Ask This Before You Pick Ecommerce Firm
Let's face it, many ecommerce providers will tell you they have the best solution to meet your needs, however, once you start scratching beneath the surface, you might find that the said solution is not the best fit for your business.
Knowing the right questions to ask will help you to quickly identify the providers depth of knowledge, experience, competency, and overall effectiveness in developing ecommerce systems.
In part 1 of this 2 part series, I will review; General Questions, Business Development, and Investment & Terms.
In part 2; Design & Development, and Hosting & Post Live Support.
1) How long have they been in business and what are their credentials?
How many team members do they staff to service you?
Check online sources and review websites. Ask to see their Better Business records.
The principles and employees of the company should have years of experience in web development-ask to meet them!
The company should have dedicated resources for building your website. Ask if they have independent graphic designers, programmers, project managers, support staff, quality assurance staff, internet marketing specialists, and server administration.
2) How many sites have they built?
- Ask to see a list of their existing sites, or a portfolio. How many sites do they launch a year, how much money do their top websites generate?
If they don’t have many sites in their portfolio, or their top websites don’t generate sales, their process or system may not be vetted.
3) How familiar are they with your specific type of business or application?
- Ask for samples of work that relate to your industry.
Many companies will have a well-rounded portfolio of clients.
4) Ask for at least 5 client references to projects similar to the one you intend to have built.
- Look for success stories, and contact each reference to get their feedback on the company.
Ask them: How many years have they been with the company? What are their sales increases year after year? How much do they sell each year? What issues do they have with the company?
1) How often does the business development professional follow up with you? How much time goes in-between contacts?
Are answers in-depth, detailed and easy to understand? Do they match the vision of your business?
Is the business development professional organized and consistent through each communication?
Keep track of your correspondence with each business development professional (create a folder on your hard drive and store all email and documents for the company here), and grade them on turnaround time, professionalism, quality of answers, and general communication skills!
2) Do they have someone qualified to assist you with developing your internet strategy?
- Who is it, and how accessible are they before, during and after the sales process?
You should get a good feel for this during your initial consultation.
3) Do they ask technical questions to understand your business rules and processes?
- How many questions do they ask, and do these questions cover everything from marketing, sales and shipping to processing payments, customer service and returns?
Ask the company to provide a checklist or outline of questions that need to be answered to get a custom tailored quote. If they don’t have this, they aren’t organized and may not be completely educated to make decisions in your best interest.
Investment and Terms
1) What is the setup fee and what’s included (from A-Z) for the design and development of the new e-commerce site?
- Ask the business development professional for a formal proposal and breakdown of all features and exclusions for the project.
2) Can the company (if necessary) customize the shopping cart system to your specific needs (that may or may not be included in your out of the box features)?
- How do they charge for these updates (per hour, by the job, etc.)?
Nearly every business will need customizations made to an online business sales system in order for a seamless fit into their standard business processes. Ask if these customizations are included or extra. Ask how you will be billed for them.
3) What are the payment terms (all upfront, half down/half upon completion, etc.)?
- Are there any discounts for paying everything up front?
- What if you’re not happy with your experience mid-way thru the design or development process….do you get a partial refund?
Ask these questions upfront so you can better budget the expense of the new project. The company should have standard answers to each question!
4) Do you own the site once it’s built and paid for?
- What components are yours to keep (design files, shopping cart system, etc.)?
- For example, let’s say you’re not happy with the company’s service after x months/years and you want to move to another provider, how would this process work?
- Many companies have a “Software as a Service” approach, where they license the use of the shopping cart system to you. You don’t get to move the system, and will need to start from scratch when migrating to a new provider. However, many SAS providers will supply your customers, site content, product information, order details, and other pertinent intellectual data.
Learn how the company handles migrations, and what you own, how you are supplied with your owned data, and what costs, if any, to obtain your site information.
5) What is the length of the contract; are their penalties for early termination?
- Many development companies will “lock” you in for a specified time frame to support, host and maintain the web system.
Learn what the timeframe is, if any, and what the fees are for early termination should you not be happy with their service.
Keep a lookout for Part 2 of this series which covers; Design & Development, and Hosting & Post Live Support.
Please feel free to leave your comments below!
Louis, great post!
It only each web provider added a page to their site which answered all of these questions. This would help potential customers avoid lots of conflicts with further down the line!
And if you are providing a great service then what have you got to loose -- be open and shout about it!
I'm looking forward to section 2.
Louis Camassa says:
Thanks for the feedback! You raise an excellent point about providing answers to these questions upfront! Avoiding conflicts is definitely the goal here.