Best Tools to Modernize Your Small Business

Updated on May 18, 2020
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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, small business owners, consumers, and lawmakers alike are unsure of what the future holds: What will the economy look like in one month, six months, one year? Amidst all of this uncertainty, however, one thing is evidently clear—now, more than ever, it’s important for businesses to invest in modernization—whether that means perfecting your digital presence or opening an ecommerce branch of business.

In fact, consulting firm McKinsey emphasizes this point in an article addressing digital transformation and COVID-19, “We believe the COVID-19 crisis is likely to significantly accelerate the shift to digital and fundamentally shake up the business landscape….despite herculean efforts and significant accomplishments at many businesses, the pandemic has brought into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are.”

At this time, therefore, it may be worth looking at your business and determining if and how you can take advantage of technology and work to digitize your operations. To this end, we’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll break down some of the top tools to modernize your small businesses—including everything from ecommerce web builders to food delivery platforms to appointment scheduling software.

15 of the Best Tools to Modernize Your Small Business

Although it may seem intimidating to make changes to your business, especially in these uncertain times, there are a variety of user-friendly and affordable tools that can help you through the process. 

Plus, at the end of the day, taking the time and energy to invest in modernization now will certainly prepare your business for the future—and hopefully facilitate your success in the long run.

Best Tools for Selling Online

If you’re looking to add an ecommerce component to your business (or even start an entirely new business online), you’ll want to take advantage of an ecommerce platform. Using an all-inclusive ecommerce software can help you get started selling online quickly and easily. Here are three options you might consider:

Shopify

Even if you own a brick-and-mortar business, it’s very likely that you’ve heard of Shopify. Shopify is one of the most popular and well-known ecommerce platforms—and for good reason.

On the whole, Shopify is extremely user-friendly, feature-rich, and fairly affordable. With Shopify, you have all of the tools you need to get started selling online in one place—you can use Shopify to create and launch your online store, list products, manage orders and shipping, and accept online payments. Moreover, if you’re looking for a tool that isn’t included within Shopify’s platform, you can search their marketplace (with hundreds of third-party tools) to find the right plug-in to increase your functionality. 

Overall, if you’re looking to start selling online—whether as a newly launched ecommerce business or as an added branch of business to a brick-and-mortar operation—Shopify is one of your best options.

This being said, Shopify is available in three main subscription plans, with the Basic Shopify plan costing $29 per month. Plus, right now Shopify is offering a 90-day free trial, no credit card required.

Read our full Shopify review.

Square Online Store

If you’re a restaurant owner or retailer who already uses Square for your brick-and-mortar store, investing in Square Online Store will be one of the easiest ways to get started in ecommerce.

Square Online Store syncs seamlessly with Square POS—and overall, is simple to use and setup. With Square Online Store, like Shopify, you can customize and launch your own ecommerce website, as well as manage all of your online-based operations through their platform.

Perhaps one of the most notable features of Square Online Store is that you can start using it without paying a subscription fee. The basic subscription plan has no monthly cost—you only pay the credit card processing fees required to accept payments.

In addition to their free plan, Square Online Store offers more advanced, paid plans, as well as tools for curbside pickup, delivery, and selling across a variety of channels—including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

Moreover, through June 30, 2020, Square is running a special promotion, waiving monthly fees for local delivery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read our full Square Online Store review.

WordPress and WooCommerce

If you don’t currently have a business website, creating one will be one of the best ways to start to digitize and modernize your business. Although there are a variety of website builders out there, perhaps one of the most well-known along individuals and business owners alike is WordPress.

WordPress is known for its user-friendly platform, vast array of features, and range of add-ons—including WooCommerce, which allows you to turn your WordPress website into an ecommerce store.

To this end, if you haven’t yet made a business website, you might decide to do so using WordPress, which gives you the option, if you so choose, to start selling online in the future using WooCommerce.

In fact, WooCommerce is one of the most popular ways to sell online, as it can be downloaded for free and added to any WordPress site. WooCommerce has a range of features, including everything from the ability to accept payments to listing products, customizing shipping, and offering discounts.

Moreover, WooCommerce is particularly well-known for its comprehensive set of SEO tools—allowing you to reach as many customers as possible through search engines.

Of course, as we’ve mentioned, in order to use WooCommerce for online selling, you’ll need a WordPress website—which means opting for the $25 per month Business plan. This being said, however, as an open-source plug-in, WooCommerce is highly customizable and free to download, you’ll only pay the costs associated with credit card processing.

Read our full WooCommerce review.

Best Tools for Online Ordering and Food Delivery

With many businesses closed and consumers stuck at home, online ordering and delivery has been a way for many companies to pivot their business models and continue to operate (and serve customers) during the coronavirus pandemic. 

