How to Choose an Ecommerce Agency: Part Two

In part one we discussed the number one thing clients look for when choosing their ecommerce agency: Trust (find it here.) If trust is number 1 on our list, then price has to be number 1(a), after all, you are trying to run a profitable online business.

Price

There is not a perfect formula of “I should spend x percent of my total online revenue on my replatform project” because that would only direct you based on where your online business is now. You should be thinking about where your business is going, or where it ought to be going. To say it another way: you should be skating to where the puck is going, not where it currently is.  

That said, you must be realistic. Ask yourself questions like:  

  • What is my revenue growth projection and how am I going to get there?  
  • If I am planning to spend (x) on my website, do I have the traffic to justify that spend? 
  • If I do have the traffic, will this move help me increase my conversion rate (CR)? 
  • If this move won’t help me increase my conversion rate, will it increase my average order value (AOV)? 
  • If I don’t have the traffic, and it won’t increase my CR, and it won’t increase my AOV, then how will I see my return on investment (ROI)? 

Here’s a little secret: functionality is not everything on an ecommerce website. In fact, unless you can prove that functionality is driving revenue, you should be asking yourself if it is worth having that functionality in the first place. Heck, you could be spending that money driving more traffic to your site either from existing customers or driving new customers through marketing campaigns 

How does this relate to choosing an ecommerce agency? There is an agency out there that specializes in every need you may have. Some are going to have lower rates, some are going to have all their employees in a foreign country, others could be right down the street, and all of those are going to have different pricing structures. You need to decide what is important to you and how those factors are going to change your ROI.  

After you have a good rapport with an agency, and have a good understanding of their price structure, you must decide if their capabilities are the right fit for your needs. 

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for the third and final installment of our choosing an agency partner series. Until then, contact us with all your questions and to learn more.

How to Choose an Ecommerce Agency

As directors of business development at Something Digital, we are constantly asking ourselves the question: what is going to help this prospect decide to choose Something Digital as their partner on their eCommerce journey? Since we are thinking about this every day, we figured it would be a good idea to share our thoughts on the matter. Choosing an agency ultimately comes down to three decisions: Do I trust these people? Is the price they’re offering within my budget? And does this agency’s capabilities match what I need from them? With that, we bring you part one of our three-part series of how to choose an eCommerce Agency:

Trust

There’s a reason we chose to write about trust first: it is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of choosing an agency. If you have an immense amount of personal and professional trust in the agency you choose to lead you on your eCommerce journey, then you can extend your budget because you know the project will be done right. Obviously trust is a feeling (a belief even), it can be emotional: “I get a good vibe from these people”, “they seem trustworthy”, “wow these people seem to know what they’re doing”, etc. But you can take action to get to know them better, and establish a stronger relationship to allow for a smooth eCommerce journey.

Ask yourself the question: what is this agency’s reputation?

Assuming you already have an eCommerce store, you may be using a platform like Shopify or Magento. What you may not know is these platforms have dedicated channel management teams that interact daily with their partner agencies. They can tell you verticals an agency works in, what systems they have integrated with in the past, issue resolution they have come upon working with a particular agency and so on. Asking your account manager at these platforms for recommendations on an agency is a great first step to finding the one that is right for you and your business.

But don’t stop there, you may use a reviews platform like Yotpo, or a personalization company like Nosto, or a deferred payments company like Klarna. Well guess what? They all have channel managers that interact with agencies too. These people are great resources for you to gauge a particular agency’s reputation in the eCommerce marketplace. Not only that, but you will also get insight into the agency’s familiarity with your tool set!

Develop a relationship in the sales process

News flash! The business development person you are speaking with probably is not going to be intimately involved in the day-to-day operations of your eCommerce store after you start working with the agency. On top of that, it is the salesperson’s job to make you feel comfortable with them. So, it is always valuable to get introduced to those who will be more involved. For example, at Something Digital we have development, creative, strategic engagement and project management leadership who are excited to get on calls with prospects. These people will be your escalation points on the project, so it is important you develop a rapport with them. One excellent way Something Digital has found will develop a strong relationship with people is the actually the traditional way: breaking bread. Sharing food with one another has been a great tool for our clients to establish a personal rapport with us,  When you truly sit down with someone and connect with them over a delicious meal, your hesitations are cast off and you become friends. Friends do right by each other. If anything ever goes wrong (and if you’ve been in the agency/client game long enough, you’ll know that even you’re the best that’s actually a “when”, not an “if”), you’ll have the relationship to fall back on.

The other thing developing that relationship does for you is it allows you to assess the culture of the company you are working with. The reality is, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, so you need to know if these people are the type of people you want to spend time with. A colleague explained it to me this way: if you were stuck in an airport with them on a 10-hour delay, would you ever want to see them again after that? If you would, then they’re probably a good culture fit. Another point here, at some point in your relationship, issue resolution will happen, so when something goes wrong, having that relationship established is hugely beneficiary. On the other hand, things will also go right, so ask yourself the question: when things DO go right, are these the people I want to celebrate with?

First get a sense of an agency’s reputation, and then find ways to connect with them more intimately.You’ll have a leg up on deciding if they’re the right agency for you on your eCommerce journey. Trust is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of choosing your agency partner.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of our 3-part series on choosing a partner agency. Until then, contact us with all your questions and to learn more!

Conversion Rate and eCommerce Maturity 

As business maturity increases so does the importance of conversion rate optimization. 

In Something Digital’s 20 years of being in business we have worked with startups and some of the largest companies in the world. What we have learned about our clients from our experience: the maturity of the brand will drive the business plan. 

Take a startup for instance, typically when they launch their website, they do not have a solid customer base. Their immediate goal is to get their name out there, drive traffic to the site, and encourage brand discovery.  

