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How to wow retailers part 1: Planning the online store

Scarlett Reeves

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.

Warren Buffett

When you’re an agency, your reputation has a huge effect on your ability to find and win work. 

And with your existing clients it’s just as important; a few slip ups can take you from being a safe pair of hands to a risky choice. 

There are things you can do as an ecommerce agency to build and protect your reputation. First among them is your ability to actually deliver what the client needs. 

In this blog series, we’ll cover what you need to do to cement your reputation and build a long-term relationship with your clients, starting with designing their online store. 

Ask

To understand what your ecommerce client needs from their online store, first you need a solid understanding of their business and needs.

So your fact-find should start with top-level questions like;

  • What does the company do?
  • Why do you think you do it better than anyone else?
  • What are the biggest challenges you are facing?
  • What sales channels are currently working best?
  • Who are the company's biggest competitors?
  • What are they doing right?
  • What is the company's audience?
  • What is the value proposition of your product and/or service?
  • How does your company define success?

Asking these questions has another benefit beyond helping your agency understand the client’s situation and needs. It also shows the client your intent and thoroughness in getting the right outcome for them, setting the tone for your future relationship. 

If you rush this stage or ask only surface-level questions, you won’t have the necessary information to deliver what the client truly needs. The time for granular is later. 

This is also a time to speak to your client’s audience, wherever possible. They’re the end user of the site, so their input carries a lot of weight. Aero partner agency Red-Fern Media puts understanding user needs front and center, and their fact-finding process reflects that;

When designing a store, the main aiding factor for us is user stories. We always prioritise user experience; If the customer has a poor experience, it's likely that the store is going to perform badly. In that case, user experience needs to be spot on - which is why user stories are so crucial in the design phase.”

Assess

Now you’re armed with information about your client’s business and needs, use it to develop an assessment of what they need from a solution.

This allows you to put forward a suitable range of options that meet their technical needs and take into account their financial considerations at the same time. 

Think about the following areas in your assessment of a client’s ecommerce needs;

  • Do they have complex requirements that will require your agency to assess more extensible solutions?
  • If they only have very basic requirements and/or a smaller budget, would a cloud solution be a better fit?
  • What will their future needs be? Might they potentially outgrow a particular solution? 
  • What are the long term cost implications of a particular solution?
  • Hosting costs — The cost of hosting on some platforms can have a massive impact on retailers’ bottom lines
  • Licensing fees — Do these add unreasonable costs?
  • The cost/time impact of changes — Some platforms are much more complex and costly to develop on. 
  • The need for upgrades — Many retailers have been stung by having to upgrade to a newer version of a platform just to stay secure, with a hefty price tag attached
  • The cost of external applications — if a platform has limited functionality and needs numerous add-ons, these costs can quickly escalate and impact profits
  • The quality and level of support provided by the solution — do both the retailer and your agency have what you need in the event something goes wrong?

Your assessment should also include reviewing the sites of other retailers within your client’s sector, and spending time to learn about trends in their industry. Use data wherever possible to make sure your decision-making is rooted in fact.

Advise

With your assessment of your client’s needs, you’re now in a position to advise them about what you recommend for their online store build. 

If you hadn’t gone through the previous two steps, this stage wouldn’t be much more than guesswork. 

You can add value and build trust with your client by going above and beyond with the advice you give. Your remit as an agency may not stretch that far, but a little guidance goes a long way. 

Partner issues are an area your clients aren’t likely to know much about, so this is an excellent area to advise them on. 

Take merchant services; for example, if a retailer is paying a high percentage per transaction with their incumbent merchant you might be able to advise of another merchant who can offer a much better deal. Merchant services are just one example — there are a huge range of partner services where an agency should be able to advise.

Aero partner Total Processing advocates agencies taking an integrated view of retailers’ needs, so that savings in one area can be redirected to the other demands of the business. Cameron Lee, CEO of Total Processing, advises; 

“Agencies can position themselves as a resource hub for clients by offering a range of options, like the use of an in-house payment provider. Then, when e-commerce clients need to make crucial decisions, your agency will have solutions which provide the benefits of immediacy, lower costs and not needing to involve additional stakeholders”

When you’ve put forward your proposal, you’ll receive feedback from the client; don’t be afraid to challenge your clients on their ideas and perspectives. Lots of clients arrive with ideas of how they want their store to look or feel, based on previous experience or advice from others. This can be valuable input, but if they have mistaken beliefs about specific apps or functionality then it’s your duty to set them straight. After all, you’re the experts!

Most clients will appreciate this honesty, as it demonstrates that you have their best interests at heart. 

At this stage it’s worthwhile mentioning a piece of advice that never goes out of style; limit your stakeholders! Everyone knows that too many cooks spoil the broth, and it’s easy for the planning stage to become bogged down by an excess of opinions on both the agency- and client-side.

Execute

Once your proposal has been signed off, it’s onto the easy part; building the online store. 

We’ll be visiting this stage in detail with future blog posts, but the approach to take from the beginning of this process is nicely summarised by Jonathan Leafe from Leafe Consultancy who says;

“The main recommendation here is to slow down and take your time to get it right. If you set a project off in the right direction at the start, the chances are it’ll go a lot more smoothly. The end result will be better and lock you into the client for additional services long into the future.”  

Having documented, repeatable processes will take you a long way to ensuring consistency and removing uncertainty on your end; helping you to stay professional and able to delight your clients. 

The Aero approach

We want agencies using Aero to be able to maximise the opportunities the platform offers, so that retailers get an online store they’re proud of and that delivers the sales they need. 

That’s why we offer Aero agencies full training and support, from providing dedicated agency days, to access to the platform’s source code and immediate support. We even help agencies win business, from introducing retailers to joining in on pitch meetings. 

If you want our support building your agency’s reputation with a platform that will delight your clients, request a free demo of Aero today.



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