This may seem like a shameless plug for our services but if you read it it will become immediately apparent that even we are not right fit for each and every project or opportunity that comes our way.
A common misconception is a big company needs a big agency. While there are certainly some examples where this is true, it’s not always the best idea to match the agency/company sizes. The project requirements should be generally the deciding factors.
Let’s say you need redundant project management for a five-to-six month project. This person works on nothing else outside your project. There are also complex UX requirements, design, identity, development, QA, etc. Smaller agencies (6-8 people) generally do not have the human resources to dedicate everything to just one project.
On the other side of this equation, many small ecommerce start-ups can’t afford the larger agency retainers.
As with everything in this field, there are edge cases. We have witnessed some pretty impressive pieces of work with small teams who have gone on to win awards and be recognized in the industry.
Once in awhile, industry matters. There are ecommerce agencies that only deal with fashion where others are strictly in the non-profit arena. If one of your agency vetting requirements is that the agency needs to have dozens of fashion examples in their portfolio, then clearly you aim for a fashion-focused ecommerce agency. Generally I would not get mired here. A clear set of requirements, style guide and a deep discovery should be able to translate the vision properly.
Are you going with “generalists” or are you vetting specialists who have been working with your platform every single day. Let’s take Bigcommerce (SAAS) for example. If you have a Bigcommerce project that warrants a fairly tight roadmap and big deliverables, you may run into issues with agencies who just dabble in Bigcommerce or “familiar” with Bigcommerce. That approach opens the project up to potential problems; from communication all the way to deployment.
Let’s take a second example. Magento is a very robust open-source ecommerce platform that demands acute knowledge of its code base. Developers can only gain that knowledge by working with it every single day for years. Point being, if your project has a Magento requirement, then going with an agency that is really good at just WordPress (Woocommerce) and has a “bit” of experience with Magento will be a detriment to the project health.
There are also plenty of other ecommerce platforms out there, such as Shopify, Demandware, Hybris, and Volusion. We have yet to meet an ecommerce agency that commands greatness in each one. Pick an agency that has plenty of “good” examples and years of experience in the platform you want to use.
The agency you select will also need to fill your requirements. As mentioned above, if the project requirements dictate a large ecommerce install with an ERP connection, along with a handful of custom apps, make sure you clearly outline these requirements for the prospective agency. Gain confidence that they can design solutions for these areas. Ask questions and log all the answers. A full Request for Proposal is probably not necessary but a few paragraphs in an email or a 30-minute discovery call goes a long way!
This area means you should get on a phone call with the agency’s referrals. This is a great chance to ask about past or current projects that the ecommerce agency has produced.
- What was their involvement?
- How long did it take?
- Were there any hiccups?
- How were problems solved?
- Did they gain your trust?
- Were they good listeners and partners?
Choosing a new ecommerce agency is a process that should include establishing a comfort level, performing discovery, reviewing past projects and, most of all, receiving an assurance that this group could be a reliable, talented partner for the road ahead. The time spent in choosing an agency that’s a proper fit pays off and is essential in producing a high quality project.