This being said, even as businesses begin to open up, investing in online ordering is a great way to modernize and diversify your business and offer a new value proposition to your customers. With this in mind, before you explore your options for online ordering and food delivery tools, you should first see if you can get these services from your point of sale provider or other tool that you already use.

As we discussed in regards to Square, many of the top POS system providers (as well as ecommerce software providers) offer online ordering, in-store pickup, and delivery capabilities within their platform, or available as an add-on.

If, however, you don’t have access to these tools or would prefer to explore other options, here are two top tools you might consider:

Zippykind

Zippykind is a delivery logistics management software that offers a free plan option—making it a great choice for small businesses who are just getting started in online deliveries.

With Zippykind, you can receive online or phone orders, track and manage deliveries, communicate with customers, and monitor all of your operations through your dashboard—which includes an interactive, live map.

The free version of Zippykind includes an unlimited number of delivery drivers, 50 delivery tickets per month, signature verification, and email and push notifications. Plus, any tickets that you don’t use are rolled over to the next month. 

In addition to the free plan, Zippykind offers three paid plans, the first of which costs $87 per month, plus $0.29 per delivery, and includes advanced features like drivers track log and phone and chat support.

Finally, Zippykind doesn’t require a contract, doesn’t charge setup or hidden fees, and they offer a 14-day free trial of any of their paid plans.

OnnaWay 

Unlike Zippykind, OnnaWay doesn’t offer a free subscription plan—however, this is one of the top-rated courier management services on the market.

OnnaWay allows you to manage the delivery process end-to-end, starting with an online client portal from which customers can place orders to real-time driver tracking and a user-friendly driver app for the drivers themselves. 

The first OnnaWay plan, Silver, costs $197 per month and includes up to five drivers and 2,000 orders per month. With the two higher-level plans, the majority of your features remain the same, only the number of drivers and orders allowed increases.

This being said, like Zippykind, OnnaWay has no contract requirements and no setup fees—plus, you can try the platform for free for seven days—with a 30-day unconditional money back guarantee.

Best Tools for Appointment Scheduling

Although not all businesses will be able to start an ecommerce branch or invest in order delivery, there are a number of other ways that you can update your operations in order to better serve your customers and prepare for the future.

If you run a service-based business, for example, utilizing an appointment scheduling software is a great way to digitize and streamline your operations. In particular, here are a few options you might look into:

Appointy

Like many business tools, there are a variety of options for appointment scheduling software—each of which has a range of different features and price points. Appointly, however, is a top all-around option, and is still affordable for small businesses.

With Appointy, you can allow your customers to schedule appointments online—as well as classes, workshops, events, tours, activities, and more. Appointy is highly customizable, plus it gives you the ability to integrate with your website and social media, create discounts and deals, accept prepayments, and send SMS or email reminders to clients.

Appointy offers four different subscription plans—including a free plan which can accommodate one staff, five services, and up to 100 appointments per month. With each of the paid plans (starting at $19 per month), you’ll receive an increasing number of features and customization.

Moreover, on the whole, Appointy has no contracts, no cancellation fees, and allows you to switch plans at any time. You can also sign up for a 14-day free trial of Appointy, no credit card required.

Read our full review of Appointy.

Additional Appointment Scheduling Tools

Although Appointy is certainly one of the best tools, overall, for appointment scheduling, you might also consider the following solutions, depending on what you’re looking for:

  • Square Appointments: Best for appointment scheduling if you’re looking for integration with Square POS
  • 10to8: Best for appointment scheduling with integrated customer communication tools

Best Tools for Contactless Payments

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many brick-and-mortar businesses were adding contactless payments to their accepted payment methods. Contactless payments not only speed up the checkout process, but they also add a layer of convenience for consumers—plus, they reduce the contact required between staff and customers.

Overall, more and more POS systems and third-party payment processors have adapted the contactless payment technology—and therefore, even if you haven’t been using it, you may already have a system that can accommodate contactless payments. This being said, before you look into alternative solutions, you’ll certainly want to see if your current POS system or payment provider can give you the ability to accept contactless payments.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a new provider or a fully mobile POS system for contactless payments, here are two top tools to consider:

Square POS

When it comes to digital-first business tools, Square is often one of the top providers in a variety of different categories—including contactless payments. Regardless of which version of Square POS you’re using, you can accept contactless (digital) payments, as well as tapped payments, as long as you have the right hardware to do so.

At the very minimum, you can use the free Square POS software app on any applicable device, paired with the Square Reader for Contactless and Chip to accept digital payments. The card reader itself will cost $49, however, you’ll pay the same rate for these payments as you would for tapped or swiped payments: $2.6% plus $0.10. 

Moreover, with any of the other Square hardware devices (with the exception of the magstripe reader) you’ll also be able to accept contactless payments for the same flat-rate price. 

