5 Questions to Ask Your Next E-Commerce Agency


Our 5Qs Series is back! Ask these five questions to find your awesome e-commerce agency.

Are you asking your e-commerce agency the right questions?Launching (or relaunching) an e-commerce site? Having the right agency partner can make all the difference.

E-commerce is more than throwing up a webpage. Like traditional retail, customer experience matters. Instead of laying out displays and aisles, you need to consider user experience and conversion rates. How will your site experience reflect your brand and distinguish you from competitors?

We consulted with the experts at Copious, a Portland-based e-commerce agency. They know a thing or two about building successful e-commerce experiences, having worked with brands like BirchboxYakima, Nau, Zumiez, and Rejuvenation. These questions are the ones they wished all potential clients asked.

Remember, a lot of time and money are on the line when you build an e-commerce site. Don’t take chances–use these five questions, and Agency Spotter’s search engine, to minimize the risk of small mistakes becoming big problems down the road.

1. What is the typical size of client you work with and have you worked with a company like ours before?

Your e-commerce site is not the project with which to try an unproven or mismatched agency. Find a partner experienced with companies like yours in terms of sales volume, industry, and consumer type. An agency that has worked with large medical suppliers is probably not the best fit for your specialty foods business.

2. Do you work with multiple e-commerce platforms, or specialize in one? If you specialize, what platform do you specialize in?

Like the small agency vs. big agency debate, there are pros and cons to e-commerce agencies that specialize in one platform vs. agencies that work with multiple. If you know your site will be built on Magento, partnering with an agency that only does Magento, and does it well, may be the best choice.

Have no idea which platform to use? Then talk to agencies that work with multiple platforms. Each platform has its pros and cons, in terms of customizability, hosting, etc. The smart agencies will help you identify the best-fitting platform for your business goals, even if it’s not one of their specialties. You’re not only looking for the best architect (the e-commerce agency) but also the best building materials (platform) for your business.

3. What’s your agency’s point of view on the broader customer journey and how do you think the e-commerce experience plays a role in that journey?

Recent research shows that online information can actually motivate people to shop in-store, not just on e-commerce sites. How big of a puzzle piece will your e-commerce site be in the whole customer journey puzzle (including offline)? Where is the optimal place for it to fit? This is where the big picture expertise of the right agency can make a huge impact on your brand’s success.

4. Where do you think the future of commerce is going and how do you plan to support your clients in this evolution?

How people shop is changing rapidly; you can now buy someone Starbucks with a single tweet. The right agency can prepare your brand for the future of commerce, which is always right around the corner. You may choose an e-commerce agency with experience in mobile platforms, social buying, or even virtual reality. Regardless of your project’s size, you want a partner with a solid idea of the future and the map to get you there before your competitors.

5. Who will make up the team building my site? Are they all in-house or do you have external partners?

The composition of your agency team matters. After all, you deserve the A Team. Make sure a diverse group, one that includes a project manager, skilled developers, a tech lead, an analyst, and a user experience pro, will be devoted to your project. Ask about the ratio of developers to current projects to get a sense of the current workload. An agency with 20 developers for 20 projects is one to avoid. If some teams are external, inquire about the tenure of the partnership (and the language skills of the external teams).

Bonus Topics To Consider: project management methodology, support and maintenance after launch, estimated timeframe for the project.

Your Launchpad to E-Commerce Success!

Thanks to the knowledgeable input of Copious, these questions will help you nail down the right e-commerce agency for your project. Doing the due-diligence is worth your time; the many moving parts of an e-commerce site can make it challenging to get it right on the first go. But let’s not put the cart before the horse–hop over to Agency Spotter to search and shortlist e-commerce agencies. Once you’ve found a few candidates that meet your search parameters, you’ll be ready to take the next step with these questions.

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About Claire Wallace

Claire writes about strategy, insight, and advice to help inspire smart and savvy marketers. She completed her MBA at UMass-Amherst and has been a team member at City Sports, MIT, and an organic farm in Maine. A former student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin, Claire now runs marathons, for fun! On her bucket list is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, dining at Per Se, and running the beautiful trails in New Zealand.