Essential tips for choosing the best ecommerce development company for your brandby Leon Lau, October 20, 2022
We live in a world where technology is advancing at a rapid rate for all industries, and ecommerce is no different.
With improvements made in front-end and back-end architecture, UX design, payment technologies, and many other aspects of the digital ecosystem, keeping up and implementing the best ecommerce technologies has become a complicated endeavor for many companies. Hence, businesses are finding it not only beneficial, but necessary to outsource their IT development needs.
If your business has considered outsourcing its ecommerce development, you may already be well aware of the importance of choosing the right company that can meet your needs. This screening task can seem difficult as IT firms and ecommerce agencies appear to be all the same.
So how can your business make an educated decision on which service provider to choose from?
With the above in mind, we took the time to review the important factors to take into consideration, compiling tips and recommended steps to assist businesses in the decision-making process. So, read on below to learn more.
The first step is straightforward and may take some time, but is an important one - research the company’s portfolio.
Visit their website to get a sense of how they work, their services, as well as the tools, technologies, and platforms that they specialize in. Often, ecommerce development agencies have specific pages on their website to showcase examples of their work via case studies and/or success stories.
The company’s portfolio is an excellent measurement of the quality and depth of the company’s capabilities. However, the materials and messaging that you find on their website might not fully reflect the projects they have worked on. Research the company on Google (or any other search engine you prefer). It is likely that they have a social media presence in various platforms, and may even have mentions in press releases.
Eventually, it would be a good idea to contact the company directly and request for portfolio examples relevant to your requirements. The reason why is because some companies may not have all the projects updated on their website due to non-disclosure agreements, or because they have not updated their recent initiatives which may be relevant to your business needs.
Once you have the full picture of a company’s track record of successful projects, you should be able to significantly narrow down your list of candidates.
Special tip: Experience matters. Be wary of idealistic promises, especially if they are not supported with sufficient & relevant project experience. Good ecommerce development companies have transparent portfolios that not only demonstrate their capabilities, but also the challenges that they have faced.
Understand their approach
The initial stages of contact with an ecommerce development company is the best time to inquire about their process of working on an ecommerce project.
Find out their way of working. Do they work with Agile, Waterfall, or some other project management / software development methodology? How often do they intend to share project progression and prototypes? Do they implement a Proof-of-Concept (POC) that would give you confidence in the final product?
Yes, all of this information may seem overly technical. Nevertheless, understanding a company’s approach allows you to understand whether their processes are adequate, complicated, or lacking in certain aspects. In addition, this exercise allows you to benchmark one company from the other.
One of the key aspects to look out for is the company’s testing or quality assurance (QA) procedures. How do they test the features that they develop? Without proper testing and code control processes, there is a high risk of issues occuring throughout the project. This directly affects the cost, quality, and implementation time of the project.
Special tip: Use your gut feeling. It is not necessary to understand every single step of a company’s process. While every company’s approach may seem alike, try to pick out the differences, such as the way they communicate, the areas that they put attention on, and the areas that they don’t. This allows you to distinguish companies which are a better fit for you.
Total Cost of Ownership
Budget. This is easily one of the most critical factors in your decision making. It is recommended that you set a budget range in advance which simplifies the negotiation and saves you time with the development company you are potentially interested in.
However, make sure you consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). What is TCO? It refers to all the costs that can arise from an ecommerce project, from:
- Purchasing the asset (software, platform license, cloud servers, etc.)
- Contracted services (architects, developers, quality assurance testers, etc.)
- Application maintenance (upgrades, releases, operating costs, etc.)
There are some companies that can promise to deliver cutting-edge ecommerce technologies for your online store, but at a price for using and maintaining those technologies. For example, do you think that the latest augmented reality technology is essential for your business to generate higher online sales? So, be sure to inquire about the technologies used and find out from them if they are more efficient, if they are really necessary, and if there are other alternatives.
And then there are companies that have higher costs in their services. This could certainly be justified if they are efficient and have significant expertise in the industry. As we all know, the combination of skills and experience makes a huge difference in the results. An extra dollar spent on a capable company is potentially an hour saved on post-production problem solving.
In the end, the best ecommerce development company for your business is the one that has the best balance of meeting your expectations and available budget.
Special tip: Think carefully about your wants versus needs for your ecommerce. What kind of features do you find essential? For B2B providers seeking to position themselves towards end users, a B2B2C ecommerce model would most likely be their best option. Even if you do not know or understand about the different services offered by the company, ask them to explain that to you.
This factor is often overlooked, as companies may be looked solely in terms of their expertise rather than the people behind the scenes that work to build that reputation.
Everyone - the solution architect, project managers, developers, designers, testers - plays a major role in the success of your ecommerce platform. So, do not hesitate to request the company to provide you the profiles of the team members (it can be anonymized) that would be involved in the project. Asking for this information allows you to evaluate the respective profiles and understand their potential strengths and weaknesses.
You are the product and business owner of the project. Therefore you can also put-up certain questions and set up expectations regarding the team’s way of working and process refinement if needed. Remember, you are paying for the knowledge of professionals employed by that company.
Special tip: Take an additional step further to know the team. Ask to interview important team members to get to know them. Just like a normal hiring process, interviews allow you to understand a person’s way of working that would otherwise not be possible to ascertain through reading a list of qualifications and skills on a document.
Meeting your specific needs
Every business has different needs for their ecommerce. So here are some questions to ask yourself before you pursue your search for an ecommerce development company.
- Is there a specific ecommerce platform that you already have in mind, like HCL Commerce, Adobe Commerce (Magento) or BigCommerce?
- Are you interested in implementing a specific business model, like B2B or B2C?
- Do you want a standard ecommerce implementation, or are you looking for more flexibility in customizations?
Another thing to consider is whether you are looking for a company solely for development, or do you prefer a continuous partner relationship where it can be there to support you in other areas such as training, post-production maintenance, operations, service monitoring or quality assurance. Having an ecommerce development company as a partner is often a major benefit for your business, as they will be more invested in the entirety of your online business hence more likely to help you accomplish your overall goals.
Special tip: A great sign of a professional company is one that proactively thinks of all the different possibilities for your business, honestly speaks of the challenges that you may face, and is able to propose different solutions for your requirements. Companies that want to achieve a higher level of relationship with their clients do not shy away from speaking the truth and with transparency.
Here’s a cheat sheet of the steps you should take in your search for the best ecommerce development company for your brand.
- Portfolio - do the initial research of their expertise, skills and case studies.
- Understand their approach - find out what is the company’s way of working.
- Total Cost of Ownership - decide on the balance between time, cost and quality.
- People factor - assess the team and learn their strengths and weaknesses.
- Meeting your specific needs - ask yourself about what exactly are your goals, and what do you want to achieve from the project.
It cannot be overstated that a well-created ecommerce website will generate higher sales and more returning customers than one that is poorly implemented from the beginning.
There are several stages in getting an ecommerce up and running, from the design, development/implementation, to the actual launch. Any major errors in either one of these stages will have significant repercussions on your online business operations.
A sub-par online store implementation is something most businesses cannot afford to have in this day and age, especially with the costs related to recuperating a brand image. Compromising on the quality of development services will only have a negative impact on your business goals.