Looking to hire an e-commerce development agency? Here’s what you should look for.

Looking to hire an e-commerce development agency? Here’s what you should look for.

Having worked in the e-commerce industry for nearly 25 years, much of which was spent running web development agencies, I’ve engaged in many conversations with business owners, CTOs, CMOs, and E-commerce Managers in search of a reliable e-commerce development agency partner.

In this post, I aim to distill my experience into actionable advice for merchants on the hunt for the right partner. This isn’t a definitive list, but I hope it helps you find a successful development partner earlier in your journey.

1. Clearly Define Your Objectives

Are you trying to resolve issues with your existing storefront, or are you building a store for a new market or product line? What revenue do you expect your investment to yield, and what is your timeline? The clearer you can be with your objectives, the more effective your partnership will be. Openly share your vision and concerns, however high-level they may be, and carefully listen to how different agencies respond to this information. Your wishes and concerns should be addressed directly and with clarity.

As with any relationship, if your expectations are clear up-front and delivered openly, it will facilitate better, more honest communication and prevent potential finger-pointing when challenges arise.

2. Know Your Key Agency Contacts

Identify who your primary contacts at the development agency will be — typically a Project Manager, Solutions Architect, and Account Manager. Engage with them during your initial calls and learn as much as possible about their roles, experience, and communication styles.

Project Manager: This person will likely be your most frequent contact. They need to be organized and communicate clearly and reliably. Technical knowledge is a plus, but experience in the industry is essential.

Solutions Architect: Make sure you meet this person before signing any contract. They will craft the technical vision for the project and help solve the most challenging problems. Depending on the team size, the Solutions Architect may also act somewhat as a Technical Lead–ensuring the solution meets expectations and deployments are well executed.

Account Manager: This is your go-to for questions about new projects or existing contracts. Ensure your Account Manager is readily available and not solely focused on upselling.

3. Prioritize Project Management

Project management is far from mere overhead; a professionally managed project can save you significant money. A competent Project Manager is responsible for delivering your project on time and within budget, while keeping you well-informed. Select an agency that values project management to give your project the attention it deserves.

4. Insist on Transparent Budget Management

Project requirements may change or unexpected issues may arise, impacting your timeline and/or budget. You need to rely on the agency to report scope creep and any budget or timeline impacts promptly. Ensure that the agency has a clear protocol for handling project budgets and scope changes, and that they will inform you early when issues arise.

5. Request Relevant Work Examples and References

Just as you would when hiring a new employee, verify the experience and credibility of the team you’re considering. Industry-specific experience is valuable but can increase rates and isn’t everything. Above all, look for a proactive, hardworking team of problem solvers. Building a unique e-commerce experience will invariably present challenges, and a great team will be ready to learn and explore solutions with you.

In summary, choosing the right development agency can be quite time-consuming, but if you get organized and take the time necessary to properly evaluate teams, you’ll have a higher chance of finding the right partner. Clearly defined objectives, qualified key team members, professional project management, transparent budget management, experience, and reputation are essential factors to consider when evaluating agencies.

Author: Ian Baxter, CTO and Founder of Swarming