Enterprise level companies however, are focusing their website visitors on conversion. In many cases, this conversion is correlated to revenue generation.  

The difference between the goals of these two businesses, being on varying ends of the maturity spectrum, is the enterprise level company has already established name recognition, credibility, and a loyal customer base frequenting their website. And a startup cannot optimize what it does not yet have. Therefore, as business maturity increases so does the importance of conversion rate optimization.  

Mistaking revenue generation as the only factor of website success 

You may be asking yourself: Shouldn’t an e-commerce site be all about driving revenue? That is what I thought when I got into this business 6 years ago. But as a startup brand, it’s difficult to build your customer base. Think of it this way: you open a brick and mortar store your first priority is getting people in the door. Once they are in the door, you need to create a welcoming environment that provides a positive first impression. Maybe a shopper is just going to peruse on this visit. So, you want to make their experience memorable so that they come back, and even better, share their experience with others. This is the beginning of creating a loyal customer base; one which you can rely on for continual purchases. But it starts with getting customers in the door. It starts with traffic. 

In the early stages of e-commerce maturity, it is advantageous to encourage the development of your relationship with the customer through discovery, where we get to know each other. 

Driving Traffic 

Let us look at an example of why it’s important to start with a maturity analysis before jumping into optimization.  

A few years ago, I started working with an online-only startup. We began discussing their site so early in the birth of the business that they did not even know their brand identity. We progressed over time and eventually launched their site. In the infancy of their launch, like any release into production, we started getting requests to troubleshoot issues, change design elements, and add new features. The site was live, but we weren’t meeting business expectations.  

So, with a data driven mindset and mentality to prioritize what would be most impactful first, we looked to the onsite metrics to frame out next steps.  

Where was the data? Their traffic was so low, we had no supporting factors or evidence to make any changes. Every hypothesis was a shot in the dark. Troubleshooting functionality was difficult when we couldn’t recreate issues. We would watch back session recordings, but the sample size was so small we couldn’t assume, “because one person is stuck, they all will be”. So, we entered strategic war rooms and all ideas were thrown on the table: 

Content Marketing: Can we more clearly emphasize the value of this brand and product over competitors? What’s unique here? Do we have more and higher quality images or videos to validate the superiority of the product? Can we get more descriptive product summaries? 

Cost: Can we lower the product cost? Can we offer free shipping and returns? 

Promos: Can we increase the discount for newsletter sign-up? 

Security: Can we visually prove the site is secure and transactions are safe? 

Technical: What is broken? Is add to cart working on all browsers and devices? 

Marketing: What is being done to drive more traffic? What is the PPC Plan? Paid Social? Paid Search? 

We decided that we could not come up with any valid hypothesis until we had more traffic. We also recognized that any solution would cost money. So, guessing was risky. And that’s when we decided, driving traffic was the priority.  

As a startup, it does not matter if your site works, if you don’t have traffic. And yes, driving traffic would also cost money, but at least then your next steps would be based on data driven decisions, instead of risky assumptions.  

Building Trust 

Once you have reached your target audience by getting them “in your front door”, you need to have a trustworthy brand to get them engaged.  

When I visit a site like https://www.eatofflimits.com/ I’d assume they are not the highest converting site. And conversion is clearly not the primary goal, because the shopping funnel is almost hidden from you. You visit their site and they immediately encourage you to break the rules. They introduce you to characters like Dash and Zombie. You are honestly not sure what they are selling, but you know you either like or do not like what you immediately see. And if you like it, you are going to stay for a while and explore. Customers will start playing games on their product detail pages and forget why they came to the website in the first place.  

What is all this meant to encourage? It cannot be sales. It even looks like they are selling tickets to a show rather than cereal. The site is encouraging you to explore the brand: who they are, the art they create, how they make you feel! So that when you do make a purchase and taste the cereal, you harken back to the website that made you feel like a kid again, even if you are eating cereal at $12 per box (!!). That nostalgia is what differentiates Off Limits from their thousands of competitors in the breakfast cereal space. Off Limits would not trade that feeling for a single sale.  

On the other hand, you have a more mature business like https://www.proflowers.com/. When a customer is looking for flowers to be delivered, it is one of the first places they look. When you are a mature brand, that has developed a loyal customer base, the exploration aspect is less important. With a strong traffic flow and brand credibility in your favor, you’ll want to eliminate shopping distractions to avoid obstacles to conversion. Customers will come back to your site over and over because they know your brand, they know what you are about, and they know what you sell. For first time customers, you have a strong customer base to validate your brand. Instead of exploration, the business is looking to provide a seamless experience that motivates the purchase. 

Pro Flowers has clearly invested in conversion rate optimization. They cut to the chase and know the first thing you want to see: what is your target delivery date and what is your zip code. Once you fill that out, they show you everything available to you and all the categories: birthday, anniversary, congratulations, get well soon and so much more. This is not by accident. They have a path that millions of customers have followed before you. Less mature businesses do not have that advantage. Through conversion rate optimization, they even cater my journey with a unique experience from yours, as I fit into a different customer segment. They are taking the customer data available to them to provide a personalized experience that will best generate the sale. 

Website goals are not all the same 

At the end of the day, your business goals are going to determine your ecommerce strategy and those business goals will change as you mature. At Something Digital, we start with our ecommerce maturity model: BULLSEYE. If you are a business just starting out online, we will advise you to focus on growing traffic. If you are a more trusted online brand, we will gear our work toward conversion rate optimization. It is our goal to help you strategically approach your growth. 

 

Have questions and want help with your conversion rate and ecommerce maturity? Reach out to us.

This post was written by Something Digital’s Director of Business Development Tony Ciarelli and Vice President of Programs Megan DeLeonardis.