70+ Must-Asked Questions When Building an eCommerce Site [Free Checklist]
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.
Getting Your (Internal) Ducks in a Row
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.
1. Establish Critical KPIs
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.
2. Find Competitors That Nail Their Website
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.
- Design: What does their catalog look like, and how do visitors navigate between products? What do you like about their website? What don’t you like about their website?
- Features: What features does the website have? Do they have different payment methods? What does their checkout look like? What UNIQUE features does the website have?
- SEO: What keywords is the website targeting, and would these keywords be relevant to your website as well? Does the website have a flat architecture? Does the website have a blog? Does it load quickly?
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.
3. Find Websites in Different Industries For Inspiration
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.
4. Determine Key Deliverables
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:
- How do I want customers to flow through the purchasing process on my website and what elements will that process require?
- How do I want customers to browse products on my website and what elements will that process require?
- How do I want my website to encourage conversion and what elements will that require?
5. Identify Key Stakeholders
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.
70 Questions to Ask an Agency When Developing an eCommerce Site
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.
Building The Portfolio
- How big is your company and how long have you existed?
- Do you have any experience working with businesses in my industry?
- Can you provide examples of websites you’ve developed in the past?
- Can you provide references for me to get in contact with?
- Do you have any case studies that prove the effectiveness of your websites?
- Do you have a project or account manager who will take ownership of my website when it’s being created?
- How will we communicate?
- How do you decide on a price for the project?
- Is there an ongoing price to maintain the website, and if so, how much?
- Do you offer eCommerce services?
- What web standards and practices do you use to make sure my site is responsive on different devices and is optimized for search?
Understanding The Process
- Can you walk me through your internal website build process?
- How much input will I have on the website build?
- What is the timeframe for each stage of the project?
- If I don’t like the initial website design, what’s your process for fixing it?
- Will I be able to see the website and make suggestions as you’re designing it?
- Will you analyze my business, market, and competitors to better understand my industry? How much time will you devote to this?
- Which eCommerce platform do you use?
- How can I add products in the back-end?
- How extensive will the catalog be, and how many product categories will I be able to add?
- Will the products be presented horizontally or vertically? Why?
- How will customers be able to organize the catalog when they’re viewing it (price, relevance, or both)?
- Knowing my industry, what product information should we display for each item?
- What strategies or features do you recommend we have to help customers make their purchase decision?
- Can you develop or integrate an auto-suggest search that shows products as you type?
- Will the site have faceted search feature for easy filtering?
- What type of information should be filterable?
- Do you recommend endless scroll or pagination? Why?
- Will I be able to A/B test different elements on the website?
- Knowing my industry, what kind of information will customers need to provide in order to purchase?
- Can you integrate or develop a one-page checkout?
- Will users be able to checkout without signing up for an account?
- What payment systems can we integrate with the website?
- Should we display reviews or ratings? If so, where and how obvious they should be?
- When a customer adds a product to cart, does a modal popup or does it take them off the page and directly to checkout?
- Should we have related or alternative products when users are looking at a product?
Analytics And Reporting
- Will you set up analytics for me?
- What tools or solutions do you use for site's analytics?
- What events or goals will you track for my site?
- What eCommerce metrics do you recommend we track?
- How will we track or see what products are performing best?
- How will we track or see what channels are performing best?
- How will we track how customers are using our site?
- Will you provide a month reporting for my site's performance?
- What will be included in the report?
- How do I create discount or voucher codes for my customers?
- Will I be able to personalize the prices based on user groups?
- Will I be able to send abandoned cart email?
- Will customers be able to review the products?
- Can you develop “Wish List”, “Notify when product is available”, or “Back-ordering” features?
- Will the users be able to change the quantity of an item in their cart from the cart page?
- Will the website have a “dashboard” where users can update their information?
Search Engine Optimization
- Do you include keyword research as part of the website build?
- Is site-wide HTTPS included as part of the build?
- How do you prevent duplicate title tags, meta description, and content throughout the site?
- What do you recommend we do to reduce the risk of thin content penalties on category and product pages?
- How do you optimize page speed, especially on catalog and image-heavy pages?
- Will you implement Schema markup for my site?
- Will you include a blog into the site? If so, will they be on the main site or sub-domain?
- How will you deal with dynamically-generated pages?
- Who should I contact if my website goes down?
- What would it look like to have someone manage my website for me? Do you offer this service or can you recommend someone?
- Where will my website be hosted? And if I want to change that, what is the process?
- Will I be able to integrate the website with other third-party tools such as marketing automation, fulfillment, accounting, invoicing, inventory, and customer services software
- How easy will it be to add extra tools to my website after you’ve developed it?
- What additional services do you offer that you could integrate with my website?
- How will you ensure my website’s security?
- How will my website be protected from spam?
- How will customer information be protected?
- Are you aware of the upcoming GDPR regulations? Will my website be in accordance with those?
Now You’re Ready to Hire an Agency…..
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.