The ecommerce landscape is rapidly evolving, and so are the challenges for ecommerce merchants. New technologies, changing buying habits, and ever-increasing consumer expectations are forcing businesses to pivot and adapt quickly and often without warning. Today, more than ever, choosing the right ecommerce solution partner is crucial for business success.
To grow your business in the digital era, you need an ecommerce partner that understands your challenges and can support you in both the strategic and operational aspects of your business.
But how do you find the right partner? First, you’ll need to understand your priorities and ambitions clearly. Based on this, you’ll then be able to evaluate which partner is the best fit for your business, and has the capabilities, knowledge and support to help you reach your business goals.
However, regardless of your specific objectives, there are some things you should keep in mind when shortlisting and comparing different solution providers. A checklist, if you will.
Below are the different aspects we recommend you look closely at before choosing your ecommerce partner. Keep reading for a deeper dive into each of these aspects.
- Integrations expertise
- Strategy know-how
- Solution development skills
- Managed services options
- Credentials and accolades
- Omnichannel capabilities
- Reliability and support
- Cultural fit
This might seem like a pretty obvious place to start, but what has your partner actually delivered and to whom? Given the multifaceted nature of ecommerce, you’ll want to choose a partner with proven experience in all areas of ecommerce. Because what they have done really does determine how well they can support you and helps avoid some unpleasant (and costly) surprises further down the road.
So, in addition to your specific requirements, it’s worth asking questions like:
- Has this agency delivered successful projects in B2B & B2C ecommerce across industries?
- Does this agency have both local and global ecommerce delivery experience, in the event you want to expand internationally?
- Does this agency have a complete portfolio of services to cover all your digital needs?
Take the time to research and get to know your potential partner thoroughly. Spending sufficient time at this stage in order to make the right choice, will save you time and headaches once you start working together. What you’re looking for is demonstrable evidence of the above questions, don’t settle for just the answers you receive from the agency in a “creds” presentation.
Ask for reviews, case studies, or recommendations to ensure the experience is solid. This will give you an idea about whether the partner can take your ecommerce vision and turn it into reality. And if you haven’t yet got a clear vision, it’s equally vital that you choose a partner who can help you define one – based on your digital maturity and your objectives.
2. Integrations Expertise
The most successful ecommerce implementations usually involve a range of integrations to improve business efficiencies and optimize the customer experience. PIM, ERP, POS, Order Management, Search, CRM, Payment Gateways, Loyalty Programmes, User-generated Content (UGC), and Content are just examples of the integrations that we’ve implemented for clients here at Vaimo, to help them scale and achieve their goals.
But doing so requires experience and knowledge. The last thing you want is to end up with a fragmented tech stack where data gets stuck in silos, and you end up paying for multiple software that is not adding value to your business.
The key here is to look for a partner with the skills and expertise required to integrate the systems you are working with. Integrations, when done well, have the power to transform your ecommerce offering. But when done wrong, they can also wreak havoc on your business.
3. Strategy Know-how
Your ecommerce solution is a foundational part of your business, and every decision is, to some extent, a strategic decision. To reach your objectives, you’ll need a team with knowledge of not only the operational and management side of your business but also an understanding of the strategic roadmap.
Involving the right people is a critical success factor, and at Vaimo, we often help our clients understand who to involve and how. By giving all stakeholders a seat at the table from the beginning, you reduce the risk of missing important aspects of the project.
For example, your IT team will likely have a more technical outlook on things than your marketing team, and each department will have its own needs that you’ll want to consider. Getting buy-in from every part of your business is critical and will significantly facilitate change management down the line.
At Vaimo, we bring tried-and-tested strategic playbooks, and we can help you involve the key people from the start. By implementing our processes and roadmaps together with you, we can save you valuable time and prevent future problems and issues. The keyword to look for here is “together.”
Be wary of agencies who seem reluctant to collaborate and prefer taking charge of everything without including you. You can recognize a good partner in how willing the agency is to share their processes with you and if they’re committed to providing transparent reports.
Related Reading: Building a Digital Strategy Roadmap: Introduction
4. Solution Development Skills
In ecommerce, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Every business is unique and has its own specific needs and challenges.
Vaimo can advise you every step of the way, from understanding your solution requirements and what tools you might need to add to your tech stack all the way to the implementation and configuration of your solutions.
Remember that developing your ecommerce solution and setting yourself up for success entails so much more than choosing an ecommerce platform and implementing the basic integrations. Solution development also includes:
- Transforming your website into an intuitive and seamless shopping experience
- Building a scalable growth engine for your business
- Implementing a Content Management System (CMS) that will give you a competitive edge
- Managing and distributing your product information, building compelling product experiences for your customers
5. Managed Services Options
To stand out in the saturated ecommerce market, you need every aspect of your customer journey to be impeccable. Your customers won’t care how big or small your company is, they’ll expect a convenient digital experience, and they will compare your brand to others, regardless of size or industry.
This means demands for expertise are ever-growing, and for many companies, it’s not feasible to build this competence in-house. If you choose an ecommerce partner that offers managed services, you can relax knowing that you’ll always be able to deliver and scale great customer experiences.
