Choosing An Ecommerce Consultancy

Over the past decade, as the internet has grown exponentially, companies have increasingly used it to sell their goods and services online and there are many large companies, such as Amazon and eBay, who successfully conduct all their business on the Web. Of course, selling online has a number of advantages compared with more traditional methods. The Internet is a global marketplace, so an online shop has the potential to reach a worldwide audience.

Your business can be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, accepting and processing orders throughout the night without your intervention. And the lack of supervision allows you to cut costs, which can translate into savings for your customers, giving your business a competitive edge. Finally, because you can store the goods in a large warehouse away from the city centre, you will be able to keep your stock up to date and in greater quantities, so that any orders can be shipped without delay. Your ecommerce wing will only be successful if it is managed effectively, however.

If your operation is a large one and has its own IT and marketing teams you should be able to set up an online commercial wing without difficulty. Building your own ecommerce operation allows you to maintain close links with your existing ordering and inventory systems and permits a greater level of customization both in terms of the features and look of the store and the back-end interface. However ecommerce is quite a specialised field requiring a level of expertise and can take a considerable amount of time to implement properly. The level of ongoing maintenance that is required can also be a drain on your internal resources. An alternative might be to have your ecommerce software hosted by an external company, although this might result in your site having a generic look and there being restrictions about how much you can change it.

A better way of launching an ecommerce service is to hire a consultant to give you advice and assistance regarding the implementation and day to day running of the site so it can be easily maintained without any special skills being required. But which consultant to choose? Well, perhaps the best way of selecting a consultant to suit your needs is to run through a checklist of the various services they offer and establish what is included in the standard consultancy fee.

At the very least, an ecommerce consultancy should offer the following:

  • Advice about the software necessary to build the site you want and whether you will be able to manage and update it on your own once the software is implemented. It is no good if, having contracted a consultant to do a specific job, you feel the need to contact them every time something goes wrong. A consultant’;s job should also involve giving your employees the proper training so that they will be able to handle problems as and when they arise.
  • An overview of the various features your site should have in order to put the customer at ease and encourage them to buy as many of your products as possible. Have a look at the way Amazon works, giving you recommendations based on products you have bought or previously looked at, offering quick and advanced search capabilities and suggesting that if you buy goods over a certain value you will be eligible for free shipping. Other features you should ask about include the provision or a help desk, the management of items that can be pre-ordered and saved for later and a gift wrapping service.
  • Consumer concern about internet security is considerable and the ecommerce consultancy should have a way of making users feel comfortable about submitting personal details and sending funds online. Equally it should have a failsafe method of saving payment details in a secure facility to ensure the minimum amount of user input is required for returning customers.
  • The option should be available to change multiple product prices simultaneously and enable integration with third party databases so that product details and prices can be automatically updated.
  • Check that the sales activity is provided online and in full. Features such as overall sales, sales per category and sales per product over defined periods can help give direction to your marketing campaign. In addition, the ecommerce consultant should be able to optimise your product pages for search engines, so that your site is just a click away from a prospective customer.
  • It is also worth looking at the following issues to determine whether the ecommerce consultancy has the necessary amount of experience:

  • Does it understand what your requirements are, what your company offers and what your customer’s needs are? The consultancy will only help you build the site you want if they understand exactly what it is you do want.
  • Look into the length of time they have been in business and their track and solvency record. Ask them to provide some sample sites to look at and request a copy their client list is, so you can conduct your own research.
  • Assess whether their level of customer support is sufficient. For example, do they have a twenty four hour help desk that provides assistance by email and over the telephone. Find out about the tariff for this service and the average resolution time.