TIPS & KNOWLEDGE BASE

E-COMMERCE SPECIALISTS SINCE 1996

eCommerce: Things To Think Of Before Choosing An Agency Partner

Gears with Strategic Partners etched on it

When hiring an e-commerce agency to build their site, customers should consider several key factors to ensure they select the right partner for their project. By carefully evaluating these factors and conducting your research, you can make an informed decision when hiring an e-commerce agency to build your site. Here are some essential aspects to look for:

Experience and Portfolio

  1. Check the agency’s track record and portfolio.
  2. Look for examples of eCommerce websites they have built in the past.
  3. Assess whether their style and quality align with your vision and standards.

Technology and Platform Expertise: 

Ensure the agency has expertise in the eCommerce platform you want to use, whether it’s Shopify, Miva, or other solutions. They should be proficient in the technology stack required to build your eCommerce site.

Customization and Scalability: 

Evaluate the agency’s ability to customize the eCommerce platform to meet your specific requirements. A good agency should be able to tailor the site to your brand and business needs while ensuring scalability for future growth. A good company will find out during discovery what added functionality you may need to accommodate your goals. I suggest asking for sites they built and what functionality they added or customized.  

Assess Your Needs: 

Start by clearly defining your business requirements and goals. Consider factors such as the size of your inventory, the complexity of your products, expected traffic volume, budget constraints, and desired features (e.g., product variations, discounts, promotions, integrations with third-party services).

Mobile Responsiveness: 

With the increasing use of mobile devices for online shopping, your eCommerce site must be optimized for mobile responsiveness. Make sure the agency has experience in creating mobile-friendly eCommerce websites.

SEO and Marketing Integration:

A successful eCommerce site needs to be optimized for search engines and integrated with marketing tools and analytics. Look for an agency that understands SEO best practices and can help you implement marketing strategies to drive traffic and sales.

User Experience (UX) & Design User Interface (UI):

Both your UX and UI can impact your site’s eCommerce performance immensely, for good or bad. UI and UX are significant and will impact conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Choose an agency that prioritizes UX and UI and can create an intuitive and visually appealing interface that is easy and comfortable for your customers to shop and check out

Security and Compliance: 

Security is paramount for any eCommerce website, especially when handling sensitive customer information and payment transactions. Ensure that the agency follows best practices for security and compliance with relevant regulations such as PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Accessibility and Compliance:  

This topic has bubbled up lately, especially with all the legal cases. A massive 15% of people have some disability that prevents them from using most websites. 

We suggest using AccessiBe to assist with your site’s ADA compliance and Termageddon for your Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and more. Whichever company you move forward with, please ensure you have these compliances taken care of.

Support: 

Building an eCommerce site is just the beginning. It’s essential to partner with an agency that provides you with training so you can keep your website running smoothly. Post-launch, if issues arise, you want them to help you address any concerns or updates on the site.

Client References and Reviews: 

Don’t hesitate to ask the agency for client references or seek reviews and testimonials from past clients. Hearing about others’ experiences can give you valuable insights into the agency’s reliability, communication, and overall performance.

Cost and Timeline:

  1. Consider the agency’s pricing structure and project timeline.
  2. While price is important, prioritize value and quality over the cheapest option.
  3. Ensure the agency provides a clear timeline for deliverables and milestones to keep the project on track.

Research eCommerce Platforms: 

Several popular eCommerce platforms are available, each with strengths and weaknesses. Some of the most common options include:

Miva


Miva primarily serves mid-size to enterprise-level merchants with their eCommerce platform solutions. Their platform offers robust features and customization options that cater to the needs of businesses operating at this scale in both B2B and B2C sectors. Miva aims to provide scalable and flexible solutions that can accommodate complex eCommerce requirements, including inventory management, order processing, customer relationship management, and integrations with other enterprise systems. Their emphasis on serving this market segment reflects their commitment to providing comprehensive eCommerce solutions tailored to the needs of larger businesses.

Strengths:

Flexibility and customization: Miva offers extensive customization options, allowing users to create highly tailored and unique online stores that meet their individual needs and branding requirements. With a flexible architecture and robust set of tools, merchants can customize everything from the design and layout of their storefronts to the functionality of their shopping carts.

