My favorite tools and services
I use a variety of software in my day-to-day activities running an e-commerce company. Here is a list of my favorites. Hopefully, it’s useful to you as well!
Photoshop – If you don’t know how to use any flavor of image editing software, you shouldn’t be in the e-commerce game. As I’ve said in previous posts, you have to know everything about every facet of your business. If you “outsource” every activity in your business to your employees, you’ll be held completely hostage by them. You may not be the best graphic designer, but you should know how to perform basic image editing functions. You should also know what’s possible and how long it should take to perform particular functions.
Endicia.com’s Dazzle– Gotta love this software for printing postage. We are a fairly high volume shipper, and their $15.99/month plan works awesome for us. It provides address correction, allows for XML import of packages, and supports every possible mail class. This is a must for USPS shipping. They also offer competitive insurance rates.
Final Cut Pro X – This is what we use for creating our videos. It’s very powerful and may be overkill for your post production needs. Something as simple as iMovie would definitely suffice for most activities. If you’re not doing video… well, start today!
Gmail for Domains / Google Apps for Business – We started using Google Apps shortly after it was launched. We did it primarily to transition away from hosting our own email. You get to use your own domain name as well as all of the features and benefits of GMail.
Google Apps for Business also includes Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, and a host of other services. We use Google Docs & Spreadsheets constantly in our day-to-day activities. It makes sharing documents between co-workers easy. There’s also the savings of not having to buy Microsoft Office licenses for every computer. It’s true that these apps aren’t as powerful as their desktop counterparts. However, for 99.9% of what we do, they’re more than adequate.
iPod Touch – Our warehouse employees have iPod Touches that they use constantly throughout the day. They use FaceTime to chat with other employees in the office. They use it take photos of damaged product as well as to make a record of every incoming packing slip. They also use them to check inventory levels and other warehouse-related tasks.
Freightquote.com – For organizing incoming LTL (Less than Truckload) deliveries, this site has been stellar. They have competitive rates and great customer service. There are a few similar websites out there that provide competitive bids on palletized deliveries. This is a definite must. You’ll consistently find that these services provide rates far cheaper than what you can get from a dedicated account with UPS Freight or similar service. Basically, unless you’re shipping dozens of LTL shipments a day, you’re not going to come even close to these rates.
ZenDesk – There are definitely a good deal of choices out there for cloud-based “ticket” services. These services help you manage your customer service inquiries. We’ve been using ZenDesk and have no complaints thus far. We integrated it into our site in less than a day and were able to start helping customers immediately. You absolutely must invest in a service like this if you’re getting even a handful of customer inquiries via email on a daily basis. Email is clunky. Messages are easy to lose or overlook and they are difficult to share within your organization.
CDN – If you’re not using a CDN for at least hosting images on your website, you’re doing your customers a huge disservice. CDNs distribute your content throughout servers located across the country (or world). When a customer in California, for example, requests a page from your site, they can get the images from the CDN edge location in California. This makes your website load quicker and reduces the load on your application server which should be doing more complicated tasks such as processing orders!
Mini Pak’R – This machine allows you to make your own bubble wrap. This is the only machine that I know of that doesn’t require signing a lease contract (boo!). You simply purchase it outright and then buy rolls of material (it makes 6 different styles of bubblewrap and void fill). I love this machine. It’s very durable and reliable.
SendGrid.com – This is a transactional email provider. You HAVE to get one of these going to handle all your transaction-based email. These are the “thank you for your order”, “your order has been shipped”, “we’ll notify you when item X is back in stock” emails. Look into “transactional email providers” if you haven’t already.