How to Choose the Right E-Commerce Partner
Choosing the right e-Commerce partner is crucial for business success.
Ever since the Internet became an active part of our daily lives people have found ways to take advantage of this global interconnection of computers and mobile devices.
Information has transformed, social interactions have changed, and commerce has evolved into a whole different dynamic, which may seem undoubtedly complex, but offers exorbitant benefits. And an instance that represents that evolution of trade is E-Commerce, the future of a majority of small and medium businesses.
People have become accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, where instead of going shopping for goods and services, they can order them through the thousands of different providers that are available online.
The list of available items and experiences is constantly growing, and some things that were thought impossible to sell over the Internet are now the bread and butter of the online store that offers them.
And all of that is possible through the wonders of E-Commerce. But, since establishing a functional and reliable online store is, as mentioned before, extremely complex, a highly recommended solution is to find a partner that takes care of the technical aspects so you, the owner, can focus on the important part: selling the goods.
If you are trying to grow your business, then you should consider teaming up with an E-Commerce partner.
But, how do you find the right partner? This question is crucial for online business success. If you look online you might be surprised with the overwhelming number of different partners, options, services, and prices to get your store up and running. When choosing an E-Commerce partner the best advice is not to rush.
Investigate thoroughly, because you will probably be working with that partner for a long time, and you want to choose one that suits your needs and budget. And don’t forget that the Internet is full of scammers looking to make easy money from clueless store owners. So take a breath, make sure you have a clear understanding of your priorities and ambitions, and start looking.
The beauty of the internet is that you don’t need to rely on who is near, but who can provide a reliable service for your business, especially in this time where, because of Covid-19, online shopping has become an essential activity for most of the population.
So to keep it safe, and to take advantage of that potential growth, take into account the following characteristics when choosing an E-Commerce partner.
- Reliability and support
- Compatibility and business ethics
The first thing to look for in an E-Commerce partner is that they possess proven experience in their field. Base your search on reviews, case studies, recommendations, and referrals to find whether your potential partner can deliver what is expected. When checking for the correct partner, these points might come in handy to get an idea of their experience:
- Have they delivered projects in B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2B (Business to Business) with proven results?
- Do they have local and global E-Commerce experience? This is useful in case you want to make sales abroad.
- Have they worked with both small and big businesses?
- Make sure they handle website operations and not just web layout.
- Do they have ample experience in systems for integration of your E-Commerce? These might include PIM, ERP, POS, OMS, Search, CRM, Payment Gateways, Loyalty Programmes, among others. Your partner does not have to have experience at all, but the more, the better.
- In what way have they improved business efficiencies and optimized customer experience?
There are other points to keep in mind, but that might depend on your objectives. Make a list of the things that are important for your business and have them answered by the potential partner.
Make sure their experience includes at least a couple of known clients or clients that you can contact to confirm their satisfaction. Another thing you should ask for is for an end-to-end portfolio of the services they offer, and compare them to what they have achieved.
And finally, check their results. What happened to the projects they did? Where are those brands now? Take all of this into account and you will make sure to minimize risks when getting to work with a new partner.
Besides verifying your potential partner’s experience, another thing you should definitely take into consideration is their credentials. By digging a little deeper you might find the credentials they’ve obtained over the years, and if the technologies they work with are compatible with what you need.
Imagine, for example, that you are interested in taking your business to a platform like BigCommerce. You would need your partner to be able to navigate that ecosystem.
What you should do in that situation is to ask them about how many years they have been working with the platform, what projects have they delivered on them, if they have been recognized as a top solution partner of BigCommerce and any other questions you might have about that.
Apply that to the technologies you might believe work best for you.
Besides credentials on technologies you might need, another thing to keep in mind, just to make sure that everything runs smoothly, are the methodologies they might use.
And finally, you should check their reputation and any awards that they might have won. That last part is not essential but is helpful. Even if it is an award they got or that their clients got, anyway it means they did a good job.
Once the big issues of experience and credentials are clarified, another issue still important is your E-Commerce partner versatility. The Internet is a wonderful place, but its changes are so sudden that anyone working behind its curtains needs to be able to use the tools that are at their disposal, and which are also constantly changing.
Any platform, methodology, or software has its faults and benefits, and you should look for a partner that has at least a grasp of the basic concepts of them.
Get informed on the software they use the most, as well as making sure they are familiar with essential concepts like Responsive Design and User-centric Design.
