How to choose an ecommerce agency

Achieving your ecommerce business goals isn’t a straightforward task. There’s a lot of different elements to a successful operation which contribute – from a reliable ecommerce platform to efficient fulfilment and shipping.

Ecommerce agencies are one type of company dedicated to helping you realise those goals. For many they’re a cost-effective option for starting out in ecommerce, and will help you with website design, marketing and customer service throughout your journey.

However, deciding you need to partner with an agency is only the first step; you also need to figure out who’s best for your needs. We’ve spoken to some of our agency partners and have put together some of their top tips for choosing an ecommerce agency.

Check their experience lines up with what you need

Internal Marketing Manager at Velstar, ipaas provider  Charlotte Davies, emphasised the importance of looking at a company’s portfolio and enquiring about where their experience and skills lie.

You’ll need to check an agency’s technical know-how. They might have done projects with your ecommerce platform, but to what quality? Do they have the capability and skill to handle your operation? Checking client testimonials is a great way of gauging the answers to these questions.

The emphasis an agency puts on the long-game is extremely important, too. You don’t want a partner who puts all of their skills and resources into just creating a great looking website; you also need a solid ongoing marketing strategy, optimisation and maintenance.

Velstar is a full-service Shopify Plus partner agency. From platform migration, user experience and user interface design, to digital marketing they have a track record of helping direct-to-consumer brands grow.

Make sure optimisation is a priority

Tom McCaul, CEO and India Claydon, Social Media and Office Manager at Tom&Co, offered a few suggestions to companies looking for an ecommerce agency related to website optimisation.

The first was to keep in mind that customers want “blistering speeds” – most will leave your website if it takes more than three seconds to load, so it’s important that whatever agency you go with understands that and has a portfolio of fast-loading websites. Tom&Co are a headless ecommerce agency, which means their frontend digital customer touchpoints are separated from backend functionality; for a big company with a large volume of products, this can help improve speeds.

Another point about optimisation was to make your website suitable for mobile devices. 65% of all ecommerce traffic comes from mobile, so if the agency you partner with doesn’t have a track record of delivering seamlessly optimised sites for smartphones and tablets, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.

Tom&Co added that the people who make up an agency can be more important than the ecommerce platform itself. An agency partner should feel like an extension of your team, and it’s essential that they understand your vision and work collaboratively with you towards a shared goal.

Find an agency which puts thought into the discovery phase

Chris Marshall, Owner and Co-founder of Onstate, discussed the importance of the discovery process during a project. That involves research and analytics into customer wants and needs; what are they buying, or just as important, not buying? What kind of strategy will lead to more conversions?

A seamless discovery phase offers valuable insights into a company which allows agencies to build and optimise better websites. By actively searching for an agency which places emphasis on that stage, you’ll be less likely to end up with a poorly planned and designed website.

It’s also important not to shoehorn design into a cookie-cutter template. Look for an agency which crafts bespoke, tailor made websites and content which fits your brand. Bringing your brand identity to life isn’t just about the visual and design aspects; it’s also about content, copywriting and tone of voice.

As a Shopify agency which previously worked with Magento and Salesforce, Onstate also highlighted that while you need extensive discovery and bespoke designs, it’s still important not to overcomplicate things.

Take into account your industry, and do plenty of research

Space48’s Content Marketing Manager, Molly Smith, has a few suggestions for choosing the right agency.

The first is to consider the industry you’re in, and apply that to the ecommerce agency you partner with. If you’re a fashion brand, think about finding a company which specialises in fashion; there’s some agencies which have a broad expertise, and others which focus on a specific industry and perform outstandingly in it. They’re also more likely to have insider knowledge and will understand your needs better.

She also highlighted the importance of researching not just the company’s experience and past work, but also their approach and culture. That involves looking at things like their website’s blog, or seeing what they post on LinkedIn. Doing this sort of research gives you a good insight into whether they’re thought leaders and have expertise you can learn from.

Finally, it’s important to ask an agency to talk you through all of their processes and systems, both from a project management point of view but also development. This will help you understand their quality assurance process and what sort of strategic planning and consultancy they provide.

Once you’ve found the right ecommerce agency for you, you’ll also need a reliable integrations partner to connect your core business processes.

Patchworks is an experienced provider with a dedicated team of experts. We’re happy to talk you through any questions you might have, so get in touch.