Business > Merchant Voice

Technology stack for FringeSport

I’ve read columnist Eric Bandholz’s post on the technology stack for his company, Beardbrand. In this article, I’ll address the same for my company, FringeSport. These are the tools that helped us to grow from my garage to a seven-figure ecommerce business.

Not all of the following tools are appropriate for startups. Some, such as our backend management system, are unnecessary until you hit scale.

Most important tools

Ecommerce platform: Shopify.wrote a post on why I love Shopify. In short, Shopify lets us be experts on sales and marketing; it handles the rest. Yes, there are a few downsides — lately our site has slowed down; we need to clean it up — and Shopify has recently raised prices. But I am still a Shopify believer.

Backend, business-management platform: Brightpearl. This is a tough one. On one hand, Brightpearl manages all our orders across multiple channels — branded ecommerce, Amazon, eBay, B2B, wholesale — and syncs with our shipping, fulfillment, warehousing, ordering, and receiving functions. Brightpearl can manage channel sales to Amazon, eBay, and our website. It even produces financials, although we don’t use this module. But, we seem to be constantly fighting the Brightpearl platform, to get it to do what we want. Then again, few people ever said, “I love my business management software.” Or, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Shipping management: ShipStation. ShipStation is a breath of fresh air. It’s a robust, fully featured (and growing) platform that is user-friendly, powerful, and reasonably priced. (Don’t pinch me; I might wake up!) Granted, ShipStation is located Austin, like FringeSport. So it’s easy for me to drop in at ShipStation’s offices and hang out. Regardless, I love this platform.

Accounting: QuickBooks. This is the most boring option. We use what a plumber uses. As I mentioned, Brightpearl has a financial module, but QuickBooks is the industry standard. I know of many entrepreneurs that prefer Xero, but we’re on the tried-and-true here at FringeSport.

Forecasting: Microsoft Excel. I wish I had a better solution here. We do our forecasting in a custom Excel spreadsheet that we’ve developed over the years. It’s big. It’s unwieldy. And it (mostly) works.

Email marketing: MailChimp. Don’t make fun of me. I love the Chimp. It’s another user-friendly, reasonably priced platform that works well. I read a post on Reddit recently from a guy who was telling people how to buy and use a MailChimp competitor. The only thing I could think of was, “Why?”

Analytics: Google Analytics. I once worked at a Living Direct — an Internet Retailer top 250 company. Living Direct used Omnivore and Google Analytics. I could never understand this. Google Analytics is so fully featured that most companies will never need another option, although heat maps like Crazy Egg and Hotjar are helpful supplements.

Other key tools

Google Apps, Google Docs. I’m a Google Apps fan. We run Fringe’s email through Gmail via Google Apps. We manage our key performance indicators in Google Sheets. And we write our processes and procedures in Google Docs as, basically, linked wikis.

Missing tools

Customer management software. We need a customer management system badly. I have reviewed our options and I’m now in analysis paralysis. We will likely end up with Salesforce, but I am scared of a poor implementation that causes more harm than good.

Blog. We use Shopify’s blog tool. While I love Shopify’s ecommerce platform, I strongly dislike its blog function. I wish we could smoothly integrate WordPress and host it on our domain — e.g., I’ll keep dreaming.

Smaller (but helpful) tools

Ratings, reviews, and customer questions: Yotpo. A lot of my ecommerce friends use Yotpo. It’s a good program. But, unfortunately, Yotpo has recently raised prices. It was dirt cheap when we signed up.

Tools for growing web traffic: SumoMe. This is another Austin company. SumoMe produces simple, powerful, beautiful tools to help us analyze, grow, and convert traffic.

Image processing: Snapseed, Canva. These are a free, lessor-known programs that have helped us move away from Photoshop. Snapseed is a smartphone app that makes it easy (and fun) to color correct and edit photos. Canva is a browser-based image editor. It is not as powerful as Photoshop, but with Canva it is easy (for non-designers) to produce compelling photo illustrations — think social media posts and YouTube cover photos.

What tools do you use for your company? And what should I do about customer management software?

Peter Keller
Peter Keller
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