by Amba Wilkes
Choosing an agency to support your eCommerce business is an important decision. This is a long-term relationship you’re entering into. You will be spending a great deal of time working with these people alongside money and resource. Yet many businesses feel like they’re navigating their way through the dark during this process.
The number of eCommerce agencies out there is overwhelming. And that’s before you even think about finding an agency that understands your pain points and can truly support your business.
The truth is, there is always an element of risk when choosing an eCommerce agency. Will everything run smooth? Will the outcome be what we want? Will they get us? Can we trust them? It’s normal if these kind of questions are popping up.
But if you put some time and work into exploring the best-fit agency for you, you’ll likely get the result you want. After all, what significant choice doesn’t come with a little bit of risk?
Don’t underestimate your research.
Research is always a good starting point. When you’re setting out on your journey of finding the ideal eCommerce agency, carve out some time to do some in-depth groundwork before going any further.
An agency’s website is probably the best place to gather understanding on how they present themselves. It should also provide information about their services, how they work, their previous experience and relevant certifications.
When researching multiple options, it can be worthwhile to create a checklist to help you narrow down your choices. Consider elements such as:
- Do they have a good website?
- Are they known in their community?
- Who have they worked with?
- Have they got proven experience?
- Do they offer the services you need?
Do they align with your business.
Every agency you engage with will be unique in some way. Whether it’s their platform choice, their skillset, their experience, the strengths they're known for, the services they offer – the list is endless.
Stripping it back to the core, your aim should be to find an agency whose strengths, services and experience aligns with your objectives and your brand.
No eCommerce store can be a one size fits all solution. Just like the agencies you’re engaging with; your project is also unique. As such, your agency’s approach should be tailored to you.
Can you trust them.
Transparency is essential from the first engagement. If your gut says something is off, it probably is.
These conversations are a good opportunity to get to know a bit more about the potential agency. It also allows you to understand how they overcome barriers and what processes they use to minimise risk and maximise success. This part also plays a big role in understanding how your budget is being spent and how it’s getting you one step closer to your objectives.
If you can seek out an agency that understands your challenges, can offer a clear solution and delivers within your budget, you’re already onto a good thing.
Don’t be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions.
What you see online will be the agencies best work. After you’ve had the initial conversations, it’s time to start getting into the more uncomfortable questions. When first engaging with any agency, they’ll likely share their big wins and successful projects. Dig deeper and ask about projects they have done for similar brands to yours or those with similar challenges and budget requirements.
An agency should be open and honest about its previous experiences with clients and be willing to answer relevant questions. This means talking about those challenging projects and failures alongside the ones that ran smooth.
Taking this approach will lead to a level of honesty, mutual understanding and trust. It also allows both the agency and you as the business to evaluate if you’re the right fit for each other.
Are they promising you the world.
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it is.
If an agency provides a quote for your project that’s half the cost of the other agencies you’ve been engaging with, this could be a red flag. The same can be said if they’re promising unrealistic delivery timeframes.
A good agency will supply a full cost breakdown and timescales to make sure everything you expect has been considered. If they don’t, we recommend requesting one. Not only does this provide insight into exactly where your budget is being spent, but it also ensures there are no costly surprises down the line.
Get to know who you’ll be working with.
It’s important you’re given the chance to meet the people behind the agency and behind your project. The people who attend your first agency meeting won’t be the only people you’ll be working with. Have you met or at least been told about the rest of your project team?
Some agencies will explain their team structure within their collateral or on their website. For example, we like to provide a clear breakdown of the different members who would make up your dedicated team:
- account manager: Aligned to your commercial goals.
- project manager: Delivers work on time and in line with your priorities.
- ecommerce analyst: Provides regular website reviews and optimisations.
- technical lead: Ensures all work is optimised for your tech stack.
We’d advise arranging an introductory meeting with the agency so your team can meet their team. Your project will involve interaction with multiple specialisms within the agency and this meeting will provide a chance to understand more about their culture and values.
Do they offer proactive support post-go-live.
Some agencies will work to deliver more than just a website. Their approach may revolve around providing ongoing and proactive support that helps you get the most from your eCommerce store. Or perhaps they have a strong emphasis on collaborating with your in-house teams?
These kinds of attributes can often make an agency stand out, especially if you’re looking for a long-term partner to help you grow your brand.
A good agency will likely offer support services such as website health checks, strategic review sessions and business growth recommendations alongside advising on new features and ideas designed to better performance.
A proactive agency will also look to the future and your wider business ambitions. Evolving your website alongside your business, they may provide support through development, site improvements, design features and creation of bespoke functionality. Simply put, they’ll strive to help you get more from your investment – long after go-live.
changing agency partners.
Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into your research, things don’t work out. The relationship between you and your agency partner may have changed; your business may have scaled past their capabilities or they aren’t delivering what was promised. Whatever the reasons, choosing to move agency partners can feel daunting but it doesn’t need to.
Before making the move consider:
- Do you have any remaining contractual obligations?
- What have you learned from the experience and how can you use this moving forward?
- Are you rushing things? Take your time and be thorough with your research.
Make sure your next agency is ready and waiting before ending any partnerships, using the points we’ve mentioned in this blog to find the right fit.
Can you find the right agency.
Absolutely. But it will take time and effort from your side if you want to find the best-fit agency for your business. Following the points discussed helps to make this possible.
But don’t forget, it’s normal to feel nervous. Every business will feel some anxiety ahead of selecting their agency. There’s a lot riding on the choice which is why we always advise not to rush the process. Have conversations, ask questions, find out everything you want to know before making a decision.
Most of the time, when seeking an eCommerce agency, you’ll be looking for a long-term digital partner who can support you into the future. Your chosen agency should instil confidence in you that not only will your project be a success but that they will be on hand to support you past go-live too.
If you’re on the journey of selecting the right eCommerce agency for your business and would like some advice or want to know more about the way we work, feel free to get in touch with us.