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Many eCommerce sites have failed at the hands of poor design, copy, and — ultimately — communication.
Every eCommerce web developer is different. Some will focus on design while others will optimize the engine that runs it. Some will focus on SEO, and others will prep for conversion.
The problem, then, is that you can’t possibly know what to expect. Every developer is different and so, too, will be their goals for your website. This means that you need to prepare a list of questions to ask so that you’re not left in the dark about what to expect.
The last thing you want is to hire an agency, pay a lot of money, spend a lot of time, and receive a product that hurts your business. Here’s how you can avoid that demise by understanding what you’re looking for and then asking the necessary questions.
Before you go about finding an agency to design and develop your website, and drill them with questions, you need to get your internal ducks in a row.
Namely, you need to establish critical KPIs, find noteworthy competitors and websites from different industries that you can take inspirations from, determine key deliverables, and identify key stakeholders.
The first thing you need to determine before designing and developing your eCommerce website is to establish the KPIs that you’ll track to measure success.
With predetermined KPIs, you’ll be able to give your digital agency a better understanding of your goals, and you’ll have an internal measuring stick for accomplishing those goals.
To determine which KPIs are critical to your success, start by thinking about your sales funnel. How do people move through your buying process, and which KPIs do you need to associate with each step?
Determine what your own funnel looks like. Then, figure out which KPIs show that people are moving from one step to the next properly.
Here’s a brief list of KPIs that you might want to consider.
Now, a brief caveat when it comes to getting your ducks in a row.
In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come out. This regulation will force eCommerce businesses globally to create better security measures to protect their customers as governments update data privacy regulations.
Over 70% of businesses are expecting an increase in their budgets to accommodate the new data security requirements. Make sure that the agency you work with is prepped and ready to meet these upcoming standards.
One of the best ways to create an eCommerce website that drives traffic, generates leads, and converts visitors is to reverse engineer what’s already working for other eCommerce sites.
How do you do that?
By studying your competition. To reverse engineer your competitors, you can go to Ahrefs (or other competitor analysis tools such as SpyFu, Similar Web, or SEMrush) and type in your own website’s URL or a competitor’s URL.
Once you do, find out how they’re getting their traffic, what keywords they’re ranking for, what keywords they’re bidding on, etc.
FrankBody, for example, has built a cult-like following, which explains the higher number of direct and search traffic.
More importantly, though, you’ll see a list of that website’s other competitors, allowing to extend your research even further.
Visit these websites, one by one, and look at three primary elements.
This will give you a better idea of what you want on your own eCommerce website. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t be able to determine which agency is the most prepared to meet your needs.
Don’t stop your research with websites that directly compete with your product. Instead, take inspirations from eCommerce sites in other industries as well.
Start from sites that you frequently visit. It doesn’t have to be an eCommerce site. The point here is to expand your horizon. So, nothing is off limit. Then move to other eCommerce sites in different industries. Take note of the features that you like from these websites.
The more sites you take inspirations from, the better equipped you’ll be when it comes the time to articulate your needs to your digital agency.
Pro tip: When looking at different sites, ask yourself these questions about each site:
Where is your eye drawn to first?
What do their CTAs look like?
How do they use social proof to sell their products?
Where does the design encourage you to click?
The standard when developing a website is always to do what everyone else is doing, which is how best practices come about. But sometimes, the best ideas come from nontraditional sources — those that aren’t within your industry.
Once you've finished all of your website research, don’t hire a digital agency just yet. Next, you want to determine which elements you’re going to leverage on your eCommerce site. In other words, you want to determine your key deliverables.
While KPIs are the measurement of your success or lack thereof, key deliverables are all of the tools, outcomes, elements, and features you want to include on your website.
They are the projects and tasks that your website will require. To determine which deliverables to tackle, ask yourself these questions:
The last step before hiring a digital agency is identifying the key stakeholders for each deliverable and KPI.
Some of those stakeholders will be inside the agency you hire, but, at this point, you want to determine the people inside your business who are responsible for making sure that each deliverable happens. These could include employees, managers, or even owners.
It’s all good and well to hire an agency to design and build you a killer website, but it’s also important to make people within your eCommerce business responsible for each deliverable and KPI you’ve decided on.
The people you choose will be the connectors between your company and the agency. Instead of letting the agency do whatever it pleases (which may or may not work), the person who’s responsible for each deliverable will play the part of quality manager and safety net, which will make sure the agency is delivering what they promised to deliver.
Now that you’ve all your internal ducks in a row, all that you need to know now are asking the right questions when vetting digital agencies.
Hiring a digital agency is tricky.
You want to hire people who are at least semi-familiar with your industry and also have a track record of well-designed websites that drive traffic, generate leads, and convert visitors.
To make sure you hire the right agency to build your eCommerce website, do the internal maintenance first. Establish critical KPIs, pull inspiration from the websites of competitors and other industries, determine key deliverables, and identify key stakeholders.
Then, simply ask all the right questions. And voilá! You’ll hire the right agency to build your website.