Also, another important piece of advice: ask about the team that would be working on your project. You need a team that can provide you with a website that is functional, easy to use, and conversational. Make sure the team has people that can achieve that, as well as designers who understand E-Commerce.
Another essential aspect you should be aware of is that nowadays a simple website does not work anymore. You should look for a partner that can provide, not only the functionality for your website, but also for its mobile application, and any other platform you might need.
As for versatility, you need someone who can provide a smooth transition between the platforms, and who understands omnichannel/multichannel strategy to apply it to your online business, generating the frictionless customer experience that clients constantly demand.
Reliability and support
Your website might be functional and products might be selling fast, but that does not mean that the work behind the curtains is done, there is still an important issue to check upon, and that is the reliability of the service provided by your E-Commerce partner, and the support that they can offer you and your clients.
This might not look like an important issue at the beginning, but planning beforehand will save you a lot of headaches, money, and loyal customers.
An online store is not only a simple portal where people contact you and you send them a certain product or service, but it also encompasses many factors that work simultaneously while handling your client’s sensitive data, personal information, and card numbers.
One failure, such as a data breach or stolen money, generally from a weak security infrastructure can be a serious blow to your company’s reputation. Your partner needs to have every security measure set up so that does not happen.
Even something simpler like a customer not being able to access your site to make a purchase can cause you to lose those customers forever. So reliability is essential to maintain a business online.
In the event that there is any sort of issue, you need to clarify with your potential partner the customer support protocols they use to handle any drawback with the E-Commerce website. Sometimes, even if a customer had a bad experience, if the customer support team fixes their problem, they might leave satisfied and happy to return again to your store.
So you need to verify your partner can fix any problem that arises, and that they have a dedicated team and resources for hosting, maintenance, close monitoring, security, and support.
Make sure that they have a dedicated project manager, E-Commerce consultant, UX, and creative designers (as mentioned in the versatility section), and that the development team works in-house and is not outsourced.
The team being outsourced is not completely bad but could cause problems, delays, and miscommunication in the process. Make sure that you establish guidelines as to how the development and support team should work.
And, besides all that, you might be thinking of growing your business, so make sure your partner is capable of handling your business growth. Otherwise, your online store might get stuck.
Compatibility and business ethics
This section might not be as essential as the others in terms of your store’s functionality, but it is important if you want to save yourself many future problems.
After all, it is possible that you will be working with your E-Commerce partner for a long time, and you better make sure that your values and business ethics are compatible with those of your potential partner.
Since this cannot be measured or proven, you will have to trust your intuition, but you should get some clarification by asking yourself or your partner, depending on the issue, the following questions:
- What do I want to get from this partner? Knowing exactly what you want from a partner will make it easier to ignore irrelevant information so you can make more accurate decisions.
- What would success look like for this relationship? Think about your goals and your partner’s goals, and find a way to fulfill them both.
- What are their principles/ethics as a business?
- Do they really listen and collaborate, or do they ignore your petitions and just stick to their ideas?
- Can they provide advice and help along the way? This might not seem really important, but tends to embrace good communication, and good communication can get you far.
- What makes them different from their competitors?
Finally, there is the price. There is no getting away from it, and in many cases, it is the deciding factor. First of all, you need to investigate the average price of simple and popular services, then make a budget for what you are capable of spending.
Keep in mind that setting up an E-Commerce shop might turn to be expensive and that unexpected situation and charges might probably arise. It is impossible to truly estimate the final price of the solution, but make an informed estimate and from it an approximate budget.
There are many different E-Commerce partners, each with different tariffs, packages, and services. Remember that a higher cost does not always mean a better service. You should rely more on the background (everything we have covered here) of the partner.
Some of them might startle you with a proposal containing a large price covering the complete cost of the project, and you might be inclined to turn to a cheaper one, but know that those might cover just the basics and will probably bring up small individual charges that could end up the same or even more expensive than the first one.
Long term view is essential for E-Commerce businesses, and that includes price. Even if you have to spend extra at the beginning, a reliable and honest partner will provide you a more secure development. Even so, it is really important for you to demand clarity from your E-Commerce potential partner when requesting their proposals.
It is not easy to find the perfect E-Commerce partner. In a sea of charlatans, scammers, and unqualified prospects, preventive measures have to be taken seriously.
But these tips should give you a starting point on finding that partner. Besides that, don’t stop investigating and keep looking.
After all, you have already taken the hardest and most important step: deciding to get into the E-Commerce wave. So take each step at a time and your business will do fine.
And keep an eye on the long run, because online shopping is here to stay, and you will be a part of it.