Have you ever stumbled upon a business tool, app or service that helped you produce a much greater output with significantly less input, so much so that you felt like it was almost cheating?
Maybe cheating is a harsh word, but leveraging the right tools to produce more with less is the basic idea behind the Pareto principle. Simply put, the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) teaches us that if you’re smart to leverage the right tools and strategies, you can get 80% of the desired outcome with just 20% of the input.
Leveraging the right tools and strategies is an absolute must in business, especially when you’re building an online business as an entrepreneur. If you really want to scale your business, you need to take advantage of everything you possibly can so you can get more done in less time, and with less money.
In this post, we’re going to introduce you to the best ecommerce automation tools, apps, services and strategies that we’ve discovered over the last few years so you can build your business better, faster, cheaper and more efficiently.
Ready to cheat at ecommerce?
How to Cheat at Running an Ecommerce Business
First steps first, these are some tools that can help you through the challenges of running an ecommerce business, whether they’re skill-related challenges or financial related challenges. When it comes to running an ecommerce business, these tools are imperative for all entrepreneurs to be using.
- Skillshare: As an ecommerce entrepreneur you’ll be wearing lots of hats, whether it comes to programming your store, taking product photos, marketing, content creation, finance etc. and Skillshare has video tutorials on every technical aspect there is to running a business, and every lesson is taught by an industry professional. Some classes are free however most are premium but, for the monthly or yearly price you pay, you get access to so many great classes that can help you growth hack your business. We’ve rounded up the Top 40+ Skillshare Classes for Ecommerce Business Owners here to get you off on the right start.
- AppSumo: One of the greatest challenges to running and scaling a business is keeping all your costs in check, so while sometimes you’d like to use new apps or services that could make running your business even easier, your budget doesn’t allow for it. AppSumo is a service that gives majorly discounted access to tools and services in the ecommerce industry to help entrepreneurs run their business better for a lot less. Their lifetime deals are a steal and they have new offers on all the time, and we discover so many amazing tools through AppSumo that help us run our business better in ways we may not have otherwise thought to.
- Photoshop: This is one of those tools that can be a huge learning curve to figure out at first, but once you do you can save yourself thousands and thousands of dollars in the long run. Photoshop can essentially do anything for your business whether it helps you create product photos, lifestyle imagery, hero images, images for your blog posts, and even digital products you can sell online. The possibilities are endless when it comes to Photoshop, and it’s worth it to learn how to do even the most basic tasks so you don’t have to outsource them to other businesses. If you need some help learning how to do tasks in Photoshop, check out Skillshare’s Photoshop lessons.
How to Cheat at Business & Product Launching
The launch of your business sets the tone going into your first few months. While the majority of people will just remove the password from their storefront and wonder where their customers are, the smart people will already have a list of potential customers, eagerly lining up (virtually). To do this, you need to build an audience of people interested in your product by collecting emails prior to launch.
The even smarter entrepreneurs will utilize a strong offer or incentive and the concept of viral loops to build a massive list of excited customers. This tactic is exactly what Harry’s Shaving Company did to launch their new business to a list of over 100,000 potential customers. (Source)
So what is a viral loop, you ask? A viral loop is a pretty simple concept and based on one of the most classic (and powerful) marketing strategies: Word-of-mouth marketing. The concept is that you have a landing page (a very simple single-page website) with some type of hook to get the attention of visitors, such as your unique value proposition or a discount. Along with this hook add a call to action like, “Enter Your Email!”
After the visitor enters their email, they are sent to another page that asks them to share the landing page with their friends for an additional value offer, such as: “If 5 of your friends sign up, you get an additional $10 credit towards your first purchase!” If your offer is good enough to convince people to share it through their social networks and if, on average, 2 or more new people sign up after they have been referred, you have a self-perpetuating viral loop.
Luckily, there are several tools and apps that exist to help you run these types of campaigns.
- Carrd: One of the best landing page tools out there, you can easily make landing pages for just about anything with Carrd. They’re fully responsive and come with many useful features, which we covered in detail in our Carrd Review and, for as low as $9/year, you get premium access to create your own branded landing page. Not only is Carrd inexpensive to use, they’re also just the easiest and most beautiful way to make a one-page site on the web right now.
