Partnerships are the bedrock of a successful eCommerce business. Outsourcing your eCommerce development project can help you focus on crucial areas that demand undivided attention like sales and marketing.

However, finding the right eCommerce agency is a tough task as there are hundreds of agencies providing development services no matter which platform you choose.

In this blog, we will be walking you through 8 simple steps that could help you find the best partner for your scope and budget. Before we get started, there are a couple of prerequisites to narrow down options faster.

Having a scope document

At least at a high level, you need to define what you’re looking for so that it’s easier for the agency to understand.

You can do it by preparing a list that consists of details like technology stack, outcomes you are expecting from your project, staffing resources, if any, areas to build, areas for improvement, and operational bottlenecks.

In stages where you think you have a potential partner, you can disclose further information like competitor challenges, buyer personas, existing customers’ experience, use cases, analytics, operational protocols, and so on.

Having a criteria checklist for selecting the agency

On what parameters are you going to select the agencies? You need to define those ahead of time. It could be the size of the agency, local presence, timezone overlaps, capabilities across design, technology and marketing, B2B / B2C eCommerce experience, payment gateway, ERP integration experience, pricing, and few others which could be specific to your needs and business.

Developer certification is a crucial factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. It vouches for the credibility of the developers of an agency you are looking to sign up. Certified developers are evaluated based on various criteria like technical-know how, coding skills, ability to identify gaps, and so on. Such a resourceful team member can add value to your eCommerce project.

Now let’s get started with the process.

Step 1:

Talk to the eCommerce platform providers. It could be Magento, Hybris, Demandware, Shopify, or any other.

Get four to five agency partner names which they think will fit the bill for the scope of work you have and the budget for the project. However, this will work if you are looking for an Enterprise version or a premium version of a platform.

If you’re looking for an open-source version, Google for the top eCommerce agencies in the platform you are looking for. Also, try service-based keywords like Managed services and Magento Implementation alongside the platform name to identify more potential service providers.

Step 2:

Perform an online pre-qualification for all the agencies. Understand how big they are, the number of consultants they have, service offerings, number of certified developers in the platform you are looking for.

Check on their case studies, reviews, ratings, pricing, FAQs, if it’s available on their website, and also see if you can find some testimonials. Once you’re satisfied with what you see, go ahead and reach out to them. In this tab, you need to eliminate two of the five agencies you have.

Step 3:

Get on a call with the agencies. Once the introduction part is done and if you have seen some of their work and you’re satisfied with the answers, provide your scope document to them so they can provide you a proposal.

In the whole process, see if they are receptive, responsive, asking good questions, coming out as experts in the eCommerce field, and trying to understand your challenges and aspirations. Also, see if they are identifying growth opportunities that you haven’t realized and suggesting areas for improvement.

Feel the experience they have provided you so far and compare that with other agencies. This process might take more than a couple of calls with each agency.

Step 4:

Evaluate agencies on all the criteria you have. Go through the proposal and see if the scope is well defined, pricing, timeline, and deliverables from the discovery phase are clear, project approach and communication plan is mentioned, and milestones are well established as well.

Also, in this phase, you should be having an idea about their project development process and average turnaround time. Agile development methodologies best suit eCommerce projects as they result in better project control, reduced risks, faster ROI, stable releases. These factors ensure continuous growth and innovation.

When it comes to average turnaround time, don’t be deceived by the idea that an agency that delivers in a short time is the best. What matters to you is whether the development agency has a practice of sticking to a timeline. Agencies driven by the Agile development process will be able to deliver projects in sprints at a constant pace.

Based on your evaluation, you need to boil down to two agencies now.

Step 5:

Ask for a reference customer to whom you can speak and know more about the agency. When it comes to reference checks, always read between the lines on what their existing customers are saying. Ask open-ended questions than pointed ones.

Examples – What has been your end to end experience working with XYZ agency? What made you sign up with them? Did they deliver on the promises they made during the sales process? Etc

Step 6:

By now, you would know whom you want to go ahead with. Before you finalize, answer these questions.

In spite of you meticulously choosing the agency, what if you

  • Don’t like the work of the agency, three weeks into the engagement?
  • How do you de-risk yourself?
  • What if you are not happy with the particular team members allocated to you?
  • How would you stay in the loop about the project update?
  • Know how change requests will work if there is a scope change.

Get to know the single point of contact from the development side to discuss your opinions when it comes to changes, progress or updates. A well-structured eCommerce development team generally has a dedicated project manager to deliver updates to stakeholders.

Also, for escalations, ask the development firm for their Escalation Matrix. An Escalation Matrix includes people in different roles, like project managers, directors, and so on. The team will be the set of people to contact in case there is an alert. As a stakeholder, it will be helpful for you to hold the development agency accountable for its shortcomings, if any.

Get answers for these questions before you move forward.

Step 7:

Contract part. Your legal finance team can help you in this process. This might take some time, and if you wish to start the work early, check with the agency if they can start with an email approval. Check the team composition, how the hours of billing are split on a daily and hourly basis.

Understand how the SOW works and its terms. Know how change requests will work if there is a scope change.

Step 8:

Step eight. Now, you’re all set. Form a project team at your end, and you’re ready to kick off.

We hope that the tips mentioned above will help in bettering your vendor selection skills.