What is a Tech Stack and What Should Yours Look Like?

Your e-commerce tech stack and the apps that feature within it are integral to running an online business. Here we discuss our favourite tech stack picks and how they can revolutionise the day-to-day operations of your e-commerce store.

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ERPs. APIs. CLVs. PPCs. If these acronyms sound like they’re from another language or indeed another planet, then this blog is for you. They all relate to the humble tech stack - an integral part of any e-commerce business.

A tech stack is a fancy way of describing all the apps and integrations used as part of your e-commerce set-up. It’s simply all the platforms and applications you use to run your online store, and by extension, your entire business.

In this post, we’ll explore the different elements that make up a typical tech stack, and suggest new apps, platforms and solutions to take your own tech stack even further.

What Makes Up a Tech Stack?

The best way to understand the elements of a tech stack is to break down each part of your online store.

All e-commerce merchants have a storefront, but there’s so much more that goes on behind the banners, buttons and badges shown to online customers. For instance, any e-commerce business will need to conduct marketing to attract new customers and engage with pre-existing ones. You’ll also need to process orders from customers who purchase products, manage inventory of those products, label, distribute and post orders, as well as manage complaints and queries through the customer service you provide. In reality, the list is endless.

For many businesses that start out small, most of these tasks can be undertaken by hand. As a business owner, you can write your own social media posts to get the word out, watch orders as they come in, book postage for dispatch, update an inventory spreadsheet as stock comes in and out, create postage labels, and take items to the post office to be sent. At the early stages of an e-commerce business, each of these tasks are manageable, but quite quickly they can become too much to handle. If you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of orders per day, juggling all of these tasks may not only become difficult to manage, it could become impossible.

That’s where the tech stack comes in. With an array of innovative tools now available to automate and streamline many of these processes, a merchant can leverage the power of tools designed to automate sales processes, PPC marketing, payment processing, shipping, customer service and much more.

Which Tools Are Available?

If you're a Shopify merchant or thinking of moving to Shopify for your e-commerce platform,  you need look no further for the most integral component of your tech stack. Shopify. That’s it, that’s the tweet (part of your tech stack). In fact, for many merchants, Shopify may be the sole part of their tech stack, from top to bottom.

Shopify offers you an adaptable storefront, ready to list your products in collections, sat amongst an attractive website designed with a theme of your choice. Shopify can also manage your orders and payment processing, while tracking your sales and online revenue. For many retailers, Shopify is all they need, but as we demonstrated earlier, rapidly growing businesses need more from their tech stack.

We’ll list our favourites in more detail next, but there’s a litany of e-commerce tools that exist to streamline almost every business process. You can automate shipping with delivery management platforms like ShipStation, scale your marketing intelligence with data analysis tools like Google Analytics, tailor emails to thousands of customers with email and SMS campaign tools like Klaviyo and Omnisend, automate customer service using Gorgias, or effortlessly manage your inventory across multiple sales channels with Linnworks. With that in mind, let's dive into our favourites.

Our Tech Stack Top Picks.

Before we explore what makes our tech stack hearts sing, it’s worth clarifying that every tech stack is different, because every business is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all tech stack, but thankfully our years of experience in helping e-commerce brands grow means there’s a number of recommendations we can make that apply to most merchants. Of course, it always pays to do your research beforehand and examine each tool within the individual context of your business to make sure it’s fit for purpose. It’s also worth evaluating the cost of each tool and the expected ROI on each; ensure you’re making a worthy investment if it’s expensive.

So with that said, here’s some of our top picks.

1. Shipping: ShipStation

Handling orders and shipping is one of the most laborious parts of the e-commerce puzzle, but thankfully one tool makes it a breeze. ShipStation is a multichannel order and delivery management platform designed to help you manage orders and deliveries across multiple channels - not just Shopify. Whether you list products on Shopify, Amazon, eBay or a Magento store, ShipStation can automatically create shipping labels and arrange postage, no matter which channel an order comes from. It can even automatically send out branded tracking and returns e-mails, simplifying yet another part of the customer journey. As an app that we've recommended to countless Shopify businesses, ShipStation gets a big thumbs up from us.