Robust feature set: Miva provides a comprehensive set of features for managing inventory, processing orders, handling payments, and optimizing marketing efforts, making it suitable for businesses of various sizes and industries.

Scalability:  Miva is built for scalability and high performance, capable of handling large volumes of traffic and transactions without sacrificing speed or reliability. Miva’s SaaS (Software as a Service) solution is renowned for its optimization for performance, incorporating various features to enhance speed, reliability, and scalability. 

  • Advanced caching: Miva’s SaaS solution utilizes sophisticated caching mechanisms to store frequently accessed data and pre-rendered content. This minimizes the need to regenerate content on each request, improving response times and reducing server load.
  • CDN integration: Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration enables Miva’s SaaS solution to distribute content across geographically distributed servers. CDN integration reduces latency and accelerates content delivery by caching static assets like images, CSS, and JavaScript files closer to end-users.
  • Support for high-concurrency environments: Miva’s SaaS solution is designed to handle high levels of concurrent user traffic efficiently. This involves optimizing database queries, server configurations, and resource allocation to ensure smooth performance during peak usage.

Built-in marketing tools: Miva includes built-in marketing tools such as search engine optimization (SEO) features, promotional capabilities, enabling users to attract and engage customers effectively.

Responsive design: Miva’s framework is optimized for mobile devices, ensuring that online stores are accessible and user-friendly across various screen sizes and devices.

Advanced Product Management: Miva provides powerful product management features that enable merchants to manage large catalogs of products easily. Including support for product variants, options, attributes, and SKUs, as well as advanced inventory management capabilities.

Built-in B2B Functionality: Miva’s built-in features can support complex B2B e-commerce workflows, offering custom pricing, customer-specific catalogs, volume discounts, and account hierarchies. Merchants can set up multiple pricing tiers, create custom price lists for different customer groups, and define specific pricing rules based on customer attributes.

Weaknesses

Complexity: Miva can be complex to set up and customize, especially for users with limited technical expertise. The platform may require a steeper learning curve than more user-friendly e-commerce solutions.

Limited third-party integrations: While Miva offers some integration options with third-party applications and services, its ecosystem of plugins and extensions may not be as extensive as those of other e-commerce platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.

Cost: Miva’s pricing structure may be relatively expensive for small businesses and startups, particularly when factoring in setup fees, ongoing maintenance costs, and additional expenses for premium features and support.

Technical support: While Miva provides customer support, some users have reported challenges in accessing timely assistance and resolving technical issues, which can be frustrating, especially during critical periods such as website downtime or technical glitches.

Platform updates and maintenance: Users may encounter occasional disruptions or compatibility issues during platform updates and maintenance activities, which can impact the performance and functionality of their online stores. Overall, Miva offers a robust e-commerce solution with advanced customization and scalability capabilities, but users should carefully evaluate its complexity, costs, and support options before committing to the platform.

Shopify 


Shopify is another popular e-commerce platform that enables businesses to create and manage online stores and sell products. It provides tools and features to help merchants set up, manage, and grow their online businesses without requiring extensive technical knowledge or coding skills.

Strengths:

User-friendly interface: Shopify offers an intuitive interface that allows users to set up and manage their online stores without extensive technical knowledge.

Customization options: Shopify provides a wide range of customizable templates and themes, allowing users to create unique and visually appealing storefronts tailored to their brand.

App ecosystem: Shopify has a vast ecosystem of third-party apps and plugins that extend its functionality, enabling users to add features such as accounting, marketing, and inventory management to their stores.

Mobile responsiveness: Shopify’s themes are optimized for mobile devices, ensuring that online stores are accessible and functional across various screen sizes and devices.

Reliable hosting and security: Shopify handles hosting, security, and server maintenance, relieving users of the technical burden and ensuring their stores remain secure and accessible.

Weaknesses

B2B  This is available within the Shopify Plug plan. They offer features that allow you to sell business-to-business (B2B) through the online store.

Cost: While Shopify offers various pricing plans, small businesses can be relatively expensive, particularly when factoring in transaction fees and additional app costs.