- ViralSweep: This is one of the most powerful tools you can use to create viral giveaway loops, and they really allow you to customize your giveaways the way you want them. We discussed their features in detail in our ViralSweep Review so if you’re interested in driving lots of traffic to your site whether just to get initial traction or to boost a new product launch, we recommend checking them out.
- Vyper.io: Similar to ViralSweep, Vyper.io also helps you run viral loop giveaways to grow your business.
- Gleam.io: Incentivize visitors with additional contest entries to share your contest on social media. Check out how Beardbrand used Gleam to acquire 1248 new email subscribers, 1041 new Facebook fans and 562 new Twitter followers.
- Fishbowl Prizes: A simple and easy-to-use Shopify contest app that adds the elements of viral loops through social sharing.
- Launch Checklist: Our Launch Checklist has been formulated to help entrepreneurs throughout the launching process so step-by-step, you don’t miss a thing. It’s a great free resource for entrepreneurs who are launching their first business!
How to Cheat at Collecting & Cleaning Up an Email List
Most online business owners will agree that collecting emails from visitors and customers is extremely important. Why? Because email marketing has the biggest return on investment by a large margin.
These are some of the best tools to use for collecting email addresses and ensuring you grow a healthy email list over time.
- Sumo: This is one of the best tools you can use to get email capture fields integrated onto your site. No matter how you want your email capture fields to look, whether you want them to be a popup, a scrolling sidebar, a banner, embedded or parallax, Sumo has all these options available and more. It’s definitely one of the best tools to help build an email list. To learn more about Sumo, check out our Sumo Review.
- ZeroBounce: We’ve learned the hard way that it’s so important to periodically clean through your email list to make sure there are no spam email accounts, no addresses that bounce, no fake subscribers and no invalid email addresses taking up valuable (and costly!) space on your email list. ZeroBounce has helped us clean up our email list and it’s a super reasonable service for the amount of value that it brings to the table.
How to Cheat at Social Media Marketing
Five years ago, if you had a Facebook page, a post would reach most of the people that liked your page. Then Facebook put down the hammer and posts from businesses now reach very few of the people who like your page. It’s almost not even worth the 30 seconds it takes to actually post something to your page!
So, when it comes to social media, playing fair likely won’t even get you a seat at the table. You have to cheat – *ahem* – leverage.
There are lots of tools that can help you automate your social media and get the most out of every single post. Let’s take a look at the best of the best:
- MissingLettr: Unlike other social media scheduling services that just schedule social posts for the near future, MissingLettr helps you create scheduled social posts for the next year in a clear, easy-to-follow way. To make sure that your content, products and resources are getting the right amount of airtime on your social channels consistently, create campaigns with MissingLettr.
- QuuuPromote: One of the best ways to get your content in front of relevant audiences in your niche, simply add posts to QuuuPromote and other influencers in your industry will share your content with their following.
- Edgar: Edgar makes sure that your social media posts reach as many of your followers as possible. With Edgar, you save your posts to a library and schedule times throughout the week when you want your posts to go out. Edgar will then post content from your library to your social channels, and after it’s posted Edgar will return the content back to the library. Once all the updates from your library have been posted to your social channels over time, it will then cycle through all of them again. This way, you’ll have an endless supply of content going out forever.
- SmarterQueue: Similar to Edgar, SmarterQueue is a social media scheduling service that helps you build a library of content that can be recycled so that you always have relevant, engaging and evergreen posts going out to your audience at all times.
- Kickstagram: Get professional help building your Instagram platform and growing your audience base with Kickstagram. It can be a lot of work managing an Instagram account successfully if you always want to be creating new content, posting regularly, engaging with comments and liking other accounts in your community, so Kickstagram specializes in help businesses make the most of their Instagram accounts.
- Creative Market: If you’re DIYing your social media accounts, Creative Market’s digital assets can be your saving grace. Use their social media pack templates to create a consistent social feed, their royalty free photos to create beautiful imagery, their font library to keep your posts on-brand and much more. Check out our Creative Market review to learn more about what they have to offer.
How to Cheat at Search Engine Optimization
Leveraging the right SEO tools has helped us tremendously by growing our organic traffic in previous years by over 500% (just read our SEMrush Review) and we certainly couldn’t have grown the way we have been without the following tools.