2. Customer Service: Gorgias

Whilst shipping your stock is mostly a practical process, what about something less practical, like customer service? Surely you need real people to do the talking? Not with Gorgias. A tool designed to be your virtual e-commerce help desk, Gorgias speaks to your customers so you don’t have to, enabling you to create personalised, direct responses to queries, even when you’re not there. These conversations can take place via an email address, or via a convenient live chat window on your homepage. If a customer has an issue with an order, such as the age-old “where’s my order” request for example, Gorgias can closely integrate with your Shopify store and shipping provider to deliver up-to-date shipping information to the customer. Gorgias can also automatically provide product information when a prospective customer has questions to ask about your range, driving conversions as well as keeping pre-existing customers happy.

Of course, not every customer interaction can be easily automated. Nor should it be. When you are available to reply, Gorgias helps you quickly get back to customers waiting for a response, by conveniently collating incoming messages and emails in one central location, with data like customer order history displayed front and centre, giving you all the information you need to get to the bottom of their specific problem.

3. Marketing: Google Analytics

Great marketing is all about accurate data. The more intelligence you can generate from your data? The better your targeting will be. Google Analytics is the gold standard tool to use when trying to understand the audience of your online store. The best part: it’s free! Google Analytics provides real-time analytics of your website traffic, allowing you to understand where traffic is coming from and what pages have been visited. It also produces detailed information about your customer demographic, allowing you to determine exactly who your customers are - helping you understand their socioeconomic background, motivations and interests for instance. From this you can produce detailed reports and strategise precisely where to target your paid advertising, making it more effective, and more worthy of your investment.

4. Email Campaigns: Klaviyo

Email marketing is an often overlooked piece of the tech stack puzzle. Most retailers keep in touch with their customers through email in some form or another, but are you fully leveraging the power of this age old communication method? Email can be so much more than just an occasional offer or abandoned cart with Klaviyo, an email automation platform that allows you to create, schedule and send emails to thousands of customers with a few clicks. You can also boost your conversion rate with Klaviyo’s intelligent automations, allowing you to automatically send an email to someone who visits your site without making a purchase, or previous customers who haven’t returned in a long time. These examples are just the start of what this great platform can do. Fancy learning more about the power of Klaviyo? Read our blog post here.

5. Inventory Management: Linnworks

Managing inventory as an online retailer can quite quickly take up too much of your time (and tolerance for Excel spreadsheets). Whether you’re selling products through your Shopify store, an eBay shop, an Amazon listing, or in a physical retail store, you likely have multiple sales channels, with inventory heading in multiple directions. It can easily leave you tangled up in an inventory management mess. Linnworks is a tool which aims to change that, as it intelligently tracks your inventory across multiple channels, integrating them into a unified dashboard. It also helps retailers bundle items, store product information and set specific pricing, titles and descriptions for different channels, with just a few clicks.

6. Point of Sale (POS): Shopify POS

If you’re looking to take your online retail store into the physical world, whether it’s through a retail store or a pop up shop at an exhibition or event, you’ll be needing a way to process payments and register purchases. Shopify POS brings many of the same features of Shopify into the real world. Using nothing more than a smartphone or tablet, you can start taking payments and processing purchases in person. Because POS is from Shopify, everything is closely integrated into your online store - physical purchases will appear in your Shopify dashboard just like online purchases. If Shopify POS sounds like something your business needs, and you’d like help getting started, we know some very clever POS experts.

Fully Stacked

We hope our suggestions prove useful, but it’s worth reiterating one point - there’s no one-size-fits-all tech stack. Your business will have its own requirements and limitations, and you’ll need to keep these in mind when choosing what to include in your tech stack.

Here we’ve given you a number of suggestions designed to make the process an easier one. Consider all the different elements of your business and the areas you can improve, and which areas you think would be most helped before taking the plunge.

If you'd like a hand in making those decisions, explore our Discovery services and get in touch.

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