The decision to open the online store has been made. Action plan for the next period prepared. In that case, it's time to choose an e-commerce agency that will create your shopping platform. Contrary to appearances, this is not such a simple task. There are more and more companies offering the services of placing and operating platforms on the market. How to choose the one that will best meet your expectations? It all depends on several factors. First of all, from your strategy, specifying plans, your business style of work and your budget. Knowing the right indicators will make it easier for you to make the right decision. See what to look for before working with an e-commerce software house.
What to consider when choosing an e-commerce agency?
The decision to choose an e-commerce agency cannot be taken lightly. Remember that it is made up of people with whom you want to engage in long-term cooperation. So let's first see who you are dealing with and whether the entire agency knows your industry.
Before proceeding to conversations, select a few agencies to contact. There could be three or four companies. Meet them in person. Present your expectations and assumptions about the future e-commerce platform and your whole business. Thanks to such meetings, you will find out who you talk to best, who knows your business, has substantive knowledge about it and who really cares about your success, and not just making more money. This is a very important issue, because if you start cooperation with people who will not care about your real benefits, the project will very quickly fail. What's more, thanks to the conversation you are able to realistically assess whether a given agency really knows your industry. A substantive discussion will allow you to catch a smart salesman and select a specialist.
Pay attention to agency employees
Check who works in the agency of your choice and which portfolio they can boast of. Perhaps thanks to the vicious reaserch you will be able to select a softwarehouse that specializes in your industry. All employees are important because they will be responsible for running your project. So see if the company has Project Managers. These are very key people who will work with you directly. If there are no project managers in the company or they do it improperly, they can quickly bury your project. Delay work and do not stick to the schedule of activities. That is why it is important that these types of positions include energetic and strongly involved people.
Developers who will create your e-commerce platform from scratch are also extremely important. Experience and precision are very important qualities that they should have. You probably can't verify it completely. However, be vigilant. Look for opinions, ask among friends from the industry. Try to find confirmation of the competence of the programmers responsible for your project.
Testers are very important right after programmers. They will be the first to deal with your project. It is important that before handing over the platform to the customer, it should be well checked for its operation. This is done to prevent possible errors.
Graphic designers and UX Designers are also important among employees. They will give the final shape to your e-commerce platform. Thanks to their knowledge, they will be able to assess which template your customers will like and which one will suit your business. They will create an intuitive navigation on the page so that you can easily navigate it. So they will be able to design the store so that it is modern, aesthetic, user-friendly and encouraging to shop in it.
Who else is important in an e-commerce agency? They are business analysts, sometimes also called business architects. You'll find yourself in good hands with their analytical and planning skills. They will plan the implementation and business integration. Assess the threat and risk that may occur when making individual changes. And in case of difficulties they will quickly find a solution to the problem.
How to prepare for a meeting with an e-commerce agency?
Before going to a meeting with e-commerce agency employees, prepare relevant documents that will support your project. Make a technical and functional specification of your project and ask for its valuation. The project must be drawn up in great detail so that it leaves no doubt and is understandable to both parties. Sometimes it happens that this type of technical specifications have even several dozen pages.
Based on such a document, the e-commerce agency will prepare for you a project quote taking into account the costs incurred. All possible loads should be included. Including type software for which the store will be built (e.g. Magento). Functions it will have. All necessary integration with other systems (e.g. ERP, WMS). Types of payments and couriers you will work with. Implementation of the omnichannel strategy and all other possibilities that may be available on the e-commerce platform.
How to settle accounts with an e-commerce agency?
Before you sign a cooperation agreement with an e-commerce agency, think about how you want to settle accounts with it. This is an important element to be determined at the very beginning of the project. You can choose from two proposed billing models.
The first of them is based on the Fixed Price. It determines in advance what amount you have to pay for the implementation of the entire project, i.e. in your case, launching the sales platform. The cost is determined on the basis of previously prepared technical and functional specifications, your business requirements and the schedule of planned works.
If your project requires a lot of commitment and potential changes and updates, this type of billing model is not the best solution. Softwarehouse will cost it more, leaving room for maneuver and taking into account the risk of work difficulties. This may be exaggerated. Then it may turn out that the implementation of the platform cost you more than it really should. In order to estimate the cost of the project in advance, you should draw up a specification specifying its requirements - the assumptions you want to achieve. Unfortunately, if there are any changes or new features during the process, you will have to pay extra for them.
