourcefully building an online store
  • Taking payments from customers
  • Promoting yourself to the world
  • Setting-up an affiliate scheme

…and much, more more!

Building your store - ecommerce made easy

Drag-and-drop ecommerce platforms have come a long way over the last five years. There really is no reason to create a store from scratch.

Shopify and Squarespace are great options for selling physical products and services online. With stunning templates, countless customisations and ecommerce baked in, you can be up and running within a couple of hours. Hosting is even included in every level of their payment plans.

Shopify homepage review

Wordpress is another, more flexible option. There’s a Wordpress plugin for everything, from SEO and optimisation to member communitities, live chat and security. WooCommerce powers the ecommerce operations of over 4 million websites. Hosting wise, we recommend GreenGeeks, the world’s #1 eco-friendly provider.

Processing payments - start taking orders

If you have a Shopify site, Shopify Payments is the simplest way to start accepting payments.

For all other platforms of custom-built sites, there’s Stripe. Secure, flexible and extremely scalable, it can power ecommerce stores, SaaS, crowdfunding platforms, marketplaces and more.

Stripe homepage review

For extremely easy checkout from a user perspective, there’s also Paypal, Apple and Google Pay. Many customers will already have these accounts setup, so buying from you takes only a couple of clicks.

Advertising – speculate to accumulate

With the foundations in place, you can boost traction with some paid ads. Google Ads is an obvious starting point, pairing search intent with your solution far faster than your SEO efforts. Google Ads can get you to the top of results immediately and micro-test different ad variations – dipping your toe in the water without making a dent in your marketing budget. Now that’s setup you can also enable Google Shopping Ads to get your products appearing on the shopping tab on Google searches.

Google Ads homepage review

You’ll also want to setup Facebook Ads and install Facebook pixel – a piece of code that you place on your website. It collects data that helps you track conversions from across the Facebook portfolio (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger) and the off-Facebook, in-app Advertising Network. From there you can micro-target profitable audiences and test creative without spending a fortune.

SEMrush homepage review

Keyword research tools that allow you to understand what your market is searching for and spying on your competitors ads, include Google Keyword Planner, Moz, Ahrefs, HubSpot and SEMrush. With a clearer idea of which approaches will work for certain audiences, you can progress to an all-in-one toolkit with an ad manager and tracker included, such as HubSpot, MailChimp and SEMrush.

As you build up a customer base you can use these same CRM+ tools to find lookalikes who are just like them.

Convert – turn visitors into buyers

Now you’re pouring more prospects into your funnel it’s important they stick around.

Intercom chips in with live chat bots and qualifying. HubSpot does this, plus embeddable forms and easy-to-build landing pages. Unbounce and Autopilot join them in automating your lead handling processes so they never go cold. Meanwhile, Fomo surfaces the key actions on your site as friendly social proof pop-ups for others to see.

Fomo Homepage review

The likes of Yieldify and Personizely offer even more advanced targeting based on individual users to present them with exit intent discount codes, unique sales messages or upselling offers at checkout.

Yieldify Homepage review

HubSpot and Fomo are my personal favourites here – particularly if you’re just starting out - but all the tools come with free trials so jump in and check them out.

Automated email marketing - personalisation at scale

Email is making a comeback.

Tools such as Omnisend, Autopilot, Woodpecker, ConvertKit and Userlist are turning automated customer messaging into an artform. With sophisticated automation and dynamic workflows, you’re able to reach out to prospects and customers at the right moment with the right message, every time. Use cases include:

  • Welcome emails
  • Cross-selling
  • Recover abandoned carts
  • Product recommendations
  • Milestone celebrations
  • Order updates
  • Retention offers

Affiliates – word-of-mouth marketing

Multiply your sales with a referral scheme.

Tools such as Rewardful, First Promoter and Referral Candy have everything you need to have your own affiliate, referral or influencer program live in less than minutes. They integrate with all the major ecommerce and payment platforms and can divvy up the rewards of your choice – be that cash rewards, store discounts or custom gifts.

Rewardful Homepage review

The best thing about all three affiliate tools is that they run on autopilot, meaning you can concentrate on running your business and fulfilling all the extra orders.

Another neat trick is using a content promotion tool such as Quuu Promote to amplify your best blog posts and sales content.

Customer reviews – amplifying your biggest fans

YotPo taps into positive vibes of happy customers by showcasing their reviews and Instagram photos on your website. Proving that social proof can be far more potent than any slick advertising campaign, YotPo’s shoppable UGC galleries and ratings can also show up on social, paid, and organic search results.

Loox App Homepage review

Loox does a similar thing for Shopify stores, collecting visual product reviews to create a 91% uplift in conversions. Of course, you’ll need positive reviews in the first place - learn how to work software review sites to your advantage.

Tutorials – create quick how-to videos

Soapbox is a great tool for easily creating screen capture videos. Use to it create how-to videos, social media sales pitches and customer reviews in an instant. Simply install the Chrome extension and you’re ready to start capturing your screen. Best of all, it’s free!

Retargeting – one last try

98% of visitors to your website leave without converting. Social media and web retargeting encourages them to return.

Assuming you have cookies in place, Perfect Audience will entice window shoppers back with dynamic ads as a gentle reminder of the precise products they were looking at. A remarkably cost-effective way of converting the customer you almost had.

PrefectAudience Homepage review

Analytics – do more of what works

Your website is blind without analytics. Most businesses automatically turn to Google Analytics to collect an enormous amount of info about visitors to their website; where they’ve come from, the keywords they’ve used, how relevant they find your content, and any barriers that are getting in the way of a sale. However, an increasing number of light-weight, privacy-focused alternative to Google Analytics are starting to give them a run for their money.

We use Fathom on – a far simpler and faster-to-load analytics tool. It gives us a shapshot of the site’s top content, top referrers and goal completions but not a lot more. Just enough. What’s more, as Fathom doesn’t collect any personal data your site doesn’t need to display annoying cookie notices.

Fathom Analytics Homepage review

When it comes to ecommerce sales reporting, Shopify, Squarespace and Google Analytics all have it built in. However, if you want more focused solutions and beautiful graphs I’d recommend KISSmetrics and Baremetrics.

As a footnote: If you’d like to discover other privacy marketing tools, you’re in luck.

And finally…

If you’re thinking all these tools sound like a lot of effort, there’s always Kit.

Shopify Kit Homepage review

Sadly now retired, Kit was a Shopify integration that acted as a free virtual marketing assistant, ready to recommend the marketing activities it thinks will drive you sales. The AI service worked across Facebook and Instagram ads, SEO, customer reviews, discount codes, retargeting and more to proactively send suggestions and automatically acting on instructions.

After only a few simple text messages you can have a virtual marketing department at your disposal, making it easier than ever to start selling online.

Although the feature has been sunsetted, we’re reliably informed something even better is in the works.

Looking for new content marketing tools?

Sell more through inbound marketing. Producing a pipeline of great content is easier said than done. Thankfully, I’ve pulled together a list of the top content marketing tools I use to help.

Make marketing tools your superpower

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