We’ve just wrapped up our latest season of the Lightning 50: E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, where retail expert Caroline Baldwin chats with some of the fastest-growing e-comm brands operating today. Throughout the podcast the leaders of successful online retailers mentioned a range of tech tools and systems they’ve been depending on to achieve meaningful, sustainable growth – and we’ve collated them here to inspire your next business moves.
A well-curated tech stack is essential for growing a business today – progressive e-commerce tech is continually coming onto the market that is flexible, connectable and boosts productivity and profitability for retailers so that they can scale. From data-led inventory forecasting to AI negotiation bots, here are the top tech tools you should get to know…
1. Shopify Markets
For scaling retailers ready to tackle global territories, Shopify Markets is ‘a cross-border management tool’ that helps Shopify users identify, launch and manage international markets all from one central store. This eradicates the clunky processes often involved in separating sales by geography, and you can even customize the on-site shopping experience for different customer segments.
Kath Senior, Founder and CEO of glitter brand EcoStardust, said the tool was instrumental in her brand’s launch into Europe and the USA.
“The Markets feature in Shopify is just incredible in its ability to create dedicated markets for Europe and for America from one place. America has been somewhere we’ve seen a lot of traffic from – we’ve got a USA-based warehouse but found many were still purchasing from our UK website because of our wider catalog. Because of this insight, we’re thinking of shutting down the US site completely.”
Only a few years ago TikTok was seen as the next social media fad, used mainly by Gen Z and largely associated with viral dance trends. Now, the business potential of TikTok is astronomical – with an immense five million businesses now using it to reach audiences via its rapidly growing userbase. Throughout the Lightning 50 podcast, the social media platform has been cited as a marketing and direct shopping channel brands can no longer ignore.
3. Inventory Planner by Sage
E-commerce retailers quickly come to learn how much inventory impacts their bottom line. Without the means to make ultra-informed purchasing decisions, a retailer’s inventory can run out of its bestsellers too quickly, or become overstocked with a surplus of items that won’t sell (think out-of-date models, larger or smaller sizes, less popular colors, etc). The right inventory planning technology is essential to maintaining a sleek, profitable inventory, which is why Inventory Planner is used by so many successful online retailers looking to grow their business.
“Inventory Planner is a game-changer, taking us to another level. We’re reaching a point where stock management and finance are becoming more complex; and we need better insights into our operations and purchasing decisions. Traditionally, we relied on gut feelings and instincts, but now we have data coming into the picture. This will be the next big shift for us.” Peter Gough, COO at accessories brand ROKA London
One to watch is a new tool mentioned by outdoor apparel retailer, LIVSN Designs: Lifetimely. Lifetime is a smart, less time-intensive method for calculating customer lifetime value (CLV). It seamlessly integrates with Shopify businesses and analyses data from multiple sources, for more informed campaigns, reporting and customization.
5. Triple Whale
Data and analytics should be the central focus for a retail business who wants to make informed choices in order to scale. TripleWhale is a new AI data platform that brings together all metrics from across your business into one useful dashboard.
“Triple Whale is an amazing tool – I’m on Triple Whale now more than I’m on Google Analytics. I’m a huge fan of it for attribution, especially if you’re using Shopify for your websites. What’s really cool is it also looks at all audiences in your different ad campaigns, it looks at your inventory, it looks at a host of different data and offers AI based functionalities as well.” – Ian Leslie, CMO of furniture brand Industry West.
A tool we hear praised over and over again by successful, high-growth retail companies is Klaviyo. Marketing is ever-evolving, but Klaviyo offers the most up-to-date functionality for e-commerce retailers looking to create customized email and SMS marketing outreach that is well-timed and highly targeted. As with many contemporary e-commerce tools, Klaviyo also offers a connectable dashboard where businesses can access all customer data, analytics and marketing metrics in one place.
AI is impacting retail in a big way, and with it has come a roster of AI-powered e-commerce tools. Nibble is an intriguing example of this – an AI chatbot that appears on-site and negotiates prices with potential customers. With it, brands can increase sales by attracting customers who may not have bought at full price.
“We use an AI negotiation tool called Nibble which comes up as a pop-up onsite, and acts in the same way an in-store sales rep might, negotiating prices. Nibble discounts are usually a fair bit lower than what we would tend to offer a first time customer or during a larger sale – so the customer is getting a discount and a good sales experience and yet Industry West is saving some margin.” – Ian Leslie, CMO of furniture brand Industry West.