The second possible settlement model to choose is the Time & Material method. According to its assumptions, you only pay for the work actually done. Agency employees show you the individual stages of project implementation. Thanks to this, you can verify the progress of work and implement any changes or improvements if something does not meet your expectations. This solution means that if you want to change your original design, you won't incur additional costs.
It also turns out that the Time & Material model is faster. Contractors do not have to follow strictly defined assumptions and specifications that you do not have to prepare. However, deciding on such a model, if you do not do it yourself, among your employees you must have a trusted person who will supervise the work of the agency. It must have knowledge about the operation of the platform to be able to check the effects of each stage of implementation.
Implementation agreement with an e-commerce agency
Once you decide on the chosen agency, you must sign the appropriate implementation agreement with it. This is an extremely important document that will secure you in terms of submitting the project and imposing contractual penalties for non-compliance. Thanks to such an agreement, you will precisely define the business assumptions that you will put in the specification of the entire project. And the prepared schedule of activities will be its attachment.
Contractual penalties are an important point in agreement between the two parties. This is a security for both the client and the contractor of the project. If the deadlines for implementation are not met due to the fault of the agency - the matter is simple. It is also one mobilization for the client who should provide materials necessary for agency employees to complete the project on time.
The functional and technical specification mentioned earlier is included in the implementation agreement. It includes all functional and technical elements, i.e. frontend and backend. The more accurately they are described in terms of business and operation process, the better for both parties to the contract.
The valuation, as well as the detailed schedule of activities including individual stages of work and the deadline for implementation, should constitute separate annexes to the contract. The cost estimate must include all integrations and functions of the new platform.
Maintenance agreement with an e-commerce agency
The maintenance agreement, which you should sign with the e-commerce agency, becomes effective after the platform is implemented, i.e. from the moment the store is launched. First of all, it protects you against emergencies that can always occur. For example, if something does not work quickly, there are problems in the operation of the server and other problems that will impede or prevent its operation, you must have security. What should be included in such a contract?
Service Level Agreement
SLA (Service Level Agreement) means the level of availability and correctness of e-comerce platform operation. It is important that your SLA is at the highest level (preferably 99.9%). Unfortunately, it is difficult to find an agency that adheres to such values. Most often, companies offer SLA at 95%. What does this mean for you? That during the month your platf orma may be unavailable for up to 3 hours. If you have a high turnover, such a long time of non-operation of the platform can be associated with considerable losses. For this reason, it is worth paying attention to the SLA before signing the contract.
It is also good to set penalties for exceeding the SLA at the beginning, i.e. an unlawful interruption in the platform's operation. If you decide on a certain level, and it turns out that the contract is not kept by the agency and customers have a problem with making purchases from you, the agency may pay you compensation. Remember that the availability of your platform should be constantly monitored by appropriate tools so that the SLA does not raise anyone's doubts.
Fixing platform irregularities
It is important to accurately determine bypass and repair response times. It is also worth negotiating their rates strongly to get the solutions that are best for you. All the mentioned parameters can be divided according to the importance of the types of errors that can occur in them - critical errors, medium errors and minor errors.
The response time determines the moment at which the agency will take administrative and programming actions to fix the error that occurred in the operation of the platform. Often, this type of reaction is quick (time is low), but you have to remember that this does not mean that the problem will be removed quickly. This is only the moment of noticing it. It is one important in the case of large errors that significantly affect the financial losses incurred by your platform.
The workaround is the moment when the damaged function of the e-commerce platform is restored. It counts from the moment you take action to restore the proper operation of the system. However, this does not mean repairing the damaged function, but only bypassing the problem so that the platform continues to function. This applies if you know which function is not working, but it may take up to several hours for you to diagnose the reason for your failure.
The last important element in this part of the contract is determining the time of repair. This is the time when the company declares to completely solve the problem and fix the error. Yes, to fully restore the platform's functionality.
Backups are also an important issue. In the maintenance agreement with the e-commerce agency, you should specify exactly how often they are created. It is recommended to do this at least once a day. If you want to minimize potential losses, make sure you include a copy in the agreement's security section.
Recovery Point Objective (RPO) - this is an indicator of how often the backup should be performed
Recovery Time Objectice (RTO) - is the allowable time during which the system is to be restored, i.e. how long it may take to recover.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider before choosing an e-commerce agency. It is worth including them all to have a sense of making the right choice. In addition to agency competencies, remember that your approach is also important. Because communication is extremely important during any kind of cooperation. It is signaling your needs, comments and ability to discuss important issues that is the basis for successful cooperation. So remember that specialists, by creating your platform, also require you to be involved in the project. After all, you are the best specialist in your business!