This being said, of course, accepting contactless payments is just one of the many modern features you receive with Square POS. In addition to payment processing, Square POS includes tools for team and customer relationship management, loyalty programs, inventory management, reporting and analytics—plus, invoicing, online ordering and delivery, ecommerce, and marketing tools.

Overall, if you’re looking for contactless payments within a full-service, affordable, and user-friendly POS system, Square is one of your best options.

Read our full Square POS review.

PayPal Here

On the other hand, if you want to start accepting contactless payments, but don’t need a full-service POS system like Square, you might look into PayPal Here.

Although PayPal is best known for their online payment solutions, PayPal Here is their companion solution that allows you to accept in-person payments using an iOS or Android mobile device. Like Square, PayPal Here offers a number of hardware options, including the Chip and Tap Reader—which for $79.99, can accept contactless (tapped and digital) payments.

Additionally, like Square, the PayPal Here app is free, so you’ll only pay the one-time cost of the reader, and credit card processing fees—2.7% of each transaction. On the whole, PayPal Here does not offer the extent of POS features as Square does, however, it does include the ability to customize your business profile, product list, and receipts, to assign roles and permissions for your employees, and to track your sales across different categories.

Moreover, PayPal Here can connect to other PayPal small business services—making it particularly worthwhile if you already use PayPal for online payments.

Therefore, whereas Square is the best contactless payment tool for businesses who need a full-service POS, PayPal Here is a great mobile POS for service-based businesses, B2B businesses, and online-based businesses who want to be able to accept contactless payments in-person.

Read our full PayPal Here review.

Best Tools for Contract Management

If you’re a service or B2B business, contracts may be integral to your day-to-day operations. Although most of us likely think of contracts in their paper form, contract management software has made it easy to digitize the contract process—allowing you to create, send, and authorize contracts digitally, and without having to meet with clients in-person.

Therefore, if your business could benefit from taking your contracts online, you might consider these tools:

PandaDoc

With PandaDoc, you have everything you need to create and manage contracts within a single software. At a minimum, with their free plan, PandaDoc allows you to upload an unlimited number of documents, accept an unlimited number of legally binding eSignatures, utilize an unlimited number of user accounts, and accept payments online

On the other hand, if you opt for a paid plan, you’ll receive additional capabilities—such as document creation with professionally designed templates, real-time tracking and notifications, custom branding, CRM integration, and more. The first paid plan, Individual, costs $13 per month, per user—with the next level priced at $59 per month per user.

All of PandaDoc’s paid plans include 24/7 email and chat support—plus they offer a 14-day free trial, no credit card required.

Moreover, PandaDoc gives you the option to customize a plan specific to your business’s needs, as well as upgrade or downgrade any plan at any time.

Overall, if you want to digitize your contract process, PandaDoc allows you to do so in a simple and affordable way.

See our full list of the best contract management software solutions.

Best Tools for Team Communication

With more and more businesses trying to operate remotely, online-based communication has become extremely important—whether in the form of video calls, online chats, or even task-management tools. Although it’s not feasible for all businesses to adopt or continue remote work in the years to come, it’s likely that many businesses will, in some way, change the fundamental way they operate—meaning facilitating proper communication channels will be even more essential.

Therefore, if you’re looking for some of the best tools to facilitate online or remote communication within your team, you’ll want to check out some of these options:

Slack

Like many of the tools on this list, you’ve likely heard of Slack, as it’s the preferred team communication app for many small and large businesses alike. In its simplest form, Slack is a messaging tool that allows your team to communicate regardless of location. 

This being said, however, Slack also includes a number of features—phone and video calls, integrated file sharing, third-party tool integrations, and more—that allow you to use it as a full-service collaboration app.

Plus, although it restricts you to limited features, you can opt for a free version of Slack—which may be all you need as a small business looking to digitize. On the other hand, if you need more than what the free version offers, Slack offers Standard, Plus, and Enterprise options.

Zoom

Zoom has become a household name in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and if you’re not currently using it for video conferencing, it’s certainly a tool worth considering. 

As you might already know, Zoom can work with any type of device and offers a Basic plan at no cost. This plan allows you to have unlimited one-on-one meetings and host up to 100 participants—although group meetings are limited to 40 minutes. In addition, however, this plan includes features like screen sharing, host controls, and group messaging.

With any of the paid versions of Zoom, you receive additional features and have fewer restrictions, however, if you’re just starting out with video conferencing, it’s very likely you’ll be able to get by with the Basic plan.

See our full list of the best free conference call services.

Trello

If you’re managing a remote team or multi-location team, a collaboration tool like Trello, can be particularly useful in assigning tasks, managing projects, and overall, tracking the work your team produces.

With Trello, you receive access to an unlimited number of boards that can be used to create and manage assignments, start and monitor to-do lists, and more. Trello allows you to add cards, lists, and file attachments to your boards, as well as implement simple automation across your team’s workload. 