- SEMRush: This is one of those tools that’s just an absolute game changer for our business and something we can’t live without. In short, SEMrush is a competitor intelligence service that shows what your competition is ranking for in Google. It will not only show you which pages and products your competitors are ranking for, but you can also drill down and see the exact keywords which are ranking and their search volume. This can help you discover products that you should be selling, or you can use these keywords and insights to outrank your competition with content marketing.
- SEO Review Tools: SEO Review Tools is a comprehensive suite of tools you can use to research and monitor your SEO efforts. While there are many tools out there that perform a similar service, SEO Review Tools is the simplest to use and it’s also free. Use these tools to understand key information about your competition and your own website/store. For example, before we try to go after keywords that our competition is ranking for (discovered through SEMrush) we check our competition’s domain and page authority with the SEO Review Tools to make sure we’re on the same playing field.
- SERPWatcher: This tool is vital to our system of tracking our success in search engine rankings. SERPWatcher enables site owners to track their Search Engine Ranking Positions as they rise and fall which gives an overview of the health of important keywords that bring in traffic to your site. No other tool does the same job so easily and smoothly, and it’s one that we constantly look forward to tracking our progress on. For more information on SERPWatcher, check out our SERPWatcher Review.
- KWFinder: The best keyword tool on the market, KWFinder is the only way we recommend site owners search for and target keywords. It’s one of those tools that just works the way it’s supposed to and reliably provides important insight on keywords and competitors. To learn more about why we like KWFinder so much and what it offers site owners, check out our KWFinder Review.
- LinkMiner: A backlink-checker tool that can help you boost your site’s reach, LinkMiner is a useful way to help you find and evaluate backlinks so you can target or replicate them yourself. Building backlinks is a powerful way to grow your site’s SEO and it’s easy to do with LinkMiner.
- Detailed: This service helps businesses grow their traffic via link building analysis and insights, and is one of the best link building services in the industry.
How to Cheat at PR and Influencer Outreach
Getting your business and products in front of the right influencers can be huge. Finding and connecting with those influencers can be difficult, though. These tools can help you uncover the best influencers in your niche and can even help you manage your communication with them.
- Ninja Outreach: Get access to 25 million bloggers and social media influencers on this marketing and outreach software.
- Grapevine: Connect with top creators to create engaging social media campaigns.
- FameBit: Focusing specifically on YouTube creators, FameBit helps to pair brands and agencies with top YouTube influencers in their niche.
How to Cheat at Creating Content & Product Descriptions
Finding the best content ideas and topics can be exhausting. How many times have you just sat there with absolutely no ideas of what to write about? And if finding content ideas to write about isn’t your pain point, then maybe the actual writing process is. These tools will help you find content ideas to write about and someone to help you write them.
- BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo helps you find the most viral and shared content on social media. By typing in your target keywords, you can find the best content that currently exists, then all you have to do is figure out how to make it better. This increases your chances of getting more shares and views as the topics and content have already been proven to do well on social media.
- HubSpot Blog Ideas Generator: If you’re really stuck for content to write about and searching for valuable keywords on KWFinder isn’t working for you or pirating your competitor’s keywords via SEMrush just isn’t cutting it, then check out HubSpot’s tool to get you working in the right direction.
- Content Creation Services: Whether content creation simply is just not your forte or you need to outsource some writing tasks (like product description writing!) so you can spend your time working on other valuable things, then these are the best content creation services you can outsource your work to: iWriter, Upwork, Fiverr, Writer Access, Article Writing Co., JobRack, WordGeeks, Content Fly
How to Cheat at Creating Great Product Photos
Great product photos are essential for ecommerce store owners, but editing images for the average person is uncharted territory and can be extremely difficult.
- Pixc: Pixc makes product image editing simple. Just upload your images and Pixc will edit the photos, leaving you with a much cleaner image of your product, isolated on a pure white background. Pixc also has a Shopify app and a Bigcommerce app to streamline your product photo editing.
- ShortPixel: We discussed the importance of compressing your images in our Optimizing Images for Web: A Practical Guide article, but since then we’ve discovered ShortPixel which is a free tool that can help massively compress your site images whether you want Lossy, Glossy or Lossless compression. It’s such a useful tool that has helped speed up our site immensely, and best of all, for free!
