10 tips to choosing the right eCommerce agency
If you are an online retailer, choosing an agency to design your website could be just about the most important decision you make. So with a huge amount of agencies all claiming to create the perfect online home - how do you go about it? Here are our top ten tips:
1. A strong portfolio
As when considering job candidates, you should request a portfolio from a prospective agency and read it carefully in order to assess their credentials. If their work is recent and substantial, that is a box ticked.
2. Experience on your platform
If you have a shopping cart platform which you have a preference for, you will want to ensure that an agency is well versed in designing websites using it and can demonstrate as much. You should look for platform certifications such as Magento Certified and partner accreditation such as Shopify Partners.
3. Look at their own site
If someone is claiming to make your site a winner, you can find out a lot about the validity of their claim by checking their own site and asking yourself if it impresses you in terms of both design and functionality.
4. Industry specific experience
It always helps if an agency has experience in designing sites for your specific area of online retail, be it sports wear, jewellery or music. They will have more of an understanding of the audience and its profile. Whilst not compulsory this often helps with a deeper understanding of how you might work.
5. Consider case studies
Case studies could be said to be the best kind of proof of experience. They don't only name clients but describe step by step the work process that the agency conducts. Full case studies will outline all the work that was undertaken by the agency and should also include data to back-up and support the work that was undertaken.
Plain and simple, you will want to know in black and white the results that an eCommerce agency has achieved for their clients. Whilst results will differ from client to client and industry to industry the ability to discuss and demonstrate micro-projects, such as PPC campaigns or abandoned basket campaigns and their results should give you confidence the agency has experience and knowledge of what works.
7. Communication counts
The way you communicate with your agency will be key when it comes to the two-way process of building a site. Does your project include a project manager? If so, who are they and can you meet them? You will be working with your project manager on a daily basis so will need to have a great relationship with them and understand their way of working. Are they responsive and available for a telephone or Skype chat? For larger projects you should be looking for a weekly status call coupled with fortnightly summaries.
8. A Questionnaire
You might choose to formulate a questionnaire which you give to all candidate agencies and compare the answers that they provide. This step requires investment on your behalf but it can be well worth it to find the best agency for you. Make sure you make this questionnaire as straight forward as possible and it must be an online process as opposed to pen, paper and fax! Google Forms is a great, easy and free tool that you can use to build and manage your questionnaires to prospective agencies.
9. Agree objectives, milestones and timelines
Once you have outlined your requirements to agencies, you can then ask for a formal proposal. The proposal should be clear and as granular as possible and give a clear indication on all tasks involved in the project and their associated times. Once the proposal outlines how long a task has been estimated to take it should go on to tell you when the agency plans on starting that work. You should question and probably avoid proposals that state things such as "the design stage", "The development stage"; What exactly does this consists of and how long does it take?
10. Know your team
You should know the team or individuals that you will be working with before you commission an eCommerce project. These are the people that you will be communicating with, so it is important that you can strike up an understanding. As mentioned with your project manager you should also know the wider team and the senior team and importantly the agencies process's. What do you do or who do you need to speak to within the agency should timelines start to slip or if you have concerns of the project? Do not be afraid to ask who is your point of contact for escalation as often the measure of a good agency is how the deal with issues when they start to go wrong not when everything is running smoothly.
Hopefully these 10 tips for choosing your next eCommerce agency give you a starting block to help you choose from the 100's of agencies out there. If you have any other good ideas that you would like to share then feel free to post them in the comment below.
If you would like to see how we work at Kent eCommerce Agency and the process we follow for on-boarding our clients we would be happy to talk you through it. You can fill in the form here or call us on 01227 490 220.