Like both Slack and Zoom, Trello is available in a free version—making it ideal for small businesses looking to affordably modernize their operations. Although this plan limits your number of team boards, automation rules, and other advanced features, it is still a viable option for a variety of businesses. Plus, you have the option to upgrade to a paid plan at any time—the first of which starts at $9.99 per user, per month, if you’re billed on an annual basis.

Moreover, with either of the paid versions, you can integrate Trello with your other digital tools—including Slack, for example—to seamlessly manage more of your processes in one place.

Best Tools for Customer Communication

Finally, with the current restrictions both businesses and consumers are facing as a result of coronavirus, digital marketing has become even more essential to continue to engage and communicate with your customers—especially if you’re a brick-and-mortar business.

Even if your business isn’t currently open, there are digital communication channels that you can invest in now in order to provide updates, retain customers, and on the whole, modernize your business. To this end, here are some tools you might consider:

Hootsuite

If you don’t currently have social media accounts for your business, you’ll want to start by creating those—make a Google My Business page, Facebook business page, Instagram business account, etc. Of course, you’ll want to consider what platform best lends itself to your type of business, but overall, Facebook and Instagram are usually good places to start.

This being said, however, managing multiple social media profiles can be difficult, and therefore, you’ll want to consider investing in a social media management platform, like Hootsuite, so that you can easily manage all of your accounts in one place.

With Hootsuite, you can link your social media profiles, schedule posts, create a publishing calendar, monitor messages, and track analytics. Like many of the other tools on our list, Hootsuite offers a limited free plan—which includes three social media accounts, one user, and 30 scheduled messages per month.

If you upgrade to the Professional plan ($29 per month), however, you’ll be able to connect 10 profiles and schedule an unlimited number of messages. In addition, Hootsuite offers two higher-level plans, each with more advanced features. Moreover, all of the paid Hootsuite plans offer a 30-day free trial.

Overall, if you’re just getting started in social media management, Hootsuite is one of the most affordable, user-friendly ways to do so.

See our full list of the top social media management platforms.

Constant Contact

For years, email has been one of the top channels for customer communications—and although it can be tricky—this popularity has continued through the coronavirus pandemic.

To this point, if you haven’t yet invested in email marketing, it’s a worthwhile avenue to take in order to communicate with your customers and modernize your business. This being said, if you’re looking for an affordable and user-friendly email marketing platform, you might start with Constant Contact.

With Constant Contact, you can use pre-built templates to customize and send emails to your customer base. You’ll also be able to create and manage an email list, track your email sends, test subject lines, and integrate with other tools. 

Unfortunately, Constant Contact does not offer a free version of their software, however, the pricing for their most basic plan starts at $20 per month (based on the number of contacts you have). Additionally Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial of their software, as well as a 30-day refund guarantee. 

On the whole, if you’re looking to invest in digital channels to better connect with your customers, using Constant Contact for email marketing is a great way to get started.

See our full list of the best email marketing platforms.

Tidio

If you’re looking for new and more digital ways to engage customers—like starting an ecommerce website, for example—you might be concerned about maintaining the same level of customer service that you offer for an in-store experience.

In this case, you might consider investing in a live chat service, like Tidio, to use on your business website. With Tidio, you can add live chat, a chatbot, and mailing features to your website, as well as integrate with a variety of other tools in order to improve your customer service experience online.

Although there are a variety of live chat and chatbot services on the market, Tidio is great for smaller businesses, as well as those on a budget. Tidio offers an “always-free” basic-level plan—which includes three chat operators, unlimited chats, and 500 emails per month.

If you opt for one of their paid plans, you’ll receive additional chatbots and chat operators, as well as more advanced tracking and monitoring features. For their paid plans, Tidio starts pricing at $18 per month. They also offer a seven-day free trial for any of their paid plans.

Overall, Tidio gives you a quick, easy, and affordable way to provide customer service online—with the ability to upgrade as your business grows or changes.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that coronavirus has and will continue to impact the way we do business. Rather than only thinking about the negative effects of the pandemic, however, it can be helpful to instead try to look for opportunities—and perhaps there is no greater opportunity available to small businesses right now than the opportunity to modernize and digitize operations.

With industries turning toward ecommerce, contactless payments, and remote work even before the pandemic—you can take advantage of any of the tools on this list (many of which are available for free) to put your business in the best position for growth and success in the future.

Check our our coronavirus hub page for more resources for your small business

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, where she specializes in reviewing small business products, software, and services. Randa has written hundreds of reviews across a wide swath of business topics including ecommerce, merchant services, accounting, credit cards, bank accounts, loan products, and payroll and human resources solutions. She has also written for PeopleKeep, Zoho, KNF&T Staffing, and Planted. Randa has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College. Email: randa@fundera.com.
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