How to Cheat at Logo Creation
A logo is generally considered the centerpiece of your brand as it gets seen by most people that interact with your company. Having a visually appealing logo that matches your overall brand can help set the tone for visitors and customers, however, for most people, paying a professional designer several thousand dollars to create your company logo design when you’re first starting out doesn’t make sense. However, there are tools that can help you achieve 80% of the results you would get with a professional designer for 20% of the cost.
- Looka: A professional-designer experience provided completely through sophisticated AI technology, Looka helps you put the cherry on top of your brand with a logo that matches your brand’s core traits. By asking you to describe your brand and then providing you with design options you yay or nay, the entire experience takes no more than a few minutes and you only have to purchase the logo if you love it. If you do decide to purchase a Looka logo, their prices are very reasonable and come with a full portfolio of proper image optimizations, sizes and variants like you’d get with a professional designer. Learn more about Looka’s features and services in our Looka Review.
- Tailor Brands: Tailor Brands asks you a few simple questions about your business and brand and then from there it uses machine learning to produce a bunch of logos that best match your preferences. If you like what you see, you can purchase one of the logos for a fraction of the cost of hiring a designer.
How to Cheat at Product & Niche Selection
Finding the perfect product to sell online is so important for your business’ future success, and there are amazing resources on the market to help brands like yours find the right products more easily.
- MXED: A breakthrough Shopify app that helps merchants dropship officially licensed pop-culture merchandise from well-known franchises such as Marvel, Lucas Films, DC, Nintendo and more, MXED is one of the few companies that can provide this service and they do it very well. Learn more about their features and services in our MXED Review. To find more great products you can sell to your customers, check out our 10 Best Shopify Dropshipping Apps to Acquire Inventory for Your Business article.
- Printful: One of the best dropshipping suppliers to work with online, selling via Printful is easy and effortless. They provide a wide range of different products such as clothing, hats, mugs, beach towels, canvases, tote bags and much more, and they allow merchants the capabilities to customize products with their own designs. We’ve covered everything Printful offers in our Printful Review and we even set up a T-Shirt Business with Printful in this article!
- Spocket: A curated selection of great dropshipping products to sell online, Spocket focuses on helping merchants find dropshipping products from suppliers in their area. No matter what you’re looking to sell or where you’re looking to sell it from, check Spocket’s database to see what’s on the market.
- Gooten: Similarly to Printful, print your own designs on products and dropship them to your customers with Gooten. With no minimum orders and no inventory to manage, they’re a low-risk option to get started within ecommerce.
How to Cheat at Sourcing Suppliers
Possibly one of the toughest parts of starting an online business, if you’re looking for a manufacturer to create your products whether overseas or domestic, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. We’ve come across some great resources in our time that make the entire sourcing process easier whether it’s an online directory or even a third-party manufacturer sourcing service, so let’s dive right in.
- Sourcify: Finding the right supplier for your business can be a tricky process, especially if you want an overseas supplier. Sourcify specializes in helping businesses source the perfect supplier for their business, whether you’re new and need to find the right supplier to create your products, or you’re an established business that would like to cut down on manufacturing costs. Sourcify has an impressive network of suppliers and they know their stuff when it comes to sourcing from overseas. They can give you a personalized experience no matter what type of manufacturer your business is looking for.
- Maker’s Row: A directory of domestic suppliers, Maker’s Row showcases homegrown talent for businesses who want that “Made-in-America” feel. It’s the ultimate place to search for manufacturers who are making products on American soil.
- Alibaba: The ultimate directory for finding overseas suppliers, Alibaba is the place to go to for any and every type of product that can be sold online. No matter what you’re looking to sell, there’s definitely a manufacturer of it on Alibaba. Make sure to read through our Ultimate Guide to Safely Sourcing Your Products from Alibaba to make sure you safeguard yourself from potential scams and prevent any potential challenges.
- Online Supplier Directories: A great place to find suppliers online is through supplier directories such as our Drop Shipping Suppliers Directory, Manufacturer Directory and Clothing Manufacturer Directory. Directories like these can help you find suppliers in your industry that you may not have otherwise known existed.