Customization limitations: While Shopify provides reasonable customization through themes and apps, users may need help implementing particular design or functionality requirements.

Transaction fees: Shopify charges transaction fees for sales made through external payment gateways if users do not use Shopify Payments, which can add up and impact profit margins, especially for high-volume sellers.

Dependency on third-party apps: While the app ecosystem enhances Shopify’s functionality, relying on third-party apps can introduce complexities, compatibility issues, and potential security vulnerabilities.

Learning curve for advanced features: While Shopify is user-friendly for basic tasks, mastering more advanced features and customization options may require time and effort, especially for users with limited technical expertise.

Overall, Shopify is a robust e-commerce platform with numerous strengths, but users should carefully consider its limitations and costs when evaluating it for their online store needs.

BigCommerce 


BigCommerce is another prominent e-commerce platform that enables businesses to create and manage your online stores. Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers a range of features and tools to help merchants build and grow their e-commerce businesses. 

Strengths:

Robust feature set: BigCommerce provides a comprehensive set of features for managing inventory, processing orders, handling payments, and optimizing marketing efforts. It offers built-in functionalities like product catalogs, shipping and tax calculations, and integration with various payment gateways.

Scalability: BigCommerce is designed to accommodate businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises. It offers scalability features that allow users to quickly expand their online stores and handle increasing traffic and sales volume levels without compromising performance.

Flexibility and customization: BigCommerce offers extensive customization options, allowing users to create highly tailored and unique online stores that reflect their brand identity and meet their specific requirements. It provides access to customizable themes, templates, design tools, and support for custom development through APIs and integrations.

Multi-channel selling: BigCommerce enables users to sell their products across multiple channels, including their online store, social media platforms, marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and in-person through point-of-sale (POS) systems. This multi-channel selling capability helps businesses reach a wider audience and diversify their sales channels.

Strong performance and reliability: BigCommerce boasts high uptime and fast page loading speeds, ensuring a smooth and reliable customer shopping experience. It also offers secure hosting, regular backups, and automatic software updates to help protect against security threats and ensure data integrity.

Weaknesses:

Cost: While BigCommerce offers various pricing plans to suit different budgets and needs, it can be relatively expensive compared to other e-commerce platforms, especially for small businesses and startups. The higher-tier plans may include additional features and support but have higher subscription fees.

Learning curve: BigCommerce can be complex to set up and customize, especially for users with limited technical expertise. The platform may require a steep learning curve to fully understand its features and functionalities and manage and optimize an online store effectively.

Limited design flexibility: While BigCommerce offers customization options, some users may find its themes and templates’ design and layout limitations need to be revised. Achieving particular design requirements may require advanced coding skills or additional customization through third-party developers.

Transaction fees: BigCommerce charges transaction fees for sales made through external payment gateways if users do not use BigCommerce Payments. These transaction fees can increase and impact profit margins, especially for high-volume sellers.

Support limitations: While BigCommerce provides customer support via various channels, including phone, email, and live chat, some users have reported challenges accessing timely assistance and resolving technical issues. The level of support may vary depending on the user’s subscription plan.

Overall, BigCommerce offers a robust and scalable e-commerce solution with extensive features and customization options. Still, users should carefully consider its costs, learning curve, and support offerings before selecting the platform for their online store.

In general overview:

The majority of the shopping carts have all addressed Security and Compliance. Security is paramount for eCommerce websites, especially when handling sensitive customer information and payment transactions. It is a given that you need to choose a platform that prioritizes security and compliance with industry standards such as PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including upfront costs, ongoing maintenance, transaction fees, hosting fees, and expenses associated with customizations and integrations. Choose a platform that offers a good balance between features, flexibility, and affordability.

Try Demos and Free Trials: Many eCommerce platforms offer demos and free trials that allow you to explore their features and functionality firsthand. Take advantage of these opportunities to test the platform’s capabilities and see if it meets your needs.  If you’re reading this article, chances are, you’re either looking for an agency or maybe you’ve even come to GlendaleDesigns.com to see if we are the right fit. We can help guide you through the process. Contact us to help determine if Glendale Designs is the right solution for what you need

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