E-Commerce Glossary


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Shopify

One of the leading e-commerce platforms in the world. Powers more than one million online stores in 170 countries generating $40 billion annually for its online merchants.

Founded in 2004 by three “dudes” looking for a better way to sell snowboards online for their Snowdevil brand. In 2006 the system they built debuted as Shopify. Today, users include solo entrepreneurs to big brands like Kylie Cosmetics, Red Bull, and Turtle Beach. Driven in part by the pandemic, in Q2 of 2020, Shopify stores actually surpassed sales at eBay. The original Ruby-on-Rails developer of Shopify, Tobias "Tobi" Lütke, is the CEO to this day. Snowboarding? 2004? We think they called each other either dude-- or brah. Just sayin’.

WordPress

A popular, free open-source content-management system (CMS) that is used to build websites and manage site content including blog posts, forums, and online stores.

Released in 2003, today it is the platform for 60 million sites. Strictly speaking, it is not built for e-commerce and requires a “plugin” to sell products online. WooCommerce, also free, was built specifically to add this capability to WordPress and is widely used. Shopify, as well as other software, can be used as a plugin to power e-commerce on WordPress. Shopify is also a kind of CMS where the “content” products and services.

Bundling & Kitting

Merchandising strategy where products are combined or “bundled” and sold as one SKU, often at discount. Also called “kitting,” as in putting together a “kit” of products.

Gone are the days when e-commerce product fulfillment was simply “pick, pack & ship.” Trendy and trending e-commerce merchants are offering “subscription boxes” and bundling products with a single theme. Think of a “Pink Room” box for a young girl that arrives with only pink items: rug, bath robe, candles, bath beads, hair ties, etc. A delight for the girl, a potential nightmare for the warehouse.

Popups

The “box” or partial- to full-page overlay that often “pops up” the first time you land on an e-commerce site with an offer for a discount, sale item(s) or newsletter signup.

Popups are meant to grab the shopper’s attention and highlight an offer, such as a discount you'll receive in exchange for sharing your valuable email address. Can be confusing because the same type of attention grabber could be called: Popover, Overlay, Modal (think computer “dialog box”), Light Box, Interstitial, Hover Card, and plain old Alert. Whatever they are called, they are effective. And sometimes annoying.

Responsive Web Design

With responsive web design a site will adapt and deliver the best viewing experience to a user whether on desktop, laptop, tablet, phablet(!) or phone.


The variety of electronic devices we use today demands online stores look and work great regardless of device or screen orientation. Think of the content we consume, from text, images, and photos, to videos, online calculators, and more. You can imagine this to be a tough task. Ever visited a website on your phone and experienced left-to-right scrolling or content cut off? That is non-responsive design and can kill a potential sale.  

Responsive design is not an “add-on” component or cost for clients of Text Connects. All the sites we build are responsive. Period.

UX

User Experience or UX refers to the continuum of what a shopper experiences from beginning to the end of visiting and purchasing online.

Websites were once judged by their UI (User Interface), the human-computer interaction. Savvy merchants now also focus on the end-to-end User Experience. This goes well beyond great product selection and site design. It includes site search, shopping cart functionality, order packing, even branding of the box an order arrives in, and more. UX cuts across all areas of the business to exceed shoppers’ expectations.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

The “E” for Enterprise in the acronym ERP has a double, if not triple, meaning. Back in ancient times (the 1960s) Enterprise could simply refer to a large-scale business; think Fortune 500. By the early 1970s, Enterprise Resource Planning referred to software created to run day-to-day business operations for a large-scale organization in an integrated/interoperable, and automated manner. ERP could include solutions for accounting, purchasing, project management, supply chain operations, risk and compliance management, and even more. Typically, not CRM (see CRM entry).

Today, the automation component might rely on AI (artificial intelligence) or other sophisticated tools. That doesn’t mean ERP is only for the big gorillas. Smaller and mid-market companies can access ERP software without, as some vendors say, ERP prices.

Big names in ERP you may know: SAP, Oracle, Netsuite, Microsoft, and Epicor.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Sometimes called e-CRM (electronic-Customer Relationship Management), because in the olden days many of the same “processes” might be handled by integrated technologies called, “a telephone and a 4x5 card.” Wait, why do we even need this acronym? Don’t we “manage” the relationship with customers by selling them something, invoicing them, and then following-up weeks or months down the road? Not in today’s marketplace. Organizations (nonprofits might use CRM for “donor management”) compete for the attention of prospective customers, and need to manage them as well paying customers, from womb to tomb.

Engaging with prospects or customers doesn’t necessarily start with a phone call or visit. It might start with someone visiting your website, or signing up for your email newsletter, or even a text message. Besides “tracking” such relationships and all the associated data, two things differentiate CRM. Its ability to use all the collected data to “score” leads, that is, to sort inbound leads, into buckets of the type and priority of follow-up (do they get an email, a phone call, a free plane ride to your headquarters?). Secondly, a robust CRM will enable you to “nurture” your prospects and clients, take them further “down the funnel” from prospect to a sold customer and ambassador for your product. Please note: if you only have 100 or so customers, upgrade the phone and card technologies to a spreadsheet. You’ll be fine, but imagine 1,000 or 100,000 customers each with an email trail, phone call notes, sign-up for a free trial, meeting notes, etc. That’s why you use a CRM. The bad news, most ERP systems (see the ERP entry) don’t incorporate CRM. The former is much more about operations: monitoring inventory, running payroll, updating financial reports that integrate with your system for tracking KPIs. CRM is all about sales.

Brands you might recognize in this discipline: Hubspot, Salesforce, SugarCRM, and PipeDrive. Good news: you will be able to find a good CRM at a reasonable price suited to your needs.

Middleware

Nope. Middleware is not the weight loss sauna shorts “As Seen on TV.” The classic definition of middleware is software that enables one or more kinds of communications (computer communications, not a phone call!) or connectivity, to applications, tools, and databases, beyond those available from the operating system. Some call it “software glue.” Your laptop running Windows 11 uses middleware in the background to connect to Microsoft applications such as Word and Excel. Maybe you have used Zapier to create a “Zap,” a no-code integration of two separate and standalone applications. Say you want to receive a Slack message whenever a row is updated in Google Sheets. Use Zapier to make that happen.

At enterprise scale, complex middleware may need to be custom built for connecting to different systems or applications. The applications you want to connect might have been developed in different programming languages or rely on different data sources and likely were even developed by two different software vendors. Rather than a full-blown systems integration project, that may actually be impossible without access to the code behind these applications, you can turn to middleware. Many Shopify store owners already use middleware from Celigo to connect their NetSuite accounting/ERP system to their e-commerce stores. Or Workato middleware as a bridge between cloud-based and on-premise applications. [Editor’s note: we’ve got translator, glue, and bridge, as metaphors for middleware; we promise to stop using any new ones.]

Additional middleware brands: SnapLogic, MulePoint’s AnyPoint platform, and Boomi.