How to Cheat at Branding & Design
Branding and design are a huge part of your online presence, and these resources can help you get it right. When you want to make changes to your online store’s site but they’re too complicated to make yourself or you just want to make sure they get done properly, we highly suggest outsourcing the task to qualified professionals. When it comes to branding, however, we recommend sitting down with our Ecommerce Branding Guide to reflect on the goals you have for your brand and the assets you’re going to need to get you there.
- Web Development Outsourcing: Expert services that can help make development changes to your online store include HeyCarson, Shopify Experts, StoreTasker and TaskHusky.
- Ecommerce Branding Guide: If you’re a totally new business just starting out, taking your brand into consideration before you start building your online store can help you make the best design decisions along the way. Figuring out the main traits of your brand, your color palette, photography style, typography, and unboxing experience are all important elements that we walk through step-by-step in our Ecommerce Branding Guide.
How to Cheat at Getting Traffic
Besides the tips we’ve discussed in our How to Increase Website Traffic article, these are a couple little things you can do to give your traffic that extra push that it might need. Specifically focusing on tools that can help you build traffic in the background of everything else you’re doing on the day-to-day, you can free up more of your time but still reap the same rewards.
- Instaaa: This is an AI-powered media outreach service that can help you get traffic by promoting your brand across a selection of websites, directories and communities. It’s one of the quickest ways for you to get your brand name out there to reputable sites and it’s one of those tools that works in the background, all you have to do is sign up.
- Facebook Messenger Marketing: Even though email is still king, now that every brand under the sun has an email list, it has become an oversaturated traffic generation tool. An up-and-coming tool that’s showcasing great open rates is Facebook Messenger, so if you want to reach your audience in a way that’s not so saturated by competitors, try out Facebook Messenger Marketing.
How to Cheat at Shipping & Fulfillment
These are some innovative shipping and fulfillment tools that we really wish we knew existed when we started, so we’re sharing them with you! They can take a lot of stress out of your logistics situation, so make use of them if they work for your business.
- Panjiva: This is a valuable source of global trade insights and a well-kept secret in the ecommerce industry. If you’re interested in learning where other businesses source their products from and where your competitors are importing and exporting from, Panjiva has the data.
- Flexport: A freight-forwarder and customs broker, Flexport helps businesses get their stock from one place to the next in the most efficient way. They’re masters at all things logistics and are a full-service logistics provider that can get your products where they need to be, safely and securely.
- Easyship: This is a great tool for ecommerce businesses that want to minimize abandoned carts and not overpay or underpay for shipping as it provides real-time shipping prices for multiple carriers at any given time so you and your customers always get the best shipping deal. With Easyship, merchants can use more than 100 different shipping options to ship packages from one dashboard, in one click, without having to negotiate rates, pay upfront deposits, reconcile invoices or be bound to a contract. We discussed their features and services in our Easyship Review, so we recommend checking that out.
How to Cheat at Accounting, Finance & Legal
One of the most complex topics in ecommerce, and definitely not the sexiest, but essential to online businesses nonetheless. We’ve found some amazing resources in the accounting, finance and legal niche, and they’re extremely useful to integrate into your daily business practices.
- Online Bookkeeping & Accounting Softwares: Shoeboxed and Bench Accounting are two of the top bookkeeping and accounting services available online for ecommerce merchants, and they make day-to-day tasks like saving receipts as pain-free as possible. They also make filing taxes at the end of the fiscal year much more manageable, and they’re a no-brainer for merchants looking to spend less time on the dull parts of running a business. Bench even provided a Small Business Accounting & Bookkeeping Guide for our blog, which is a great resource to get started with.
- TaxJar: Speaking of filing taxes, TaxJar is the best online tools to help merchants file their sales taxes on time and correctly, no matter how often you need to file them, and their AutoFile service (which automatically files your sales taxes for you) is now available in all US states. It can seriously save you so much time, hassle and headaches and is worth learning more about in our TaxJar Review.
We hope you get the most out of these ecommerce automation tools and that they can help you grow and scale your business to better places. These tools are what we use on a daily basis, or have used in the past, to get more results with less input and we truly feel like these apps give extreme value for the price that you pay.