Managed services include most processes in the operations of a DXP or ecommerce platform. At Vaimo, we support our clients with an experienced team of solution experts who are available and can assist across languages and time zones. We can help you set up, manage, and scale your hosting, and we make sure your solutions are secure, reliable, and with minimal downtime.
Related Reading: 5 Keys to Building an Exceptional Ecommerce Customer Experience
6. Credentials and Accolades
To dig a little deeper into your potential partner’s reputation and skills, you can check their credentials. Firstly, you can look into their standings to see if they’re respected amongst their peers and technology providers. Consider questions like:
- Are they a recognized partner with the ecommerce platforms of your choice?
- Are they among the top-recommended solution partners?
- For how long have they been delivering ecommerce projects on the relevant platform?
You can also ask about awards. Sure, awards don’t show the whole picture, but they can provide an indication of the partner’s competence. Whether won by the partner itself or its clients, awards will tell you if their ecommerce projects have earned the praise of their peers and audience. Whether it’s for design, innovation, implementation, customer experience, or growth, awards can give you a sense of a partner’s capabilities and strengths.
7. Omnichannel Capabilities
If there’s one thing about the modern-day customer, then it’s that they want to shop when, where, and how they want. The ball is well and truly in their court. Your business needs to be wherever your customers are to respond to these consumer expectations. So just having a website will not be enough.
Today, you need to be present in every channel, and you need to make the transitions between channels seamless. From physical stores and apps to social media, customer service, and delivery tracking, you need a coherent and seamless solution. This means you need a partner that knows omnichannel inside out, to help you build the frictionless customer experiences that modern audiences expect.
Related Reading: What is Omnichannel Retail
8. Reliability and Support
Make sure you choose a partner with reliable solutions and extensive support. In our digital world, downtime of any sort has enormous ramifications for your bottom line. And if customers can’t access your site or make a purchase, they’ll be gone in the blink of an eye and might never return. Add to that the ever-growing problem of online security, and it becomes clear that reliability, security, and support should be deal-breakers when you’re looking for an ecommerce partner.
Your ecommerce partner should have a dedicated team and resources in terms of hosting, maintenance, support, and ecommerce security. Also, ask about what sort of technologies and processes they’re employing to keep your site running smoothly and your customers’ data safe and secure.
Related reading: Selecting an Enterprise Ecommerce Hosting Service
9. Cultural Fit
Remember, a digitalization transformation initiative is no small feat. It will take time and require input and buy-in from stakeholders across your organization.
Change management is always a challenging task, and succeeding in getting everyone on board will be fundamental to your success. You’ll be interacting with your ecommerce partner regularly, perhaps even more than with some of your colleagues. And if you find a good working partnership, it may last for years to come.
This means that cultural fit is something worth considering when choosing your provider. Find a partner you enjoy collaborating with, and it will make everything else so much easier.
Now, this one is admittedly a little harder to measure and quantify than other areas, so to some extent, you’ll have to use good ol’ gut feel. But to see if the partner is on the same page as your business, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do they define success?
- What are their principles/ethics as a business?
- Are they the type of partner that will listen and take my opinions on board, or will they charge ahead and do it their own way?
- Do they have the expertise not just to build a solution but provide advice and extra value along the way?
- Could I see myself collaborating with this partner and its employees regularly?
As we’ve just seen, how you feel about a partner certainly comes into play. But when it comes to cold, hard evidence of their competencies, then you can’t beat results.
And by results, we don’t just mean how many websites they’ve delivered… But what’s actually happened as a result of these sites. Think more along the lines of how a new solution has affected the solution partner’s clients’ traffic, conversions, sales, customer lifetime value, purchases from mobile, growth, revenue (and any other metrics that are priorities for your business).
This will give you insights into whether this partner can turn technology into actual, tangible outcomes for your business.
Finally, of course, there’s the price. And in many cases, this will be the deciding factor. We get it, you’ve got your ecommerce budget set, and you need to stick to it. But when it comes to price, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Ecommerce solutions vary in pricing structure and schedule, depending on the partner. You may get one quote based on fixed costs, is fully transparent, and gives you a realistic idea of what you will pay throughout the project and afterwards. However, another partner may quote a lower starting price to get the deal and then hit you with separate charges during the build and after your site is live. In this case, it’s impossible to estimate the final price of the solution.
It’s this variability in pricing structures that make direct price comparison difficult. One partner might seem like the cheaper option, to begin with, but what about after they’ve introduced other fees further down the road? It’s essential to demand clarity around the terms from solution providers when requesting and reviewing proposals.
Embarking on an ecommerce project is a massive initiative and a significant investment for any business. For this reason, you need to analyze any pricing schedule you see. Because getting a transparent, long-term view of price from the start will be far more valuable than opting for a price that could change and shoot up at any time in the future, without warning.
How Vaimo Can Help
At Vaimo, we partner with brands, retailers, and manufacturers globally to drive success in digital commerce and experience by providing clarity in digital content and commerce delivery. With our expertise in B2B, B2C, PIM, Order Management, ERP integrations, and Content we’re able to offer your business an end-to-end solution to help you succeed in the digital world. If you’d like to learn more, reach out to our team today!