The ecommerce juggernaut continues to roll on in 2020, with worldwide revenues projected to reach US$2,411,638million by the end of the year: a 25% year-on-year increase.
If you're a retailer looking to launch or expand your ecommerce offering, choosing the best ecommerce platform isn’t as straightforward as you may think, and several important decisions need to be considered beforehand.
From your budget and long-term ambitions to going it alone or working with an agency, we’ve outlined the basics below.
Agency vs self-setup
This first step in your ecommerce journey will be deciding whether to set up your store in-house or hire an agency.
Smaller businesses, or people selling products alongside their day job, will generally need low-level builds and there are ecommerce platforms that can help you out. But if you’re looking for a longer-term solution or expanding on an already established business, you’ll need some kind of expertise.
The question of whether to hire in-house or to invest in an agency, however, still stands. And while there’s always an advantage to hiring new team members, you’ll be presented with two employee options here: specialists and generalists.
While a specialist will have a high level of knowledge in a certain area, like web development, their knowledge in other areas, like SEO or web design, might need improving through additional training. On the flip side, a generalist may be able to work across several areas, but their expertise will be at a lower level. This can result in further costs down the line.
However, using an agency will provide you with access to a team of individuals, all highly-skilled in their own area of expertise, such as:
Alongside these experts, you’ll also be provided with:
An outside perspective
The ability to concentrate on your day job
The ability to successfully measure ROI
An agency can also provide further support, like suggesting third-party platforms and add-ons that can help take your business to a whole new level as you grow.
The challenge is that you must find an agency that can provide you with everything you need whilst being the best cultural fit for your business.
Finding an agency
You’ll want to get your online store right from the get-go, which is why hiring an agency can be hugely beneficial. But you need to find an agency that understands your business and its needs.
Therefore, when searching for an ecommerce agency, it’s important to look at the following:
Technical capability - First you need to find out if the agency you’re working with can deliver the project you want and need. If they only offer an ecommerce platform that offers little to no support this could be detrimental to you further down the line. It’s always important to ask for examples from the agency of work they’ve completed for retailers in the past at this stage, to prevent future issues.
Experience in the sector - Has the agency worked with other businesses in your sector? While this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, if you’re operating in the B2C sector and the agency has only worked with B2B retailers, they may not be fully aware of the hurdles they’ll come up against.
Challenge - If the agency has worked within your sector they’ll be familiar with the challenges it presents. This can be a real benefit as the agency will be able to challenge your perceptions and ideas if their experience suggests otherwise, rather than going along with what you’ve asked for.
Communication - This is hugely important in the world of ecommerce. You want to work with an agency that tells you exactly how long jobs will take and how much they will cost, as the financial ramifications can be huge. Ask the agency to demonstrate a process whereby they managed a project through to delivery.
Ongoing requirements – Ecommerce is an ever-changing world, and it’s important to know that the agency you work with will be able to ensure your requirements are consistently met. Look into the platform they suggest to see how other businesses have worked with them when it comes to ongoing needs.
Added value - The agency you choose should bring extra knowledge to the table, to help you navigate the range of partner services available. This could be steering you to merchant services providers with lower transaction fees, or to those providers who allow customers to pay in instalments, on HP or accept the likes of AMEX. That added value can save you money, time, and increase conversions.
People – aside from everything else, you need to decide whether you like the agency team that you’ll be working with, as this will have a huge impact on how well the partnership will work in the long-run.
Before you start searching for an agency, make sure you establish your budget. This way, you’ll be in a better position when it comes to working out the services you require and allocating your funds. Many agencies have established relationships and deals with providers, which can make your budget go further.
Don’t forget how the agency you choose fits in with your wider business goals; while your budget will help you to decide on an agency, it’s important to balance this with your other needs, like marketing. A great store won’t do much if nobody knows it’s there!
Working with an agency is all about options and knowing there’s room to improve and grow your business. This is why getting it right from the beginning is the most important decision you can make for your business.
You should never overlook the importance of branding.
Consistent brand representation can increase revenue by as much as 23%. And, while a branding and ecommerce agency provide different services, ensuring the two are aligned is necessary to establish consistency.
Knowing your audience and brand will also help to better inform your ecommerce agency. By doing so, they’ll be able to tailor the experience to your customer based on the wants and needs defined in their personas.
And, with new ecommerce companies launching every day, an established, well-connected brand based around the audience is key.
Choosing the platform for you
With all of this in mind, it’s important to find an ecommerce platform that suits your business's needs perfectly. With so many out there, you shouldn’t rush into a decision.
This is why working with an agency can help, as they’ll be able to provide advice around everything from costs to ongoing services. However, it’s important to ensure the agencies you’re looking at aren’t simply trying to push the platform they currently work with; they should be able to provide you with different providers and the pros and cons of each one.
That’s why you should also do your own research, weighing up the positives and negatives from a business perspective.
Always consider whether the platform offers:
Scalability to grow with your business
The ability to integrate with the best third-party tools and solutions
Whether it will tie you to a specific payment provider
Speed — the speed of a platform is closely related to conversions and therefore profit and continued success
Lean infrastructure costs
And while deciding on an ecommerce platform can be difficult at first, make sure you look into the long-term costs from the initial build.
If everything seems rather cheap and too good to be true in the first instance, make sure you understand the continued:
Cost of adding new features
Other improvement costs
UX changes costs
If these areas haven’t been taken into consideration, it can often result in an online store that performs well at first but fails to do so further down the line, costing you important business, and significant amounts to continually upgrade various elements.
This is why it’s essential to look at the services provided by the platform. Consider your customer’s journey and then look at what the platform can offer to make your store as easy to use as possible. For example, do they offer a good range of payment solutions? This could be the difference from being able to sell internationally or not.
Taking your next step into ecommerce
Whether this is your first foray into an online store, you have an established business and want to take it online, or you want to improve on the store you already have, Aero can help.
Working with retailers and agencies to provide the best service to customers, Aero is changing the way ecommerce platforms work by providing you with control to help minimize long-term costs to your businesses.
To find out more, get in touch with the Aero team today.