(This is a guest post from our friends over at Trellis, a full-service eCommerce agency providing cutting edge solutions for bold B2B & B2C brands.)
Welcome to our brief “how-to” guide on engaging an eCommerce digital agency for software design, development, and other agency services. This guide is designed to help prospective eCommerce agency clients get the most out of their agency engagements and relationships, while ensuring they are an ideal client in their own right.
1. Understanding the Complexities of eCommerce
Your seemingly “simple” concept might actually present very complex technical challenges to designers and developers. In other words, saying is easier than doing. This is particularly true in the world of eCommerce development, where software is now managing the full transaction, logistics, payment, taxes, shipping, returns, rental returns, recurring payments, etc, etc, etc. Presenting this functionality to users in an experience they enjoy is not simple.
2. eCommerce is an Investment
Software design and development, in general, are investments. Tangible results in the immediate term vary. It cannot be stressed enough that design and development are iterative processes and it may be on the secondary or tertiary iterations, where clients may see quantifiable returns on their design and development investments. With this in mind, the ideal prospective client will have created a budget range for the engagement with the digital agency, one that should get the client’s application into production (read generating revenue) as a “Minimally Viable Product” (MVP) while also providing for secondary and tertiary projects that can extend features and functionality to enhance revenue. The best engagements are iterative and based on continued partnership and investment, thinking of budgeting through this lens will allow the client to explore more possibilities and ultimately build a better set of software tools. Note: most agencies bill on a “time and materials” basis and hourly rates can range from $100-$300 an hour. The recommendation here is to base budget assumptions at or around $150 an hour.
3. Trusting Your Partner
You, the prospective client, may be an expert in your field. Realize though, that your specific industry expertise is not necessarily always relevant with regards to eCommerce development. Digital agencies work for many clients and have assuredly gleaned some universalisms along the way. Allow them to implement their expertise. There may be messaging, digital interactions, or whole web pages that you, the prospective client *feel* are critical to your projects overall success…and that just might not be so. A good agency will run all of the assumptions, existing assets, and concepts through user experience testing, and will design and build based on the results. The ideal client will defer to the technologists’ expertise and a dialectic, data-driven process.
4. How to Choose the Right Digital Agency
Our Chief Revenue Officer at Trellis, Jared Shaner, talks about “F.I.T.” when advising folks on how to choose a digital agency. Fundamentals, Innovation, and Teamwork. Digital agencies typically start out with one or two core fundamental offerings and develop their services from there. Be sure to find out what a given agency’s fundamentals are and where most of their resources are dedicated. Look for those breaking new ground, creating new tools and frameworks, and “innovating” current technologies, methodologies, and processes. Perhaps most importantly, be able to articulate your culture and values, and seek out those who validate them, not just rhetorically, but in practice. This is the basis of real teamwork and successful projects, engagements, and relationships with digital agencies.
5. Driving Value from Your Digital Agency
If you are looking for mere implementers, rethink engaging with an agency. The most valuable resource an agency can provide a prospective client, aside from direct technical expertise, is the business intelligence they’ve gleaned from working with dozens of clients across many different industries, and in some cases, among competing companies. Seek out those that have solved problems similar to yours, those who have worked with your competition, and try and extract as much information (read value) as possible.
Five easy steps/things to remember and/or consider when preparing for an engagement with an eCommerce agency. Not an exhaustive list by any stretch, but a good start. Feel free to reach out to the Trellis team with any questions.
Trellis is a full service eCommerce solution provider that specializes in implementing websites based on popular platforms like Magento, WordPress, Shopify, and BigCommerce. Our capabilities allow us to plan and design a solution that not only meets your specific goals and budget today, but will also scale with you as you grow. Once a site is launched we stick side by side with our clients to help them improve the site and market the site to generate more customers.