The subscription e-commerce market is growing and growing – Forbes estimates it should reach over $900 billion by 2026. Subscription-based customer orders can be tricky to manage, however – especially when it comes to inventory replenishment, tracking payments and customization. Subscription finance app Recharge handles the nuanced complexity of subscription customers and is often mentioned in the Lightning 50 podcast as a key tool for high-growth retailers using a subscription business model, such as by sustainable products brand, Bower Collective (Episode 6).
Nosto is an e-commerce personalization software that uses data and algorithms to offer your potential customers a more personalized shopping experience. With it, it’s super easy to deploy fully personalized benchmarks across a buyer’s journey; such as in product recommendations, content, triggered overlays and popups, category pages, and more.
“Nosto does a great job with merchandising and personalization on the site, is really easy to use and offers a ton of data in terms of how customers are shopping on your website, what products are moving and why. Nosto has always been a big growth driver for us and is really important to our journey.” – Ian Leslie, CMO of Industry West.
Content is still king for so many online retailers, but how engaging that content is, and the medium of its delivery is essential to whether the effort pays off. Though the rise of platforms such as TikTok might have one believing that 20 second snippets are the way to go, long-form video still has its place in niche retail markets.
James Tighe, CEO of international brand Progress Jiu-Jitsu, make Youtube videos in promotion of their authentic Brazilian jiu-jitsu supplies.
“We took on a full-time content creator, which has been a game changer. […] We’re building content with our sponsored athletes and the gyms that we support, competitions and events, whereas not a lot of our competitors are doing that. Our customers love it – they can’t get enough jiu jitsu content. They want to learn from world champions, they want to watch jiu jitsu videos all day. That’s been really good for us.” – James Tighe, CEO of Progress Jiu-Jitsu.
11. Brightpearl by Sage
The foundations of a growing e-commerce business must be powerful, flexible and watertight in order to scale sustainably – and this is where Brightpearl by Sage is used by hundreds of e-comm retailers looking to Grow Fearlessly. The retail operations system (ROS) offers a range of retail-orientated tools such as a game-changing Automation Engine, data-led inventory planning and cross-business reporting and analytics, so that your entire operations are integrated and automated.
Retailers who implement Brightpearl as their central source of truth receive at-a-glance insights in real time, and report improved productivity, staff retention and customer satisfaction across the board.
Customer service tool Gorgias is championed more and more by e-commerce retailers – it’s increasingly seen as an essential part of a retailer’s tech stack. Pronounced ‘gorgeous’, the tool syncs with other key e-commerce apps to provide a holistic view of customer requests all in one place. As well as offering on-site help for customers, it provides pre-loaded AI responses to those who can be helped more easily, leaving your staff free to offer human support to the higher priority customer service issues.
13. Chat GPT
Special mention goes to the now notorious Chat GPT – as e-comm retailers are convinced by the value of the AI language-processing tool, and are sure it’s here to stay. It’s unsurprising that so many businesses are already using it for hundreds of tasks – it can create content such as web copy, blogs and social captions, assess and summarise data sets and even act as a virtual personal assistant.
“Chat GPT is great for content generation, but also for technical problem solving as well. If I want to create quite a complex regular expression for Google Analytics, Chat GPT has done it in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to figure it out myself. In terms of time management – like when I’m pushing through a CSV file for my PPC campaigns – it has pulled key stats out for me in a matter of seconds.” – Richard Skidmore, Head of Marketing at SkateHut
Renowned for its messaging forums and information sharing, Reddit has a strong community whose members are deeply averse to promotion of any kind. For gauging opinions and monitoring feedback, however, it’s a fantastic tech tool.
The ‘Ask Me Anything’ feature, where experts or those with specific knowledge or experiences take part in a live interview with members, is a great way to share intriguing information about a product or service without being outwardly salesy. Plenty of retail businesses are starting to see the value it holds, less for showy salesmanship but for community building and authentic market research.
15. Descartes Peoplevox
Peoplevox is a warehouse management system that up-scaling e-comm brands swear by – it covers in-depth inventory and warehouse workflows including picking and packing, barcode scanning, identifying stock location, returns management and warehouse analytics.
It also syncs with some of the biggest e-commerce platforms successful retailers are using such as Shopify, Brightpearl by Sage and Inventory Planner to streamline end-to-end processes right through to dispatch.