Startup ecommerce tools: the expert's pick

At our Virgin StartUp workshops, where startups learn how to perfect their business plan, one of the most common questions asked is on tools and resources for startups. With  budget tight and the increasing availability of cheap - or even free - tools, doing it yourself has become an option  like never before.  We asked one of our business advisers to talk us through some of the most popular options out there.

"Setting up your own website or online store and managing your ongoing web presence needn’t be the most stressful thing in the world," says Henry. "A rich ecosystem of services has emerged to help you do just that.  Here are a few popular ones below."

For market research

Procure survey responses with SurveyMonkey.  SurveyMonkey is an online service that provides responses to surveys.  Price plans vary according to the size, complexity and specificity of your survey and the specificity you impose on the types of respondents.  This offering may be particularly useful if you are planning to launch a mass market, scalable product and would like to test the validity of your idea or the adequacy of your proposition.

For email marketing

Manage your mailing lists with MailChimp.  If you engage with your followers or customers via newsletters/e-mail correspondence, MailChimp could prove useful.  This not only helps to manage and in certain instances – automate - different types of correspondence but also provides analytics to help you understand who is reading what, when and why (and who is unsubscribing too.)

Get selling online

Launch your e-commerce website with Shopify. Building an online store doesn’t always require a development agency – and you don’t always need to outlay thousands of pounds.  Outfits like Shopify provide off-the-shelf templates for you to use at various price ranges.  Whilst you cannot bespoke these to a tee, you could end up saving a lot of money.

Taking card payments

GoCardless and Stripe  are two companies are radically shaking up the payments landscape and reducing transaction fees in the process.

Look at website performance

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that allows you to track traffic, sales activity and performance; it can even be integrated with Google Adwords to monitor campaigns including lead generation and conversion.

Web development

Manage your developers with Github; think of Github as the Dropbox for code.  If you are having your website built by developers, it may be a good idea to manage the build through Github.  This not only provides you access to the raw code but enables you to see who has edited what, when.

Bits and bobs

Outsource odd jobs for a Fiverr:  Start up life can be all encompassing – so Fiverr plans to make life easier by offering the opportunity to outsource lower priority tasks at an affordable rate.

Get advice

Hire an advisor on Clarity. If you’re looking for specialist expertise, Clarity is a platform where you can search for an ear and some advice  Browse, hire and liaise with their advisers. You may be able to find a person out there who has been there and done that – and hopefully within your budget too.


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