As a small- or medium-size business owner, you might not have the time to devote to planning, designing, creating and developing your own websites and incorporating an e-commerce and marketing strategy along with your business technology. Many SMB owners have no idea where to start or what to choose when it comes to creating their website or improving their current online presence.
This list for SMBs includes a kit of e-commerce tools, online marketing tools, and website development tools, including a short review of fifteen resources in the three categories. You can then make your own choices based on your needs and requirements of the various instruments, whether starting a new or improving your current website.
Bigcommerce is a robust platform solution that lets you create your own online store, design your storefront, configure your products, manage your store, and offers marketing tools as well. Features include Store Design, SEO, Marketing and Promotions, Help Desk, Hosting, Security, Orders and Checkout, Mobile Commerce and more.
Dydacomp offers an array of products including Multichannel Order Management (MOM) software, which is built for e-commerce including shopping cart integration, inventory management, and order fulfillment.
Recurly provides a recurring billing platform for managing subscriptions with features such as subscription plans, coupons and discounts, one-time transactions, and metered billing.
Shopify is a smaller offering for those just getting started out. It allows you to build an online store with unlimited hosting, shopping cart, marketing and SEO, 24/7 support, mobile commerce, and customizable themes and templates. If you expect rapid growth in your e-commerce activity, then you might want to review other options listed here, but if you are comfortable starting out small, then this is the right tool for you.
Vendio delivers a multi-channel e-commerce solution that can connect you to Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and your own store with applications for imaging, channel management, marketing and promotion, customer communication, business management, and analytics and reporting.
Online marketing tools
ChangeDetection.com is a free change-monitoring and notification service that provides monitoring for any website and creates a change log that can alert you by email when a change has been detected. This is a great tool to monitor any competitor's websites to evaluate trends and activities.
Google+ Ripples creates an interactive graphic of the public shares of any public post or URL on Google+ to show you how it has rippled through the network and helps to you discover new and interesting people to follow.
HubSpot utilizes the inbound marketing technique to build leads, increase visits, and build your customer base. Use their free Marketing Grader tool to get a report on how your websites' online marketing stands up to your peers.
MailChimp permits you to create targeted emails to specific segments of your customer subscriber list. Features include a drag and drop editor, email templates, integrations, custom forms, and mobile coupon codes.
SpyFu allows you to see inside the secret formula of your most successful competitors, including tools to improve keywords, ad copy, get top SEO positioning, and sell SEO services. It also includes tracking progress, analytics, SEM top lists, tutorials, and videos.
Website development tools
99 Designs allows you to start a contest to see who can create your new website, and then pick from dozens of entries and get connected to avid web designers willing to take on your project.
Balsamiq supplies a rapid wireframing tool allowing you to create quick mockups of your website with features such as low-fi sketches, click-through prototypes, UI components and icons, and ability to export to PNG and PDF for sharing and presenting mockups.
MixPanel offers powerful analytics for websites including the mobile web. Features include segmentation, funnels, retention, and notifications.
User Testing offers low-cost usability testing of your website including mobile testing. Tests start at $49 per user and include on demand 24/7 response, targeted users, annotations, and allow you to ask follow up questions.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is for the more technically savvy. AWS provides a cloud computing resource that allows you to launch your own virtual machine and applications in mere minutes. Features include the AWS Management Console, SDKs and Tools, Support Forums, Tutorials and Articles, Amazon Machine Images, Whitepapers, Technical FAQs, Videos and Webinars, the AWS User Groups and more.
Share your experience
Are you an owner/operator or a web developer who has used any of these tools? If so, let us know of your expectations, experiences, aha moments, or pitfalls with any of these tools mentioned in this article.
Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal government.